Namely " Ukrainian militiamen " were changed to "Ukrainian nationalists", [nb 1] even though this was translated correctly in older publication:   Оriginal New translation English The ninety Jewish children were shot the next evening by Ukrainian militiamen, to save the feelings of the Sonderkommando. The atrocity was committed by Ukrainian militiamen, since the command decided to "save the feelings" of German soldiers. On the following day, the children were shot by Ukrainian nationalists, to "save the feelings" of the Sonderkommando soldiers. In another instance, where the original English text refers to "two police battalions" having participated in the massacre at Babi Yar , the new translation refers to "two battalions of Ukrainian nationalists". It introduced amendments to legislation aimed at "restricting access to the Ukrainian market of foreign printed material with anti-Ukrainian content". The law imposes a permit system for import of printed material from an aggressor state as of January , this applied only to Russia or from occupied Ukrainian territories.
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Or the European portion of Russia. For whatever reason, though, the lure of Russia - its vast steppes, its vast resources, its vast and bloody history - has "You fool! For whatever reason, though, the lure of Russia - its vast steppes, its vast resources, its vast and bloody history - has proven irresistible, stretching back to early Mongol invasions.
The two most famous fools who dared strive for Moscow were Napoleon and Hitler. Napoleon was failed by the logistics of his day and age; the harder he pressed Kutuzov, and the deeper he got into Russia, the longer his supply line became.
When he reached his goal, he ran out of food, and turned back in the midst of a cruel winter. On his retreat, Napoleon famously remarked that "from the sublime to the ridiculous is but a single step. Undoubtedly, the winters were rough, and the Germans unprepared, but as Anthony Beevor makes clear in Stalingrad, the fault did not lie in the weather, but in Hitler and the stars.
Indeed, it should have worked. Instead, the Germans attacked Stalingrad and nearly captured it. Then, the Russians surrounded the Germans, and the attackers became the attacked. The Germans at Stalingrad surrendered, and eventually the entire German invasion was turned.
Specifically, in the second summer of the German invasion, the Nazi armies were poised to sprint to the Caucuses and seize the Soviet oil fields. Hitler intervened and split the German Army Group, sending Group B to Stalingrad, where it was eventually chewed to pieces. This is all explained in the beginning sections of Stalingrad, which are dedicated to the the planning of Operation Barbarossa, the start of the invasion, the battle for Moscow, and the first Russian winter.
I found this to be the weakest part of the book, and it actually made me pause and consider continuing. I firmly believe that even the most subject-specific history book should provide a little context. In this case, though, the overview was not only cursory, but confusing.
Beevor jumps quickly from event to event, battle to battle, using a series of unconnected anecdotes. Oh, the Germans executed thousands of Jews at Babi Yar? The situation is not helped by the small number of maps.
Beevor expends a lot of ink detailing troop movements. If you want me to care that the 81st Cavalry Division in the 4th Cavalry Corps crossed the Kalmyk steppe to the southern flank, you will kindly have to show me where the Kalmyk steppe is located. At the very least, the writing is at times vivid and evocative. Beevor has a novelistic flair for creating memorable images.
Take, for instance, this description of Russian troops crossing the Volga to enter Stalingrad: The crossing was probably most eerie for those in the rowing boats, as the water gently slapped the bow, and the rowlocks creaked in unison. The distant crack of rifle shots and the thump of shell bursts sounded hollow over the expanse of river. Then, German artillery, mortars and any machine-guns close enough to the bank switched their aim.
Columns of water were thrown up in midstream, drenching the occupants of the boats. The silver bellies of stunned fish soon glistened on the surface Some men stared at the water around them to avoid the sight of the far bank, rather like a climber refusing to look down.
Others, however, kept glancing ahead to the blazing buildings on the western shore, their steel-helmeted heads instinctively withdrawn into the shoulders As darkness intensified, the huge flames silhouetted the shells of tall buildings on the bank high above them and cast grotesque shadows. Sparks flew up in the night air As they approached the shore, they caught the smell of charred buildings and the sickly stench from decaying corpses under the rubble.
A lot of times, the paragraphs on the page seemed absolute strangers to each other. Also, many paragraphs just left me scratching my head. For instance, one paragraph dealing with the Russian response to deserition stated that "[o:]n a rare occasion The proposition in the paragraph was that sometimes even the Russians realized they were nuts; but instead of supporting this statement, Beevor tells a story that shows just the opposite.
This is not to get nit-picky, but as I read, I often had this almost unconscious sensation that something was slightly off. The final third of the book, though, is quite strong. Along with the details of battle, there are fascinating discussions is fascinating the right word?
Stalingrad is a hard battle to write about. There are big troop movements leading up to the fight in the city. And there are big troop movements that lead to the encirclement of the German Army. However, most of the bitter fighting within the city itself was small unit action. Beevor is at his absolute best when he leaves the generalities and finds a specific character or two to follow for a couple of pages.
These two men were ordered to give a message to General Paulus. And in the Russian army, orders mean something. After braving German fire, they convince a Nazi sentry to bring them into a bunker after they are blindfolded with their own parkas. Once in the bunker, they finally convince the German company commander to take the message to his commander. When the Russians ask the German to sign a receipt for the message, which they can take to their superiors, the German refuses.
This is almost Shakespearean-level farce. One of the oddities of this book is that I found my rooting interest to be with the Germans. Beevor even devotes an entire chapter to explaining how much the Germans loved Christmas, and how they tried to celebrate despite freezing and starving to death.
Beevor even compares and contrasts the letters home from the troops. While the German soldiers wrote tenderly about how much they missed hearth and home, Beevor makes clear that the Russian letters were filled with mindless propaganda.
Stalingrad was known as "the fateful city. Even as Stalingrad was falling, Rommel was losing in North Africa and America was gearing up to finally get in the fight. From that point on, Germany would know nothing but defeat. In hindsight, we are left to gasp at how close we came to a world dominated by Nazis. Some might find it hard to believe that we escaped through what appears to be luck - luck that Hitler made such a string of foolhardy decisions.
To me, it was inevitable. Our character is our fate. A Napoleonic dictum says that to gain power, one must be absolutely petty, but to wield power, one must exercise true greatness. It makes perfect sense that a self-aggrandizing, paranoid-delusional sociopath such as Hitler would strive for absolute power and, with a few breaks along the way, eventually achieve it. But it also makes just as much sense that a self-aggrandizing, paranoid-delusional sociopath would be utterly unable to exercise that power, and would make stupid decisions in the unsupported belief that he was always right.
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942–1943