A detailed account of the final 10 days of World War II in Europe depicts, in full color, the collapse of the Nazi war machine and, with it, the genesis of the Cold War.
Noted British military historian Jones (Total War: From Stalingrad to Berlin, 2011, etc.) presents a microcosm of the fight against Germany, beginning with Hitler’s suicide and ending with the two official victory celebrations—May 8, 1945, for the Western Allies, the next day for the Russians. The Russians, who bore the brunt of the war in Europe, loom large in the author’s story, as they must. Privileged to enter Berlin first, the Red Army impelled the defeated German troops to scatter westward, seeking capture by the Americans. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, whom Jones lauds for his fair dealing, was hard-pressed to maintain the Grand Alliance. In the 10 days that thrilled the world, sporadic fighting was suppressed, cease-fires implemented, and communities liberated. An anti-Bolshevik Russian unit had fought for the Germans and then switched sides. The book’s most moving passages describe the liberation of Mauthausen, Auschwitz, and other concentration camps. The author provides numerous historical flashbacks and copious extracts from contemporaneous records, diaries, and memoirs by writers ranging from Churchill, Stalin, and Eisenhower to little-known combatants, displaced persons, and arrogant functionaries. They serve to heighten the effect of the story the author brings to life with secure, professional expertise. Unlike connoisseurs of military history, casual readers may not be concerned with martial unit designations and some of the gritty details of battle formation, but the exploits of the men and women they represented are engrossing, sometimes even heartbreaking.
A skillful historian demonstrates how courage and hope characterized the last act of the great campaign to bring peace to Europe 70 years ago.