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The Last Battle: The Classic History of the Battle for Berlin

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The classic account of the final offensive against Hitler's Third Reich. The Battle for Berlin was the culminating struggle of World War II in the European theater, the last offensive against Hitler's Third Reich, which devastated one of Europe's historic capitals and marked the final defeat of Nazi Germany. It was also one of the war's bloodiest and most pivotal battles, w The classic account of the final offensive against Hitler's Third Reich. The Battle for Berlin was the culminating struggle of World War II in the European theater, the last offensive against Hitler's Third Reich, which devastated one of Europe's historic capitals and marked the final defeat of Nazi Germany. It was also one of the war's bloodiest and most pivotal battles, whose outcome would shape international politics for decades to come. Cornelius Ryan's compelling account of this final battle is a story of brutal extremes, of stunning military triumph alongside the stark conditions that the civilians of Berlin experienced in the face of the Allied assault. As always, Ryan delves beneath the military and political forces that were dictating events to explore the more immediate imperatives of survival, where, as the author describes it, “to eat had become more important than to love, to burrow more dignified than to fight, to exist more militarily correct than to win.” It is the story of ordinary people, both soldiers and civilians, caught up in the despair, frustration, and terror of defeat. It is history at its best, a masterful illumination of the effects of war on the lives of individuals, and one of the enduring works on World War II.


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The classic account of the final offensive against Hitler's Third Reich. The Battle for Berlin was the culminating struggle of World War II in the European theater, the last offensive against Hitler's Third Reich, which devastated one of Europe's historic capitals and marked the final defeat of Nazi Germany. It was also one of the war's bloodiest and most pivotal battles, w The classic account of the final offensive against Hitler's Third Reich. The Battle for Berlin was the culminating struggle of World War II in the European theater, the last offensive against Hitler's Third Reich, which devastated one of Europe's historic capitals and marked the final defeat of Nazi Germany. It was also one of the war's bloodiest and most pivotal battles, whose outcome would shape international politics for decades to come. Cornelius Ryan's compelling account of this final battle is a story of brutal extremes, of stunning military triumph alongside the stark conditions that the civilians of Berlin experienced in the face of the Allied assault. As always, Ryan delves beneath the military and political forces that were dictating events to explore the more immediate imperatives of survival, where, as the author describes it, “to eat had become more important than to love, to burrow more dignified than to fight, to exist more militarily correct than to win.” It is the story of ordinary people, both soldiers and civilians, caught up in the despair, frustration, and terror of defeat. It is history at its best, a masterful illumination of the effects of war on the lives of individuals, and one of the enduring works on World War II.

30 review for The Last Battle: The Classic History of the Battle for Berlin

  1. 4 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    This is historical narrative history at its finest and though first published in 1966 it has stood the test of time. Generally narrative history is not my style of presentation but it was very hard to fault the author’s ability to take this reader along the journey of all the participants. Be they the military, the politicians or the civilians who were all caught up in the final drama that was the fall of Berlin this is a riveting and harrowing history told. Some of the civilian’s stories of the This is historical narrative history at its finest and though first published in 1966 it has stood the test of time. Generally narrative history is not my style of presentation but it was very hard to fault the author’s ability to take this reader along the journey of all the participants. Be they the military, the politicians or the civilians who were all caught up in the final drama that was the fall of Berlin this is a riveting and harrowing history told. Some of the civilian’s stories of the sheer terror they suffered in this brutal final battle are heart-rending and to be frank must be read by anyone that has some sympathy to the glory that was never Nazism and the confidence trick it played on the German peoples. Footnotes are scarce though there is a list of all the individuals that were interviewed and a very good bibliography. Recommended to anyone with any interest in World War 2. (view spoiler)[ In the darkness, Private Willy Feldheim grasped his bulky Panzerfaust more firmly. He did not know for certain where he was, but he had heard that this line of foxholes covering the three roads in the Klosterdorf area was about eighteen miles from the front. A little while ago, waiting for the Russian tanks to come up the road, Willy had felt a sense of great adventure. He had thought about what it would be like when he saw the first tank and could finally fire the anti-tank gun for the first time. The three companies holding the crossroads had been told to let the tanks get as close as possible before firing. Willy’s instructor had said that a sixty-yard range was about right. He wondered how soon they would come. Crouched in the damp foxhole, Willy thought about the days when he was a bugler. He remembered in particular one brilliant, sunshiny day in 1943 when Hitler spoke in Olympic Stadium and Willy had been among the massed buglers who had sounded the fanfare at the Führer’s entrance. He would never forget the leader’s words to the assembled Hitler Youth: “You are the guarantee of the future….” And the crowds had yelled “Führer Befiehl! Führer Befiehl!” It had been the most memorable day of Willy’s life. On that afternoon he had known beyond doubt that the Reich had the best army, the best weapons, the best generals and, above all, the greatest leader in the world. The dream was gone in the sudden flash that illuminated the night sky. Willy peered out toward the front and now he heard again the low rumbling of the guns he had momentarily forgotten, and he felt the cold. His stomach began to ache and he wanted to cry. Fifteen-year-old Willy Feldheim was badly scared, and all the noble aims and the stirring words could not help him now. (hide spoiler)]

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    There is no easy way to put to words something with such enormity as the last battle in the deadliest military conflict in history. And yet, Cornelius Ryan manages to do just that not with the use of staggering statistics, but with a series of stories that even my simple human mind could comprehend. Don't get me wrong, Ryan is thorough in his coverage of the military history of the Battle of Berlin . However, for me, sometimes the big picture is brought home by the little things, so I'm just There is no easy way to put to words something with such enormity as the last battle in the deadliest military conflict in history. And yet, Cornelius Ryan manages to do just that not with the use of staggering statistics, but with a series of stories that even my simple human mind could comprehend. Don't get me wrong, Ryan is thorough in his coverage of the military history of the Battle of Berlin . However, for me, sometimes the big picture is brought home by the little things, so I'm just gonna go ahead and copy the model of Jeff's lovely review and tell you a few of the many things I learned (or hadn't previously considered). The Zoo Early on Ryan tells us of a zookeeper who, unable to bear the thought of it being left there to perish, took home his favorite rare stork to live in his bathtub. I'm not gonna get all PETA on you here, but, yes the fate of the Berlin Zoo hit me pretty hard. I won't attempt to devastate you (or myself) with pictures of perished elephants and whatnot, but the thought of the zoo's inhabitants as Berliners made for an interesting meditation. One Way Out of Berlin What do you do when you're told that your city full of women and children residents is about to be sacked by a group of savages with no regard for humanity (the Goebbels propaganda machine in perpetual motion)? Well, for one, you stock up on cyanide . It seems that parlor talk included whether to go for the wrist or other major arteries among women who took to keeping razor blades on their person along the Strasses of Berlin. Among the deaths by poisoning were the six Goebbels children who died at the hand of their mother, Magda, before she and her husband/Reich Minister of Propaganda committed suicide. Soldiers of Last Resort So who was left to defend the city? For the most part, the Volkssturm who, as Ryan describes, "occupied a kind of netherworld among the military." In addition to the problems arising from the fact that the invite decidedly read BYOW (Bring Your Own Weapon) which resulted in a hodgepodge of mismatched guns and ammo, the "people's militia" did not feature battle-ready demographics. Children as young as 13 were among the members of the 92 battalions sent out to the streets of battle. On the flip-side at least one Volkssturm unit was made up of World War I veterans and other men past their "prime" fighting years. One such individual (potentially a former senior ranking police official according to some internet comments) is pictured below wearing a Volkssturm armband after being taken captive by a young Soviet soldier (left). Hitler Loyalists Had Second Thoughts In an egregious oversimplification of things, I'll just say that some of Hitler's higher-ups were seriously starting to question his judgement during those final days. Albert Speer, architect and Nazi Minister of Armaments and War Production was considering assassinating Hitler. However, Ryan best captures the internal turmoil of General Gotthard Heinrici (pictured below meeting Hitler in 1937) who, in the end (and, in reality, too late) realized his responsibility to the German people and god superseded even direct orders from the Fuhrer. My Recommendation Read this one (or listen to it, as I did). I'm skipping, well, pretty much everything, and if you're at all interested in this period of history then you won't regret taking the time to go through this.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    I have no idea why I had not read this book before now but I am thrilled that I did. I have read several book on the Battle of Berlin but this one stands near, if not at the top, of the list of winners. The author divides the book into sections.....the City, the Generals, the Objective,the Decision, and the Battle. Within each chapter, he supplies intricate detail of each topic without becoming pedantic.....he is telling the story of what happened, as it happened, and does not allow any bias to I have no idea why I had not read this book before now but I am thrilled that I did. I have read several book on the Battle of Berlin but this one stands near, if not at the top, of the list of winners. The author divides the book into sections.....the City, the Generals, the Objective,the Decision, and the Battle. Within each chapter, he supplies intricate detail of each topic without becoming pedantic.....he is telling the story of what happened, as it happened, and does not allow any bias to color the narrative. It is a straightforward history of the race by the Allies for Berlin as the Third Reich collapses and the taking of the capital that will end the slaughter. The interaction among the Allies as to who should be allowed the honor of entering the city first is fascinating and the fear of the civilians that the Russians would be the invaders was real, as it should have been. The common Russian soldier was on a mission of revenge for the atrocities committed by Germany when they invaded Russia and were savage in their retribution. The last days and hours within the Fuehrer Bunker are fascinating as Hitler's madness increased and he ordered all to stand and fight to the last man. Needless to say, that did not happen, although the city could have been saved if one General would have stepped forward and approached the Allies directly with a statement of surrender. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in WWII, and even to those who may not be. Beautifully done.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Typical sprawling Ryan--not much new, but he sure brings back some great diary-captured dialogue. And who knew that around April 25th, 1945, Major Werner Pluskat slipped quietly away from Wenck's 12th Army, swam across the Elbe, and surrendered to the Americans (Bradley)? You may recall Pluskat from Ryan's previous book "D-Day", but most especially the movie made from that book. Posted at the Normandy beaches, he's the first to sight the Allied invasion: P: "There must be 10,000 ships!" Supercilio Typical sprawling Ryan--not much new, but he sure brings back some great diary-captured dialogue. And who knew that around April 25th, 1945, Major Werner Pluskat slipped quietly away from Wenck's 12th Army, swam across the Elbe, and surrendered to the Americans (Bradley)? You may recall Pluskat from Ryan's previous book "D-Day", but most especially the movie made from that book. Posted at the Normandy beaches, he's the first to sight the Allied invasion: P: "There must be 10,000 ships!" Supercilious Colonel: "That's impossible; the Anglo-Americans don't have 10,000 ships. Tell me, Herr Major, if they had 10,000 ships, where are they heading?" P: "Right at me!" That's from a different book, but good to know Pluskat deserted the sinking Reich just in time. I think Ryan undercounts Soviet losses taking Berlin (100k in the book), and spends too much time emphasizing the first and second wave of Russians that overran Berlin were professionals, not rapists. Those soldiers warned of "the pigs" behind them, and they were right: girls from 9 to women of 90 were raped. Ryan discusses but somehow downplays it. Fortunately, there's subsequently published diaries (e.g., "A Woman in Berlin") making this hell of war all too ugly.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Doreen Petersen

    Outstanding book! The author packs so much factual evidence in that it's still making my head spin. Loved this book. Would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in WWII history! Outstanding book! The author packs so much factual evidence in that it's still making my head spin. Loved this book. Would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in WWII history!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    The Last Battle is a bundle of Stars, 5 at least bringing you another chapter in Cornelius Ryan’s historical storytelling of WWII. An excellent account of the end of Nazi Germany for the novice, amateur and professional historian alike. Completed in 1966, it remains a wonderful source of first-hand accounts and one of the first to include detailed Soviet accounts of the battle. No mean feat in the middle of the Cold War. Ryan begins with building up the picture of an overwhelmed Germany and a des The Last Battle is a bundle of Stars, 5 at least bringing you another chapter in Cornelius Ryan’s historical storytelling of WWII. An excellent account of the end of Nazi Germany for the novice, amateur and professional historian alike. Completed in 1966, it remains a wonderful source of first-hand accounts and one of the first to include detailed Soviet accounts of the battle. No mean feat in the middle of the Cold War. Ryan begins with building up the picture of an overwhelmed Germany and a destroyed Berlin waiting for whoever would capture it first. The Allies are flooding in, taking huge swaths of territory daily. Most hoped the Western Allies would beat the Russians to Berlin. Ryan’s writing is so simple, it is brilliant. He brings in all sorts of key and obscure characters from all sides and uses their words to tell the story. For instance, after describing the rubble of Berlin and the fantasy of the Nazi leadership in defending the Reich, Ryan brings the scene down to earth with the simple day-to-day existence of a Berlin milkman making his delivery rounds, touching the lives of so many others, a sliver of everyday normality in a world gone mad. From civilians caught in the crossfire to the “grunts” on every side to the Axis and Allied leaders you will get a vivid picture of this violent time. Some things I learned or gained a better appreciation for from this book: -The Eisenhower decision to not take Berlin caused immense frustration to Churchill, the British Army and the US Army. The drama around this decision was fascinating. -Roosevelt was adamant that the US Army should be attacking on the north German plains, where the British actually were. He did not want to be in southern Germany or near France or Italy. -The decision of a probable mid-level British staff officer to stage the American forces and supplies in south and southwestern England had far ranging impacts to D-Day and the entire campaign. -Col Gen Gotthard Heinrici, given command of Army Group Vistula, is a fascinating character. -Stalin was convinced the Western Allies were going to try to beat him to Berlin. He plays his generals against each other to get to Berlin first. So many Russian soldiers were thrown away in the race to the city. But the frenzy of the Russian troops to get to Berlin was also amazing. -The US and UK were not all buddy-buddy in the execution of the war in Europe. Interesting to read how bad the situation was at times. Highly recommended. Easy to read and keeps your attention. If you want a great contrast, read Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain, about the desperate situation in 1940. Taken together, these two books are great bookends to WWII history.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Like the other books of Cornelius Ryan that I have read, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far, the author brings immediacy to what in the wrong hands could be a confusing mass of events and people. The book focuses on the last major battle, the Battle of Berlin, and the events that led up to it. A few things I learned from reading the book: 1) U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgentheau wanted to eliminate all industry from Germany and turn it into an agricultural state. 2) Allied intelligen Like the other books of Cornelius Ryan that I have read, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far, the author brings immediacy to what in the wrong hands could be a confusing mass of events and people. The book focuses on the last major battle, the Battle of Berlin, and the events that led up to it. A few things I learned from reading the book: 1) U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgentheau wanted to eliminate all industry from Germany and turn it into an agricultural state. 2) Allied intelligence feared that there was a secret base (Redoubt) somewhere in Southern Germany, fully armed with chemical warfare weaponry and outfitted with secret commando squads called “Werewolves”. This turned out to be a false rumor. 3) The Germans had captured the Allies’ plans to divide up Germany at the end of the war into respective U.S., British and Soviet zones. This was revealed for the first time when the book was published. 4) The fact that Berlin fell in the Soviet zone, was the main reason that Eisenhower did not have the Anglo-American forces try to take the city. He felt it was pointless for troops to give their lives for territory that they would have to give back at the end of the war. 5) On secret orders from Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower, a commando group led by Nicholas Joseph Fury was able to neutralize a HYDRA group located 50 miles south of Coberg.* 6) The Allies would routinely use captured vehicles and even planes. They would capture them, paint them olive drab and slap on the regiment designation. 7) During his initial artillery barrage, General Zhukov thought that shining blinding anti-aircraft lights into German positions would confuse them. The Germans had retreated from those positions hours earlier. Still, an interesting, yet failed, tactic. *Just to see if you were paying attention.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    It's been a crazy hectic couple of weeks for me recently. Ramping up into a new role at my job (work for which I'm postponing to try to catch up on my reviews... PRIORITIES.), travelling for a conference for said new role, getting delayed on my flight home from said conference due to crazy weather, delayed again, flight cancelled, then cancelled again and again, and essentially being stranded for TWO DAYS half a country away from home... and then trying to get caught up with life afterward... it It's been a crazy hectic couple of weeks for me recently. Ramping up into a new role at my job (work for which I'm postponing to try to catch up on my reviews... PRIORITIES.), travelling for a conference for said new role, getting delayed on my flight home from said conference due to crazy weather, delayed again, flight cancelled, then cancelled again and again, and essentially being stranded for TWO DAYS half a country away from home... and then trying to get caught up with life afterward... it's just been a bit crazy. So I'm a bit behind on my reading (but what else is new there??) and my reviewing. But it's interesting that all of this happened to me while listening to this book, because it made it that much easier to empathize and understand how displaced people would have felt during that time. And, let's be honest here... As frustrating and annoying as my travel situation was (a 3 hour non-stop flight turning into a delay-to-repeated cancellation nightmare, complete with a night in the airport and then another night at a hotel out of pocket, followed by a full day of flying and driving to get home) it was nothing, NOTHING, compared to the realities that people had to deal with in WWII. I only mention it because it was a new experience for me - not knowing when I would be able to get home, not knowing where I was supposed to go, etc - and I could extrapolate from that how terrible it would have been to have that be your foreseeable future, rather than just a weekend inconvenience. So, yeah. My weekend sucked, but in the grand scheme of things, I was never more than 5 minutes from a Starbucks, so it's not like I can TRULY understand how it would have been to live through WWII. But this book does a really fantastic job at bridging a lot of that gap. This isn't just the story of the battle for Berlin, and all of the military actions and plans and maneuvers that took place, it was the story of the people and the city and the lives that were affected by it. It does a great job at piecing together the stories of the names we know, as well as ordinary people lost to history but for this book holding their story. It reminds us that the cost of war isn't just political, or military, or monetary, it's measured in individual lives, both human and animal. It's measured in potential. It's measured in the brutality of conquering armies, the retaliation against invaders, the innocent citizens who are caught in the middle of a war they didn't want or sign up for, but must try to survive any way they can. It's measured in the physical and psychological traumas, the loss of hope, the bleakness of the continuing on, the eroding of trust in one's community and country, etc. One of the things that kept surprising me was the fact that Hitler lost the war for himself because of his massive ego. Had he listened to his military generals and experienced experts, the outcome of this war might have been very, very different. But as it was, he essentially hamstrung his own forces, keeping armies stationed in useless areas, splitting forces up, failing to ensure that armies had the weapons and support needed for the battles they were supposed to fight, throwing untrained bodies at problems, and in short, expecting miracles. Again and again, he refused to listen to his generals and advisers, claiming that if the Nazi forces believed strongly enough, and were faithful enough in their cause, they'd be triumphant. Anyway, for this being a nonfiction about war, it was surprisingly not dry and boring, but interesting and personal and heartbreaking at times. I found it interesting and compelling, and it doesn't read like a book that's over 50 years old. (I was VERY surprised when I learned that this was originally published in the 60s!) The audio read by Simon Vance is, as usual, fantastic. If you're at all interested in this topic, I would suggest checking this out. It is really good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    This is a fantastic book about the last major battle in Europe during World War II, but it's not really a story of the battle. It's more a story of what different soldiers and civilians experienced, as well as what went on in the various political arenas to shape how things turned out. With the help of Professor John Erickson, the author was able to review Soviet documents and maps, as well as interview many of the Soviet generals involved in the fight for Berlin. Considering the book was written This is a fantastic book about the last major battle in Europe during World War II, but it's not really a story of the battle. It's more a story of what different soldiers and civilians experienced, as well as what went on in the various political arenas to shape how things turned out. With the help of Professor John Erickson, the author was able to review Soviet documents and maps, as well as interview many of the Soviet generals involved in the fight for Berlin. Considering the book was written in 1966, the amount of detail on the Soviet side is extremely impressive. There is also plenty from the German, American and British sides as many of the key participants were still alive to be interviewed, or their notes and diaries could be examined. Some of the stories of the indecision, chaos and horror are incredible to read, especially the stories from Adolf Hitler's bunker underneath the city. I would say this book is similar to Antony Beevor's book on the Battle of Berlin in that it's more of a political and personal history of the battle as opposed to a military history. This doesn't make it any less worthwhile, but it might not be what some are looking for if they want all sorts of military information and details. A truly excellent book and worth picking up!

  10. 4 out of 5

    A.L. Sowards

    Wow. This book was really interesting. It kept making me think what would have happened if...Knowing what did happen to Eastern Europe after WWII kept me wishing that things would have turned out differently. I still think Eisenhower made the right choice, based on the information he had, when he decided not to cross the Elbe and race the Soviets for Berlin across territory the politicians had already said would be in the Soviet zone. (Especially when I read that the Red Army planed to "accident Wow. This book was really interesting. It kept making me think what would have happened if...Knowing what did happen to Eastern Europe after WWII kept me wishing that things would have turned out differently. I still think Eisenhower made the right choice, based on the information he had, when he decided not to cross the Elbe and race the Soviets for Berlin across territory the politicians had already said would be in the Soviet zone. (Especially when I read that the Red Army planed to "accidentally" shell the Americans when they met, just so they would know how strong the Red Army was.) But I wonder what would have happened if Roosevelt (or someone on his staff) had pushed harder for his map of post-war Germany. Or if the Allies hadn't had the whole Market Garden fiasco that held them up in Sept '44. Or if the German army would have done the common-sense thing and let the Anglo-American armies come in from the West and move everything to the Eastern front. Ryan did a wonderful job of showing different perspectives: the men in the 82nd airborne division being briefed for a possible drop into Berlin; the civilians in Berlin worrying about being raped when the Red Army arrived; one of Hitler's croonies trying to figure out a way to save the musicians in the Berlin orchestra from being turned into cannon fodder; Soviet troops whose families had been slaughtered by Nazis and had nothing to go back home to. I found myself feeling sorry for people on every side of the war. I was so glad when Heinrici finally decided to disobey his absolutely-no-retreat orders from Hitler because he knew he would have to answer to the German people and to God. And speaking of Hitler, if I didn't already think him demonic for his other war-time atrocities, how he treated his own loyal people in the final months of the war would alone be enough to make me hate him. Is it really necessary to arm your 13 and 14 year old children and send them off to be slaughtered when you know you will lose the war? (I use the term "arm" loosely, since most of them were given rifles and ammunition that weren't compatible, so they might as well have been using rocks and spears.) Anyway, if you want to know more about the last bit of the war in Europe, and the reasons things ended up the way they did, this is the book to read. Well-written, fair. I'll admit I was a little worried that the book would end up being just a catalogue of revenge-driven Soviet troops taking their anger out on Berlin civilians. There were a few pages of that, but the book covered so much more. Makes me very glad to live in the US in the twenty-first century.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

    A great historical read. Factually questionable in parts. A recent trip to Berlin and during a tour of the Reichstag the guide told us that the Red Army that fought in the Berlin battle on the soviet side could have had one third women front line soldiers. Who to believe? The description of the information the allies based their strategy on was questionable, such as the phantom German redoubt in Bavaria. So much for enigma. The civilian scenes of the battle and aftermath were harrowing. Hitlers d A great historical read. Factually questionable in parts. A recent trip to Berlin and during a tour of the Reichstag the guide told us that the Red Army that fought in the Berlin battle on the soviet side could have had one third women front line soldiers. Who to believe? The description of the information the allies based their strategy on was questionable, such as the phantom German redoubt in Bavaria. So much for enigma. The civilian scenes of the battle and aftermath were harrowing. Hitlers delusion of imaginary German armies and madness was evident as was his cronies such as Goebbels. I found out why the allies let the Russians take Berlin which made sense with the Eclipse plan that divided Germany into three zones once the Germans were defeated. Eisenhower probably saved thousands of allied soldiers lives by ignoring Montgomery and his glory seeking. Stalin was completely untrustworthy and you can see the seeds of the Iron Curtain developing with Poland and other Eastern European countries. All in all a good read and it was good to see Henrici finally disobeying Hitlers orders to save his men.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pramodya

    Ahh.. Cornelius Ryan never disappoints. Another brilliant piece of work from him. Excellent portrayal of the last battle for Berlin and the three main sides (US, Britain, Germany) and the civilian population that were involved in it. Loved it! :)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Monroe

    To the generations that came after its end, World War II has a kind of mythical quality about it. It feels and reads like a Hollywood blockbuster, and has in fact been used as the basis for many Hollywood blockbusters. And, like any great myth or movie, it has larger than life heroes AND villains. As a result of this, the gruesome details of what went on in WWII often get lost in depictions of cartoonish villains and heroic deeds. The Battle for Berlin is ripe with all these elements. The villain To the generations that came after its end, World War II has a kind of mythical quality about it. It feels and reads like a Hollywood blockbuster, and has in fact been used as the basis for many Hollywood blockbusters. And, like any great myth or movie, it has larger than life heroes AND villains. As a result of this, the gruesome details of what went on in WWII often get lost in depictions of cartoonish villains and heroic deeds. The Battle for Berlin is ripe with all these elements. The villains are there, on both sides, heroes emerge, also on both sides, and the gruesome details are in no short supply. This battle encapsulates everything that war is. The complexity of it, the tragedy of it, and the fact that there really is nothing heroic or good in it. But like WWII itself, Cornelius Ryan's account of "The Last Battle" is fascinating. Ryan really had amazing access to the people that took part in the battle, on both sides, and he looks at the battle with a microscope. It is the short, personal details that stand out in this telling. The milkman who continues on his route despite the impending collapse of the city. The zookeeper who keeps the zoo's rare stork in his bathtub in an attempt to keep it safe. The communists who, having eagerly awaited the arrival of the Soviets in the city, are then brutally raped when they finally arrive. Yes, the rapes. It was interesting to read in the author's acknowledgments that both the U.S. State Department and the British Foreign Office discouraged the author from raising the issue of the Berlin rapes with the Soviets during his interviews with him, fearing that it would be "undiplomatic to raise the question". Then-President John F. Kennedy disagreed with that view, telling the author that the Russians were "horse traders" and that he should "lay it on the table" and be blunt. Ryan does not shy away from depicting the horrible brutality of the Red Army as it sweeps into Berlin. Many Berliners are relieved when they find that the first waves of the Red Army are professional, even helpful. But the Soviets are apparently well aware of their reputation, as one officer tells a group of women sequestered at a convent to be careful because the men coming up behind them are "pigs" and another man, after having brutally assaulted a woman in an alleyway, raises his hands over his head in helpless admission afterwards, admitting "I'm a pig". Women hide in overturned bathtubs cast on the street outside, under tables, blankets, and anywhere else in order to try and avoid being raped. Many women are gang raped, left half-dead, and then raped again when another group of soldiers enters the city. It is little surprise then that many of these women attempted suicide to avoid this particularly cruel fate. I'm currently living in eastern Ukraine and, while reading this book, I asked some of the locals I know about their thoughts on this. Some of the responses I got resembled those the author received to an uncanny degree. The German women, they told me, "deserved their fate" because of crimes their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers had committed during Hitler's plunge into eastern Europe. Perhaps the worst thing about war is how mercy is so often in short supply on all sides. Other notable events depicted by Ryan include Patton's Third Army discovering the remains of uncountable corpses when they liberate a Nazi Concentration Camp. The famously stern Patton is, we are told, reduced to tears and the next day leads the local townspeople, who deny all knowledge of the nearby camp, by gunpoint through it so they can see firsthand the atrocities committed there. The Berlin Zoo is, as well, a sadly tragic tale. The "dangerous" animals had to be shot and other animals starve to death or are killed by the bombs or shelling. Sometimes one can't help but sympathize with the animals the most. For weren't they the only ones we can point to as having been truly innocent in the whole affair? But in between moments of seeming unrelenting darkness in "The Last Battle", I found myself laughing. Once at the insight that while Berlin was being shelled and its occupants were busy fleeing for their lives, eleven of the city's seventeen breweries continued making beer because the government had deemed its production "essential". Or again at the darkly comic image of some of the Soviets who, having never seen a lightbulb before, stuffed their pockets full of the bulbs thinking that they contained light. Many Soviets, having a similar lack of knowledge of plumbing, pulled the water faucets from the wall thinking they would have instant access to water whenever they wished. "The Last Battle" reiterates the madness that gripped Hitler, especially in those final months, and left me asking once again - why the hell did not even his own top advisors try to stop a man who clearly had no grip on reality and fostered a growing hatred for his own people in those final mad months? Ryan has given us essential insight into an event and a war that should never be forgotten. That it is also an essential insight into the nature of man and of the potential we all have for good and evil makes it all the more valuable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    A great read. This is my first Cornelius Ryan book and I must say that it is truly a marvel. Ryan is a master at writing the "living-history" and retells the Battle of Berlin, and the many events surrounding it, with page-turning detail. He is the best writer of history I have read since Ben Macintyre. Interestingly, 2/3rds of the book does not deal with the actual battle itself. Instead, it introduces us to the context of the battle and the many, many faces that were either directly or indirect A great read. This is my first Cornelius Ryan book and I must say that it is truly a marvel. Ryan is a master at writing the "living-history" and retells the Battle of Berlin, and the many events surrounding it, with page-turning detail. He is the best writer of history I have read since Ben Macintyre. Interestingly, 2/3rds of the book does not deal with the actual battle itself. Instead, it introduces us to the context of the battle and the many, many faces that were either directly or indirectly involved. Some of my favorite parts were his many civilian profiles of Berliners. Reading about how different people lived during the prelude of the siege and the siege itself was fascinating. One memorable moment was the description of one group of Berliners who got so used to air raids that they did not bother taking cover anymore since they did not want to lose their spot in line for food. All in all, a wonderful read. The last chapter was difficult to read as Ryan gives many harrowing accounts of civilians being assaulted by the Russians. It was noteworthy to read this after reading "German Boy" as many of the assaults described in that book are present here as well. A truly depressing part of the war. Yet, it is important that these atrocities are part of history so that people can know the truth about what transpired. Bravo Cornelius Ryan!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Terrific history and sublime story-telling - there is a reason this books has stood the test of time - I only wish I'd read it earlier. There's not much point in reviewing a highly regarded, commercially successful book that, after nearly 50 years, is still widely accessible on library and bookstore shelves. But, if you're unfamiliar with Ryan, his genius lies in taking the grandest (or the most terrible) of events - here, the fall of Berlin and the Third Reich at the end of WWII - and introducin Terrific history and sublime story-telling - there is a reason this books has stood the test of time - I only wish I'd read it earlier. There's not much point in reviewing a highly regarded, commercially successful book that, after nearly 50 years, is still widely accessible on library and bookstore shelves. But, if you're unfamiliar with Ryan, his genius lies in taking the grandest (or the most terrible) of events - here, the fall of Berlin and the Third Reich at the end of WWII - and introducing the reader to an enormously broad range of personal, or, more accurately, intimate vignettes and anecdotes, without letting the reader's attention wander from the primary story line. It's all here - German, Russian, American, and British armies, from the civilian leaders (dictators, presidents, prime ministers) and generals to the junior officers and privates to the prisoners of war and the populace/residents, to, and I could not make this up, the most exotic of animals in the Berlin zoo. And you can't help but care about all of them. Oh, and the icing on the cake is a generous dose of photos, which makes this brilliant web of human interest stories even more, well, human. The book represents an epic achievement, and I'm glad I finally took the time to read it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Another amazing book about WWII from Cornelius Ryan. Similar to "A Bridge Too Far," Ryan does a skillful job of weaving in personal stories with the bigger political and military picture. My only constructive critique of "The Last Battle" is that the book ends too soon on the historical timeline. Throughout the book he hints at bad things to come with the fall of Berlin transitioning into the beginning of The Cold War, but the book ends a bit abruptly before exploring this more, or providing an e Another amazing book about WWII from Cornelius Ryan. Similar to "A Bridge Too Far," Ryan does a skillful job of weaving in personal stories with the bigger political and military picture. My only constructive critique of "The Last Battle" is that the book ends too soon on the historical timeline. Throughout the book he hints at bad things to come with the fall of Berlin transitioning into the beginning of The Cold War, but the book ends a bit abruptly before exploring this more, or providing an epilogue.

  17. 5 out of 5

    N.P.

    “Although this book includes accounts of the fighting, it is not a military report. Rather, it is the story of ordinary people, both soldiers and civllans, who werе сaught up in the despair, frustration, terror аnd rape of the defeat and the victory.” First of all, for anyone who haven’t read the book : I REALLY HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you read this book LAST in the Cornelius Ryan trilogy of “The Longest Day”, “A Bridge Too Far” and “The Last Battle” - at least read the first book, “The Longest Day” “Although this book includes accounts of the fighting, it is not a military report. Rather, it is the story of ordinary people, both soldiers and civllans, who werе сaught up in the despair, frustration, terror аnd rape of the defeat and the victory.” First of all, for anyone who haven’t read the book : I REALLY HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you read this book LAST in the Cornelius Ryan trilogy of “The Longest Day”, “A Bridge Too Far” and “The Last Battle” - at least read the first book, “The Longest Day”, before reading this one. That might seems like a lot - but I promise it is probably worth it... The main reason for this are 1. The amount of recurring characters in this book truly makes me glad I read it last ! all of them are from “The Longest Day” and some appear in the other book too, but you really just need to read the first book to catch all the familiar names. Even if all their scenes are just short cameos, I think knowing these people beforehand enhanced the experience of reading this book a lot (this book is long so it can get a bit boring at time, but seeing someone familiar turned up/learning what happened to them at the end of the war really pull me right back in) : there is one, however, that REALLY stands out as the absolute best cameo... and I dare not spoil it. For me one of the thing Ryan does best is creating tension in his many subplots, even though sometimes you already know what will happen - but sometimes you don’t. So if you care about that at all - a warning : Do not read General Heinrici’s Wikipedia page - and do NOT read the picture chapters in the book. In this book there will be many chapter that are just Ryan showing us a lot of pictures of people that have been mentioned or will be mentioned in the book - and they’re great - but the description (often telling us their eventual fate), and the people shown (AKA confirming that they will appear in the book) spoil many of the plots... I think it’s way better to skip them and go back to them once you finish the book ! Anyway, 2. I think you should read this last because this is the most hard-hitting and emotional book in the trilogy… and has a sense of melancholic finality to it. This book is way more emotional than “The Longest Day” and way better at pacing then “A Bridge Too Far” which was about the same length. IMO This is the most morbid book - and the most well-written book. Reading this last is reaching the peak of Ryan’s writing, I think. Frankly if I read “A Bridge Too Far” after this one (as it was published after this one) I’d be pretty disappointed and like that book way less. Now - things I love ••• A thing I love so much is that Ryan always does his goddamn best to try and sneak in the age and psychical description of each historical figure he mentioned (seriously. Go back and read the introduction of literally EVERYONE in all three books) For me it adds a lot to these characters immediately, and make it easier to visualize them even without knowing them beforehand/searching them up. It comes hand-in-hand with the novel style Ryan had chosen - and I really love it. ••• Ryan also CLEARLY enjoyed environmental storytelling - everywhere we went he always described the scenes - whether it servers to set the mood, inform us about events or characters. ••• Description just brings life to history - it is amazing how imagery and refreshed your senses of long-gone time. ••• Berlin itself is a distinct character in this book ! That adds a lot to my investment in the event, and my empathy to the mass of people I hitherto know nothing about; this book really makes you feel like you lived there ! ••• I love Ryan’s ability to convey the characters' emotion and put us into their shoes through his use of language and structure in telling their stories. He pace each little storyline in a way that stimulates the way the characters were feeling and I think it adds a lot to the reading experience. He had done this magnificently in “The Longest Day” in my opinion - but in this book the language and writing might just be even better. ••• There are so many lines in this book that just hits different, you know. ••• Ryan’s biggest asset is how unpredictable his story structure is - you would think a history book doesn’t have the luxury of having any tension, but ••• THE TENSION IN THIS BOOK ; EACH LITTLE STORY HAS ITS OWN SET-UP AND LITTLE CLIFFHANGER !!!!!! Ryan worked in so many gripping cliffhanger in this book that I am constantly on the edge of my seat - in a history book. I feel like I don’t know how any of the subplot are going to end. ••• This book plays with tension so well that even though I know what’s overall gonna happen I feel like I don’t - because I really don’t : Ryan mainly based his tension on subplots that most people have no way of knowing how they would end - so even though we know who won the battle or who live we have no idea how (and sometimes straight up crazy, unpredictable and seemingly fictional things just sort of happened... those are the best kind of twist. I never saw them coming and I almost didn’t believe they actually happened) ••• The book has so much weird plots with famous figures that I know nothing about beforehand and therefore am completely invested in. ••• The other main thing that adds to the unpredictability of this book is that Ryan’s story flow is incredibly smooth; we might start with a wacky little anecdote and then ended up being led into an important event or historical figure. Like I said, I never could guess where each little story would lead, because the flow is so smooth. ••• a smooth transition is always Ryan’s main priority ; The introduction of different perspectives seamlessly flow together so well - just like in the first book. And unlike ”A Bridge Too Far”, the stories never felt repetitive because Ryan is constantly moving from one angel to the next at a well pace - not lingering too long but not cutting the stories too short that the perspectives are not developed. This is Peak Ryan™️ storytelling as I said. ••• Ryan’s ending sentence & the way he paired it with the next part’s titles are BANGERS in every single parts. IT GETS ME SO HYPE EVERY SINGLE TIME (The General, The Objective, and The Decision being PRIME examples) ••• THIS BOOK HAS SO MUCH PHENOMENAL JUMP CUT THAT I WISH THEY MADE IT INTO A MOVIE ••• Ryan is not afraid to take a long time to resume his many side plots but he will give you a brief summary of each character’s situation each time we return to them, so even if you don’t remember them from earlier their story will still make sense as a totally new character. I definitely did not remember all of the names of the civilians so that was a big help. ••• This book is full of morbid things happening - and yet it also does not shy away from funny moments if the stories will have them. The book doesn’t care about tonal whiplash from Parts to Parts or even chapters to chapters. Ryan never did care in any of his books. Because real life doesn’t have a clear tone; it is made up of funny moments and depressing moments in a cluster of mixture. A war story doesn’t have to always be told in a depressing tone and only show misery to get its points across that the event was terrible. It is more true to life to show every facet of the events that unfold. I think this is the strength of Ryan’s writing style/tone of voice; his books are a broad story that aim to portray life as it was, as accurate as possible. And in this, his tone of being impassive and not shying away from both humorous moments and morbid misery really highlight how life doesn’t shy away from them either. Life doesn’t have tonal control - and Ryan doesn’t attempt to treat his light or dark moments any differently. In its matter-of-fact style it actually highlights the depressing irony of our existence, I think. ••• How Ryan place each little thematic quips of irony (usually through saying it suddenly occurred to the character) is just… *chef kiss* a work of art ••• All the call-back to “The Longest Day” makes me so freaking happy I dare not spoil them... ••• Heinrici’s plotline is amazing and I swear I’m not just saying that because the ending - but yes the climax is very satisfying. This is my first introduction to him so I can’t say how accurate his depiction here is, but if it feels like he comes off too positive just remember that he is a POV character so of course he would. To me the narrative is well-focus on his connection to the various people in Berlin, well-structured and is the most entertaining plotline in the book, even if too flattering to our main character (like, just remember he’s still a Nazi general and enjoy the amazing plotline in that context) (bc words limit I put my spoilers points in the comment) Some complaints : 1. My main complain about the book is kinda a bit stupid : like I said - because of SPOILERS - the chapters containing pictures of the characters should have all been placed at the end of the book. Ryan always give us a lot of description to what everyone look like so it’s not hard to imagine them - and putting the pictures with these telling descriptions in the book before the plot lines of these characters resolved SPOIL THE PLOT. It’s a history book - yes - but the greatest thing about this book is the twist and turn and the tension Ryan was able to build ! Spoiling the stories through these picture chapters are just totally not worth it at all. Putting them in the back of the book would be so much better. 2. My second complain; this portrayal of Zhukov is... not great… and it clearly leans toward favoring Konev. Understandably because Ryan interviewed him. But I was never a big fan of Konev. (My favorite Red Army commander is Rokossovsky but he wasn’t even in Berlin... Ryan still did interview him though, but he was not in the book at all, understandably) Having just read a Zhukov biography I think there are just some little details Ryan got wrong that bug me a bit, and the overall portrayal is not as impressive as Ryan’s usual high standard. Though I did went into the book expecting him to be much better at depiction the german generals than the russians, so it wasn’t a big let down. (AND YOU KNOW WHY RYAN DIDN’T INTERVIEW ZHUKOV ????? THE SOVIET DIDN’T WANT RYAN TO SPEAK TO ZHUKOV. SEEM LIKE THEY COULD NEVER MAKE UP THEIR MIND ABOUT THE MAN... (Makes a lot of sense in the timeline though - I remember reading that Zhukov was very lonely in the twilight of his years - no one was allowed to visit him)) (Soviet censorship is just endlessly frustrating to me as someone who is very much interested in Soviet history) 3. I guess one last little complain is that the ending is a bit too abrupt ; I’d REALLY LOVE to read Ryan going on about the scene on the next day after the battle - the scenery of how Berlin look and as spring still blooms - his description really gave life to the city in the first chapter, and as with the other two book I was kinda hoping for a parallel beginning/ending, where Ryan describes the aftermath of the battle. I think ending with maybe a page more of the description of the scenery, a quiet and peaceful scene, would have been a poetic cool down, to really let the emotions sink in (like in the movie “Downfall” with the last scene there) As it stands the ending feel a bit too abrupt. You could say that the pictures were the real ending to the book - the last few pages are just pictures of the fallen Berlin. Still though - if Ryan or the editor had put ALL the picture chapters together at the end of the book, instead of putting them in between the normal chapter, the ending would also have flow better and we wind down the pace/our thoughts with the pictures (and avoid the whole spoiler problem…) Other people complain about Ryan not including a lot of things - and I will assume that those are valid complain, but I think this book is good as an introduction : To be perfectly honest, I’m here for the storytelling and personal anecdotes - no one can provide those things better than Ryan. For facts about The Battle of Berlin I can and will have to read a lot more books - but reading intimate stories that really ground you into the past also have its value as much as reading extensive facts, I think. As someone who love storytelling, I am most interested in the way we tell stories about history... I think this book is a masterpiece at that. Conclusion : I’d say “The Longest Day” is still my favorite because it is more well-structured and is a tighter book in general (understandably, given its smaller scope) that said... This is definitely one of those book that I didn’t cry when I finish it because I couldn’t cry I was just… drained. I need to really push myself to finish the last part of this book; I KNEW it would be bad. But knowing what the story would entails and actually reading Ryan describing each incident to me doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact… I don’t think any other book about World War II (or other historical events for that matter) I have read before had effected me emotionally quite the same as this book. It just seems to contain all the different flavor of human suffering and wrapped them up in a neat little battle. Reading a history book written like a novel is all fun and game until you remember the HORRIBLE reality as you get to the depictions of suicides and rapes… which there are plenty of in this book. I genuinely don’t get why people say Ryan downplayed the abhorrent act of the Red Army and the inhuman events that happened in the Fall of Berlin - I think he portrayed them vividly and truthfully, in their full horror. (Maybe I’m just weak to these things - I barely stomach them if it’s not in persuade of historical knowledge and I definitely do not go looking out for this kind of contents) I think it might just be because I am quite young and haven’t read that much history books or books dealing with dark subjects... but this book really makes me feel worse than watching all the war movies I’ve watch combined (“Come and See” - “Graves of the Fireflies” and “Downfall” combined doesn’t make me feel like I want to throw up like reading this) It is quite an emotional labor - if the book has trigger warnings I’m sure it would filled a full page. But I’m also sure it will stay with me, and impact how I view life, history, war... and how we tell those stories. That’s something I can say about this entire trilogy. I just love Ryan’s writing so much - I think he’s greatly underrated. He had been a fine introduction to reading about history in a more entertaining manner for me - and I hope he will be for much more people too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

    I am in 2019 reading a book written in 1966 about events that happened in 1945...AND I AM FURIOUS AT GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER! 74 years have passed and I CANNOT believe that he gave the order to stop on the Elbe River and not proceed to Berlin. What a time to be a wide-eyed, trusting, boy scout! It makes one heartsick to think of how things might have been different if he had unleashed his armies that were rip roarin' ready to go. This book was riveting. My heart raced as the Americans dashe I am in 2019 reading a book written in 1966 about events that happened in 1945...AND I AM FURIOUS AT GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER! 74 years have passed and I CANNOT believe that he gave the order to stop on the Elbe River and not proceed to Berlin. What a time to be a wide-eyed, trusting, boy scout! It makes one heartsick to think of how things might have been different if he had unleashed his armies that were rip roarin' ready to go. This book was riveting. My heart raced as the Americans dashed hell for leather across Germany, moving so fast that they passed shocked German units without even bothering to engage. The reader can feel the fear of the Berliners as the Russians drew nearer, praying that the Americans would make it there first. You get a real sense of the desperation of the Wehrmacht generals trying to do the impossible and hold back the Russian ocean with no ammo, not enough men, and a crazy person in Berlin giving them impossible orders. Cornelius Ryan is such a skilled and beautiful writer that he actually had me feeling sorry for the Germans. But then I came to the passage about the Jewish Weltlinger family that came out of hiding when their area of Berlin fell to the Russians. Even though the German neighbors would have turned them in to the Nazis a day earlier, Siegmund Weltlinger stood up for his neighbors and prevented the Russians from shooting them. The Germans embraced the the Weltlingers and showered them with kindness, but when the neigborhood briefly flipped back to the Nazis the next day, the German neighbors once again turned on the Weltlingers. It was hard to read with much pity for the Germans after that...except when the Russians raped the pregnant women and the women who had just given birth. The ignorant Russian soldiers, who did not know what indoor plumbing or electricity were, cannot be excused for these atrocities. They raped with impunity. They killed the women they raped. Entire families committed suicide. Women killed their own children because they were so stricken with fear. Well, you know the rest and how it all turned out. Of course, this wasn't Eisenhower's fault as he was following the plan laid down by the Allied leadership, but FDR seemed strangely detached and unconcerned about the final map and it's always possible to create facts on the ground..... I always had the idea that Germany had been "denazified," but thanks to the "where are they now?" lists at the end of the book, you can see that no one went anywhere; they all went on with their lives. I'm left wondering how much the hardbitten, old-school military men like Heinrici bought into Hitlerism. They spent years fighting for it and it must have felt euphoric during the victory years, but they also saw Hitler as a buffoon and were under no illusions towards the end. It is the one thing that I wish would have been explored a little more in this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    Ryan tries the same formula that worked for him in "The Longest Day" and "A Bridge Too Far" but doesn't seem to work as well this time, perhaps because there's lots of politics and top-level scrambling involved and less "action" -- sure, there's action, but not in as great a detail as "A Bridge . . ." -- probably not as much as in "TLD," too, but I haven't read that. Ryan seems to have interviewed scads of people but there's not really a good thread running through the book. And as far as coverag Ryan tries the same formula that worked for him in "The Longest Day" and "A Bridge Too Far" but doesn't seem to work as well this time, perhaps because there's lots of politics and top-level scrambling involved and less "action" -- sure, there's action, but not in as great a detail as "A Bridge . . ." -- probably not as much as in "TLD," too, but I haven't read that. Ryan seems to have interviewed scads of people but there's not really a good thread running through the book. And as far as coverage of the battle for Berlin goes, it's not much of a history -- just a bunch of anecdotes. I'm much higher on Anthony Beevor's account. Will review bibliography again but probably not a keeper.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John

    Listened to on Audible. A well-done history with the usual Ryan cast of thousands which at times made it hard to follow. He focused on both civilian and military actors, and he was able to interview many of the principals, including Russians, in writing the book. It appears his research was mainly based upon interviews and diaries. Antony Beevor has written a more recent history of the battle of Berlin which I have not read (it is not available as an audiobook) so I can't compare versions. I gene Listened to on Audible. A well-done history with the usual Ryan cast of thousands which at times made it hard to follow. He focused on both civilian and military actors, and he was able to interview many of the principals, including Russians, in writing the book. It appears his research was mainly based upon interviews and diaries. Antony Beevor has written a more recent history of the battle of Berlin which I have not read (it is not available as an audiobook) so I can't compare versions. I generally like the Beevor histories, although they sometimes take a very deep look (at the smallest unit level) in describing military actions.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brendan Boehning

    Cornelius Ryan, as usual, gives a panoramic image of a crucial moment in history, with all sides represented in bracing detail. Ryan is a historian equally skilled with the personal anecdote as the grander historical narrative.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maphead

    Great book! I should have read it years ago!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pierfrancesco Aiello

    Published in 1966. The author did a lot of homework (comment coming from someone that read quite a bit about the 2nd world war). Of course some things are exaggerated or misinterpreted and some sources at the time were still secret. Still quite a nice read, especially as it flows like a novel.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Berlin, 1945 – the Allied forces were pushing into Germany. US and British forces from the West and the Russians from the East. “The Last Battle” describes in detail the military commanders, as well as the civilians, caught in the final drive to Berlin. Although the outcome of this battle is widely known (Berlin falls to the Soviets), there are a few surprises in the book for those who may not be experts on WWII history. For myself, it was interesting to discover friction between the Anglo-Americ Berlin, 1945 – the Allied forces were pushing into Germany. US and British forces from the West and the Russians from the East. “The Last Battle” describes in detail the military commanders, as well as the civilians, caught in the final drive to Berlin. Although the outcome of this battle is widely known (Berlin falls to the Soviets), there are a few surprises in the book for those who may not be experts on WWII history. For myself, it was interesting to discover friction between the Anglo-American forces, not just between the British General Montgomery and Supreme Commander Eisenhower, but also between the US and British governments on the occupation zones of Germany after the war. Of the German defenders, I got the impression that had Hitler not been overcome by delusions in the final weeks, Berlin may have put up a stiffer resistance, or perhaps, been spared some of the more brutal convulsions. Of note, there was apparently no plan to evacuate the women and children civilians, and much of Berlin's forces consisted of old men and young boys. The book, while long at 500+ pages, is written in a dramatic fashion with some attempt at fleshing out the personalities and the urgency of the moment. There are also a few photographs, although it is worth noting that this book was written around the 1960's so the contemporary photos of some of the survivors may no longer be accurate.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    In The Last Battle, Ryan not only writes about the Battle of Berlin, but thoroughly covers the last few months of the war in Europe from the end of the Battle of the Bulge through May of 1945. His narrative writing style makes history come alive as he switches back and forth between the viewpoints of the Anglo-Americans, Soviets, Nazi High Command, and citizens of Berlin. Ryan's account is just the right level of detail to get a good understanding of how the end of the war in Europe unfolded. In The Last Battle, Ryan not only writes about the Battle of Berlin, but thoroughly covers the last few months of the war in Europe from the end of the Battle of the Bulge through May of 1945. His narrative writing style makes history come alive as he switches back and forth between the viewpoints of the Anglo-Americans, Soviets, Nazi High Command, and citizens of Berlin. Ryan's account is just the right level of detail to get a good understanding of how the end of the war in Europe unfolded. He does an excellent job of explaining the events that led to VE Day, including the Anglo-American debate about whether to race the Soviet army to Berlin; Stalin's scheming to beat US and British forces to the city; The day-to-day life of ordinary citizens of Berlin; The meetings of German high command in Hitler's Berlin bunker; The Allied planning for the invasion of Germany and their advance from the west after the Battle of the Bulge; and, of course, the Battle of Berlin itself. I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in understanding the events that led to the conclusion of the war in Europe.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul Jellinek

    A riveting account of the collapse of Berlin at the end of World War II, written by the veteran Irish journalist Cornelius Ryan, who also gave us "The Longest Day" and "A Bridge Too Far," two World War II classics that I've reviewed elsewhere. As with the other two books, Ryan surveyed and/or interviewed hundreds of participants in the Battle of Berlin on both sides of the conflict, and at all levels, civilian as well as military. The result is a richly textured, three-dimensional composite pict A riveting account of the collapse of Berlin at the end of World War II, written by the veteran Irish journalist Cornelius Ryan, who also gave us "The Longest Day" and "A Bridge Too Far," two World War II classics that I've reviewed elsewhere. As with the other two books, Ryan surveyed and/or interviewed hundreds of participants in the Battle of Berlin on both sides of the conflict, and at all levels, civilian as well as military. The result is a richly textured, three-dimensional composite picture that goes far beyond the usual military history. The only thing I don't understand is why this book, which is just as good as the other two, has received less attention. Maybe because it wasn't made into a movie? But that only begs the question: why wasn't it?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I thought that the last battle did a good job of telling the battle of Berlin from different viewpoints and not the American or the Soviet or the Nazi but rather a combination of all the sides. I also liked how it not only dealt with the political and military leaders but also about the common man. I especially enjoyed the parts about the battle's impact on the Berlin Zoo. Overall it was a well written book about the final battle of the European theater. I thought that the last battle did a good job of telling the battle of Berlin from different viewpoints and not the American or the Soviet or the Nazi but rather a combination of all the sides. I also liked how it not only dealt with the political and military leaders but also about the common man. I especially enjoyed the parts about the battle's impact on the Berlin Zoo. Overall it was a well written book about the final battle of the European theater.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan Ryan

    This book is pushing near 50 years old, and it shows its age. Written at the height of the Cold War, it features cartoonish evil Russians and angelic Americans and Brits. It also has a cringe-inducing chapter of Russian rapes of German women. I don't doubt the accuracy of the accounts, but there is a salacious glee in the detailed recounting, while thousands of deaths don't warrant such attention. This book is a slice of history in and of itself, beyond its topic. This book is pushing near 50 years old, and it shows its age. Written at the height of the Cold War, it features cartoonish evil Russians and angelic Americans and Brits. It also has a cringe-inducing chapter of Russian rapes of German women. I don't doubt the accuracy of the accounts, but there is a salacious glee in the detailed recounting, while thousands of deaths don't warrant such attention. This book is a slice of history in and of itself, beyond its topic.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Greg Coplans

    It was hard to put this book down. Ryan captures your attention in the first pages and your attention never wanes. It was the first non-fiction that I felt read like a novel. Well written, very informative and conveyed the atmosphere on all sides German, Russian, and the Western Allies, that prevailed in the last days of Berlin.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ken Hammond (kenzaz)

    Well told story of one of the most lopsided last battles in history. Brutal and savage in parts none the less it happened. Filled with broad sweeping pictures of generals and world leaders down to details of individual combatants and civilians. Great story well told recommend it to anyone that's fascinated with history. Well told story of one of the most lopsided last battles in history. Brutal and savage in parts none the less it happened. Filled with broad sweeping pictures of generals and world leaders down to details of individual combatants and civilians. Great story well told recommend it to anyone that's fascinated with history.

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