cover image Berlin at War

Berlin at War

Roger Moorhouse, Basic, $29.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-465-00533-8

British historian Moorhouse (Killing Hitler) puts a human face on the capital city of a Reich at war. In the summer of 1939, Berliners were optimistic and grateful to their führer for Germany’s improving economy and political order—above all, the country was at peace. That was to change with the declaration of war on September 1. Efforts to maintain some sense of normality were overshadowed by the benchmarks of total war: blackouts, rationing, and beginning in 1940 the air raids that would leave Berlin in ruins. Foreign forced laborers poured in to work in military factories, as Jews boarded trains, headed for annihilation. A network of informers aided a ubiquitous Gestapo with “a veritable epidemic of denunciations” as “civic relations” in the city collapsed. At war’s end Berlin became the Reich’s final battleground as the Red Army paid back four years of atrocities with an orgy of looting and rape. Yet Berliners sustained a chip-on-the–shoulder independence. Despite Berliners’ “soul-searching and recriminations” (barely touched on here), Moorhouse drily relates the irony that, after the devastation, the hope that had dominated prewar Berlin quickly regained the upper hand. 16 pages of b&w photos; 1 map. (Oct.)