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on 20 March 2000
A horrifying, compelling account of the most staggeringly ill-thought military action of World War Two, 'Stalingrad' tells the tale of how Hitler sent 250,000 men into Stalingrad and lost 244,000 of them to war, the cold, and imprisonment. The final months are heartbreaking - the soldiers in Stalingrad are constantly told to prepare for a break-out, assisted by a relief column which, unknown to them, was being pushed further and further away.
The Russians don't fare much better, either, sustaining an incomprehensible 8 million casualties, both military and cilivian, with the prototype KGB being almost as dangerous as the Germans. Even worse off were the German 'irregulars', soldiers from Eastern Europe and sometimes Russia who fought on the German side - these people faced a bleak future, to say the least.
'Stalingrad' is huge and well-written, and the small selection of images are well-chosen - soldiers picking their way through avalanches of tangled metal and blasted concrete, German soldiers marching into burnt-out-cities, ruins that could be Kosovo, or Beirut.
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on 22 April 2002
I have read this book three times now, and keep getting more and more from it -the sign of greatness.It has a novel's ability to explore human folly and hubris. It has the scale of great events that have so recently shaped our world and it has a drama that is relentless.
Above all things it has the ability to give you a taste of the desperation - firstly on the Soviet side and then, relentlessly as the scales tilted, on the German side as the dream of a defeated Russia became an anvil against which the Wehrmacht was broken.
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on 1 February 2013
Such a compelling book to read which presents a vivid picture of the dreadful events in and around Stalingrad in WW2.
There's a lot of technical detail for the serious scholar. More detail to set the events more generally in the context of the war overall and world events before and after would earn the extra star from me.
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on 6 January 2000
By any measure a compulsive read. Paced well and packed with sufficient pathos and understanding to produce more than momentary pauses for thought. The brutality, depravity and courage of the Wehrmacht are well documented. The immense courage of the Russians and the enormity of the burden of Stalingrad after so many defeats are never understated. The vignettes extracted from soldiers' personal diaries and letters are poignant and insightful. Despite the compelling story and narrative, the book tends to mediate it's account of suffering through German eyes. Conditions faced by German POWs, are detailed to a greater degree than the bestial treatment meted out to Russian POWs for example. Ironically, given Stalin's wastage of his own people, the book presents the Soviets as largely faceless apart from a dozen or so military figures. Nevertheless apart from these quibbles, well worth reading - if only we would learn from such tragedies.
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on 15 January 2011
Stalingrad is an awesome book and I read it in a couple of days. Anthony Beevor's narrative History is beautiful and brilliantly written. Stalingrad is an amazing book full of the horror of war and it sheds important light on the terrible suffering inflicted on both sides by this key battle of the Second World War. Beevor provides wonderful insight into the experiences of ordinary Russian and German soldiers and officers and how they coped in the terrible winter of 1942-1943.
The book is full of great sources and it reads like a novel. It is a timely and important book. Beevor is a terrific writer who is able to convey the tremendous suffering of soldiers and civilians in a few sparse sentences. The battle of Stalingrad changed the course of the Second World War and this excellent book casts important light on the brave soldiers who fought and died in this epic contest.
Stalingrad is a great read and I thoroughly recommend it.
5 stars
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on 14 August 2008
This book is very well written - it is storytelling at its best - and therfore for the general reader - but also an amateur historian like me found it a great pleausure to read. Beevors Berlin book is recommendable as well, and I am looking forward to read his book on Leningrad.
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on 21 January 2010
No one like Anthony Beevor to make you think about the brutality of total war. His style makes it impossible to put it down, from the experience of the frontline soldier to the high spheres were decisions were made. A must-read book for anyone interested in the Eastern Front.
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on 26 November 2007
I have read and re-read this book because of its brilliance. It is chilling but very very accessible. The humanity and inhumanity is so well written that it appears almost to be a work of fiction. You do not need to be an avid war historian to enjoy this book as I found most of the interesting parts to be on the day to day life in the kessel and the slow ebbing away of all hope that the 6th army would be saved. The letters home are particularly sad, many were found in a mail sack of a plane that was shot down by the Russians.

This book should be used in schools to highlight the desperation and reality of war.
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on 6 December 2013
This review is based on the Cassell edition of 2002.

Beevor's book is a highly readable and detailed account of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. It not only describes its military aspects but also provides the reader with a good description of the rifts that had been running through Spain in all directions - religious, political, regional - ever since the Carlist wars two generations earlier and which caused the mayhem in the first place.

To understand the situation obtaining at the time, the reader may want to look also into other books on the subject, such as Stephen Koch's "Hemingway, Dos Passos and the Murder of José Robles" or Norman Lewis' "The Tomb in Seville", because it is important to realize that Spain's internal strife did not start with Franco's coup and that, in spite of the elections in the early part of 1936, the country was extremely unstable on many levels.

Once the fighting had started, it quickly became a conflict between the Bolsheviks who essentially dominated the republican government and had been quick to eliminate all possible competitors - Anarchists, Trotskists, Clericals etc. - on the one hand and Franco n the other. Seen in this light, there is a question which imposes itself but is not treated by the author: how are we to judge the outcome of the conflict when all the hurly-burly was done in the Spring of 1939?

What would Europe have looked like in the 1940s (or later) if the "Republicans", i.e. the Reds, had won? The Soviet intervention did certainly not come at the spur of the moment, but was part and parcel of Bolshevik world-wide strategy; France, at the time, was shuttling back and forth between a communist-led popular front and the Conservatives and there was a good chance for an alliance of communist forces across the Pyrenees, which would have brought the remainder of Europe into a very dangerous situation; the Soviet Union would have gained a strong foothold in the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Suez and would have acquired bases on the Atlantic from Dunkirk to Bilbao.

It is difficult to condemn Franco for the punishments he meted out against his enemies after his victory, because the premeditated and politically motivated massacres committed by the Republicans, as early as November, 1936, at Paracuellos and elsewhere - to say nothing of Catalonia - demonstrate what would have happened in Spain if Franco had not carried the day. Clearly, though, aside from such aspects, it seems to me that the material conditions obtaining in Spain, say, in 1950, were a great deal better than those behind the Iron Curtain, even in countries like Czechoslovakia which was essentially untouched by the war.

While the Soviet Block fell apart under its own weight, Franco prepared Spain for a better future by opening the way for a return to a modern democratic state and by stepping down when the job was done.

Addendum, 18 June 2014

Ocasionally, the internet presents some surprising items of background information. In this particular case, it is the Wikipedia entry on Major Hugh Pollard which reads:

[...]

Major Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard (born London[1] 6 January, 1888: died Midhurst district[2] March, 1966) was an author, firearms expert, and a British SOE officer. He is chiefly known ... for the events of July 1936, when he and Cecil Bebb flew General Francisco Franco from the Canary Islands to Morocco, thereby helping to trigger the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War."

Pollard was a member of the British Embassy staff in Madrid throughout WW2, working under Sir Samuel Hoare, the British ambassador.

Now, we all know that Franco's soldiers were flown from Morocco to Spain by the Germans, but it does come as a surprise that, quietly, in the background, other forces were at work as well. In the 2002 edition of the book available to me, it is stated on p. 80 that the plane was a (presumably British) aircraft chartered in London and that it had an English pilot, but no mention is made of any SOE personnel on board.
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on 19 August 2013
I had wanted to read this book for a long time, but because of its length and complexity I wanted to be able to devote a few days to it. The research and military detail were outstanding, if difficult to follow at times. The maps were not of a very good quality on my kindle screen, not sure why, and one disadvantage of the medium is that it is harder to refer back to previous pages than with a conventional book, though this is far outweighed by the weight and portability advantages. I read it with the same compulsion as a novel, which is unusual for me with non-fiction. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in history/politics/medicine/psychology/economics and general survival. I will definitely read more of this author's works.
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