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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars

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on 20 February 2012
If you're interested in the dying days of WW2 in Eastern Europe (as I am) then this is a fantastic book. Graphically written by the author, it's the tale of the siege of Breslau in 1945. Of how this city of around 600,000 came to be cut off from the rest of Germany and yet held out longer than Berlin, Konigsberg and others. Of how it eventually fell to the Soviets, followed by the rape and pillage of it's citizens. And finally their expulsion from their ancestral homes, to be replaced by Poles who had also been expelled from their homes further east - mainly Lwow.

This is a story that is unknown to most of us in the West. Much of it is extremely moving and horrific. The tales of the Hitler Youth boy who looked down into the mud and saw the face of a soldier who had been crushed under the tracks of a tank staring back at him and the Russian soldier who threw a young German boy into a house on fire in revenge for the death of his own children are particularly horrifying.

A fine book, excellently written. I found it hard to put down and would highly recommended it.
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on 13 March 2017
This is a very good book , its really carefully researched - and worth buying
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on 3 May 2012
This book is so much more than just the siege of Breslau and for those interested in reading about the last dying days of the Third Reich, its terrible living conditions, its distraught people and desperate soldiers then you'll want to read this story.

The book begins with a capsule summary of Breslau in better days before the war with Russia. In fact, the people of Breslau had fairly normal lives during the war up to late 1944, missing all the Allied bombing that the western half of the country and Berlin received but the situation started changing as Konev and his 1st UF entered eastern Poland.

Food and other essentials were running low, sadistic Nazi town leaders running amuck to control its people and doubts of winning the war crept into the minds of many turning the atmosphere dour though the propaganda of super weapons conditioned some into thinking Germany would still win the war.

Using many first hand accounts from citizens, city officials, German soldiers, triumphant Russian soldiers plus insightful prose by the author, the book is a penetrating look at the psyche of individuals and a country that has fallen to unbelievable lows.

The military overview begins in 1944 at the Vistula bridgehead, hundreds of miles from Breslau. In mid January 1945, Konev, the smart and ruthless commander of the 1st UF begins his last push to the German border with the quick penetration of the Vistula defenses and with each passing day and with each fallen village his armies conquer, the lives of the Germans in the path of this unstoppable Red machine is chronicled.
During the long siege which occurred in the coldest days of winter, the author clearly describes the impact of the many days of shelling as well as the days of attack had on soldier and civilian defenders alike and despite all the death and destruction Brelauers endured. After the surrender on May 5th, Mr Hargreaves tallies up the losses and provides the general results of the siege.

The story, looking at the lives of many different people living with death, destruction and misery while living under a nearly four month siege against an enemy that wanted to extract every ounce of revenge they could is quite a read and is highly recommended for people interested in the end of the war or would be interested in reading on how people cope under nearly impossible conditions.

(There are many Notes and an impressive Bibliography is further reading is desired.)
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on 3 May 2017
don't hate the book would love to read it, what i hate
is the price a total rip. bought his normandy account and
that was superb,
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on 20 September 2012
On 24 August 1944, with the Red Army advancing across eastern Europe towards Germany, Adolf Hitler declared the German city of Breslau [now Wroclaw in Poland] to be a "Festung", a fortress city. He ordered that "Festung Breslau" should be defended at all costs with no retreat and no surrender. Thus the scene was set for one of the most savage sieges in modern history. During the 82 day Siege of Breslau, which followed in early 1945, the city would suffer destruction on a scale that exceeded that experienced by either Berlin or Dresden. By the time Festung Breslau surrendered on 6 May 1945, according to Richard Hargreaves, "two-thirds of Breslau was in ruins, two-thirds of its industry damaged or destroyed, two in every three homes and apartment blocks were no longer habitable and seven out of ten schools were in ruins. Almost the entire rail and tram network was wrecked, while every electricity line and three quarters of the telephone wires were down. The water mains had been damaged at over 3000 locations while the sewage system was broken in 7000 places. Of the 400 miles of roads and streets in Breslau nearly 200 were impassable, buried beneath 600 million cubic feet of rubble and ash".

Hargreaves' book is the first full-length English language account of the Siege of Breslau and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the dying days of the Third Reich and the implosion of National Socialism. Quoting extensively from personal testimonies, diaries and contemporary documents, Hargreaves weaves a spellbinding narrative of the fall of "Hitler's Final Fortress". The book is well-researched and Hargreaves gives due credit to other writers whose work he quotes [notably the Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse Microcosm: A Portrait of a Central European City and the seminal work on the Siege of Breslau, the ten-volume, German language "Breslauer Apokalypse" written by Horst Gleiss - whose personal recollections feature heavily throughout this book]. There are also thorough notes at the end of each chapter which cite the sources used.

First-hand accounts from both those defending and attacking the city recall the savage battles that took place in and around Breslau during the assault on this Nazi stronghold and the recollections of ordinary Breslauers are used to convey the horror of life in a city under siege. A city which is being pummelled to dust by non-stop artillery barrages and round-the-clock air raids. A city which seems to be permanently on fire. A city where 100,000 people freeze to death while being evacuated. A city where the regime seems to have turned against its own people and a city where even after the surrender the terror continues as the Russian invaders wreak revenge on the German inhabitants of Breslau - especially its womenfolk. There are also accounts from some of those Breslauers who took part in what must be one of the most desperate acts of the Second World War. With Breslau completely surrounded the city's Gauleiter, Karl Hanke, decreed that an airstrip should be built in the city centre so that the defenders could be re-supplied from the air. Dozens of buildings were demolished and a two kilometre long, 250 metre wide 'runway' was carved through the heart of the city. Built under constant shellfire at a cost of over 3,000 lives, the runway was completed too late to be of any military benefit and it was hardly ever used. One person who did use the runway however was Karl Hanke himself. On the day before the surrender of the city, the man who had given orders that anyone who tried to flee the city should be executed for cowardice, boarded a Fiesler Stork aircraft, took off and fled to the Czech Republic. The final chapter considers his fate along with that of the other Breslauers we've got to know throughout the book.

I found Hargreaves book particularly interesting because I am planning to visit Wroclaw later on this year and Hargreaves explains in the final chapter how the city's buildings and structures still bear the scars of 1945. Concrete bunkers litter the city and its outskirts and there are at least two of the huge, round "Hochbunker" fortifications still standing in the city centre. Most of the bunkers though are underground and it seems they are in various states of disrepair. What was Fortress Command is now, according to Hargreaves, "a rather run-down restaurant with a Russian-themed nightclub on the ground floor". Hanke's 'runway' is, predictably, now a massive dual carriageway completely out of keeping with the historic heart of the city. It is, perhaps, the biggest scar of all.

In summary, "Hitler's Final Fortress" is a well-written, all-round account of the Seige of Breslau, which will be of particular interest to those wanting to learn more about WWII on the Eastern Front or anyone who is planning to visit Wroclaw and who would like to learn more about the city's recent history. Definitely recommended.
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I was prompted to read this excellent book after visiting modern-day Wroclaw and learning about its past – and, in particular, of the terrible ordeal experienced in the final months of World War 2 by the city formerly known as Breslau. There are already a number of detailed and thorough reviews here on Amazon, so I won't repeat too much of what others have written.

I agree with the assessments of fellow reviewers such as Dave History Student, Lance Grundy, foreverblue, D.G. Donnelly and Ron Dutton. This is a gripping and terrifying story, told in compelling and sometimes horrifying detail by Richard Hargreaves. The amount and quality of the writer's research are phenomenal; the story is greatly enhanced by his quotations of accounts from so many people, on all sides of the conflict, who were there and who witnessed and suffered the terrors of a great city under merciless siege by the Red Army – and under even more merciless orders from the Führer and his underlings to hold out at all costs.

I must admit that, terrible as their ordeal was, I found it hard to work up too much sympathy for the civilian population. They'd been happy enough when the boot was on the other foot as Hitler's armies wrought death and brutal havoc on the peoples of eastern Europe, with little thought that they might eventually find out how it felt to be on the receiving end for a change. Likewise with the ruthless 'Vertreibung', the expulsion of German civilians westwards from what now became Polish territory. It was, of course, Stalin's will that Polish borders should be shifted westwards as soon as the war ended – and inevitably, at that point in history, what Stalin wanted, Stalin got. As a result, many thousands of Polish people arrived in the city from places further east such as Lwów, and treated the departing Germans with considerably more hatred and brutality than they'd suffered at the hands of the Red Army. Human nature being what it is, I don't believe the former Breslauers should have been all that surprised.

Even today, the far right in Germany are still harping on about nostalgia for their former Schlesien and their alleged right to recover it and other lands they lost as a result of the war. It's a very dubious point, because the Germans had seized Silesia in the first place, under Frederick II in the 18th century, and other parts of Poland under Bismarck in the 19th century. Be that as it may, they would clearly need to start World War 3 in order to do anything about it. But for as long as people remember the use they made of Polish lands at the likes of Auschwitz, Sobibor and Treblinka, nobody is about to let any of that happen. So they may as well leave it alone.

In a final chapter referring briefly to Wroclaw's post-war history, Richard Hargreaves touches on the nostalgia question, but perhaps more objectively than I have just done. The fact is that Wroclaw is now a modern Polish city, although still bearing some of the scars of war and of the quick-and-ugly approach to housing reconstruction under a communist regime in the fifties and sixties. But the city also has a busy and thriving population, one of Poland's great universities, a cathedral and other fine churches, a superbly reconstructed market square (Rynek) and old town hall (Ratusz), and - unlike Edinburgh, 20 miles from where I'm writing this - an extensive and practical tram network. It's a far cry from the misery, rubble, fire and destruction so vividly described in Hargreaves' fascinating study.
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on 17 November 2012
This is Richard Hargreaves's third book.His first book was The Germans in Normandy which was very good,the second was Blitzkreig Unleashed which covered the Polish Campaign in September 1939,in which there is very litte available in English.

The latest book Hitler's Final Fortress Breslau 1945,is another gem of a book in which very little information is available in English,until now.The author has used many German sources to tell the story of the terrible siege that occured January 1945-6th May 1945,four days after the surrender of Berlin.The human aspect of the book is entralling and at times horrific and provides the reader with an excellent account of the siege.The book has an brilliant Biblography at the back and is backed up by good photos and maps.

The book is an 5 star book based on content and presentation and excellent research, probably my best book of 2012
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on 19 January 2012
In January 1945, the Red Army unleashed its long-awaited thrust into Germany with terrible fury. One by one the provinces and great cities of the German East were captured by the Soviet troops. Breslau, capital of Silesia, a city of 600,000 people, stood firm and was declared a fortress by Hitler.

Richard Hargreaves gives a no hold bared account of the defence of the city and the retribution that was visited on the survivors by the Russian conquerors. Hargreaves draws widely on actual eyewitness diaries, both personal and unit whilst quotes are used to drive along the narratives.

This is a very useful piece of work and a valuable contribution to the literature on the Eastern Front
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on 17 April 2012
A very iteresting book on a little known battle at the end of the war and its aftermath with the movement of the german population from they homeland back into the reduced post war Germany and its repopulation by Poles. Balanced and fair writing worth reading.
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on 26 December 2016
Not a huge amount to add. Its good to see the story told as, as one previous reviewer said it's one very few people seem to know, and it is a tragic and powerful one.. My mother aged 15 and her family were some of those still in the city when the Red Army came. This filled in the gaps in what she had told me. A big thank you to the author for writing it..
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