Booklist Reviews

A military historian with particular expertise on the eastern front of WWII offers this grimly absorbing account of one of the battles that shaped the whole campaign: the German retreat from Moscow in December 1941. Already overextended and undersupplied, the Germans were in no position to resist a massive Soviet counterattack. The next two months were the stuff of nightmares for the soldiers on both sides, whose letters and memoirs have been exhaustively used to paint a horrifying picture of starvation, cold weather, nonexistent medical care, and a complete lack of compassion for opponents (two million Russian POWs died during this period). The Germans suffered an additional defeat, because Hitler believed that his No retreat! order saved his army from rout and from its defeatist generals. His assumption of the supreme command, fully equipped with vast arrogance and little skill, was another large stone that eventually helped build the tomb of the Third Reich. Sound and readable. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

A gripping slog through the first winter on the eastern front of World War II.

In the first of a planned two-volume work, British military historian Jones (Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed, 2010, etc.) examines the ten months following Germany's June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. A few chapters cover summer months when Wehrmacht forces raced eastward, inflicting immense losses on a Red Army that seemed on the verge of collapse. However, the collapse didn't occur, temperatures fell and autumn rains devastated Russia's primitive roads, choking off supplies to armies now far inside the Soviet Union. Most of the book describes what happened after October when, within 100 miles of Moscow, three Wehrmacht armies launched a final push. By November, they had surrounded the city on three sides, but stiffening resistance and brutal weather defeated the exhausted, hungry, freezing troops. A Soviet offensive drove them back as much as 200 miles before the front stabilized in February. Quoting liberally from letters, diaries and interviews from both sides, Jones paints a gruesome picture. Frostbite devastated German troops, who received no winter clothing until spring. Notwithstanding their technological prowess, they failed to realize that extreme cold froze ordinary lubricants, and weapons refused to operate. Masses of vehicles and artillery were abandoned during the retreat. Both sides behaved inhumanely, but the Nazis began it; more than one million Soviet POWs received little food or shelter, and most died miserably.

Despite inadequate maps, this is a useful and painful reminder that the Battle of Britain and invasion of Normandy contributed far less to Hitler's defeat than the Russian front, where a viciously dirty war inflicted 75–80 percent of German casualties.

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews

In sight of Moscow, within a few miles of breaking the Soviet lines and dispersing the defenders, the Wehrmacht grounded to a halt in the autumn of 1941. From then until the spring of 1942 the German army made one long, desperate retreat, fighting the Red Army and the Russian winter in equal measure. Things didn't get better until General Walter Model took the reins in the East, and the Soviets ran out of steam. Fluently written with good sourcing, this book covers both sides of a vast conflict that dwarfed any other in Western Europe. This will add texture to collections on the German and Soviet armies of World War II.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Jones's earlier Leningrad and Stalingrad established this British military historian's skill in conveying the human dimensions of the Russo-German War. His new narrative addresses the German sweep through Russia in the summer of 1941, its defeat at the gates of Moscow by a rejuvenated Red Army, and the massive Soviet counterattack that pushed the Wehrmacht to the edge of destruction. Jones makes a convincing case that the Fuehrer's "stand fast" order in December 1941 entailed unnecessary losses. Retreat, he argues, did not inevitably mean collapse. The point remains debatable. But there is no question of Jones's success presenting, in their own words, the growing conviction of the Germans doing the fighting that Barbarossa had been a compound mistake. "Does no one realize what it is like here?" asked one bewildered corps commander. Across the battle line, six months of atrocities demonstrated to the Russian people that whatever was wrong with the U.S.S.R., the Germans were not the solution. "I vowed to kill as many of them as possible," wrote one Soviet junior officer. His words are an epigram for an apocalyptic war, perceptively evoked here. 8 pages of b&w photos; 3 maps. (Dec.)

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