THE FALL OF BERLIN
Author: Ian Baxter
Publisher: Pen & Sword (Images of War series), 128 pages, 250 illustrations
Published: 2nd October 2019
Long before March 1945 when the Red Army were approaching the gates of the German capital, it was obvious that the war in Europe would soon be over. On 20 April, Hitler’s 56th birthday, Soviet artillery began a massive bombardment of this doomed city. To defend Berlin Hitler ordered every soldier, including Hitlerjugend and Volksstrum, to fight to the death in some of the most savage house-to-house urban fighting ever witnessed.
It is through this collection of powerful images that the reader can get a feeling of what it was like in those last few savage days of the war. The photographs themselves look like they come from a mix of German and Russian sources, although frustratingly they are not sourced. Very few I have ever seen before so it appears that a large amount are previously unpublished which makes this a more interesting and fresh photo study of Berlin’s fall. The summary text and highly informative captions take the reader through the Vistula-Oder Offensive in January 1945, then the Defence of the Oder and the Battle of Halbe in April 1945. At this time Hitler was directing the battle from the confines of his bunker, barking out desperate orders to the remnants of his already beaten German Army. In the final chapter the story of the final soviet assault is told, ending in Berlin’s inevitable fall on 2 May. Isolated pockets of German resistance made up from Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, Fallschirmjager, Luftwaffe and a mix of Hitler Youth and Volksstrum (with ages ranging from 10 to 60) fought against the might of the Russian army, bent on revenge. 50,000 against 500,000 is going to have but one outcome.
The book would be very useful for battlefield guides, modellers and those generally interested in Berlin and the uniforms, equipment, fighting vehicles and weapons used in this battle. Of course there are other books that tell the story in greater detail, but this is not the intent of this volume which uses good quality photographs to tell the story. It is a handy sized informative, illustration rich and recommended book.