Antony Beevor's thoughtfully researched compendium recalls this epic struggle for Stalingrad. No one, least of all the Germans, could foretell the deep well of Soviet resolve that would become the foundation of the Red Army; Russia, the Germans believed, would fall as swiftly as France and Poland. The ill-prepared Nazi forces were trapped in a bloody war of attrition against the Russian behemoth, which held them in the pit of Stalingrad for nearly two years.
Beevor points out that the Russians were by no means ready for the war either, making their stand even more remarkable; Soviet intelligence spent as much time spying on its own forces--in fear of desertion, treachery, and incompetence--as they did on the Nazis. Due attention is also given to the points of view of the soldiers and generals of both forces, from the sickening battles to life in the gulags.
In August 1942, Hitler's huge Sixth Army reached the city that bore Stalin's name. In the five month siege that followed, the Russians fought to hold Stalingrad at any cost, then caught their Nazi enemy in an astonishing reversal. Many believe Stalingrad to be the turning point of the war. The Nazi war machine proved to be fallible as it spread itself too thin for a cause that was born more from arrogance than practicality. The Germans never recovered, and its weakened defenses were no match for the Allied invasion of 1944. We know little of what took place in Stalingrad or its overall significance, leading Beevor to humbly admit that "[t]he Battle of Stalingrad remains such an ideologically charged and symbolically important subject that the last word will not be heard for many years." This is true. But this gripping account should become the standard work against which all others should measure themselves.
Historians and reviewers worldwide have hailed Antony Beevor's magisterial Stalingrad as the definitive account of World War II's most harrowing battle.