Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Review: Enemy at the Gates

Enemy at the Gates
The Battle for Stalingrad
by William Craig

You are going to like this book if you have any interest in history, military, horror, or heroics. It has it all and this stuff actually happened. There are even a couple of love stories (but I don't suggest that your wife read it)

This is the book on which the movie "Enemy at the Gates" was based. As with many movies it pales in comparison to the book. Still, I expected to find it's pages filled with sniper exploits but found instead a fascinating tale of war at it's worst. It was possibly the greatest military bloodbath in recorded history (well over a million men and women died).

Craig wrote this book roughly 30 years after the end of the war, pulling together eyewitness accounts, diaries, memoirs, and official documents. The result is a book that flutters between many many characters from Stalin and Hitler to mere privates and civilians. Because of that there are a lot of stories going on at once. But Criag has arranged the information pretty well and it wasn't as hard to follow as I might have imagined.

The story of Stalingrad takes place in Nov of 1942. Hitlers 6th army under the command of Field Marshal Friederich von Paulus has been ordered to take Stalingrad, as he plunges ever deeper into Russian in his effort to take the country. As any of us who have played Risk or have any knowledge of Napoleonic history knows, conquering Russia is a job that is impossible, especially if you don't get it done by winter. The Blitzkrieg strength of the German military soon grinds to a halt in the street fighting of Stalingrad where soldiers fight for individual houses and cellars.

There were heroics on both sides and some amazing "can't believe it happened" moments of luck and courage, like when two Russian soldiers crawl out of a sewer to find a chow line. Both famished they jump in line to get some food. After a while in the line they realize that everyone is speaking German. Undaunted they go through the line and get some food and sit down to eat. They are almost found out before a kindly cook lets them slip away. The book is full of battle moments you could never imagine. It is sad, sick, unbelievable and heroic, these guys went through Hell. If you have ever wondered about the horrors of war then definitely give it a read. And after the city is saved (spoiler: the Russians Win) it still ain't over for the Germans. A Russian POW camp is not a place you want to be for 12years!!! You will just have to read it.

Reviewed by Mr. Rogers


  1. The film also was very well directed. Suggested for historical accuracy as well.

  2. I suggest this book. Very engaging !