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There are very many books concerning World War II and especially concerning the European Theater of that war. Most of them cover the preparations for the war, the actual fighting, the strategy and, for some, the politics involved in fighting the war. Some, like The Third Reich at War, cover the actions of the German government at home in trying to wage and support the war. None of them that I have read are intended to cover the effect of the war on the civilian population so this book, which does just that, has contributed a great deal to my understanding of what life was like for the civilians of Berlin.
With its concentration on the civilian population this book provides a look into an often neglected part of the war. How did the civilians cope with Germany’s gradual slide from victory into defeat, how did the German government try to keep civilian morale high as the German armies began to be beaten back, how successful were they in what they tried to do and what did the civilians know about the war and its progress?
I had expected that this book would follow the progress of the war sequentially from 1939 through 1945 but was surprised to find that the book is thematic instead. That is, each chapter covers a distinct topic and follows it through the war. Thus we get a chapter on the German resistance movement, another chapter on how those who wanted to avoid being deported were able to survive “underground”, another chapter on what life was like in a concentration camp (a chapter that I found extremely difficult to listen to), another on how Berlin civilians dealt with allied bombing raids, another on the life of the foreign workers brought in to do the work of those drafted into the German army and so on. Thus the reader is treated to what amounts to a series of sketches of life for Berlin residents (and others) during the war, but not to an overall sequence of events through the war. While this treatment of the life of the Berlin residents was not what I expected I still found it both interesting and informative. In fact this book is the only place in all of my reading on this subject that has provided some of this information. Until I read Berlin At War I had no idea how people survived living “underground”, how many did and survived the war, little idea of the general “resistance” movement in Berlin or of a hundred other questions answered by Mr Moorhouse’s book.
The narration is first class and I never lost interest in the topics being covered or in the way they were presented. The thematic approach was a bit of a surprise, but worked well in covering the individual subjects. This book is almost unique in its subject material and I highly recommend it for those interested in what life was like during World War II in Berlin.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Tells the little discussed history of dissent, dissatisfaction and complicity of civilians in Germany during the Nazi era. Extensive use of diaries, letters and first person interviews. The author has a strong command of the subject. This is a must read for students of World War II history.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful