For many years the German edition of this Wilhelm Tieke book has been used as an important source for books depicting the fighting at the Oder and the final assault on Berlin in 1945. It describes in detail the German attempts to stem the Soviet tide at the Oder River, the Russian crossing of the river, the drive on Germany’s capital and the final bitter street fighting that ended with Hitler’s death and the capture of the Reichstag. It details the Führer’s desperate orders to Wenck and Steiner for the relief of Berlin and the resulting troop movements that failed to provide help. But the book also covers the actions dealing with the Stettin bridgehead, the fighting at Swinemünde, the evacuation of the Island of Rügen, the withdrawal of the army units from north of Berlin to the Elbe, and the desperate attempts by troops and civilians to break out from Berlin.
This account mixes the descriptions of the overall military situation with many personal accounts of small unit actions. The desperation, fear and resolve of the soldiers often turned to admirable feats of bravery as well as acts of cowardice and brutality. Hope for a last minute alliance with the Western Powers encouraged the Germans to defend desperately. Ultimately, the dashing of such an alliance and the possibility of capture by the Soviets drove many soldiers and civilians to suicide.
The reader has the opportunity here to relive the last days of the Third Reich, as seen through the eyes of the German soldiers and the foreign volunteers who fought before and in Berlin. In one of the ironic incidents of the war, as German soldiers were trying to bypass Berlin to the north, a force of French Waffen-SS troops was trying to enter the city to defend it!