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Berlin at War Hardcover – October 5, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British historian Moorhouse (Killing Hitler) puts a human face on the capital city of a Reich at war. In the summer of 1939, Berliners were optimistic and grateful to their führer for Germany' s improving economy and political order--above all, the country was at peace. That was to change with the declaration of war on September 1. Efforts to maintain some sense of normality were overshadowed by the benchmarks of total war: blackouts, rationing, and beginning in 1940 the air raids that would leave Berlin in ruins. Foreign forced laborers poured in to work in military factories, as Jews boarded trains, headed for annihilation. A network of informers aided a ubiquitous Gestapo with a veritable epidemic of denunciations as civic relations in the city collapsed. At war' s end Berlin became the Reich' s final battleground as the Red Army paid back four years of atrocities with an orgy of looting and rape. Yet Berliners sustained a chip-on-the–shoulder independence. Despite Berliners' soul-searching and recriminations (barely touched on here), Moorhouse drily relates the irony that, after the devastation, the hope that had dominated prewar Berlin quickly regained the upper hand. 16 pages of b&w photos; 1 map.
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From Booklist

Election results in the fading days of the Weimar Republic indicate that Berliners were not particularly sympathetic to Hitler or his movement. Yet Berlin endured horrible physical destruction, deprivation, and death. This included intense Allied bombings by day and night, and a siege and eventual ravaging by the Russian army. Moorhouse, who has written extensively on the history of the Third Reich, succeeds in conveying the rhythms and travails of the lives of ordinary Berliners as the assault on their city intensifies. He begins with an almost idyllic scene as huge crowds in Berlin witness the celebration of Hitler’s birthday in April 1939; at the time, of course, Germany seemed to have achieved itsforeign-policy goals without firing a shot. As the fortunes of Germany and Berlin deteriorate, Moorhouse uses the testimonies of a variety of Berliners to describe some memorable scenes and struggles.This is a hard, unrelenting saga of the effects of total warfare on citizens just hoping to survive. --Jay Freeman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1St Edition edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465005330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465005338
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The book reads well for those interested in the topic.
Kevin M Quigg
The book is exhaustedly researched and covers a wide range of topics the author bring together both personal accounts and academic research into a Tour de force.
The Lazy Book Reviewer
I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in the topic.
John S.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Roger Moorhouse's new history, "Berlin at War" is a terrific view of Germany's capital city during WW2. Moorhouse covers every phase of life for those who lived in the city - whether by choice because they were residents - or by force, because they were foreign laborers brought into Berlin from the occupied countries to help with the war effort. He obviously interviewed many Berliners about their lives during the war, as well as depending on diaries and official documents of the German government.

Moorhouse examines daily life in the city as the war progressed. From the early air raids by the British to the almost carpet bombing later in the war when much of the city was destroyed, life for Berliners went from relatively easy to a desperate day-by-day existence. Searching for food and other rationed goods was an on-going problem, for everybody. (Except, of course, Nazi officials). The reader sees how acceptance of the idea of "total war" calling for "total effort" on the home front slackened greatly as the war was perceived by Berliners as going the wrong way, after 1942. Moorhouse writes about ordinary Berliners trying to eke out a daily existence despite nights spent in air raid shelters and largely destroyed city infrastructure. And then the Russians came, in early 1945, and destruction to the once great, liberal city was complete.

Moorhouse leaves very little out in his book. Chapters on the Jewish "problem" and ultimate solution are in the book along with chapters on propaganda, criminality by both the state and individuals, and on how the city functioned in the face of destruction. He's an excellent writer, too. For the amateur historian, this book is a delight.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on September 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
After the end of WW2, perhaps tens of thousands of books were written about it. Surprisingly,not many of them described how the Berliners lived during those dark years. This is precisely what this book is doing in a spectacular way. As Roger Moorhouse explains right in the introduction,"the democratization of history has created a shift away from 'the great and the good' in favour of the 'view from below'. Diaries,personal accounts,interviews with those who survived during those hellish years and many other and various sources were used by Mr.Moorhouse to show the reader the different aspects of everyday life in Berlin.(See page 14-Introduction)
The book opens with an account of how the Berliners were watching a parade of some 50000 soldiers marching in honour of their Fuhrer to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. The war was far away from them and they carried on with their lives as usual. But not for long,because all this tranquillity was disturbed by the first British bombers.The city had more than 400000 foreign slaves who were brought to build the new Babylon,named "Germania".
This was the mammoth construction project of Berlin under the supervision and inspiration of Albert Speer.
The Berliners were concerned about many things,among them the lack of fuel and the rationing of food;the restriction of water and many other shortcomings. Rabbit keeping and breeding was becoming popular because it yielded portions of meat and the Angora wool was used for the Luftwaffe flying suits(p.93).
Mr.Moorhouse gives a very detailed description of the everyday life of the Jews in Berlin. It is at this point where asks to what extent the Germans and Berliners knew about the atrocities committed on the Eastern Front against the Jews. His answer is : some knew;others did not know.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Swystun on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Berlin and Berliner's trials during WW2 have not received the same attention as London and Londoners. So it was with great interest that I picked up Moorehouse's latest. Unfortunately, the book did not deliver any new insights that had not been covered in broader histories of the war. The author accurately points out that Berliners were by-in-large weak enthusiasts of the Nazis but he does not fully capture that scepticism nor their famous sarcasm.

Moorhouse covers all of the degradations the city and people suffered: bombings, the Gestapo, shortages of all the normal comforts, huge doses of propaganda, and the eventual apocalyptic battle. However, the book is at best an aggregation rather than a source of new content. It feels like William L. Shirer wrote the first few chapters given the extent that he is quoted and cited. And the fall of Berlin offers absolutely nothing that has not been covered previously and the Epilogue offers very little value. For me it was a disappointment but it may provide benefit to those new to the Second World War.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By exurbanite on December 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A sound and well written account of wartime Berlin. Moorhouse makes good use of the available literature and quotes extensively from the diaries of bureaucrats, soldiers and private citizens. While individuals already familiar with World War II history will find little that is entirely new or startling in his narrative, it nonetheless includes a great deal of excellent and well documented first hand testimony. The manic celebrations which accompanied the early years of Nazi victories as well as the despair, chaos, destruction and deaths which marked the closing months of the war, provide a highly readable chronicle of a period as frightening as it was extraordinary.
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