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on 19 March 2016
Another more unusual story from WW2
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on 14 April 2008
I fully concur with a previous reviewer that the beginning of the book can be considered a little dry. When I first started reading it I felt that the book was a missed opportunity to grab the attention that this subject so richly deserves.

However, after pressing on I must say how wrong this first impression was. Not only has Krisztian Ungvary produced a work of high scholarly merit, the narrative does indeed flourish into a captivating account of one of the most forlorn episodes of the war.

Using many first hand testimonies, meticulous research and his own analysis, Ungvary recounts events, examines rumours and airs different perspectives surrounding the battle. The authors extensive use of Hungarian sources adds to the importance of this work as seldom are we exposed to these view points. Whilst covering political and strategic aspects, this book is above all a human story and the better for it. The heroic, the tragic and, the shameful -nothing has been shied away from.

Not only is this book the definitive account of the battle for Budapest, but it is essential reading for all scholars of the Soviet-German war. I would also recommend this book to those who know little about the war in the east. It will certainly be enlightening for those used to looking at the war in the west, as it reveals the complexity of the eastern war in that it was not simply a good verses bad conflict.

Additionally, if you are visiting Budapest and have an interest in the history of the city I would highly recommend you read this book. It will certainly give your visit an added dimension and the tourist spots will be alive with stories.

What I would like to see improved are the maps. Maps should make events easier to follow and are critical to a full understanding of this book. Whilst the existing maps are helpful they were not clear or aesthetically pleasing.

Overall though, this is an excellent account that does justice to its subject. And if you are tempted to give up at the beginning don't. Your perseverance will be rewarded.
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on 24 March 2013
A deep and complete analisys about the Stalingrad of the Balkans, beginning with the examination of the reasons that brought Hungary to ally with Germany and all the subsequent evolution of the internal situation, with the appearance of the Arrow Cross Party, that forbide her to abandon this alliance.
This not so known battle lasted 100 days and represents the only battle fought during WWII in a european capital (excluding Berlin and Moscow).
All the combat reports are very detailed and always accompanied by well defined maps of Budapest. The author had access to undiscovered material in Soviet and German Archives, but what makes this a great book, it is the extensive use of face to face interviews with the German and Hungarian survivors of the battle.
Another important part of the book is dedicated to the plight of the Hungarian population (during the siege and after it ) and to the persecutions of the Jews (700.000 people living at Budapest before the war).
All this makes this book an essential reading for military historians and for passioned people that want to know more about an important step of the european history .
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on 29 March 2017
This book provides a detailed and fascinating account of events around and within the Hungarian capital through the winter of 1944/45 when German and Hungarian troops fought a long and ferocious battle with the Red Army for possession of the city. Written by a Hungarian, this is a book that seems to have had a largely Hungarian readership in mind as the author tends to assume a degree of prior knowledge of Hungarian politics, geography and history that was largely absent in my case. There is also very little by way of scene setting; by page 7 we have the sub-heading 'Budapest becomes a front-line city'. For the non-Hungarian readership a longer introduction or introductory chapter explaining the political and military events prior to November 1944 that led to the capital becoming a 'front-line city' would have been useful, as would a description of the geography of the city and the significance of the various districts. These criticisms apart, this is a worthy account of a largely forgotten yet epic siege of a European capital in the closing stages of WWII.
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on 9 September 2003
Not only is 'The Battle for Budapest: 100 Days in World War II' very well research, cross-referenced and written but it has also been painstaking translated from the original Hungarian into English.
The book is logically organised into detailing the political and military background; the two battles for Budapest (Pest followed by Buda), the breakout and the aftermath.
Ungvary has meticulous researched Hungarian, German and Soviet archives as well as numerous accounts and interviews with participants from both sides (including civilians) to create a truly definitive account of those terrible days late in WWII.
The campaigns of 1944/45 on the Eastern Front are often overshadowed in western history by D-Day and the following subsequent battles. This book provides a definitive account of a strategic battle on that front which led to the early downfall of Berlin through Hitler's micro management of the battle.
If you have read Antony Beevor's Stalingrad, then I am sure you will find 'The Battle for Budapest' a better constructed and more griping work. My only criticism is that a few more contempary photographs would have been nice...
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VINE VOICEon 18 September 2008
The Battle for Budapest is no light reading - in any sense. Technically the book is scholastic and it is hard to get a good overview because of all the detail presented. To me its flaw is the part about the battle itself, here you are flooded by so much minor detail that the bigger picture is hard to see. There are quite a few maps but these too are so crowded in detail you get rather lost and have to work at placing the narrative with the map since each map has so many parts of the narrative.

The main text is well written (although it could have done with some editing) and the English is very good, for which we can thank the excellent translation of Ladislaus Löb. The text is also cut in palces to give a personal experience and these small texts are valuable.

The history it tells is one of a doomed army fighting on to the bitter end with no hope of victory, a very dark and horrific tale ultimately of needless sacrifice. The book is strong in that it represents the Soviets as well as the Germans and their Hungarian allies although to a lesser extent and certainly not down to the basic level. Actually since the Soviets are painted in broader strokes their overview is a little better. The fighting is described at street level, fitting for a city but almost impossible to follow, and for a non Hungarian the names of places are hard to keep up with as well. This may seem fitting for a book about a city siege but somehow it becomes more a technical detail than a feel for the battle itself.

But the book goes further and also tells the horrific tale of civilian population and the persecution of the Jews. This part is better than the battle since it is much easier to follow and the pace of the book is better.

This is a book packed with information and that is also a weak side, there is so much it is hard to process. No doubt Krisztián Ungváry has researched his subject well and brings all his knowledge into this book to a fault. It is hard to see the forest because of the trees, the tree because of its branches and in the same way a detailed description of branches does not do justice to a tree, so does the feeling of the battle get a little lost.
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on 22 October 2014
An enjoyable read featuring a cast of thousands, could be a case of less is more, meaning follow the stories of main characters through the siege into the breakout and a general observation of the remaining characters. Though heavy going sometimes following the cast of thousands mentioned, you lost the sense of the hopelessness, despair that must have been experienced, but for all that a good read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 January 2010
Why do I read books such as these? It's certainly not for pleasure. I have read quite somewhat now on the history of WWII, and have obtained sufficient grasp of the overall strategic view that I can start filling in such details as the Battle for Budapest. It transpires that this was a nexus in the conflict the criticality and scale of which I had not become aware of until very recently, when I began planning for a forthcoming holiday in the fairy tale city on the Danube. I am most grateful that I found this before my trip, because it is going to add a whole new dimension to my explorations, knowing the barely imaginable carnage and horror that took place in its fine streets, and handsome squares and boulevards that were reduced to ash and rubble. These have since been restored with such love and care to their former grandeur that you have to look in special places for hints and reminders of the dreadful events that took place there.

The first half of the book is really a laudable but dry, scholastic, day by day account of the investment of the city and the tightening of the noose. It is a dense narrative of district, street and place names, regular and irregular units and their movements and encounters. To have any chance of engaging with this part of the book at all you will need maps of the city and its environs, at various scales, and you will need to be prepared to work hard to follow the flow of events on them. I used Budapest Insight Flexi Map (Insight Flexi Maps), which enabled me to keep track of about 80% of the narrative. I can't imagine getting much out of this part of the book in any other way. You will also need to make the effort to get to grips with Hungarian pronunciation if the names of places and individuals are not going to become a blur. There are pronunciation guides on the Internet, but be prepared for a bit of a slog. The key for me was the realisation that just because they use the same alphabetic glyphs as we do, phonetically it might as well be Greek. With this understanding I began to make progress.

As we move into the second half of the book the flavour of the narrative shifts from the strategic birds eye view to become gradually more descriptive and anecdotal. The final chapter, which is the longest, and the most emotionally harrowing, is almost entirely eye-witness testimony. In one of the most savage battles on the most savage front of the war, where ideological madness left no middle ground for sanity and decency to stand, the position of the Hungarian people and the citizens of Budapest was peculiarly poignant. When the approach of the Soviet tide became inevitable, the right-wing Horthy government, which had taken Hungary into the war on ideological grounds, as a junior partner to the Nazis, attempted to hurriedly disengage itself from its entanglement. Hitler, having decided, for unsound tactical reasons, that Budapest was to be a fortress city made sure, through the commanders of the German garrison, that no such defection would be tolerated. The ultra-right-wing Arrow Cross party and its fanatic militia were there to step into the gap created. During the battle and siege the population suffered more at the depraved and brutal hands of its own Arrow Cross government than from the occupying Nazis, so much as to cause widespread resistance and desertions to the Soviet side. When the Soviet Juggernaut swept in its soldiers were welcomed by much of the population as liberators and saviours. But the Soviet soldiers, not knowing for the most part where they were or who these people were, proceeded to indulge in an extended orgy of looting, murder and rape, as terrible as anything that occurred throughout the whole Eastern Front. This only gradually settled down into the grey misery of occupation and eventual hand over to communist rule. The tragic twist to the tale is that of the attempted breakout of the German garrison, and the many Hungarians who had reasons of one kind or another to not want to be in the city when the Russians moved in. This took place, against Hitler's orders, after the failure of several relief efforts and when supplies and ammunition had fallen below levels as to make further resistance feasible. Of the more than 24,000 who set out on that terrible night, less than 700 made it out to German lines 30 km away. Vast numbers were slaughtered having barely left the start line, being pressed into the field of Soviet fire by the panicking masses behind them.

This book is a tough read, not just in terms of content but making no concessions to readability. I think this was probably a work of scholarship first and foremost, attempting to fill in a big gap in the literature before the passing of the generation who witnessed the events. Even the more descriptive parts of the book are written hurriedly, with pieces of testimony strung together without much art. The focus of the book darts here and there, and with rapid shifts in depth of view. Nonetheless I give it four stars, because of the obviously meticulous research behind it, and because it is terrible story that needs to be told and heard.
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on 7 May 2007
When I first started reading this book I was put off to some extent by the dry recitation of the villages , then cities and finally streets that fell before the Soviet onslaught. I kept thinking that better, and more regular, maps and street plans would help me "watch" the events taking place. The narative would have benefited tremendously from an introductory description of the city and its key sites - at no stage did I become "acquainted" with Budapest. Accompanying this "dryness" was a description of warfare that just numbs you with the agony of it all (it reminded me in some ways of the stark realism of "Blackhawk Down" - bullets and explosions and bits of flesh flying all over the place)... And then came the Breakout... I was previously unaware of how dramatic the events around Budapest in 1944-45 really were; it's strange how little is actually reported or written! The futility and sheer horror, of lives wasted and blind ideologies followed, ultimately rises to the surface... and leaves you filled with amazement and horror.
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on 17 April 2014
Good book, however it is full of details, which makes the reading difficult and sometimes boring, a tremendous galore of information. Only to afictionates of WWII like myself, and even in this case I spent a lot of time to read it from first to last page.
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