Advantages A gripping and extraordinary episode in history
Disadvantages You need a good interest in WW2
With a narrative that unfolds like a novel, this acclaimed book gives a comprehensive account of the events that lead to this brutal and epic episode of WW2. Author Beevor also provides a harrowing account of life in the city during the siege and the terrible suffering of the combatants and civillians.Stalingrad was perhaps the most important turning point of the second World War. Hitler's mad obsession with capturing the city named after his Soviet rival eventually cost the Germans the 250,000 men of the Sixth Army. Their remaining forces never recovered their balance and were soon in a rapid retreat all along the Eastern front.
The first section of 'Stalingrad' deals with launch of the invasion of the Soviet Union. Beevor suggests that Stalin was so intimidated by Hitler and the prospect of the world's most modern army being turned on him that he simply failed to grasp the reality of the situation for a while. As three million German soldiers move to assembly areas on Germany's eastern frontier Stalin dismisses all the talk of invasion as a plot by Winston Churchill to get Russia into the war on Britain's side. Beevor reminds us that Stalin, always paranoid that the military could turn on him, had murdered many of his generals and officers several years before. Lacking experienced officers and cowed by the Communist system, the Red Army is in no state to repulse the elite German formations. Early success in the campaign convinces Hitler that the Soviet Union cannot hold out for very long.The book is as much about the clash between Stalin and Hitler as the battle itself. Hitler ruthlessly dismisses generals and takes all military decisions himself. Beevor stresses very strongly that Hitler's inability to leave military decisions to his generals paved the way for the disasters that would fall on him. The SS follow the German armies through the campaign, destroying villages and shooting communists and Red Army officers. Stalin enforces discipline within his armies and population with special 'NKVD' squads. This ruthless organisation is used to keep reluctant soldiers and workers in the city during the height of the battle - a bullet the main instrument of persuasion. The psychological study of the two men leads Beevor to highlight the most salient difference that developed between them as the war unfolded, and one that played a crucial role in the eventual outcome; Stalin learnt to listen to and trust his generals, Hitler did not.
Beevor backs up his point by detailing how Stalin sought to restore the status of the Red Army and re-introduced medals and old military traditions. 'Stalingrad' suggests that Stalin was a shrewd pragamatist when his back was agaisnt the wall. Reading the book you get the feeling that these two tyrants would have, if neccesary, gladly sacrificed everyone in their own respective countries just to get one over on the other. Beevor shows how these two men and political systems could both be completely ruthless and the struggle between them is never less than gripping and often terrifying.
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