The classic account of the final offensive against Hitler’s Third Reich.
The Battle for Berlin was the culminating struggle of World War II in the European theater. The last offensive against Hitler’s Third Reich, it devastated one of Europe’s historic capitals and marked the final defeat of Nazi Germany. It was also one of the war’s bloodiest and most pivotal battles, whose outcome would shape international politics for decades to come.
The Last Battle is Cornelius Ryan’s compelling account of this final battle, a story of brutal extremes, of stunning military triumph alongside the stark conditions that the civilians of Berlin experienced in the face of the Allied assault. As always, Ryan delves beneath the military and political forces that were dictating events to explore the more immediate imperatives of survival, where, as the author describes it, “to eat had become more important than to love, to burrow more dignified than to fight, to endure more militarily correct than to win.”
The Last Battle is the story of ordinary people, both soldiers and civilians, caught up in the despair, frustration, and terror of defeat. It is history at its best, a masterful illumination of the effects of war on the lives of individuals, and one of the enduring works on World War II.
©1966 Cornelius Ryan; 1994 by Victoria Ryan Bida and Geoffrey J. M. Ryan (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A rare accomplishment…Will be of interest to generations to come.” (James A. Michener, Pulitzer Prize–winning author)
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Somehow, "The Last Battle" is probably Cornelius Ryan's lesser known work on WWII, after his very famous books "The Longest Day" and "A Bridge Too Far" (yes, both prominent WWII films are based on his material).
If you've seen "The Longest Day" film, you have some idea what this book's narrative is going to be like. It covers the events from as many perspectives as possible...from high-ranking commanders to infantrymen to civilians...many of whom were interviewed by Ryan himself in the 1960's. In fact, many of the most poigiant moments of "The Last Battle" are told from the perspective of German civilians, who attempt to go about their daily lives as the Third Reich collapses in flames all around them.
Essentially, "The Last Battle" covers the invasion of Germany proper, on both the Western and Eastern Fronts, and the titular Battle of Berlin.
But, the heft of this work is in the individual stories. German commanders describe to Ryan how Hitler reacted to his own lunacy coming full circle in the last days of the war. Soviet generals compete to see which Russian army will seize the city first. American pilots reveal how the last aerial dogfight in WWII involved US scout flyers shooting down a opposing German observation plane with Colt .45 1911 pistols. In Berlin, Zoo keepers desperately try to save the animals they were charged with caring for. Nuns struggle to prepare their maternity ward for the worst once Soviet rear-eschelon troops, drunk and prone to rape, arrive to exact revenge for atrocities commited aganist the USSR.
This book is a powerful, moving, and highly informative work.
"Thanks to Dan Carlin of Hardcore History podcasts."
What an interesting perspective of this horrible war and the end of the Nazi war machine. Thanks to Dan for recommending it to his listeners!
"It's exactly what you're hoping it will be"
Outstanding over all, the narrator is excellent, and able to shift voice for different speakers without being distracting or annoying. The book itself is an excellent account of the fall of Berlin, and the most vivid that I've come across - bringing to life what is often a footnote or lone paragraph in more generally WWII books. Highly detailed without being plodding, dense or at all inaccessible, overall a must read for history fans.
"Stands Near the Top of WW2 Books"
Wow! This book was really interesting. What stood out of the book for me, was a certain humanizing of the German people that won't be covered in most WW2 books out there. I thought the author did a good job of telling the Battle of Berlin from different viewpoints and not the American, Russian, or the Nazis, but rather a combination of all the sides. There is no easy way to put to words something with such enormity as the last battle in the deadliest military conflict in history. Yet, Cornelius Ryan manages to do just that not with the use of staggering statistics, but with a series of stories that even my simple human mind can comprehend.
The narrator, Simon Vance, has become one of my favorites & his reading of this book makes you feel as is you're "watching" a documentary. Excellent.
Overall: Doesn't require vast knowledge of WW2 & the stories throughout will keep you listening. I highly recommend for those with even a mild interest on the subject, & of course the usual military history buffs as well.
The Last Battle was one of the first audiobooks I have read and set the bar VERY high for any future listening. Simon Vance does a brilliant job narrating a part of history that is seldom touched upon and fully conveys the increasingly desperate situation of Nazi Germany during WW2 from the perspective of multiple countries.
I learned a great deal from this book. The foot note comments and actual interviews of the characters by the author made this book much more vivid.
"It's less story, more "series of great interviews""
Excellent, clear, history-channel-esque narrator. If you know as much about WWII before reading this book as after, then you are amazing. Example, I thought mystery shrouded Hitler's actual death; apparently any "mystery" is 1% warranted speculation and 99% conspiracy theory. This book dispels, addresses, and summarizes much of the views and information held by Britain, the US, Russia, and Germany at the end of WWII. That's all it is: a summary of actual, verifiable conversations and events and testimonies. If you don't enter this book expecting drama at every turn, then you'll come out satisfied and knowledgeable. Recommended!
History Books fall into two categories...Those written by Professors that are adding to their published books to get tenure and those that aren't boring. This is the latter. Cornelius Ryan knows how to write and how to write well. He keeps the pace moving well and it was hard to stop listening to this book. He is at his finest talking about the Nazis in their bunkers with their insane plans to "Have Steiner Counter Attack". "Followed by the question "Who is Steiner?" buy one of the highest ranking German Generals. That level of idiocy is what defined the Reich and Ryan brings it to life well. He interviewed these people himself after the war so this is not second rate source material. My favorite parts of the book was concerning General Helmuth Weidling. He was a crusty old non Nazi General who was famous for his defenses. He originated the "paper bag defense" and was brilliant by all accounts and disdainful of Hitler.
Very well written book and primary source material for any serious student of World War 2
"Fantastic story told by a superb narrator."
Cornelius Ryan's tells the real story of Berlin's last days (and that of the Third Reich) through memoirs, personal interviews and painstaking research. What you get is insight into the thinking of everyone who participated in this tragic and yet triumphant tale. Simon Vance is probably the best narrator on audible and brings his heightened narrative style to an already exceptionally taunt story.
If you have read any of Ryan's books you should expect nothing but the best. This account is amazing. Though the Nazi's were likely the most evil of governments that have ever existed, you find yourself either feeling sorry for the Berlin population or simply pitying them. Hitler expanded the German empire to its greatest but then it all collapsed. This book emphasizes the total collapse of Nazism and the German Nation. It was totally destroyed! Simon Vance is a born narrator. No wonder he is an acclaimed talent. You won't be disappointed in this choice.
"All the information you will ever need."
The details of the end of WW11, its' really well described.This has been the ONLY book I've known about to make the battle of Berlin such a visual experience, & to give so much information..
The simple futility of the killing of the few remaining soldiers and civilians who saw the war finished. Never the less this carried on right to the end. Squads were going around hanging what they saw as traitors.
Not sure as I enjoy is the correct word for a subject like this, however I learnt a lot about how humans react in a dire crisis.
The futility of the battle at the end.
In this audible version the narrator achieves a moving account of the war, as it was played out in Germany and Berlin, in the final conclusion.
"A Good One"
This is a narrative history well suited to be an audiobook. Not too technical, it's a compilation of people's experiences which follows the invasion of Germany at the end of the war, and the fate of Berlin. It's easy to listen to and I very much like Simon Vance's voice.
Various generals and their adjutants come into the story, German, Russian and American, but the story of Gotthard Heinrici is particularly captivating, as he tries to stave off the Russians and defy Hitler's crazy ideas at the same time. He wanted to give as many Germans as possible the chance to surrender to the western allies.
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