Friday, September 10, 2021

Hitler's Fortresses in the East: The Sieges of Ternopol', Kovel', Poznan and Breslau, 1944–1945 by Alexey Isaev

Alexey Isaev is a well-known Russian military historian who has published a wide range of books on the Eastern Front. He's usually meticulous when it comes to documentation and utilizes a variety of Russian and German primary sources and archives to create a narrative that's full of thick-descriptions when it comes to military action on the Eastern Front.  

 Having read quite a few of his publications, this is probably one of the less exciting and interesting volumes I've come across.  The focus here is on the latter period of the war, specifically analyzing the various 'fortress cities' that were created on Hitler's orders.  This is something of a reverse to Red Army actions in 1941 when Soviet forces tried to hold on to numerous cities in the face of German advances and were eventually forced to surrender at the end of large encirclement battles like Minsk, Smolensk, and Kiev.

However, in this case, Isaev is taking on a lot of territory and doesn't have the time or space to go into enough contextual detail for readers to get a good idea of what brought the Red Army to each of these fortress cities and what their loss and eventual impact would be on both Soviet and German operations. What readers are presented with are day-by-day accounts of unit actions (from battalions to divisions and corps) with corresponding tables of unit strengths, weapons, and losses. While the tables are interesting and telling when it comes to the various casualties units experienced, they're a small piece of a larger story that seems to be missing as the concentration is almost always on just one fortress city. 

For those familiar with the Eastern Front, you will find a lot of useful information but you'll need to contextualize it yourself for a better understanding of what happened on the Eastern Front in 1944-1945. For those new to the topic, I'd say this is something you can and should skip for the moment.


Dirk said...

Hi, thanks for the review! I was wondering if you could recommend some titles that offer a broader view on this subject ?
Thanks a lot,

T. Kunikov said...

Unfortunately, I don't know of any specific volumes devoted only to fortress cities, but there is a text by Richard Hargreaves entitled: "Hitler's Final Fortress: Breslau 1945" that I can readily recommend. Richard does a fair amount of research, at least for the German side, and his books are very readable.