Review: Stalingrad to Berlin
- Published: 01 May 2010 01 May 2010
- Last Updated: 12 July 2013 12 July 2013
Earl F. Ziemke
Earl F. Ziemke worked as a civilian historian at the US Army’s Centre for Military History, before becoming professor of history at Georgia University. During and after his time with the US Army, he published works and pamphlets based primarily on the German military archives which had been captured by the US forces at the end of the war. These works are considered standard works describing the war from the German perspective, and depending on which particular area they address, they can also be very informative on the Allied/Soviet side of things.
Since Stalingrad to Berlin was published before the Soviet archives were opened, Ziemke had to rely on the extensive but often low-accuracy literature available from the Soviet era. This has to be kept in mind when reading it. Nevertheless, I do not believe that there is a better treatment of the operational/strategic level of the conflict available.
The book is an operational history of the Soviet-German war from the battle of Stalingrad to the end of the war. It rarely bothers to discuss anything below Army/Army Corps level, and is more concerned with the analysis of the command decisions and the operational movements than with tactical details.
The book is organized on a geographical basis (e.g. Operations in the North), and within those on a timeline basis. This breaks the operations into sectors pretty much based on the German understanding of the war, and may neglect that the Red Army did not view things in the same way, and neglect, particularly in the period it covers, a holistic view of the conflict, since the Germans were mostly reacting to events, not shaping them themselves.
The book (in the older edition I own) is liberally sprinkled with photographs which are unfortunately often of low quality, and contains numerous maps that make it possible to follow the combat operations easily. It also contain a comprehensive index and bibliography, and a note on the sources used for it.
Ziemke and Bauer are quite critical of much of the German command performance, unlike many of the books published during the period, and the analysis going into the battles fought between OKW and the field commands is as interesting as that going into the battles fought between the Germans and the Soviets.
While the book does not intend to cover the period of the war leading up to the end of battle of Stalingrad in the same detail as that what followed, it does contain a section at the start describing the events that led to the start point of the narrative. This enables the reader to follow the whole war by reading it.
My main criticism would be that the book spends too much time on the war in Finland and the Arctic – this is probably a reflection of the recycling of older research by Ziemke that was first published in ‘The Northern Theatre of Operations’ in 1959. While the northern theatre was no doubt interesting, I feel it is blown out of proportion here, and the space could have been used for something else.
For anyone interested in the Soviet-German war, this is a must-have book together with Moscow to Stalingrad, and despite the caveats, it is well deserving of five stars, in my view.
(Reviewed by Andreas Biermann)