[By Nic Lindh on Wednesday, 14 December 2005]
Max Hastings’s Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945 is a sprawling and inclusive depiction of the last year of the Third Reich. The book looks at this time from the points of view of both the Allies and Germans, and separates itself from most World War II literature by spending much time on the fate of civilians touched by the conflict, covering the tragedies suffered by Dutch, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, and German civilians as the maelstrom of war pulled them down.
Hastings very effectively uses letters and interviews with soldiers and civilians to great emotional effect and to illustrate larger points about the war.
Apart from the moving testimony of civilians and front line soldiers, Armageddon looks at the larger military and political issues and the personality conflicts inside Allied command.
Unusually for a book about World War II, the history of the brutal battles of the Eastern Front is covered partially from a Russian point of view, illuminating the terrible circumstances, both military and political, under which the Red Army fought.
By not cowering from fanaticism, blunders, horrific mistakes, and incompetence, as well as courage, heroism, and endurance, Armageddon paints a vivid and sometimes breathtaking portrait of a dark and horrific year.
If you are at all interested in World War II, Armageddon belongs on your must-read list.