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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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