As MrsDarwin mentioned, we went to the library Thursday to stock up on books, and given that this was one of those insanely overwhelming kind of weeks at work, I pretty much sat around reading all day (in between duties pushing girls on swings and reading them their books from the library).
I checked out Anthony Beevor's two histories dealing with the Eastern Front in WW2: Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin 1945. And (for no particular reason) I'm working out of order and reading Berlin first.
Although technically about the fall of Berlin, Beevor's book actually covers the period from late fall 1944 (when the Soviets stood poised to push the Germans out of Poland, once enough of the Polish resistance had been wiped out for them) through the end of the way, so you learn a lot about the end of the war on the Eastern Front generally.
Having just recently read Citizen Soldiers and Band of Brothers, both dealing with the Western Front in Europe during '44 and '45, you really feel for how profoundly unlucky the people of Eastern Europe were, trapped between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. You're hard put to find too worse governments in the history of the last century, and being "liberated" by either one was likely to mean having your village burned down, the men shot, the women raped, and half the people who hadn't already fled or been killed being led off to forced labor camps.
In Citizen Soldiers there were several stories of German units surrendering to the Americans and asking if instead of being sent off to POW camps they could join the American Army so that once the Nazis were defeated they could fight the Russians. It was something we had no intention of doing at the time, but you can see why that seemed like the best of all possible worlds to a German soldier in 1944.
Beevor makes the interesting point that the horrors of the Eastern Front were the result of two totaliterian regimes which both sought to dehumanize both their citizens (into total subservience to the state) and their enemies (into sub-humans) throwing everything they had at each other.
2 hours ago