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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
Cornelius Ryan is one of the best writers on WWII ever. His ability to bring disparate material together cohesively to paint a clear picture of otherwise chaotic events is heroic. He mixes the great (figures of history) with the small (folks in the towns and villages) to fantastic effect. You often feel that you were there yourself. The excitement, and impending doom, of the times is clearly carried through.
It is easy to understand that the outcome wasn't always certain, when the mistakes are made clear in the cold light of history.
Simon's dulcet tones brought the historical figures to life.
There were many. The greatest were descriptions of how the civilians in and around Berlin survived, and the Allied liberations of the camps.
I would (and will) read anything by Cornelius Ryan.
Among the top 10.
Adolph Hitler. I enjoy his breakdown toward the end of the war and ultimate suicide. A taste of the suffering he put so many through.
Hitler's tirade upon meeting with his generals for one of the last times.
No. One can get a little bogged down in a couple of places with all the war details.
I enjoy audio books. One of my favorites "My Life In France" allows me to open any section anytime to become immersed in the joie de vivre!
The story was not what I had expected so I was a little disappointed. If does however give quite an accounting of the last days before the fall of Germany. It is collection of facts and accounts made into a long story. You do walk away with a much better idea of war and price paid by everyone.
The author takes the complexities and inhumanity of German nationalist society at the time, as well as the inhumanity of its' supporters during the war, and weaves together these facts from first hand accounts. These are then interwoven with other examples of humanity and courage, driving toward what we all know is the inevitable conclusion, the Fall of Berlin. The surprises along the way provided a great depth of learning for me that make this one of the most remarkable historical accounts of WWII that I have ever read.
I like autumn night times. Curtains drawn. The dim lamp. Chaired with a book. Fireside hours. A warm peace.
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.
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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