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on 24 May 2017
On the one hand. It may be true as other reviewers point out, that in comparison with some other texts, the actual Fall of Koenigsberg is dealt with in less detail than the title of this book might otherwise suggest; and that most of the book is simply spent in building up to and setting the picture for that.

Equally however, what sets this book apart and would certainly make me include it in any 'East Prussia Collection' in English or German, is the living picture this author presents of everyday life in that vibrant, once great city in the decades up to the showdown in 1945. She enters skilfullly into the social and economic background of this handsome old East Prussian capital and brings it alive in a way that no other writers seem to do. And in this rather than in the military aspect, she has provided a real contributuion to the genre.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 28 December 2007
Isabel Denny has written an immensely readable account of the fall of the prosperous and cultured city of Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad), in 1944, towards the end of the Second World War. Her book covers all aspects of the terrible events, beginning with a history of the city, separated from the rest of Germany by the Polish Corridor, set up after the First World War to give Poland a route to the sea and the port of Danzig (Gdansk).

She goes on to describe the wider context and includes an excellent short description of Operation Barbarossa (the German attack on Russia, leading to the terrible events of Leningrad and Stalingrad). She describes the appalling treatment the German army meted out to the Russian villagers they encountered on the way, and the horror of the siege of Stalingrad. This enables her to go some way to explaining the savagery of the Russian advance through Germany, and the devastation of Koenigsberg as Germany finally lost the war.

The German regional leader, Erich Koch, made the downfall even worse by refusing to accept the overwhelming force of the Russian army, and he compelled every citizen to prepare tank-traps and other fortifications against the Russians. Anyone who expressed any doubt about the German cause could be shot as a traitor, and Koch exercised a total news blackout so that the citizens of Koenigsberg had little idea of the fate that awaited them.

The author makes her account very readable by including many anecdotes and personal accounts from residents of the city. I found myself that with such total destruction anyone survived to tell their tale, but large numbers managed to escape across the ice to local ports where German ships waited to carry them away - but not necessarily to safety - Denny describes the fate of the ex Nazi cruise ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff which was sunk by a Russian submarine with 9000 passengers and crew lost at sea - a bigger disaster by far than the Titanic.

Denny refers several times in quotations and by direct references, that the fall of Koenigsberg and East Prussia can be seen as the retribution of destiny for German treatment of the Russians. While it is understandable that her sources felt this way, they grate a little, when so often tyrants and oppressors *do* get away with their crimes.

The book ends with a description of present day Kaliningrad, and Denny quotes a German visitor, "one cannot escape an uncanny feeling of the old Koenigsberg, like the negative of a damaged photograph, lying ten to twenty feet underneath the city's surface". As I look back on this book I feel that Isabel Denny has revealed this ancient city again for the the 21st century reader so that we have another Pompeii which only survives through excavation and long-buried eye-witness accounts of its rich cosmopolitan culture. An excellent book for the general reader as well as the historian.
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on 6 April 2007
A superb book telling the tragic story of the destruction of a mediaeval city and its culture in the last months of the second World War. Isabel Denny manages to tell this appalling tale with a remarkable impartiality and in beautifully crafted English.

In the winter of 1945 Konigsberg stood between the Red Army and Berlin. The German forces were ordered to fight to the last man and the civilian population was not evacuated. In avenging the cruelties of the Nazi campaign in Russia their army fought with no holds barred. Denny describes the misery in both armies and particularly amongst the civilian population during a bitterly cold winter, using first-hand stories from the survivors of this most brutal campaign.

You will not find Konigsberg on the map. After the Red Army had razed it to the ground the city was renamed Kaliningrad and, since 1946, this part of north east Prussia has been part of Russia.
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on 17 February 2011
A good read but not much about the battle for Koningsberg . This book is much more general than the title suggests. It starts with an interesting review of the history of East Prussia which has some excellent material particularly about the rise of the Natzi party in Koningsberg. We then have three chapters on the general cource of the Second World War; much of it very good but subject matter which has been covered by a thousand different authors. It is only in chapter 9 as the Russians approach the Prussian border that we return to the subject; indeed the actual battle for Koningsberg is coverd in just the last 30 pages. For my money Prit Buttar's book "Battlefeild Prussia" and Christopher Duffy's " Red Storm on the Reich"give much fuller acounts of the seige. Christopher Duffy's book in particular is a masterpeace of relevance and consistant with clarity and an eye for detail.
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2008
I give this book one star because it is one of the few available in English and may serve to stir interest in this subject.

It's title is misleading since the fall of Königsberg is hardly touched upon at all. The brief overview of East Prussian history is interesting. I note that the writer is or was a history teacher according to another reviewer and this is clear from the potted history of the war in the Est which the book could easily do without. Do we really need a rehash of Stalingrad and Kursk when there is no detail of the Soviet offensive into East Prussia in 1945?

I could not find any reference to Otto Lasch's book nor to other works on the campaign. Since Lasch was the Fortress Commander in Königsberg and presided over its fall, I would have expected him to be heavily quoted which is not the case. Equally bizarre is the reliance placed on Guy Sajer's work. This is not the place to discuss whether his book is a novel rather than a memoir but I feel it should be treated a little more sceptically than seems to be the case here.

It is really a pity that a work that offers so much should deliver so little, although the folkloric picture of the area before the war arrives is well done. The definitive work on this subject is still waiting to be written.
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on 9 April 2014
This book fails miserably.
It is the only book I ever bought from Amazon that I was unable to finish reading (among, what, 200? 300?).
My problem was that after reading the first third of the book, it hadn't even started discussing what should be its subject.
It went on discussing the mistreatment of Jews in Germany, before and during the WWII, with a focus on what happened in East Prussia.
That is undoubtedly an important subject, but should not be the focus of this book, with this tittle.
Moreover, the extremely long part of the book that focus on this is clearly presented as a justification for the ulterior behavior of the soviet conquerors.
This book fails on every aspect, form, content, moral standing, etc..
In summary, I really think it is the worst book I ever tried to read.
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on 19 May 2007
The first part of the book is basically a short history of the city of Konigsburg from early times to the war years, including the rise of nazism in Prussia. There is then a brief history of the war on the Eastern front and the retreat back to Prussia. The actual story of the seige and battle of Konigsburg itself is told in no great detail and starts on page 208 and the book finishes on page 240 having also then told of the post war years! There are two maps included - a very highlevel one of that part of Prussia and one of the city centre itself, neither of which was very useful - many important towns and villages mentioned in the text were not shown on the highlevel one and so it was not possible to track the Russian offensive agianst Konigsburg or the movements in the defence of the city either.

Whilst the book is easy to read there is no real depth and left me with a feeling of disappointment - having read this, there is still a need for a detailed book on the battle of Konigsburg.
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on 2 July 2007
This book is a must for anyone who wants not just an insight into a relatively unknown part of the second world war, but also an understanding of how a peaceful rural corner of Europe was turned into a bloodbath as a result of the follies of its leaders. The Russian attack on Konigsberg in 1945 is described in the last chapters of this book, but the real story is how events in Europe after 1919 and Hitler's decision to invade Russia in 1941 led to the destruction and loss of the city.

A thoroughly informative and enjoyable read, it's well written and the best book I've read all year.
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on 17 July 2014
fantastic book written on a WW2 subject not usually discussed, thank you Amazon
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on 22 September 2009
This is a book I really wanted to like, but was ultimately disappointed. First hand accounts of the fall of Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia) must be hard to come by, but they are very thin on the ground in this book.

As a military history of the battle it fails. The maps are inadequate - no detailed map of the city itself. There is no order of battle. Obviously this would have been very difficult to achieve for the German side, their forces such as they were being made up of rag tag remnants of units and Volkssturm, but would surely have been possible for the Russian side. There is no real meaningful description of the battle itself and the tactics deployed.

However, this isn't the prime reason I was disappointed as such histories are often very dry fare. What I was really hoping for was an evocative description of what life must have been like in the city under the Nazis and in the build up to the final assault. What we get is a whole load of padding sketching out the whole campaign in the East - some needs to be included for context, but surely not whole chapters worth? It would have been a reasonable assumption on the part of the writer to assume a certain amount of knowledge by the reader. There is no meaningful analysis of the character of Forster, the gauleiter of East Prussia and his policies. Surely he was one of the main protagonists?

The material here smacks very much of an essay that has been padded out to make a book.
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