The fall of berlin 1945, p.1
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       The Fall of Berlin 1945, p.1

           Antony Beevor
The Fall of Berlin 1945



  ‘The outstanding piece of non-fiction this year. His last book, Stalingrad was, I thought, as good as it gets. But Berlin is even better. If you ever needed reminding of why war is something we should move heaven and earth to avoid, this will do it’ Jeremy Paxman, Guardian

  ‘Once you’ve read it, it’ll stay with you forever. What a book!’ Barbara Trapido, Observer

  ‘Beevor tells the savage, gripping story of the fall of the city with brilliance and a humane attention to the impact of an epic battle on fragile, individual lives. His powerful account lays bare the nightmarish sordidness of German fascism, with its back to the wall, buying a few more days at the expense of thousands of lives’ Helen Dunmore, The Times

  ‘Antony Beevor has become justly celebrated for Stalingrad, and his new book, Berlin: The Downfall 1945, lives up to all his fans’ expectations. Beevor has explored Russian and German sources with his customary industry, to produce a gripping and harrowing narrative of the city’s fall to the Red Army in 1945’ Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph

  ‘Essential reading’ Michael Howard, The Times Literary Supplement

  ‘This is a brilliantly researched book, all the more effective because of Beevor’s spare and unemotional style’ Sue McGregor, Daily Telegraph

  ‘The narrative onslaught of Beevor’s book is tremendous’ Iain Finlayson, The Times

  ‘An appalling and gripping story’ Margaret Macmillan, Sunday Telegraph

  ‘I read it like a novel… it does make you feel as if you know what it might have been like to be there’ Anne Applebaum, Evening Standard

  ‘The style contributes to the account itself, a masterful mixture of narrative finesse and scrupulousness towards the facts. In both categories we are witnessing an author at the height of his art’ Thomas Kielinger, Die Welt

  ‘The best of five exemplary works of history is Beevor’s Berlin. The story has been told many times, but Beevor brings a distinctive combination of gifts to it. Not merely is he a lucid chronicler of military tactics, strategy and maneuvers, but he has a sympathetic eye for the ordinary people who became war’s innocent victims – in this case the uncountable thousands of women who were raped and brutalized by the Red Army as it raced to the prize that was Berlin’ Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

  ‘Riveting, magnificent – masterly but shocking. It simply makes [all previous histories] obsolete at a stroke’ Independent

  ‘Beevor gives an exceptionally clear account of complicated military movements and the reasoning of the commanders responsible for them. But he is also sensitive to the real casualties of war. Boys whose anxious faces disappeared within man-sized helmets; women who managed to feed their babies between multiple gang rapes; and elderly folk who found themselves in the midst of hell because they were loath to leave a family farm or a spouse’s grave. The result is a masterpiece of modern historical writing’ Michael Burleigh, Guardian

  ‘Beevor, a British historian of great distinction and range, once more demonstrates his mastery of his sources, including newly discovered material from Soviet archives’ Gordon Craig, New York Review of Books

  ‘Quite splendid. Combines a calm and scholarly narrative with an unrelenting moral indignation at what he has uncovered. Berlin stands as a superbly lucid examination of one of the most dreadful battles in world history’ Irish Times

  ‘A compelling piece of historical description and assessment, the more important because some of Beevor’s Russian archival sources may not be available in future’ Alan Judd, Daily Telegraph

  ‘Superlative. The days and events leading to the final collapse of Berlin are recreated vividly and faithfully. It is an education’ Independent on Sunday

  ‘Magisterial. This is an epic story, epically told: chilling, insightful, analytical, desperately moving. From the past at its worst, Antony Beevor has fashioned history at its best’ Scotsman

  ‘A clear window into that dark, awful past for those in Europe – or anywhere else – who have not known war’s horrors’ Time

  ‘Reading Berlin is like viewing some enormous, latter-day Hieronymous Bosch painting of the human race in total meltdown. You can’t comprehend its entirety at first glance, because each of the fascinating details compels your attention’ Boston Herald

  ‘A devastating account’ New Statesman

  ‘Chilling, authoritative… Beevor magnificently captures the true pity of war’ Daily Mail

  ‘Digging deep into Soviet files, personal diaries and memoirs… Beevor brings vividly alive the final days of the doomed metropolis. It’s in his eye for the chilling detail about ordinary people and soldiers caught up in the maelstrom of defeat that Beevor so magnificently captures the true pity of war. Compelling, admirably readable and fresh’ David Stafford, Evening Standard

  ‘Immaculately assembled, meticulous exposition. With an epic sweep worthy of Tolstoy, Beevor has produced a superlative sequel to Stalingrad’ The Times

  ‘A horrifyingly vivid account of the Fall of Berlin in 1945. Beevor handles his subject sensitively and wisely’ Daily Telegraph

  ‘Hugely impressive. Beevor is a superb writer, a diligent researcher and a master of detail’ Chicago Tribune

  ‘Beevor has created haunting images of the war’s final days… the best account yet written’ Carlo D’Este, New York Times


  Antony Beevor was educated at Winchester and Sandhurst. A regular officer in the 11th Hussars, he served in Germany and England. He has published several novels, while his works of non-fiction include The Spanish Civil War, Crete: The Battle and the Resistance, which won the 1993 Runciman Award, Stalingrad and Berlin: The Downfall 1945. With his wife, Artemis Cooper, he wrote Paris After the Liberation: 1944–1949. Stalingrad was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction, the Wolfson History Prize and the Hawthornden Prize in 1999. It became a number-one bestseller both in hardback and paperback, the UK edition alone selling over half a million copies. It is being published around the world in twenty-four translations. Berlin: The Downfall 1945 was also a number-one bestseller and is being translated into twenty-four languages. Most of his titles are published by Penguin.

  Antony Beevor is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. In 2003, he received the first Longman-History Today Trustees’ Award. He was the 2002–2003 Lees-Knowles lecturer at Cambridge and is a visiting professor at Birkbeck College, University of London.



  Antony Beevor



  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, Englan

  First published by Viking 2002

  First published in Penguin Books 2003

  This edition published 2007


  Copyright © Antony Beevor, 2002

  Maps copyright © Raymond Turvey, 2002

  All rights reserved

  The moral right of the author has been asserted

  Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser







  1 Berlin in the New Year

  2 The ‘House of Cards’ on the Vistula

  3 Fire and Sword and ‘Noble Fury’

  4 The Great Winter Offensive

  5 The Charge to the Oder

  6 East and West

  7 Clearing the Rear Areas

  8 Pomerania and the Oder Bridgeheads

  9 Objective Berlin

  10 The Kamarilla and the General Staff

  11 Preparing the Coup de Grâce

  12 Waiting for the Onslaught

  13 Americans on the Elbe

  14 Eve of Battle

  15 Zhukov on the Reitwein Spur

  16 Seelow and the Spree

  17 The Führer’s Last Birthday

  18 The Flight of the Golden Pheasants

  19 The Bombarded City

  20 False Hopes

  21 Fighting in the City

  22 Fighting in the Forest

  23 The Betrayal of the Will

  24 Führerdämmerung

  25 Reich Chancellery and Reichstag

  26 The End of the Battle

  27 Vae Victis!

  28 The Man on the White Horse





  List of Illustrations


  German prisoners of war being marched past the Brandenburg Gate on their way to captivity.

  1. Hitler Youth during the fighting in Lauban in Silesia.

  2. Part of the Grossdeutschland Corps being inspected in an East Prussian forest before the Soviet onslaught.

  3. Volkssturm captured in Insterburg, East Prussia.

  4. Berliners after a heavy air raid.

  5. A ‘trek’ of German refugees from Silesia fleeing before the Red Army.

  6. Red Army troops march into an East Prussian town.

  7. Soviet mechanized troops enter the East Prussian town of Mühlhausen.

  8. Red Army troops occupy Tilsit.

  9. A Soviet self-propelled assault gun breaks into Danzig.

  10. A Hitler Youth at a Volkssturm parade taken by Goebbels.

  11. Two German soldiers in the defence of the besieged Silesian capital, Breslau.

  12. SS Panzer grenadiers before a counter-attack in southern Pomerania.

  13. Goebbels decorates a Hitler Youth after the recapture of Lauban.

  14. German women and children trying to escape westwards by rail.


  15. Famished refugees collecting beechnuts in a wood near Potsdam.

  16. Eva Braun after the wedding of SS Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein to her sister Gretl, Berchtesgaden.

  17. Red Army doctors care for Auschwitz survivors.

  18–19. A German engineer after committing suicide with his family before the arrival of the Red Army.

  20. A German soldier hanged on the orders of General Schörner.

  21. Hitler Youth tank-hunting squad with panzerfausts clipped to their bicycles.

  22. Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, who seldom touched a gun yet dreamed of being a military leader.

  23. Marshal Stalin and Winston Churchill at Yalta.

  24. A T-34 of Marshal Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front crosses the Oder.

  25. Soviet sappers bridging the Oder to prepare the assault on Berlin.

  26. Red Army soldiers retrieving an anti-tank gun on the waterlogged Oder flood plain.

  27. Soviet women released from forced labour near Berlin by the Red Army.

  28. An improvised graveyard in the ruins of Berlin.

  29. Hitler caresses one of his youngest defenders, watched by Artur Axmann, head of the Hitler Youth.

  30–33. The Red Army fighting street by street to capture the ‘lair of the fascist beast’.

  34. Across the Moltke bridge to attack ‘Himmler’s House’ – the Ministry of the Interior – then the Reichstag.

  35. Soviet assault gun firing down a Berlin street.

  36. A riddled Volkswagen by the Reich Chancellery.

  37. Forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front sent to crush the Ninth Army in pine forests south of Berlin.

  38. German soldiers surrendering to the Red Army in Berlin.

  39. Soviet mechanized troops having a wash in a Berlin street.

  40. Cooking in the ruins.

  41. Red Army meets US Army: Colonel Ivanov proposes a toast, while Major General Robert C. Macon of the 83rd Infantry Division listens.

  42. German civilians escaping the Red Army cross the ruined rail bridge over the Elbe to American territory.

  43. The end of the battle for Hans-Georg Henke, a teenage conscript.

  44. A wounded Soviet soldier tended by a female medical assistant.

  45. General Stumpff, Field Marshal Keitel and Admiral von Friedeburg arrive at Karlshorst to sign the final surrender.

  46. A Red Army soldier tries to seize a Berliner’s bicycle.

  47. Marshal Zhukov takes the victory parade on the horse which had thrown Stalin.

  48. Zhukov watched by General K. F. Telegin, head of the political department, and General Ivan Serov, the NKVD chief.

  49. Visiting the battleground inside the Reichstag.


  AKG London: 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 17, 22, 24, 26, 28, 34, 37, 40, 42

  Alexander Ustinov/Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin: 27

  Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin: 16, 21, 39, 43

  Bundesarchiv Bild, Koblenz: 2 (146/85/22/20), 47 (183/K0907/310)

  Chronos, Berlin: 18, 19, 36

  Hilmar Pabel/Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin: 15

  Hulton Getty: 46

  Imperial War Museum, London: 10 (FLM 3345), 29 (FLM 3351), 30 (FLM 3349), 31 (FLM 3348), 32 (FLM 3346), 33 (FLM 3350)

  Jürgen Stumpff/Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin: 45

  National Archives and Records Administration, Maryland: 20 (111-SC-205221), 41 (111-SC-205367), 49 (306-NT-885-C2)

  PK-Benno Wundshammer/Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin: 1

  Private Collection/Novosti/Bridgeman Art Library: 23, 25

  Ullstein Bild, Berlin: 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 38, 44

  Victor Tiomin: Endpapers, 35

  Every effort has been made to contact all copyright holders. The publishers will be glad to make good in future editions any errors or omissions brought to their attention.



  All dates given in the book refer to 1945 unless otherwise stated.

  BdM Bund deutscher Mädel, League of German Girls, female equivalent of Hitler Youth.

  Fritz Russian name for a German soldier. The plural was used for Germans in general.

  frontovik Red Army soldier with frontline experience.

  Ivan (or Iwan in German), an ordinary Soviet soldier. Term used by Red Army as well as Germans.

  Kessel (German for ‘a cauldron’) a group of forces encircled by the enemy.

  Landser an ordinary German soldier with frontline experience. The equivalent of the Red
Army frontovik.

  NKVD Soviet secret police under control of Lavrenty Beria. Military NKVD units – NKVD rifle divisions made up mostly of NKVD frontier guards regiments – were attached to each Soviet Front command. The NKVD chief with each Front was answerable only to Beria and Stalin, not to the military chain of command in the Red Army.

  OKH Oberkommando des Heeres, in theory the supreme headquarters of the German Army, but in the later stages of the war its most important role was operational command of the Eastern Front.

  OKW Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the supreme headquarters of all the armed forces, Army, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, controlled by Hitler through Field Marshal Keitel and General Jodl. It directed operations on all fronts except for the Eastern Front.

  political department a political officer (politruk) was responsible for the political education of all soldiers. The political department of each Soviet army and Front came under the Main Political Administration of the Red Army (GlavPURRKA).

  S-Bahn city and suburban railway, mostly on the surface, but some of it underground.

  7th Department an organization at each Soviet army headquarters whose main task was to demoralize the enemy. German Communists worked under Soviet officers, and also many German prisoners of war who had undergone ‘anti-fascist’ training in Soviet camps. They were known by the Germans as ‘Seydlitz troops’ after General von Seydlitz Kurzbach, who had surrendered at Stalingrad and helped form the so-called National Committee for a Free Germany, which was completely under NKVD control.

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