Book review by Mario Sousa: “Stalingrad” by Antony Beevor – a piece of Nazi war propaganda

“The bourgeoisie”, said Engels, “turns everything into a commodity, hence also the writing of history. It is a part of its being, of its condition for existence, to falsify all goods: it falsified the writing of history. And the best-paid historiography is that which is best falsified for the purposes of the bourgeoisie … ” (Material for History of Ireland 1870).

Antony Beevor’s book on Stalingrad reminds us of the above shrewd observation of Engels. Our Swedish comrade, Mario Sousa, has done an excellent review of this book and laid bare the falsifications of history that Beevor is guilty of. We reproduce this review as the second part in our three-part series to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Victory against Fascism.

Antony Beevor’s book Stalingrad has been highly praised in the Swedish media. Antony Beevor, a former officer in the British army, has now been presented as a writer of war history. This astonished me and awakened my curiosity. According to right wing critics, the book is “a brilliant and very well written book” (the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet) and “Stalingrad beats most of what has been written on the Second World War” (the Swedish newspaper Vestmanlands Läns Tidning). Remarkable, I thought! They cried when the Nazis had been defeated and destroyed at Stalingrad! And now they admire Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad!? Perhaps they had sobered up after all these years? After all it was a fight against Nazism. Perhaps they wanted to do a little justice to the Soviet victory after all these years? With these thoughts in my mind I began to read Beevor’s Stalingrad.

I had initially thought of making a short review. But it was not that easy. It soon became obvious that Beevor’s Stalingrad is a book of propaganda against the Soviet Union, with page after page full of lies, a total falsification of history. To refute all these lies one would have to write several books. A review dealing with only some of the coarsest lies, would fill many columns of a newspaper. And although the present review has been reduced to a minimum, it is still twice as long as I had envisaged.

On the very first page of the introduction, I begin to ask myself if there isn’t something wrong. Beevor ruthlessly assails the Soviet army, not the Nazis who invaded the Soviet Union and carried out a war of extermination and genocide, killing more than 25 million people in four years! On the very first page of the book, Beevor points out that the Soviet army executed deserters. But nothing about the Germans executing deserters! Why does Beevor criticize only the Soviet army? It is well known that the German military police executed several thousand German deserters, without a trial. It’s equally well known that when the 6th German army was encircled at Stalingrad, the German military police executed several thousand German soldiers who tried to steal something to eat from packages of food thrown down from German military aircraft (Theodor Plievier [TP], Stalingrad, Time Life Books, New York 1966 p 271). These packages of food were primarily intended for the officers and the military police.

Millions of Soviet people executed by the German army

Why doesn’t Beevor speak about that? But first of all, why doesn’t Beevor speak about the millions of Soviet people who were executed by the Nazi army? And about all the Communists and Jews, about whole families, in the conquered villages and cities who were separated from other people and then executed by the German army? Why doesn’t Beevor speak about the millions of people who were driven out of their houses with only the clothes they were wearing, freezing to death at minus 20 degrees? Why doesn’t he write about the millions of Soviet citizens who were made prisoners by the German army and sent to Germany to be sold as slaves? Why doesn’t Beevor write about the hundreds of thousands of Soviet girls sold as sex slaves in Germany? Why doesn’t Beevor write about the slave markets all over Nazi Germany where these persons were sold? This is the real face of the German army and the German invasion. But Beevor does not have anything to say about all this. He wants to hide the Nazi crimes.

Moreover, Beevor writes that there were “50,000 Soviet citizens in German uniform”. (Antony Beevor [AB], Stalingrad, Penguin Books 1999 p.xiv) All through the book, he mentions these “hiwis”, as he calls them. He tries to make us believe that the Soviet population welcomed the Nazis. Beevor writes that in Stalingrad there were 50,000 Russians in the front divisions and 70,000 in the other divisions (AB, p184)! The Russians would thus have constituted almost half of the German army at Stalingrad! A completely idiotic and untruthful statement, which does not find any support in any book of war history, including German books. Beevor wants to make people believe that a massive Soviet desertion had taken place to the Nazi lines. That is not true. It is true that, during the war, there had been Soviet citizens on the Nazi side, even at Stalingrad. But Beevor does not say from where these “Russians in German uniform” came. There were people who, for various reasons, volunteered on the Nazi side during the war. But those were few.

Obliged to work for the Nazis as slaves

Most “Soviet citizens in German uniform” were people who were forced to work for the Germans as slaves. They had been made prisoners in the conquered villages and cities and forced to carry equipment for the Germans and to carry out all the heavy and dirty work. They were badly maltreated and suffered from starvation. Many of them died, and were replaced by new slaves. Together with Jews and other people from extermination camps in Poland, some of these prisoners were used to clear the minefields, facing a certain death. These mine clearing teams were completed every day with more Jews and “Soviet citizens in German uniform”. Some of the Soviet women prisoners had to work in the kitchen and clean the lodgings of the German soldiers in the daytime. In the night, they were used as sex slaves. When the 6th German army was encircled at Stalingrad and the Germans fled inside the encircled area, these Soviet women were forced to go with them on the overcrowded trucks. Thousands of wounded German soldiers were left to die of hunger or cold (TP, p192).

Beevor’s “Soviet citizens in German uniform” were mainly prisoners and enslaved Soviet citizens. Beevor’s insinuations about massive soviet desertions is only a way of luring the reader into his tale. It might be added that a part of the “Soviet citizens in German uniform” had actually been taken to Russia from France by the Germans! During the 1930’s, the French general Weygand – the general who surrendered to the Germans – had set up a legion of right wing Russians as a part of the French Army. They were supposed to take part in “the war of the West” that France and Britain were preparing against the Soviet Union. These troops were taken over by the Nazis after the French capitulation. In the German army there were also troops of Ukrainian Nazis. Beevor calls them “Ukrainian nationalists” (AB, p23). He wants to give a positive image of these Nazi supporting troops. These Ukrainian Nazis were among the worst murderers in the war. They persecuted all opponents in the occupied Ukraine and they were the worst murderers in the German death camps where Jewish and anti-fascist Ukrainians disappeared, just like millions of Soviet prisoners of war.

Nazi falsification of history

This book reproduces the version given by the Nazi officers at Stalingrad. Only rarely does he let “Russians” have their say. Soviet officers are mentioned only when he can’t avoid it. Beevor isn’t interested in what the strategists behind the Soviet victory at Stalingrad might have to say – for example General Zhukov or Generals Rokossovskij or Tjujkov, or any of the other Soviet generals who destroyed the Nazi armies at Stalingrad. To Beevor, an officer and a gentleman in the British army, the nobility of the German officers is more important. The fact that this vermin started a war in which 50 million people perished does not upset Beevor. However, it is the Soviet soldiers that we in the Western world should thank for our freedom. Soldiers from the Soviet Union, a country which in ten years won the struggle against illiteracy and underdevelopment, built factories and steel-works, produced the most sophisticated machines, the most advanced weapons, crushed Nazi Germany and saved the world from Nazism.

Even with regard to war crimes and genocide, Beevor’s history is the history of the Nazi generals. According to Beevor, Hitler was the only culprit and the German army command was against him. But this is not true. The origins of the German army command are the “free brigades” which quelled the workers’ revolt in Germany after the First World War and contributed to putting Hitler into power in January 1933. It was with the support of the Army Command that Hitler was elected Reich President and Reich Chancellor by the German Parliament in 1934 and became Supreme Commander of the German Army with the title of Führer. The officers and the soldiers had to swear a personal oath of allegiance to Hitler. The Nazi dictatorship was accomplished with the support of the Army Command. Beevor affirms that “A number of commanders refused to acknowledge or pass on” (AB, p15) the instructions on the Nazi murders, the “special orders” in the Soviet Union concerning “the collective measures of force against villages in areas of partisan activity and the ‘Commissar Order'” (AB p14) and were against “race war” (AB p15) and “starvation” (AB p15) as a means of crushing the people of the Soviet Union. Beevor does not have any evidence to support these assertions. If any such officers existed in the German army, they were few. More than 25 million people killed in four years in the Soviet Union, shows that it was a matter of massive extermination of people in which the entire German army and its allies must have taken part.

Lies about the Soviet Union

The first third of Beevor’s book deals with the war before Stalingrad and, like the rest of the book, it is a dirty and slanderous attack on the Soviet Union and its leaders. It is the story of the first months of the war which was sent out to the world in 1941 by the Nazi propaganda, and which was later adopted by post-war capitalist propagandists. It is the story of a Soviet army on the verge of total collapse, and of Stalin who made the army incapable of waging the war and who prohibited his generals from retaliating against the enemy. Beevor does not mince his words. Even the Soviet embassy in Berlin gets its share. According to the Nazis, and now also according to Beevor, the Soviet ambassador was known as a “hangman” who measured “barely five feet tall, with a small beak nose and a few stands of black hair plastered across a bald pate”. Is that history? In the embassy, the ambassador “had a torture and execution chamber constructed in the basement to deal with suspected traitors” (AB p7)

This history was a part of the Nazi war propaganda. It is now bourgeois history. The attacks against Stalin are in a class of their own, through the whole book. “Stalin’s convolute mind” (AB p4), “Stalin, the totalitarian dictator” (AB p6), Stalin’s “succession of obsessive miscalculations” (AB p9) , “Stalin, whose bullying nature contained a strong streak of cowardice” (AB p9), Stalin’s “inimitable mixture of paranoia, sadistic megalomania and a vindictiveness for old slights” (AB p23), “Stalin even disowned his own son” (AB p26), Stalin’s “lack of concern for the starving population was as callous as that of Hitler” (AB p37). It is not difficult to understand why Beevor is loved by capitalist newspapers and reactionary people.

Beevor writes that Stalin, Beria and Molotov thought of giving up “the Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Baltic States” to the Nazis in the hope of peace. But the Bulgarian ambassador declared that “Even if you retreat to the Urals’, you’ll still win in the end” (AB p9) . According to Beevor, the question was then settled and the Soviet Union decided to go to fight against Nazi Germany! You must be very stupid to believe that a normal individual would swallow this kind of story. That the leaders of a big and powerful country would let such an important decision concerning the future of their country depend on a few words uttered by the ambassador of a militarily insignificant country and moreover, a vassal state of Hitler!

Firmly decided to defend Soviet territory

Contrary to Beevor’s assertions, the Soviet leadership firmly decided to defend each inch of Soviet territory. The large steel-works which had been built in the 1930s beyond the mountains of the Ural, at a safe distance from any invasion from the west, are evidence enough. There it would be possible to keep up the production of weapons and other military equipment even during a long war. All Soviet large-scale industries were moved there when the invasion was a fact. The first chapter of the book ends with Molotov’s radio message to the Soviet people. This too leaves Beevor dissatisfied. According to him, “Molotov’s choice of words was uninspired and his delivery awkward”. However, Beevor is obliged to admit that this “announcement created a powerful reaction throughout the Soviet Union”. “Reservists did not wait for mobilization orders. They reported at once” (AB p10) . How strange! Were there no massive desertions to the Germans? Or a “warm welcome from civilians” (AB p26)?

Beevor also borrows material from the CIA. The old story according to which “Altogether, 36,671 officers were executed, imprisoned or dismissed” (AB p23) from the Soviet army in 1937, pops up again. This story was spread by the British police agent, later CIA agent, Robert Conquest (see Lies on the History of the Soviet Union – From Hitler and Hearst to Conquest and Solzhenitsyn. Mário Sousa/KPML(r), Sweden/1998 – available from Stalin Society, BM Box 2521, London WC1N 3XX cost £2). According to Beevor, Soviet casualties at the beginning of the war were due to scarcity of officers. Beevor speaks against his better judgement. The officers dismissed in 1937-39 were about 22,000 (out of 75,000). Their dismissal was decided at general meetings in the army units. They did not have the soldiers’ confidence. However, the number of Soviet officers in 1941 was already more than 300,000! (see Roger R Reese [RR], The Red Army and the Great Purges, Stalinist terror – New Perspectives, Cambridge University Press 1993, p198) The Soviet Union had made tremendous preparations for the defence against Nazi Germany. The number of expelled officers could only have had a slight effect on the course of the war during the first months. The reason for the withdrawal of Soviet forces during the first months of the war is to be found in the dimension of the armies. Beevor writes that the Nazi invasion forces were “Some 3,050,000 German troops, with other pro-Axis armies bringing the total to four million men” (AB p12). But the invasion army against the Soviet Union was indeed of more than 5 million men, the greatest invasion army in the history of mankind. The Soviet Union had 2.9 million men at its western borders. The Soviet Union had not been able to build a larger army than that during the 10 years of preparation. Moreover, the Nazis had been able to concentrate their attacks on certain places where their numerical superiority was more than five to one. In these places, the Nazis had engaged large armoured units which were very difficult to stop. That is what mainly explains the German victories during the first months of the war. But these victories were hard-earned. It was no bed of roses, like Beevor describes it, with sunburnt German boys going on a holiday trip through the Soviet Union enjoying the “warm welcome from civilians”.

Beevor’s stories vs Franz Halder

It is interesting to compare Beevor’s lies with information from the Chief of the German General Staff, General Franz Halder. Halder was Hitler’s Chief of Staff from August 1938 to 24 September 1942. Halder led all Nazi wars, on all fronts, during all these years. He wrote a personal and secret diary during this period. This diary contains his own notes on the war, written in Gabelsberg shorthand, an old shorthand language that few people could read. The Halder War Diary was not intended to be made public, but it was published after the war under the title The Halder War Diary, 1939-1942. A very interesting book, containing many truths that Halder and the Nazi potentates did not want to reveal. Beevor speaks of hysterics, general panic and “The chaos on the Soviet side” (AB p73). But already on the first day of the invasion, 22 June 1941, Halder writes in the evening that “there are no indications of an attempted operational disengagement. Such a possibility can moreover be discounted” (The Halder War Diary 1939-1942,[HWD] Greenhill Books, London 1988 p412/3). The Soviet soldiers did not intend to flee, they fought back.

Two days later, June 24, Halder writes: “The stubborn resistance of individual Russian units is remarkable”, “it is now clear that the Russians are not thinking of withdrawal, but are throwing in everything they have to stem the German invasion” (HWD p419) . One week after the beginning of the invasion, June 29, Halder writes: “reports from all fronts confirm previous indications that the Russians are fighting to the last man” (HWD p433) . General Halder, like all the command and Hitler, thought that the German invasion was going to force the Soviet soldiers to run away and that they would destroy the Soviet army. That is what had happened with France which was a great military power. But the war against the Soviet Union became more and more bitter. The Nazis inflicted heavy losses on the Soviet army and forced it to retreat. But the Nazi forces also suffered heavy losses. According to Halder, after 10 days, on July 3, the Germans had “Total losses about 54,000” and a “large number of medical casualties (almost 54,000) (HWD p453/4) ” . July 4, Halder foot-notes high losses on the attacking tanks, losses going up to 50% in certain armoured units (HWD p449) . The real war was completely different from the one in Beevor’s book.

Beevor’s “legendary” generals coming from the best “military families”

One of Beevor’s theses in his book, is that there was a contradiction concerning the strategy between Hitler and the German generals. To Beevor, the command of the German army, with all its “legendary” (AB p66) and “brilliant” (AB p16) generals coming from the best “military families” (AB p15) of Germany, was very capable, and would have won the war if the “irresponsible” and “ignoramus” Hitler had not imposed his ideas on the conduct of the war. But there is nothing to support this thesis in The Halder War Diary. The Command of the German army, precisely like Hitler, had a completely false idea of the Soviet Union. Just like Hitler, the German Command had estimated that the Soviet Union was easy to defeat and that the war would be finished in a few weeks. Analyzing the situation on the 11th day of the invasion, July 3, Halder writes in his War Diary that “It is thus probably no overstatement to say that the Russian Campaign has been won in the space of two weeks” (HWD p446). The German Command expected the defeat of the Soviet Union to would be completed on 3 July 1941!

On July 4, Halder writes: “As our armies advance, any attempt at further resistance probably will soon collapse and we shall be confronted with the question of reducing Leningrad and Moscow” (HWD p450) . Hitler and the Generals shared the same foolish idea of the course of the war, and the same illusions about victory. More than that. They also agreed on the war crimes, not only on the extermination of the Soviet population, but also on the total destruction of the Soviet cities. 8 July 1941, Halder describes a meeting with Hitler during which the war situation was analyzed and important decisions were taken. Hitler was firmly resolved “to level Moscow and Leningrad, and make them uninhabitable, so as to relieve us of the necessity of having to feed the population through the winter. The cities will be razed by air forces. Tanks must not be used for the purpose. A national catastrophe which will deprive not only Bolshevism, but also Muscovite nationalism, of their centres” (HWD p458) . Nobody within the army command opposed Hitler’s plan. It would have been realized if the Soviet Union had not defeated the Nazis. In the same entry Halder writes about the winter quarters: “Our troops must not be quartered in villages and towns, because we want to be able to bomb them at any time in the event of uprisings” (HWD p459). Here we can see the true face of the Nazi generals. Beevor’s “legendary” generals from the best “military families” were as much war criminals as Hitler.

At the same meeting with Hitler, July 8, the attack against Smolensk was decided. This city located on the main road to Moscow would have to be taken together with Yelnya and Roslavl before the attack against Moscow. The Chief of the German General Staff Franz Halder writes in his diary: “After destroying the Russian armies in a battle at Smolensk, we shall block the railroads across the Volga, occupy the country as far as that river, and, after that, proceed to destroy the remaining Russian industry centres by armoured expeditions and air operations” (HWD p459) . We must remember that the Nazi troops were then 100 km from Smolensk and from this city it is another 500 km to Moscow and as many km to the Volga. Everything was going to be so easy! But it didn’t turn out that way. The battle of Smolensk was, according to Beevor, a game for the Nazis and a “disaster” for the Soviet Union “in which several Soviet armies were trapped” and where “many more Soviet divisions were then sacrificed” (AB p28/9). So then the road to Moscow should be open! But why did not the offensive against Moscow continue? Beevor ‘explains’ why. Hitler ordered to halt at the end of July. His “instinct to avoid the road to Moscow was partly a superstitious avoidance of Napoleon’s footsteps” (AB p32). So Hitler became “superstitious” and ordered the army to halt! Should this be called history?

Smolensk is defended

Contrary to what Beevor affirms, the battle of Smolensk was very costly for the Nazis. The defenders of Smolensk fought stubbornly, with no thought of surrendering, and the Soviet army made strong counter-attacks. It was a fight for each suburb, each house and each street. The Nazis were compelled to halt for new supplies of men and equipment. General Halder writes in his War Diary, 11 July, that the Soviet armoured troops at the battle of Smolensk: “In every instance, large bodies, if not all, manage to escape encirclement” (HWD p465). As early as July 13, Halder and the Command of the Army suggested to Hitler that “We shall temporally halt the dash toward Moscow” (HWD p470). It was simply impossible to advance. On July 15 Halder reports that “The Russian troops now, as ever, are fighting with a savage determination” (HWD p474). During the following week, the Soviet army succeeds in penetrating the German lines in several places. On July 26 Halder writes: “Overall Picture: Enemy defence is becoming more aggressive; more tanks, more planes. In addition to ten new divisions previously listed, fifteen more new divisions have been reported” (HWD p485) . On the same day, a great part of encircled Soviet troops managed to break out, and with the main Soviet forces, they set up a new line of defence in front of Moscow. The Nazi troops going for Moscow were considerably exhausted and weakened. The Nazi losses become too heavy and the Nazi army did not succeed in supplying new men and equipment.

On July 30 Hitler decided to grant the request made by the General Command on July 13, and ordered to stand on the defensive. Halder commented on this decision in his War Diary in these terms: “Higher command of the army has signed new ‘directive’, which adopts our proposals! This decision frees every thinking soldier of the horrible vision obsessing us these last few days, since the Fuehrer’s obstinacy made the final bogging down of the eastern campaign appear imminent. At long last we get a break!” (HWD p490). The General Command had finally got its pause. Hitler had not decided to stop the offensive because he was “superstitious” and in contradiction with the General Command. He had decided to stop the offensive because the General Command had required it and the situation within the army demanded it. Beevor’s lie concerning the superstitious Hitler is obvious.

At Smolensk the Nazis had to halt for the first time during the Second World War, so that was the end of the Nazi “blitzkrieg”. On August 11, Halder writes: “The whole situation makes it increasingly plain that we have underestimated the Russian colossus” (HWD p506). After six weeks of war he writes: “Total casualties for period 22 June – 13 August 1941: 389,924” (HWD p521).

On August 28 he writes: “Tank situation: “Armd. Gp. 1: Average 50 percent,

“Armd. Gp. 2: Average 45 percent,

“Armd. Gp. 3: Average 45 percent,

“Armd. Gp. 4: Best (Czech material!),

“on an average between 50 and 75 percent” (HWD p518/20).

The Nazis needed time to get new troops and materiel to the front. Only in October could the Nazis resume their offensive towards Moscow with new weapons and new divisions. Beevor explains Hitler’s new offensive saying that Hitler “changed his mind again” (AB p33). According to Beevor Hitler was no longer “superstitious”… For the Soviet Union, the battle of Smolensk was a strategic success. The defence of Moscow could be secured.

Tula stopped the Nazis

Beevor twists the truth and denies historical facts on every page of the book. Let’s take one small detail concerning the town of Tula. The road from the south to Moscow passes through Tula. Beevor writes: “on the southern flank, Guderian’s panzers swung up past Tula to threaten the Soviet capital from below” (AB p36). This gives us the impression that Tula had already been conquered. But the truth is that Guderian’s tanks never took Tula. The defenders of this city fought without a thought of giving up. After very hard fighting, the Nazi general Guderian, Chief of the 2nd motorised German army, was forced to give up the conquest of Tula. In his memoirs, Guderian writes that “The rapid advance on Tula which we had planned had therefore to be abandoned for the moment” (General Heinz Guderian – Panzer Leader [GHG], Da Capo Press 1996 p233). “Numerous Russian T34’s went into action and inflicted heavy losses on the German tanks” (GHG p237). Guderian’s armoured army remained blocked close to Tula about 200 km from Moscow! One month later, the Soviet counter-offensive pushed back Guderian’s tanks another 130 km. Because of this failure, Guderian lost his command of the 2nd motorised German army.

Beevor’s description of the battles coincide with that of the Nazi generals. According to Beevor “It was, however, the weather which rapidly became the Wehrmacht’s worst hindrance”. But, Beevor’s good Germans “struggled on as best they could” (AB p36) although “the tank engines were frozen solid” (AB p40) (what about Soviet tanks then?) and “bad visibility hampered the ‘flying artillery’ of the Luftwaffe” (AB p39). On the Soviet side, according to Beevor, it was not at all a question of heroic actions for the defence of the country, but of a “suicidal resistance” (AB p39) and of “food riots, looting and drunkenness” (AB p38). The parade on November 7 in Moscow was, according to Beevor, only a trick to mislead journalists. One cannot be mistaken about Beevor’s sympathies. Malicious pleasure when the Soviet army is forced to retreat, and admiration for the Nazi offensive. But unfortunately for Beevor, the offensive meets with more and more problems. Towards the end of November, the Nazis are completely exhausted. The General Command seems to have no idea about the situation of the war. November 23, Halder writes in his War Diary: “The military Situation: East: Russia’s military authority no longer a threat” (HWD p563). However, 13 days later, on December 6, the Soviet army undertakes the counter-offensive which will push the Nazis back to 250 km from Moscow. After the Nazis had been defeated outside Moscow, Beevor must find an excuse. It was among other things “Hitler’s almost superstitious refusal to order winter clothes” (AB p44). Again this superstitious Hitler! But despite the fact that the Nazis were forced to retreat 250 km, Beevor writes that “Stalin’s general offensive deteriorated into a series of flailing brawls” (AB p43). The reader probably wonders if the battle of Moscow really ended with Soviet victory. As a matter of fact it did! The Soviets won the battle, and the Nazis never got close to Moscow again.

The Nazis could never reconquer the territories around Moscow. Let us take another example of Beevor’s many lies, the one concerning the motorised division Grossdeutschland. Beevor wants to make us believe that before the final offensive against Stalingrad, Hitler had sent Grossdeutschland (and the SS Division Leibstandarte Adolph Hitler) to France. Beevor writes that “the Grossdeutschland and the SS Leibstandarte panzer grenadier divisions were to be sent back to France” (AB p81). Beevor adds that the Chief of the German General Staff, General Franz Halder, had commented on this question in his War Diary on 23 July 1942: “This chronic tendency to underrate enemy capabilities is gradually assuming grotesque proportions and develops into a positive danger” (HWD p646). Is this true? When one reads The Halder War Diary, one notices that the entry in question is not about Grossdeutschland or the SS Division Adolph Hitler, but about Hitler’s disposition of troops around Rostov! On the same page in the War Diary, Halder writes on July 24: “East of Rostov, new success of Grossdeutschland” (HWD p646). There was no question of sending Grossdeutschland to France. In the Halder War Diary, one can follow the traces of Grossdeutschland from 5 July 1942. In July, the Grossdeutschland was south of Stalingrad. On August 14, it was sent to help the division of the Army Group Centre (HWD p657), close to Rzjev, about 200 km west of Moscow where, according to Halder “our own losses, notably in tanks, are highly unpleasant” (HWD p657). Grossdeutschland was lucky. If it had not been sent to Rzjev, it would have been destroyed at Stalingrad, which was the fate of the Nazi 4th armoured army to which Grossdeutschland belonged.

Lies concerning Katyn

Another of Beevor’s casual lies relates to the Katyn forest massacre, near Smolensk. In his smear campaign against the Soviet Union, Beevor must of course devote a chapter to the NKVD, charging this organisation with the most horrendous crimes. Beevor writes that “Another department of the NKVD, set up by Beria in the autumn of 1939, dealt with enemy prisoners of war. Its first major task had been the liquidation of over 4,000 Polish officers in the forest at Katyn” (AB p86). Such a serious assertion calls for an explanation, but Beevor is not capable of that. He takes his information directly from Hitler! The existence of mass graves of a large number of Polish officers was made public by Hitler’s and Goebbel’s propaganda department on 13 April 1943. The Nazis accused the Soviet government of having organised the massacre of 15,000 Polish officers. The Katyn area was then under German occupation since 1941. During these two years of occupation, the Nazis never mentioned any massacres near Katyn. And during those two years, the Nazis had killed millions of people in concentration camps and in the occupied countries, among them in the Soviet Union. Why make public “the Soviet massacres” of 15 000 people in April 1943?

It should be noticed that the announcement of the massacre was made on April 13, only one month after the great Nazi defeat at Stalingrad on 2 February 1943. The Nazis needed a piece of propaganda. The British Minister for Foreign Affairs Eden expressed in Parliament on 4 May 1943 that the Nazi murderers of hundreds of thousands of Poles and Russians use the history of the massacres to destroy the unity of the allies. That pronouncement put an end to the Nazi story of the Katyn forest massacre. But during the cold war against the Soviet Union, new accusations appeared about a Soviet massacre in the Katyn forest. This time it was not the Gestapo, but the United States and Great Britain. The accusations were renewed later by the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union through Gorbachev and Yeltsin. A commission of enquiry was created to examine the question once more and to find who had carried out the massacre of the Katyn forest. The Soviet-Polish commission of inquiry and later the Russian-Polish commission, could not find any evidence of Soviet involvement, although they wanted badly to do so. The results of the commission show that the Polish officers who died at Katyn had been assassinated with German weapons and that the victims were about 4,000, not 15,000, as Hitler said.

The Swedish translation does not agree with the original in English! In the Swedish edition (Historiska Media 2000, page 99) it says that 15,000 Polish officers were executed at Katyn. But in the original edition (Penguin Books 1999, p86) it says that 4,000 Polish officers were killed at Katyn. Is it Antony Beevor who wants it that way, or is it the Swedish editor? Anyhow, this shows how serious their history books are!

The Nazis are Beevor’s heroes

Beevor’s lies are so frequent that it is tiring to read the book. All that Beevor writes is taken from the Nazi war propaganda to smear the Soviet Union: “Most of the [Soviet] conscripts hurled into battle had often received little more than a dozen days’ training, some even less” (AB p89), “Three battalions of trainee officers, without weapons or rations, were sent against 16th Panzer Division” by “the army commander, who was clearly drunk” (AB p89). Beevor’s’ book is sometimes like a joke about smart Germans who eliminate Russian idiots and “clear the woods” as at “a rather large deer shoot” (AB p96). The “Luftwaffe pilots dispatched their enemy ‘mit Eleganz'” (AB p110) and “the suntanned young fighter pilots”, “seems to have offered the magical vision of an aerial Teutonic knight in shining armour” (AB p115)! And naturally the “Soviet fighter pilots still suffered from an instinctive fear of the enemy” (AB p138). In the chapters on Stalingrad, Beevor goes on with his propaganda story. The “Russian attacks” were, according to him, “appallingly wasteful and incompetent” (AB p124) and “the real obstacles to the attackers, as they soon found, lay in the ruined cityscape” (AB p129), not in the Soviet defenders. For the remainder, there are the typical expressions like “the star [German] commander” (AB p124), and “the [Soviet] sinister-looking army commissar” (AB p128), as well as Soviet officers who flee and soldiers “faced the military tribunal” and “were probably shot” (AB p128) . How can one be “probably shot”?! There are many stories about good Germans shooting at Russians coming in waves upon waves, so that “In front of our position the Soviet dead piled up and served as a sort of sandbag wall for us” (AB p372).

According to Beevor, desertions and executions are commonplace in the Soviet army. The Soviet leadership is always presented as brutal, pitiless, sanguinary, and Soviet officers completely pitiless towards the soldiers. Then how could they wage this war against the Nazis year after year and even win it? Even the monument devoted to the heroic Soviet soldiers who defended Stalingrad on Mamaia Kurgan, the hill on which many fights took place and where much blood was shed, is minimized by Beevor. The mobilization of women to the factories is turned into a crime. Beevor wants to wipe out any trace of the Soviet victory. Whenever there is a problem on the Soviet side, Beevor does everything he can to make us believe that the Soviet government and officers were incompetent leaders. When the German offensive is stopped, Beevor writes only a few lines. There are always excuses to justify the failures of the Germans. The Germans were defeated by “General Mud” and “General Winter” (AB p282). With regard to the German war of extermination against the Soviet civilian population, Beevor writes that “There were numerous Soviet claims of German atrocities that are hard to assess” (AB p263). The many sentimental stories about the German defeat – e.g. Christmas celebrations the German way – can probably move the reviewer of the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet to tears. Beevor’s attacks on the Red Army officers and Stalin are nothing but primitive anti-communism. Without the least evidence, Beevor delivers one untruthful story after the other.

The defeat of the Nazis at Stalingrad

There are some questions of historical interest worth commenting on. As could be expected, Beevor blames Hitler for the German defeat at Stalingrad. The “legendary” German generals from “the best German military families” escape from responsibility for the defeat. This is not fair. The plans for the conquest of Stalingrad had been made in total agreement between Hitler and all the generals of the Headquarters and the General Command. The conquest of Stalingrad was in fact a necessity. The Nazis had sent Army Group A with a force of 500,000 men into the Caucasus to conquer the Soviet oil sources. Left in the South, north of Rostow, was Army Group B which included the 6th army and the 4th armoured army. It was necessary to defend Army Group B as well as the left wing of Army Group A against attacks from the Soviet forces west of Stalingrad. The Nazis must have control over the Soviet territory as far as the river Volga in order to be able to transport oil from the Caucasus. This is the reason why it was necessary to conquer Stalingrad. But the German attack against Stalingrad was based on erroneous premises.

In the summer of 1942, Hitler and the German Headquarters and General Staff, estimated that the Soviet Union was unable to continue the war on a large scale. They thought the Soviet Union was completely finished as a military power. They did not understand that the Soviet socialist system could muster forces in a way which is impossible for a capitalist country. They reckoned in a capitalist manner that a certain number of inhabitants only can support a certain number of soldiers, considering the cost of training and weapons. They did not understand that socialism liberates man and makes it possible to create much greater forces than capitalism. Hitler and the generals thought that Stalingrad was going to be an easy battle. Later, in October 1942, the German high command wrote that “the Russians are seriously weakened after the last combats and, during winter 1942/43, they will not be able to have as great forces as during last winter” (Marshall of the Soviet Union Zhukov: Reminiscences and Reflections, Swedish edition, Moscow 1988 Book 2 p97). But in reality, the Soviet war industry was at that time stronger than ever, and to Hitler and his generals, the Soviet counter-attack came like a bolt from the blue.

Socialism is the basis of the success of the Soviet Union

From where did all the new Soviet troops and all the new weapons come? Guns, tanks and planes? That is what General Jodl, chief of the operations of the German headquarters, asked himself after the war. “We had absolutely no idea of the force of the Russian troops in this area. There was nothing over there at the beginning, but all of a sudden they made an attack with a great force which had a decisive importance” (Zhukov, ibid p97). When the Nazi 6th and the 4th armies were encircled at Stalingrad, the difficulties multiplied for the Nazis. Hitler and the headquarters ordered General Paulus, Chief of Command at Stalingrad, to resist at any cost, and wait for relief. There was not much else Paulus could do. To try to fight his way through the encirclement would be a risky enterprise. That would require a redeployment of the Nazi forces inside the encirclement, which would take several weeks including a high cost in terms of killed and wounded German soldiers and destroyed materiel. If the break-out did not succeed, it would be a catastrophe. And even if it did succeed, there would be many tens of thousands of casualties. And they would have to leave huge quantities of materiel behind.

Nobody at the Headquarters, neither Hitler nor the generals, was willing to take the responsibility for that. So the order was: stay where you are, we will help you out. But this order was not given only out of concern for the surrounded army. There was something of great importance which required it. The German Army Group A was in the Caucasus!

If the encircled 6th German Army tried to break out, it would suffer huge losses in soldiers and weapons, and thus weaken Army Group B, perhaps making it incapable of stopping the Soviet forces from confining Army Group A in the Caucasus.

That would be a catastrophe at least twice as big as if the 6th army were destroyed at Stalingrad.

The German Headquarters and the General Staff realised what a huge miscalculation they had made. Their top priority was to quickly withdraw Army Group A from the Caucasus. The German 6th army would have to do the best they could. For Army Group A, it became a withdrawal in panic, pursued by the Soviet forces in the Caucasus, with many German casualties and enormous losses in materiel.

Enormous losses for the Nazis

An attempt to rescue the 6th army was later made with a new army, the German Army Don, which consisted of forces quickly taken from France, Germany and the eastern front. This army was under the command of General Manstein, whose “military qualities and intelligence” were, “undeniable” (AB p273), according to Beevor. With pomp and circumstance General Manstein took over the command. An armoured army was sent from Kotelnikovo (about 100 km south-east of Stalingrad) to rescue the 6th army. Beevor wants to make this German attack to “almost a victory”. But wars are always won by the party which wins the last battle. Manstein’s armoured army managed to fight its way 50 km inside the Soviet lines, but that was all. With enormous losses, the Germans fled back to the point of departure, and even further. The German armoured army and the remainder of the German front close to Stalingrad, moved another 50 to 100 km towards the west. The Caucasus was liberated and the German front was pushed back 200 to 300 km from Stalingrad. In terms of killed, wounded and disappeared soldiers, Nazi Germany had until September 1942 lost more than 1.6 million soldiers (HWD p669).

Two months later, in November 1942, the Nazis had already lost more than 2 million soldiers. Only between June and November 1942, in the fight for Stalingrad, the Nazis lost 700,000 soldiers, 1,000 tanks, 2,000 guns and 1,400 airplanes (Zhukov, ibid p97).

To all these losses were added the 6th army and a great part of the 4th armoured army at Stalingrad: one marshal, 24 generals, 10,000 officers and over 300,000 soldiers. The weaponry lost by the Nazis at Stalingrad represented six months of German weaponry production. The defeat was disastrous. Never before had a German army been so totally defeated and destroyed. In Germany, Hitler proclaimed three days of national mourning.

When we turn the last page of Beevor’s Stalingrad, two questions arise. Why are deceitful books written? In whose interest? We live in an era when neo-liberalism has spread over the world. The new liberal capitalism wants to deprive the workers of everything: their living conditions, their safety, and even their history. The capitalists want us to lose confidence in ourselves so as to be able to rule without restrictions. There is not much difference between liberalism and Nazism in this respect. The author of this text once wrote that neo-liberalism and Nazism are cousins. But they might even be identical twins. Antony Beevor is one of the new liberal writers who have taken upon themselves to degrade the victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Penguin Books publishes Beevor’s book as if it were a history book. Why? The book is almost to be considered as a book of Nazi war propaganda.

Racism in Beevor’s stories

The editor does not even react against racist elements in the book. As a colonialist and officer in the British Empire, Beevor tells us a tale about “the Zulu king marching an impi [detachment] of his warriors over a cliff to prove their discipline” (AB p28) , in order to impress British officers of course … Beevor is not alone in trying to degrade the victory of the Soviet Union. There are many of his kind in the United States. They are paid by a forest of private “foundations” to deny the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazism.

It is important to expose their lies. Beevor’s book on Berlin is even worse. What interest does Penguin Books have in publishing such rubbish?

Mário Sousa,

Uppsala, Sweden. September 21, 2004.


1. Antony Beevor: Stalingrad, Penguin Books 1999.

2. Theodora Plievier: Stalingrad, Time Life Books, New York, 1966.

3. Roger R. Reese: The Red Army and the Great Purges. Stalinist terror – New perspectives, Cambridge University Press 1993.

4. The Halder War Diary 1939-1942, Greenhill Books, London, 1988.

5. General Heinz Guderian – Panzer Leader, Da Capo Press 1996.

6. Marshal of the Soviet Union Zhukov: Reminiscences and Reflections: Swedish edition, Moscow 1988.