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Last Train From Berlin: An Eye-Witness Account of Germany at War Paperback – June 30, 2001

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About the Author

Howard K. Smith worked for UP and CBS in Berlin and then returned to the States to a long career as one of America's most distinguished radio and TV correspondents working with Ed Murrow and then alone.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (June 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842122142
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842122143
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,059,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Richard Ferry on January 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Howard K. Smith's 60 year old writing has an urgent, compelling feel which seems very relevant to our times. With personal anecdotes, facts and figures he illuminates the seduction of the German middle class into Nazism and their eventual betrayal and ruination by Hitler's policies. The internal fracture between eager industrialists who got on board with Hitler and the older, more conservative, landed gentry & industrialists who didn't like Hitler, but feared Bolsheviks even more, parallels the conflict between the established Prussian officer corp and the up and coming Wehrmacht and SS organizations. All this while the country began to bleed dry because of Hitler's crazed decision to attack Russia. Civilians endured huge hardships and shortages while at the same time Germany's military machine almost won the war. Smith's book is outstanding in that it gives the texture of daily life for Germans and how they resisted in small ways but ultimately rationalized the war under the renentless pounding of Nazi propaganda . Vivid descriptions of harrassment by the Gestapo of Smith and others in the foreigh correspondent sector. He emerges as an outspoken advocate for social change in the USA as well. easy, engaging read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R.J. Corby on December 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
Howard K. Smith does a great job of describing his experiences in detail about his time spent in Berlin during the first few years of World War II.
During the final two-thirds of the book, the reader is a companion to Smith as he describes his increasingly darkening experiences in Berlin, culminating with his departure to Switzerland on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Following the bombing, the Germans wouldn't allow anyone to leave the country, so Smith just made it.
My two chief complaints about the book:
1. It ends too early. There are pictures of the author visiting Berlin in 1950 touring the burned out Reichstag, but no details about that. It would have been delightful to read about that, and his impressions of defeated Germany, since Smith spent so much time in Berlin.
2. He doesn't add quite enough personal thoughts to his book. For instance, he met the woman that would eventually become his wife in Germany? and there is no mention of it (there's a picture of both of them in the Berlin Tiergarten). A little more of a personal touch would have rounded out the book nicely.
However, these are minor complaints about a solid and throught-provoking book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K.A.Goldberg on June 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a tense, realistic 1942 view of Nazi Germany from journalist Howard K. Smith (1914-2002). A CBS reporter in wartime Berlin from 1940-1941, Smith describes life in Nazi Germany, and how people there coped under a totalitarian system waging aggressive war. Readers see how so much of Germany's Middle Class and industrialists were seduced by Hitler. Smith doesn't conceal his contempt for Nazism - such reportorial sentiments helped lead to his exit, as had occurred eariler with reporters like Dorothy Thompson and William L. Shirer. This book's name stems from Smith taking the last train to Switzerland hours before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor - had he left one day later he'd have almost certainly been stopped, held as an enemy detainee, and perhaps disposed of. As it was, this Louisiana native was land-locked in Switzerland for nearly three years, where he continued reporting and wrote these stellar pages. This is a solid narrative about a tragic time and place by a very capable journalist.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Arnold E. Bjorn on June 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Howard K. Smith, like Wallace Deuel, Frederick Oechsner, William Shirer and others, was an American journalist stationed in Germany in the years prior to December 1941. This book recounts his experience, with much commentary. It may be compared to Shirer's famous memoirs, or to the nowadays generally forgotten (yet often superior) books the others mentioned above authored.

The portrait of Nazi Germany Smith paints is one of bleak desperation, a nation giving its utmost fighting for its survival. As a hostile observer, Smith comments on how the Germans stink (because soap is rationed and perfume an unheard-of luxury), or how they are ugly and ill-tempered (because exhausted by bombing raids and the 12-hour workday plus unpaid overtime). In the restaurants the service is lousy, even at the five-star hotels the American newspapermen frequent (for only surly old men in their seventies work as waiters; the young men are all in the army). A new pair of shoes cannot be had for love or money; the people are slowly growing emaciated from lack of food.

Beneath the author's contempt for those he describes, one nevertheless clearly perceives the plight of the common man (and his wife and children). For one who has not experienced it, used to the comforts of peace and safety in a modern first-world nation, this sort of total war experience is difficult to imagine; here Smith's vivid picture is very useful. It is all too easy for one nourished solely on the pop-culture image of cruelly villainous soldiers in smart uniforms to hate the Germans of World War II. A work such as this, even by a writer very unsympathetic to Germany, shows the bigger picture, the lives of the millions of ordinary people who sacrificed and suffered because the rulers of men saw fit to wage war.
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