[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]
is one of those rare books about WWII written by a German historian and translated into English. That is not to say that there are not plenty of books in German about WWII and examining its myriad aspects, there are, it is just that most are never translated into English. There is generally a flood of new WWII histories every year and almost of all of them are written by English speakers. That lack of translation leaves most English speaker with a curiously one sided view of the war. Much has been done to rectify the Anglo-centric view of victory in WWII over the past decade or so and this book is an important contribution to that effort.
The book is fairly short, at 166 pages of text with a chronology, further reading list, and index. It is separated into nine chronological and thematic chapters. There are a few large scale theater maps but no smaller scale maps as the book does not delve into operational or tactical movement.
The work opens by talking about the why of the invasion of Russia and the politics behind it. There is no great operational or strategic discussion of the movement of the vast armies involved in the war in the East. So if you are expecting a traditional battle history from this book prepare to be disappointed. What the author offers instead is an explanation of why and how the war was fought and of the way in which it was fought. This is no apologetic either. This book provides a very good summary of the good and bad on both sides and there was some. Neither the Nazis nor the Soviets were monolithic despite what decades of WWII histories would have us believe. In many ways Stalin’s Russia was just as, if not more, evil than Hitler’s Germany and that fact comes out clearly in this book.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing about this book is the unbiased, indeed almost clinical, way in which the methods and motives of both sides are discussed. This book represents modern German Militärgeschichte at its best and while I am more of a Kriegsgeschichte type historian I must admit that for all its brevity, this book is a valuable addition to the growing body of work on WWII in the East. I highly recommend this book.