February 10th, 2013



I ended last year's Fifty Book Challenge with a study of the run-up to World War II in the bloodlands, followed by a history of the first Christmas of U.S. involvement in that war.  Here it's half-past February, and the first entry in this year's Challenge will be Ian Kershaw's The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945.  Long ago, Cornelius Ryan's The Last Battle told this story from the perspective of those soldiers, civilians, and government officials who were able and willing to comment for the record.  Mr Kershaw has been able to make use of records that were on the other side of the Iron Curtain from Mr Ryan, and he's accordingly able to provide a more accurate and detailed account of what went wrong.  It's not as simple as the existence of the Allied demand for unconditional surrender giving the German government no reason to lay down their arms, nor can the German resistance be laid off completely on the aftereffects of the 20 July 1944 coup attempt against the German dictator.  German fear of what the Soviet forces would do likely had an effect.  But a formulation Cornelius Ryan came up with in advance of the Market-Garden campaign might also have mattered: the Germans were losing the war more rapidly than the Allies, east or west, could win it.

Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.