Sunday, October 5, 2014

Operation Barbarossa: Nazi Germany's War in the East, 1941-1945 by Christian Hartmann

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 24, 2013

The war between Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union that raged between 1941 and 1945 was unprecedented in the scale of the destruction that it wrought and the deep scars that it left behind. The invasion of the Soviet Union was the conflict that Hitler had always ultimately planned for in his dream of creating a 'Thousand Year Reich'. From the beginning it was a struggle for survival, conducted with great bitterness and savagery by opponents who knew that defeat meant the destruction of everything they stood for. By 1945 a huge swathe of Europe between Berlin and Moscow had been reduced to a devastated wasteland in which whole societies had been erased from the face of the earth. Over 26 million Soviets and between four and five million Germans lay dead. The eventual victory of the Red Army transformed the Soviet Union into one of the world's two superpowers. It also saw the complete destruction of Hitler's megalomaniac vision for the East, the division of the German Reich, and the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe for a generation. Enriched by a wealth of eye-witness testimony from both the Soviet and the German sides, Operation Barbarossa paints a masterly overview of these momentous four years and their human consequences - one that is both gripping and deeply moving.

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I'm not going to waste time beating round the bush on this one. Those who follow my reviews know that WWII is a period with which I am endlessly fascinated, but that said, I found Christian Hartmann's Operation Barbarossa more than a little challenging.  

To be clear, I feel the book is an informative nonfiction, but I personally found it terribly dry and had difficulty remaining engaged during my reading. The nonlinear structure of Hartmann's analysis was not to my liking and while I appreciate political assessment as much as the next person, I often found myself following tangent ideas and concepts to other titles. 

A relatively modest text, Operation Barbarossa is one of the most condensed accounts on the market and I think it certainly benefits from the author's background, but I can't say I'd have an easy time recommending it, even to those with intense interest in the campaign. 

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Since 1945 there has been nothing in the Western hemisphere of a scale comparable to that of the Second World War. One pivot of the global conflict, indeed the moment of its greatest intensity, was the war between Nazi Germany and he Stalinist Soviet Union.
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