Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hitler's Wave-Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic by Henrik O. Lunde

"Hitler's Wave-Breaker Concept" is hard to contextualize or fit into the greater literature of the Eastern Front.  Unlike the author's previous projects ("Finland's War of Choice", for instance), this newest volume is hard to follow chronologically or thematically.  The author has taken much of what he wrote about in "Finland's War of Choice" and superimposed a new dimension to it, specifically, the Germans in the Baltics and outside Leningrad (and the role of Finland, among others, in how the end of the war played out for Army Group North/Courland).  For those familiar with the Eastern Front, including Finland's role in the war, there's little new, innovative, or original to be found here.  The Soviets are once more something of a shadow in the background, with little analysis being offered for the war they waged, while the German side is a rehashing of old and new literature that's readily available in your local library.  The later chapters on Sweden and German U-Boats seem to be a 'copy-paste' job in that the reader is presented with minimal background information on each topic with the addition of some common knowledge (and each is about 25 pages of text).  The author tries to contextualize both topics and their impact on Hitler's decision making process.  The problem is that each topic could have been covered in a few pages, but that would reduce the size of this book by some forty, if not more, pages.  And in part, that is the biggest problem with this text.  It is as if various subjects that hold some type of connection to the battles outside Leningrad and in the Baltics should be included by default in their entirety, rather than contextualized to fit into Hitler's decision making process.  At best, if originality was sought, this could have been an essay of a few dozen pages on the northern area of operations that included Finland's role, among others, but to expand it into a 250 page book is a stretch that doesn't seem to pay off.

For those unfamiliar with the war, this isn't the best starting point but one that features many arguments and ideas that are both old and new, which will help contextualize parts of the Eastern Front. Unfortunately without an adequate background, novice readers will most likely have a hard time understanding the intricacies involved. Although the author jumps from topic to topic without adequate context or transitions, he does often make relevant points. Unfortunately the writing style in general is lacking (at least for those who are used to popular histories and/or academic works on the subject) and there are times when the author makes claims without adequate evidence or sources. Mistakes will probably be evident throughout. Although I wasn't looking for any specifically, there was a lack of uniformity when it came to naming Soviet commanders. In one instance the author refers to "Marshals Georgi K. Zhukov (1896-1974) and Polkovnik Vasilevsky (1895-1997)..." (121). First, Vasilevsky's name was Alexander Mikhailovich, "Polkovnik" means Colonel in Russian, secondly, he died in 1977 not 1997. In the photo section, Zhukov has gone from Georgi K. Zhukov to G.A. Zhukov.  Overall this isn't a work I was impressed with and one that would be hard to recall months from now when asked for recommendations on the topic(s) this text covers.

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