The Rzhev Slaughterhouse by Svetlana Gerasimova is a fantastic book in many ways. First of all it brings new information to the fighting in the Eastern Front and secondly it presents a very balanced view of the struggle without some of the all to frequent Soviet/Russian "adjustments" to history.
The Book presents a short but comprehensive description on what took place in front of Moscow during 1942 and early 1943. This is a part of the front that for many is a sideshow to the more well known Battle for Stalingrad. Ms Gerasimova shows that what actually took place was a gigantic battle that in some ways were even larger than the Battle of Stalingrad. It is hard to write about a campaign and the battles that took place without getting bogged down in huge number of details but Ms Gerasimova manages this splendidly. Her story is both to the point, clear and still she manages to present details making you understand what took place.
More than two million soviet soldiers became casualties in these battles. The Enormity of it all is staggering. Of course no book can bring full justice to something that big but this one stakes an important first step.
Ms Gerasimova also dares direct criticism to one of the major Soviet heroes of the war, Marshal Zhukov, for his conduct of the battle. This is not the first time this is done but it is done very seldom from a Russian writer. She also brings up how the Soviet forces by using tactics from the first world war (frontal assaults from the same direction again and again) almost by themselves created their own losses. Some of the personal stories that she tells are such that you have to ask yourself how it was possible. One example is a rifle company that attacked a German position and everybody in the company was killed except one soldier. The Russians killed him themselves after the battle since they claimed that he had fled the battlefield!
The Book has a lot of photos and also a number of good maps.
I hope that Ms Gerasimova will return with more books on the Eastern Front battles. I will buy and read them.
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