The Oder Front 1945 Vol 2: Documents, Reports and Personal Accounts, A. Stephan Hamilton

The Oder Front 1945 Vol 2: Documents, Reports and Personal Accounts, A. Stephan Hamilton

I must admit this book wasn't what I was expecting. The title would suggest that it was almost entirely made up of contemporary documents relating to volume 1, but that isn't actually the case. That isn't to say that there aren't plenty of documents to be found here, especially on the supporting CD, but this book is better seen as providing supporting material that didn’t fit into the original book, either due to a lack of space, or because it would have distracted from the main focus of the book.

The book is split into eleven sections. The first five look at the course of the campaign, starting with Himmler's appointment and command, and working through the Vistula-Oder offensive that moved the front dangerously close to Berlin, the attempt to defend a series of fortress cities, or Festung, operations under Himmler and his replacement by Heinrici. Part VI looks at troop strength, the struggle to find reinforcements and the weapons available to them. VII covers the various restructuring of the combat divisions. VIII is the largest section, and gives combat histories of each major German unit that fought on the Oder front, in some cases going down to individual regiments and battalions. Many of these accounts are supported by a series of eyewitness accounts or wartime diaries. XI covers Hitler's official instructions to the Eastern Front during the period 25 March-21 April, giving some idea of how he saw the Oder front and how that differed from his approach to other areas. X is a supplement to volume I, and includes a series of reports on the final battles fought on the Oder front as the war came to its end. 

The separate book of maps is excellent. Those that show the overall situation are based on modern topographical maps, while the more detailed maps are based on contemporary German maps. The actual combat details are superimposed on top, and are nice and clear. This combination of wartime maps with a modern overlay is a very good idea - the original maps show both the German names for many places that are now in Poland, and also the wartime size of settlements and the road and rail network at the time of the fighting. This comes in especially useful during the many battles around the fortress cities, where the wartime urban layout greatly influenced the fighting.  

This is a useful volume for anyone with an interest in the fighting on the Eastern Front. It doesn't provide a coherent narrative, although the course of events is clear enough. Instead it should perhaps be seen as a collection of related articles, providing extra information on the fighting on the Oder, supported by a large collection of wartime documents.

I: Himmler and his Staff
II: Strategic Collapse and Recovery in the East 12 January-15 February 1945
III: Pomeranian Fortresses
IV: Overview of Heersgruppe Weichsel Operations under Heinrich Himmler 29 January-20 March 1945
V: Heinrici Assumes Command
VI: Documents from the Oderfront 8 February to 15 April 1945
VII: Reorganization of Combat Divisions in 1945
VIII: Combat Formations along the Oderfront
IX: East Front Führervorträge: 25 March-21 April
X: The Final Battles Across the Oderfront: A Supplement to Volume 1
XI: Assessments
Plus separate volume of maps

Author: A. Stephan Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 600
Publisher: Helion
Year: 2014

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