Tag Archives: Berlin

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. History is bunk!

As the Second World War drew to a close three politicians with very different agendas gathered to discuss the peace. Churchill, dedicated to preserving the remnants of the British Empire, Roosevelt, dedicated to replacing the old empires with the United Nations and Stalin, dedicated to restoring the Russian Empire into a Soviet one. Of the three only Churchill failed entirely. Roosevelt’s continuation of Wilson’s dream never succeeded at its stated goals but is becoming a nightmare empire of dysfunction in the next century. Stalin’s success was immediate but never complete enough to be lasting and while it still exists, like a death star, it can only destroy – never create. While this book may be a record of the conference – albeit with strong predispositions – it is lacking in its explanations of both cause and effect and fails to show the horror of the consequences of imperialism regardless of its origins or intentions.
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Yalta : the price of peace  S.M. Plokhy  New York : Viking, 2010  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxviii, 451 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 409-430) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In February 1945 Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met at Yalta, a resort town on the Black Sea, as their armies converged on Berlin. Each came with sharply different views of what the world should look like after the war. Over the course of eight fateful days they partitioned Germany, approved the most aggressive aerial bombing campaign in history, redrew the borders of Eastern Europe, and created a new international organization to settle future disputes.

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Two months later, Roosevelt was dead, Stalin was strengthening his grip on Poland, and Churchill was on the cusp of a humiliating electoral defeat.

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For sixty-five years, opinion has been bitterly divided on what they achieved. Did Yalta pave the way to the Cold War? Did an ailing FDR give too much to Stalin? While the accepted verdict on both questions has been, and remains, a resounding YES!, In this book Plokhy draws on newly declassified Soviet documents to sanitize the truth of Yalta and paint an original – if inaccurate – portrait of FDR and Churchill as a wartime leaders.

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If all Europe lies flat while the Russian mob tramps over it, we will then be faced with a war under difficult circumstances, and with a very good chance of losing it… James Forrestal

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Among the multitude of things so conveniently forgotten by the left is that it was the Soviet Union that attempted to destroy the free city of West Berlin first with a starvation blockade in 1948 and then will a wall that gave eminence to the iron curtain in 1961. This book is an account of the first attempt and the response of the United States which preserved the status quo without an armed response. At a time when the United States was truly the world’s only superpower – the Soviets did not yet have the bomb – many consider this a missed opportunity to decisively cage the bear and free the eastern half of Europe. Others – mainly those who did not spend forty years suffering through Soviet oppression – consider it a masterpiece of measured response. These are the same people who consider Kennedy heroic for saying, Ich bin ein Berliner, but who can not tell you how many were killed trying to cross the wall to freedom – nor any of their names. The men who planned and executed the airlift were indeed heroic and this book is a worthy testament to their efforts as for the rest appeasement was no more successful in 1948 than it was in 1938.

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The candy bombers : the untold story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s finest hour  Andrei Cherny  New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, c 2008  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiv, 624 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [595]-603) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Andrei Cherny tells a remarkable story and brings together newly unclassified documents, unpublished letters and diaries, and fresh primary interviews to tell the story of the ill-assorted group of castoffs and second-stringers who not only saved millions of desperate people from a dire threat but changed how the world viewed the United States, and set in motion the chain of events that would ultimately lead to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and to America’s victory in the Cold War.

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On June 24, 1948, intent on furthering its domination of Europe, the Soviet Union cut off all access to West Berlin, prepared to starve the city into submission unless the Americans abandoned it. Soviet forces hugely outnumbered the Allies’, and most of America’s top officials considered the situation hopeless. But not all of them.

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Harry Truman, an accidental president, derided by his own party; Lucius Clay, a frustrated general, denied a combat command and relegated to the home front; Bill Tunner, a logistics expert downsized to a desk job in a corner of the Pentagon; James Forrestal, a secretary of defense; Hal Halvorsen, a lovesick pilot who had served far from the conflict, flying transport missions in the backwater of a global war — together these unlikely men improvised and stumbled their way into a uniquely American combination of military and moral force unprecedented in its time.

Comments Off on If all Europe lies flat while the Russian mob tramps over it, we will then be faced with a war under difficult circumstances, and with a very good chance of losing it… James Forrestal

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All in all, punishment hardens and renders people more insensible; it concentrates; it increases the feeling of estrangement; it strengthens the power of resistance… Friedrich Nietzsche

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Red Orchestra: the story of the Berlin underground and the circle of friends who resisted Hitler New York: Random House, c 2009 Anne Nelson Anti-Nazi movement Germany Berlin History Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xxvi, 388 p., [16] p. of plates: ill.; 25 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. [369]-377) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In this book, author Anne Nelson shares one of the most shocking and inspiring – and least chronicled – stories of domestic resistance to the Nazi regime. The Rote Kapelle, or Red Orchestra, was the Gestapo’s name for an intrepid band of German artists, intellectuals, and bureaucrats (almost half of them women) who battled treacherous odds to unveil the brutal secrets of their fascist employers and oppressors.

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Based on years of research, featuring new information, and culled from exclusive interviews, Red Orchestra documents this riveting story through the eyes of Greta Kuckhoff, a German working mother. Fighting for an education in 1920s Berlin but frustrated by her country’s economic instability and academic sexism, Kuckhoff ventured to America, where she immersed herself in jazz, Walt Disney movies, and the first stirrings of the New Deal. When she returned to her homeland, she watched with anguish as it descended into a totalitarian society that relegated her friends to exile and detention, an environment in which political extremism evoked an extreme response.

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Greta and others in her circle were appalled by Nazi anti-Semitism and took action on many fronts to support their Jewish friends and neighbors. As the war raged and Nazi abuses grew in ferocity and reach, resistance was the only possible avenue for Greta and her compatriots. These included Arvid Harnack –the German friend she met in Wisconsin – who collected anti-Nazi intelligence while working for their Economic Ministry; Arvid’s wife, Mildred, who emigrated to her husband’s native country to become the only American woman executed by Hitler; Harro Schulze-Boysen, the glamorous Luftwaffe intelligence officer who smuggled anti-Nazi information to allies abroad; his wife, Libertas, a social butterfly who coaxed favors from an unsuspecting Göring; John Sieg, a railroad worker from Detroit who publicized Nazi atrocities from a Communist underground printing press; and Greta Kuckhoff’s husband, Adam, a theatrical colleague of Brecht’s who found employment in Goebbels’s propaganda unit in order to undermine the regime.

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For many members of the Red Orchestra, these audacious acts of courage resulted in their tragic and untimely end. These unsung individuals are portrayed here with startling and sympathetic power. As suspenseful as a thriller, Red Orchestra is a brilliant account of ordinary yet bold citizens who were willing to sacrifice everything to topple the Third Reich.

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Comments Off on All in all, punishment hardens and renders people more insensible; it concentrates; it increases the feeling of estrangement; it strengthens the power of resistance… Friedrich Nietzsche

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You can’t help but… with 20/20 hindsight, go back and say, ‘Look, had we done something different, we probably wouldn’t be facing what we are facing today.’… Norman Schwarzkopf

There is almost no action that, under review, better alternatives could not have been chosen. That having been said the practice of GOTCHA! history is not something that we find particularly useful. It is one thing to draft a lessons learned plan for teaching and quite another to write a they were no good and the fact that they lost proves it  polemic is neither instructive nor useful. Unfortunately it is a staple genre of British historians who will exhaust their criticism of their enemies and detail the failure of their allies and never concede what a bunch of bunglers they have been from Hastings to the Falklands – and well beyond. Other than the index there is nothing useful in either of these books.

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The third book by this author reviewed here mercifully makes no pretense at being anything other than fantasy and this may be his metier. The problem of course is that when you have someone drifting back and forth between fiction and nonfiction the former loses its art and the latter loses its authority. We prefer to watch the PGA tournaments as they are played rather than watch someone simulate one on a video game and we certainly would not back a vidiot to enter the ranks at Augusta and that is analogous to the way we feel about Downing!

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Sealing their fate: the twenty-two  days that decided World War II  Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2009  David Downing World War, 1939-1945  Hardcover. 1st Da Capo Press ed.  and printing. xv, 368 p., [16] p.  of plates: ill., maps; 25 cm.  Includes bibliographical  references (p. [334]-351) and  index. Clean, tight and strong  binding with clean dust jacket. No  highlighting, underlining or  marginalia in text. VG/VG


As the Japanese fleet prepared to  sail from Japan to Pearl Harbor,  the German army was launching its  final desperate assault on Moscow,  while the British were planning a  decisive blow against Rommel in  North Africa. The British  conquered the desert, the Germans  succumbed to Moscow’s winter, and  the Japanese awakened the sleeping  giant of American might. In just  three weeks, from November 17 to  December 8, the course of World  War II was decided and the fate of  Germany and Japan was sealed. With a vigor born more out of  prejudice rather than the  historical record, David Downing  tells the story of these crucial  days, shifting the narrative from  snowbound Russian villages to the  stormy northern Pacific, from the  North African desert to Europe’s  warring capitals, and from Tokyo  to Washington.

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The devil’s virtuosos: German  generals at war, 1940 – 1945 New  York, Dorset, 1993 David Downing  World War, 1939-1945  Generals  Germany Hardcover. 256 p., [4]  leaves of plates: ill.; 22 cm.       Bibliography: p. [249]-251.  Includes Index. Tight and strong  binding with clean dust jacket. No  highlighting, underlining or  marginalia in text. G/G


In this study of the Second World  War, the author has examined the  decisive European campaigns from  the point of view of German  generals who exercised the  greatest influence on their  planning and direction and battle  field outcome. In doing so he has  created a unique picture of the  generals in action – a select  group of highly skilled and  disciplined men who led their  armies across the length and  breadth of Europe, carving an  empire which surpassed that of  Napoleon — and who finally led  their men back to the ruins of  Germany.

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First and foremost among the  generals mentioned here are three  men: Guderian, a man who dared to  shout back at Hitler, who forged  the panzer force and led it,  through Poland, through France and  to the gates of Moscow; Manstein,  the master strategist, who planned  the French campaign and declined  to join the anti-Hitler  conspiracy; and Rommel, the bold  panzer commander who won laurels  in France and fame in Africa, yet  ended his career tragically trying  to defeat the allies in Normandy  and Hitler in Berlin. These generals and others who  figure prominently in this book  such as von Kluge, Model, von  Rundstedt and von Bock, are seen  fighting several battles at once:  the battle against the slow, but  relentless, Soviet tide; the  battle against the overwhelming  weight of American resources in  the West; the battle against their  own Führer, who thought he knew  best how to direct the war and was  more than willing to cast aside  300 years of military tradition in  favor of his own growing  megalomania which left the  generals bereft of equipment,  leadership, or a clear cause for  which to fight.


The book argues that ultimately  the generals’ strengths became  their weaknesses. The early military victories which made them  military heroes became the  political victories of the leadership which doomed them to  stumble through a political morass which they were not equipped to  understand. Each one tried in his own way to salvage something from  the wreck, but in Germany’s defeat their failure was as total as the extent of their earlier victories.

The Moscow option: an alternative Second World War London: Greenhill Books; Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001 David Downing World War, 1939-1945 Miscellanea Hardcover. 223 p.: maps; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 218-223). Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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This provocative alternate history looks at World War II from a new angle – what might have happened had the Germans taken Moscow in 1941. Based on authentic history and real possibilities, this book plays out the dramatic consequences of opportunities taken and examines the grotesque possibilities of a Third Reich triumphant.

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On September 30th, 1941, the Germans fight their way into the ruins of Moscow, and the Soviet Union collapses. Although Russian resistance continues, German ambition multiplies after this signal victory and offensives are launched in Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

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Hitler’s armies, assured of success, make their leader’s dreams reality, and Allied hopes of victory seem to be hopelessly doomed. David Downing’s writing is fluid and eminently believable, as he blends actual events with the intriguing possibilities of alternate history. The Moscow Option is a chilling reminder that the course of World War II might easily have run very differently.

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Comments Off on You can’t help but… with 20/20 hindsight, go back and say, ‘Look, had we done something different, we probably wouldn’t be facing what we are facing today.’… Norman Schwarzkopf

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There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land (and work) again after a cheerful, careless voyage… Mark Twain

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The Chicago of Europe, and other tales of foreign travel New York : Union Square Press, c 2009 Mark Twain ; edited and introduced by Peter Kaminsky Twain, Mark, 1835-1910 Travel Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xxvi, 419 p. : map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG 

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This book is about travel and takes its title from a tour of Europe, Germany in particular and even more particularly Berlin [the Chicago of Europe] undertaken to stave off bankruptcy. Twain was probably the greatest and most original man of letters in 19th century America and is always a pleasure to read since there is a chuckle in every sentence. We have excerpted some of his comments from his travel books in order that our readers may start the new year with a smile.

The most well travelled protagonist since Ulysses

The most well-travelled protagonist since Ulysses

It liberates the vandal to travel – you never saw a bigoted, opinionated, stubborn, narrow-minded, self-conceited, almighty mean man in your life but he had stuck in one place since he was born and thought God made the world and dyspepsia and bile for his especial comfort and satisfaction.

Almost insulting for a man who went to school but never let it interfere with his education

Almost insulting for a man who went to school but never let it interfere with his education

The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass. If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother.

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His judgements may not have always been brimming with charity as seen in his opinion of the German Language – It is easier for a cannibal to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through the eye of a rich man’s needle that it is for any other foreigner to read the terrible German. In early times some sufferer had to sit up with a toothache, and he put in the time inventing the German language – or French morality – M. de Lamester’s new French dictionary just issued in Paris defines virtue as: “A woman who has only one lover and don’t steal.”

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But give him a place and a people that he loved and the barbs became a good deal softer as we find him speaking of Hawaii – The native language is soft and liquid and flexible and in every way efficient and satisfactory – till you get mad; then there you are; there isn’t anything in it to swear with. Good judges all say it is the best Sunday language there is. But then all the other six days in the week it just hangs idle on your hands; it isn’t any good for business and you can’t work a telephone with it. Many a time the attention of the missionaries has been called to this defect, and they are always promising they are going to fix it; but no, they go fooling along and fooling along and nothing is done.

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Although even there the point of the pen stands ready to lance to tormentors of the innocent – Nearby is an interesting ruin – the meager remains of an ancient temple – a place where human sacrifices were offered up in those old bygone days…long, long before the missionaries braved a thousand privations to come and make [the natives] permanently miserable by telling them how beautiful and how blissful a place heaven is, and how nearly impossible it is to get there; and showed the poor native how dreary a place perdition is and what unnecessarily liberal facilities there are for going to it; showed him how, in his ignorance, he had gone and fooled away all his kinsfolk to no purpose; showed him what rapture it is to work all day long for fifty cents to buy food for next day with, as compared with fishing for a pastime and lolling in the shade through eternal summer, and eating of the bounty that nobody labored to provide but Nature. How sad it is to think of the multitudes who have gone to their graves in this beautiful island and never knew there was a hell.

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And finally even the lure of Circe failed to entice – as it does for all of us who have had to travel and are left with a list of places we would have liked to have been but no place we are willing to go. Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven & hell & I have only a vague curiosity about one of those.

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Comments Off on There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land (and work) again after a cheerful, careless voyage… Mark Twain

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