Written by Axel Urbanke
Published by Luftfahrtverlag START
English translation by David Johnston
Luftfahrtverlag START is a small publisher from northern Germany, which have been in the business for a number of years. They are probably known to many modelers and those readers interested in history for their "Im Focus" series, dealing with Luftwaffe and U-boat subjects.
The owner and writer - Axel Urbanke - has now shifted focus from the air and sea down to the muddy battlegrounds of the last months of German resistance in the east.
Although the book title is in German it is important to note that all text and captions are translated into English, so even if you are not able to read German, you will not lose by that. More about that later.
The book is hardcover and printed on gloss high quality paper, ensuring a fine reproduction of both print and pictures.
This book deals - as previously stated - with the closing battles on the Eastern Front. As the title implies, the books begins with the advancing Russian forces, crossing the old borders to the "Reich" - German territory.
This book is focused on the delaying actions and counterattacks by the retreating German forces. The chapters are relatively short, and deal with a number of battles and skirmishes, such as the desperate defense of Königsberg, and stays on the divisional level. We get down in the mud; we meet the soldiers and officers in the German forces, desperately trying to stem the advancing Russians, and trying to save as many civilians as possible.
So when the focus is on the units in front, you won’t get the "high picture" of either side, so this is not an account of the last months in the Fuhrerbunker. This is pretty fine with me, as these areas have been dealt with often enough.
As mentioned, the book is divided into a number of short chapters with equal focus on pictures and text. Each chapter taking off in either a location or a unit, all in the area of East Prussia, Silesia, Breslau and Lower Pomerania. The book does not give full cover of this area, which would probably also have been impossible due to the lack of reliable accounts and picture material at this deteriorating time of the war, but we get the major actions and can follow as the events unfold.
There’s a lot of great pictures in this book, most of which I have never seen before. Axel Urbanke has done a great job in finding these pictures, some of which are of a surprisingly high quality. As stated in the foreword, many of these pictures comes from private collections and one can imagine that getting in contact with the owners, maybe the decedents, has been difficult due to the circumstances around these events.
Nevertheless, this is a treasure trove of great photos, and being both interested in history (especially) and in model- and diorama building I find my self picking this book up again and again just to look at the photos.
The book also includes around 20 color photos and a number of maps showing the battle order and movements.
A lot of effort has gone into the text and captions. Pictures are mostly dated and located, and units are identified. I haven’t found anything mislabeled.
All text is presented in both German and English - including captions, and since I read both languages, I have tried reading both versions and must say that the translation is very good and you don’t lose anything if you can’t read German. The idea of printing in both German and English probably comes from keeping costs down, and is also seen in other publications from this publisher. In the "Im Focus" series it didn’t bother me, but in this book the result is the text being on the smaller side and I could have wished for larger print, but this is no big issue.
The chapters are well written and to the point. The author doesn’t waste time on speculation and guesswork, but keeps to the point. I find the chapters dealing with the battle for Königsberg and Danzig especially moving, but the entire book is well worth reading.
There is a relatively strict chronology in the chapters, but there is no need to read the chapters in a specific order, as they very much are separate and finished stories.
This is a great book dealing with some of the battles in the closing stages of the war when fighting moved to German soil. The book is focused on the battles on divisional or smaller levels, and as such gets closer to the smaller battles.
Pictures of a high quality is half of this book, many not seen before, but all appropriately selected to illustrated the deteriorating German army.
It's a good read, and is likely a book to be taken up often, just to re-read a chapter, look at the photos and maybe be inspired for the next build or diorama. If questioned - "do we need another book about this subject?", my answer is a clear "Yes" because this book takes a different angle on the events and because of the great photos included.
I find this book reasonably priced at 54€ from the publishers homepage.
Highs: Loads of great pictures, short and to the point chapters giving a good account of the battles in the closing stages on the Eastern Front before getting to Berlin - the theme in itself is highly captivating.Lows: Somewhat small print.Verdict: Overall both an interesting read, great inspiration for the model and diorama builder. A book to pick up every so often to read a chapter or just browse the pictures.