151 of 166 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book, despite...
This is a book to read if you want to get a sense of the scope, intensity and human drama of the incredible battle between German and Russian armies on the banks of Volga. It was one of the most important battles of the WWII (if not the most important). It demonstrated the incredible heroism of both the Germans and the Russians. It also showed that Hitler made a mistake...
Published on August 5, 2001 by Igor Biryukov
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It could have been much better...
I must first say that I'm addicted to military history books, so perhaps my scrutiny is more critical than others. However, I was disappointed with what should have been a better organized, more compelling story about one of the greatest military blunders in recorded history.
One of my primary complaints is the lack of maps and lack of details in the few maps...
Published on November 1, 2011 by HK P7M8
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151 of 166 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book, despite...,
This is a book to read if you want to get a sense of the scope, intensity and human drama of the incredible battle between German and Russian armies on the banks of Volga. It was one of the most important battles of the WWII (if not the most important). It demonstrated the incredible heroism of both the Germans and the Russians. It also showed that Hitler made a mistake of underestimating ability of Stalin to regain control and learn from mistakes of disastrous summer of 1941 and determination of Russians to fight for each building in Stalingrad.
Written by the American author, the book for the most part describes events from the German point of view. I am Russian and admittedly it is not easy to stay totally objective about an account with slight pro-Axis slant, but I am interested in Stalingrad battle and have read some other books on the subject. I also been to Stalingrad (now city of Volgograd) myself, and my main criticism is this: Mr. Craig, despite the fact that he spent five years researching for this book, unfortunately didn't quite familiarize himself with some aspects of Russian life and culture. I don't know, may be he didn't have an opportunity...But that would have made his book more balanced and more readable for the Russian audience.
For example, "Kazakhs" on page 321 aren't "Kazakhs" but Cossacks. There were no "Kazakhs" living on river Don, only Cossacks. Kazakhs live in Kazakhstan. These are two different peoples. "Kaytusha" throughout the text of the book is misspelled; it is really "Katjusha" - a Russian rocket launcher. I was surprised that it was misspelled, since it was not only famous Russian weapon of war, but also a woman's name, derivative of Katja (Russian for Katie). It would be equivalent for a Russian author to call German tank "Mark" as "Mrak".
Another example - on page 283 Mr. Craig assumes that December 24th was a Christmas Eve for both Germans and Russians. Close, but no cigar...The Christmas in Russia is celebrated due to Christian Orthodox tradition on January 7th, hence the Christmas Eve is January 6th. But during Communist times it was prohibited anyway.
Perhaps as a result of the author's lack of firm grasp of Russia's cultural context, the Russians in a book depicted a little bit like caricatures (despite the author's effort to do otherwise). Germans are more believable, better developed and likeable. To summarize, despite the fact that I thought the book was good, I have encountered many errors about the Russians that it made the book less enjoyable to read and sometimes even a little annoying. Otherwise the book is well written. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history of WWII, military history, and German or Russian history.
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the more readable accounts of the great battle,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Enemy at the Gates (Paperback)
As a by-product of the Cold War, the subject of the Second World War as fought in Russia has been largely ignored, but the Battle of Stalingrad was so decisive, and so horrendous, that even general histories of the war cannot ignore it. The battle was fought out from August, 1942, until the surrender of the German 6th Army on January 31, 1943. Much of the fighting took place in the ruins of the city, which came to be known as, "Verdun on the Volga," among the German troops, and as, "the mass grave of the Wehrmacht," to the Soviet press. Today, the city of Stalingrad (subsequently re-named Volgograd after Stalin's official reduction in status in the Soviet pantheon), is rightly a shrine to Russian sacrifice, heroism and tenacity as well as a memorial to the thousands of soldiers and civilians who died there.
William Craig's account of the battle is one of the better, more readable histories of the epic of Stalingrad. Craig masterfully weaves eyewitness accounts to put a human face on a campaign and battle of such immense scope and horror that many other writers have failed to adequately compass the subject. This book treats the decisive battle of the Second World War in Europe with the dispassion necessary to form a solid appraisal of where the errors were made by the rival commanders. In this sense, Craig avoids the pat answer of blaming Adolf Hitler entirely for the catastrophic loss of the 6th Army after it was encircled but could still break out. Craig is one of the few authors who deals candidly and fairly with the plight of the Rumanian and Italian armies shattered in the encirclement battle.
_Enemy at the Gates_ personalizes the battle with a montage of memories from the participants. Craig's effort is compelling, readable and very effective. Read in conjunction with such works as, _Last Letters from Stalingrad_, and Heinz Schroter's, _Stalingrad_, Craig's work fills out the gap in the historical lexicon of the Second World War.
48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The movie should have been based on this book!,
This review is from: Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad (Mass Market Paperback)
"Enemy at the Gates" is out of print, but it shouldn't be a problem to locate a copy at a library. It is worth the trouble! This was the first book to put a human face on the Battle of Stalingrad. Because the account was compiled from interviews and memoirs of participants, the book often reads like an exciting novel. In this respect, it closely resembles Andrew Tully's or Cornelius Ryan's accounts of the Battle of Berlin. When I learned of the upcoming film "Enemy at the Gates", I was ecstatic to think that this excellent book would at long last come to the big screen! Alas, only the title is taken from "Enemy at the Gates" -- the screenplay is based on David Robbins' novel "War of the Rats". The movie's focus will be on the historically dubious sniper battle and the hysterically bogus romantic interest. What a pity. For the real flavor of Stalingrad, get the real "Enemy at the Gates" and Antony Beevor's "Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege".
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly interesting read on WWII's most costly battle,
While most Americans tend to think of WWII mostly in terms of our losses, the Russians lost millions of citizens, both military and civilian, in the war. The Battle of Stalingrad was pivotal in the war; it turned the tide against the Germans and forced them to eventually fight a two-front war that they could not win. Had Stalingrad folded, the war might very well have ended with Hitler on the winning side.
This book reads like "The Longest Day" (Cornelius Ryan) of the Stalingrad battle, with first person accounts from both the German and Russian sides sewn together into an excellent narrative that holds your attention.
One of the stories in this book has been turned into the current (2001) movie of the same title. It concerns the battle between a Russian sniper who starts a sniper school in Stalingrad; his students go on to exact a huge toll on the Germans. In response, the Germans fly in their own master sniper to "take out" the Russian. The two snipers stalk each other among the ruins of the city, with the loser to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country. The book, however, covers much more ground. If you've seen the movie and want more on the sniper duel, read "War of the Rats" by David Robbins, a fictionalized account of the real-life events that is riveting. Read "Enemy at the Gates" if you want the full view of the battle. I recommend both accounts as superb books worthy of your time and money.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Futility of War...,
It seems like every book I read on warfare makes me realize one central theme: Thousands upon thousands of soldier's lives are sacrificed by overzealous military leaders like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin...case in point: The battle of Stalingrad. I thoroughly enjoyed Craig's book on this famous, yet rarely covered battle of WWII. Most Westerners and the world for that matter, are fed large doses of reading related to D-Day, Pearl Harbor, etc. etc. Significant, history altering battles like Stalingrad are rarely given much light..I considered myself a learned scholar of WWII until I read this book...I then realized I really didnt have the "complete" picture of WWII like I thought...
What I really like about the book was the reader gets to see both sides of the war from the Red Army and Germans perspectives. In the beginning of the book, we relate to the Soviet's tales of horror as the invading German soldiers plunder and pillage their motherland...however, as the tide of the battle turns, we read how the Germans become the victims of the enclosing Soviet armies. I really liked how Craig got deep into the doomed German soldier's mind-set as they came closer and closer to annhialation. The reader really starts to see the German soldier as just another human being like you and I....a farmer from Dresden, a school teacher from Cologne, a mechanic from Stutgart...the list goes on...we really see the German soldiers for what they were, decent men just following orders. Dont get me wrong, there were plenty of Germans who committed such terrible atocities that they do not deserve to be called human beings. On, the flip-side, we see that many of the Soviet soliders themselves were no less brutal than their German counterparts...shooting surrendering soldiers, marching them to death camps, torture etc. etc...in short, we learn that war brings out the worst in man: German, Soviet or otherwise...
I did catch one reoccuring theme in this book, similar to what I have seen in other great WWII books (see books by Ambrose): Adolph Hitler was a terrible military leader who killed thousands of his soldiers because his ego did not let him think rationally...Hitler's famous fallacy of forcing his policy of not giving up an inch of conquered land cost the lives of thousands of German soldiers not only in Russia, but France during D-Day. Therefore, Hitler not only was a racist lunatic, but also a piece of crap military tactician. Stalin was no less, as he ordered thousands of his men to suicidal charges against the German army and even resorted to killing thousands of his own men out of paranoia.
All in all, Enemy at the Gates is a must read for anyone wanting to get the complete picture of WWII. Stalingrad was truly the battle that turned the tide of WWII. From there on, Germany fought a downhill battle...
The movie was excellent (a little Hollywooded out of course), but portrayed the horror of the war through both a German and Soviet Sniper...go see it and read the book!!!!
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stalingrad-View From Ground Level,
This review is from: Enemy at the gates: The battle for Stalingrad (Hardcover)
For most people in the West, the War between German and Russia 1941-45 is the "Unknown War". Thanks to movies like "The Longest Day", "A Bridge Too Far", and many others, the impression is gained that the United States and Britain carried the bulk of the war against Nazi Germany, but the fact is that 3/4 of the entire strength of the German Wehrmacht was destroyed by the USSR's Red Army. Although many fine books have been written in the US and Britain about this war, most of them have been written more for people who already have a strong background in WWII, but this book makes the story of battle marking the turning point of the war, Stalingrad, accessible to the general public. The book is written in a form that was made popular in the 1960's and 1970's bringing vignettes both from the political and military leaders as well as the experiences of ordinary people caught up in the maelstrom. Famous encounters in the engagement such as the "Battle of the Grain Elevator" or "Pavlov's House" are described, bringing the horror of the "rattenkrieg" (rat's war) in the ruins of the city to the reader. Craig points out how the indescriminate bombing of the city as a prelude to the German attack which killed tens of thousands of civilians including the deliberate strafing of columns of civilians trying
to flee to the east bank of the Volga river ended up backfiringon the Germans, enabling the Soviet defenders to turn the rubble into improvised fortresses forcing the Germany's vaunted Sixth Army into fighting house-to-house, cellar to cellar, street to street, and sometimes room to room, something they were unused to, coming from successful blitzkrieg, mobile warfare, campaigns. He also points out that in spite of the fact that the German army was famous for discipline, when the German pocket (the "kessel") was in danger of falling to the Soviets, many soldiers made self-inflicted wounds in order to be flown out or they would defy orders and storm the waiting aircraft, even though they had not been given permissionto be evacuated..
A couple of items should be mentioned as corrections to the book, however. First of all, Craig calls Sixth Army commander
Friedrich von Paulus, but Paulus came from a family that was not part of the Prussian Military aristocracy, so "von" was not part of his name.
Secondly, this book was written in the early 1970's, before the fall of the Communist regime. Antony Beevor has written another popular-style book about Stalingrad based on research done since then and he brings new facts to light. Among them is his skepticism about the famous duel that was believed to occur between Soviet master sniper Vassily Zaitsev and the German Konings. Although this story was circulated for many years and Craig recounts in this book, Beevor says there is reason to doubt whether it really occurred (this story forms the backdrop of the movie with the same title of this book, which is not really based on the book, unfortunately).
In summary, I strongly recommend this book, in addition to Beevor's to really get a feeling for the titanic, inhuman struggle that was the Russo-German front in the Second World War.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid Writing: Captures The Spirit And Drama Of Stalingrad,
By A Customer
Agree, be aware that this book is not a novelization of the movie. It is a powerfully written narrative of the battle for Stalingrad as experienced by combatant and noncombatants for both sides. I thought it to be superior to most historical "military" writing in general: this is a book to be read not for orders of battle and eye glazing sentences of roman numeral lists of panzer divisions but for a dramatic, immersive, account of a German Army entering a prostrate town expecting a rapid collapse and finding to its surprise die-hard Russian soldiers who were not quite ready to surrender. I read this book twenty years ago when I was fifteen and regretted losing my copy years ago. I am glad the book is back. P.S. the sniper duel is a part of the story but only a part...
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In one word: Excellent!,
This review is from: Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad (Hardcover)
I have not tried any books on military or history before. I picked this one during one of my routine flights just to pass the time, and I should accept that this book was so compelling and narrative that I finished the book in a matter of 4 days (fastest by my reading standards) and I am buying more books about World War I & II. History is interesting you see!
More than history, William Craig has done an excellent job of narrating the pain and terrible costs of war through the best possible source: the people who fought the war. And this is one book that is unbiased in its text.
As a reader, you can visualize every event unfolding in the battle field, like:
1. The plight of the Russian soldiers & volunteers who painfully protected the arms factory and the grain silo in Stalingrad
2. The German Stuka divers who mercilessly sprayed bullets and bombs on the civilians and injured soldiers alike on the banks of the Volga river trying to get out of the fully destroyed Stalingrad city
3. The tremendously pressurizing situation in which the Sixth army leader, Von Paulus was in when many of his units were loosing to the Russian Red Army and Hitler rudely declined to consider the Russian demand for surrender of the Sixth Army. A classic example of what continous victory can do to even the best of leaders: ego and arrogance that can literally close your eyes. Ofcourse Hitler was not the best of leaders, though.
4. The atrocities commited by German and Russian soldiers, for example, the two German soldiers who tore a Russian baby into two infront of her mother. I can understand that such atrocity finding place in a review would create a ghastly impression about the book, but lets accept the fact: War and war crime are brutally, utterly inhuman, doesn't matter who does that. Thats the same impression I got about war and war crimes after going through this book. This particular narration affected me so much that I am yet to come out of it.
There are many events like this, and the author does a wonderful job of painting the exact image of the battlefield in your mind. I literally felt that I was very much part of the battle for Stalingrad from start till the murderous and terrible end. Again, you feel the pain of tragic loss of human lives, that too, at such big numbers when you read those last lines of the book. They tell you that the Sixth army, dangerously professional and of a size of 250000 soldiers was reduced to a mere 5000 when they landed back in Germany!
You must read the book to see for yourself what I am trying to say. Its impressive text can be experienced only by reading it. If you are interested in WWII, this is the book that you should have in your collection.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A slanted but electrifying and inspiring account,
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This review is from: Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad (Hardcover)
This is the first book I've read on the battle for Stalingrad proper. It's great reading, and I could hardly put it down. As they say, Craig knew how to spin a good yarn. True, he had excellent material to write a great story, but it's one of his merits that he collected much of this material himself, through interviews with many participants of the battle.
That said, some flaws of the book bothered me even while I was enjoying the narrative:
1) Craig often adds the "von" particle to the name of the German commander Friedrich Paulus. This mistake is more serious than it seems, as it may give the reader the impression that Paulus was of noble origin and, therefore, in all likelihood, the heir to a long family tradition of military service. This is not the case: Paulus was of relatively humble origins, and this may arguably be an important element to understand the man and his behavior both during the battle and in the years that followed.
2) I was surprised to read about the "Kazakh" villagers at the Don that had expelled their Russian liberators and were all murdered in retaliation. One reviewer clarified that it was actually a Cossack village, which makes more sense. Again, an apparently minor mistake may lead to very wrong conclusions which affect our whole view of the war in Russia. Cossacks were opposed to the Bolshevik regime from the start, and suffered a lot under Soviet rule.
3) To some extent, Craig fails to convey to the reader the moral dimension of the battle. Sometimes, it seems we are reading the account of a duel between two opponents with an equally valid claim to the stakes. Craig does tell some harrowing stories, most notably that of a baby torn apart by two German soldiers just for the fun of it. He also tells episodes of cruelty by the Red Army (and the NKVD). However, one of the main aspects of this war that made it different from all other wars was the SYSTEMATIC perpetration of atrocities - in an unprecedented scale - in the wake of Wehrmacht victories everywhere. By failing to present this context (or, perhaps, by assuming readers have it in mind), Craig makes it difficult for us to understand the harsh treatment Russians dispensed on German prisoners after victory, and makes it look like sheer, gratuitous cruelty. Without condoning the Russian attitude, Craig could have told us more about the reasons that led to it. Among these, the horrendous treatment of Soviet POWs, over one million of which died under captivity in the winter of 1941-42. Not surprisingly, a common motto in Russia at the time was "Comrade, kill your German."
4) As a consequence of the above - and this, paradoxically, is also a tribute to Craig's narrative skills - the reader could easily catch himself rooting for the Germans, especially in the second part of the book, which focuses on the plight of the Sixth Army under encirclement. One reader mentioned that Germans in the book are usually much more lifelike than Russians. I had the same impression. I think I'm much more familiar with Paulus and other German commanders and soldiers than with many Russians that are mentioned but that we never really get to know in depth. In fairness, let us admit it must have been much easier for Craig, in the late 1960's and early 1970's, to interview German veterans in West Germany than Soviet ones in Brezhnev's USSR (some of these accounts were obtained in Israel and elsewhere). And he certainly had much easier access to German documents and letters than to Russian ones.
Why, then, four stars? Because, as I said above, the book is a great read. Also, Craig's account of the battle seems to be fairly accurate, within the limitations of the time when it was written, and in spite of the slant toward the German side. (This must not be confused with sympathy for the Nazis. Craig has none.) I thought I learned a lot in the chapters describing Stalin and Hitler making decisions on the conduct of the battle. One can easily understand why so many German officers and soldiers became disillusioned with the Führer after Stalingrad. No wonder so many high ranking veterans of the Russian campaign eventually got involved in the "officer's plot" to murder Hitler on July 20, 1944. A little episode Craig tells makes a lot of sense to the reader at this point. In the last weeks of the battle, a group of German soldiers were listening to a radio broadcast from Germany. They were weeping at the sound of the national anthem, "Deutschland über alles" (music by Haydn, remember). But then, when the "Horst Wessel Lied" (song of the Nazi Party) followed, someone smashed the radio to pieces. No one protested.
As the example shows, Craig has an eye for the telling detail, and many of the episodes in the book really move you, make you think and give you a most revelatory picture of the mind of men (and women) in extreme circumstances. The description of cannibalism among Italian prisoners of war, the sense of duty of the German doctor (who would pay dearly for his decision to return to his men in the battlefield even though he had a chance to stay away), the feelings of comradeship, the Russian nurse who lost all her limbs: these are some of the episodes I think I will not forget. As I will never forget the story of Mikhail Goldstein's violin playing on New Year's eve. I won't spoil your pleasure here, but this very moving episode alone was, for me, worth the price of the book many times over!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be fooled by the movie "tie in," a great history.,
This is not a lame novel based upon a movie. This is a well-deserved re-issue of an account of the Battle of Stalingrad written almost thirty years ago. It rivals Ryan's "The Longest Day" as one of the great historical accounts of World War II. "Enemy at the Gates" not only tells the "big picture," of fighting and death on a scale that Americans really cannot imagine. It also makes the horrible fighting more immediate with descriptions from Soviet and German soldiers, as well as civilians. (The movie is based upon a series of these accounts.) While more recent books on the subject have the benefit of some recently declassified Soviet materials, William Craig was able to benefit from more first person accounts. Readers who appreciate the works of Stephen Ambrose will find a real gem in William Craig's work. Since this book did not involve the British and Americans, it was overlooked in the mid-1990's World War II nostalgia. This book is finally on the shelves again, and it certainly deserves to be there.
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Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad by William Craig (Hardcover - April 12, 2010)
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