Sunday, July 22, 2007

Stalingrad further reading

After reading Life and Fate it's worth pointing in the direction of some other books that over the last few years I have read that also cover that battle and the other great city siege of Leningrad.

Stalingrad is one of the most important battles of the Second World War and the story is so powerful that it makes otherwise dry military history books come alive. Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) is also an amazing story as the city was under seige for 900 days forcing the population to resort to cannibalism.

Stalingrad – Anthony Beevor
This is probably the most famous history book of recent times with a reputation for crossing over the divide between traditional military history and mainstream narrative. The fact it manages to do that is as much down to the story of the battle as it is Beaver’s writing and it is sometimes hard not to glaze over when you get the lists of generals, locations and military manoeuvres. What makes this such a powerful book is that it tells the tragic story from an impartial position that gives room for both sides to breathe, die and rise and fall.

Enemy at The Gates – William Craig
This book inspired the film of the same name and charts the battle for the city but with particular emphasis on the story of a Russian and a German sniper battling it out between themselves across the ruins. As you might expect there has been quite a lot of disagreement in historical circles about if this even happened so that does cast a shadow over the book, as sadly does the film, which was a massive disappointment failing to build a solid story alongside impressive special effects.

900 Days: Seige of Leningrad - Harrison Sailsbury
The seige of the old capital left a scar on the population who had to suffer from fuel and food shortages and try to protect their most valuable architectural prizes. The pictures in the Hermitage were removed for safety and the people waited for relief. In the three plus years it took for the siege to be lifted many died of cold and hunger and were driven to become cannibals and as money lost its meaning the wealthy were those with a supply of wood and bread. Naturally throughout there was a feeling that because those running Leningrad were popular leaders in their own right that there were political reasons for allowing the siege to last so long.

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