It makes mention that there will be a companion volume to this book covering the final battles in the west. The hardback book is printed on high quality glossy paper and is landscape layout, which works very well, allowing the photographs to be printed larger than in a portrait format book. The text is in both German and English and the English is translated to a very high standard although there a 3 or 4 grammatical inconsistencies near the beginning of the book. The book measures roughly 9.5 by 11.25 inches.
The thing that makes this book stand out from the crowd is the photographs. Almost all of the 186 photographs, 23 of which are in colour, are previously unpublished and were taken by German photographers and soldiers. Photos taken by Germans in this period of the war are rare, and colour photos from this period in the war are extremely rare. The photographs are not laid out like in other books I have seen, where an image is used to represent the content in the text. This book is organised into several short chapters each describing the Soviet advances into eastern Germany and the images used are actually of the actions being described. There are also 13 maps to describe the battles.
The chapters covered are:
- Nemmersdorf and Goldap, the Russian drive across the East Prussian border
- From Königsberg to Pillau – Fighting Withdrawal in Samland, East Prussia April 1945
- The 1st Marine-Schützen-Division actions at the Oder in the Zehden Bridgehead in February 1945
- The fighting in Silesia in spring 1945
- The battle for Fortress Breslau
- Actions by the “Hermann Göring” Fallschirmpanzerkorps at Bautzen and Görlitz in April 1945
- The Führer-Begleit-Division in the fighting in Lauban
- The SS-Freiwilligen-Brigade “Wallonien” and the 4th SS-Polizei-Division in the Battle for Pomerania
- SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 560 z.b.V. in action at the Oder
- The action against the Russian Bridgehead over the Oder at Küstrin and “Fortress Küstrin”
- Heiligenbeil and Oxhöfter Kämpe – the fight about the pockets at the Haff and the Danziger-Bucht
Each of the chapters describes the German attempt to hold back the flood of Soviet armour and troops against insurmountable odds, often 10 to 1. In many places they were able to briefly stop the Soviet advance long enough for civilians and other troops to be evacuated. The photographs are taken in and around the actions being described in the book and it is often known exactly when and where the photos were taken. There is one image of panzer-grenadiers sheltering from Soviet fire behind a wall and then a photo underneath it of the same wall today. The photos have a sense of ‘reality’ often missing from other books.
The only downside to this book was that the text seemed a little small and I had to make sure I had good light to read it; stronger glasses would have helped too!
This book will be of interest historians and modelers alike. When volume 2 comes out I will be buying a copy. There are many ideas for dioramas throughout the book. This book is highly recommended to all.
Review copy courtesy of my wallet.