Academic journal article Military Review

Kiev 1941: Hitler's Battle for Supremacy in the East

Academic journal article Military Review

Kiev 1941: Hitler's Battle for Supremacy in the East

Article excerpt

KIEV 1941: Hitler's Battle for Supremacy in the East

David Stahel, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, 468 pages, $35.00

Judged by its scale, the Battle of Kiev was the Wehrmacht's greatest victory. By encircling Stalin's forces in the bend of the Dnepr River, the German First and Second Panzer Groups ripped a vast hole in the enemy line, destroyed an entire Soviet Front along with its four component armies, and captured--according to the German propaganda machine--665,000 men. By any standard, the German triumph in the Ukraine in September 1941 was mind boggling.

David Stahel's new book, Kiev 1941, gives us a new and insightful account of this titanic battle, yet it is hardly a celebration of Nazi military expertise. Instead, the author builds on the analysis of his earlier work, Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East, which argued that Germany's plan to subjugate Soviet Russia in a single campaign was doomed from the start by poor planning, insufficient resources, and dysfunction at the highest levels of command. In his previous book, Stahel focused attention on the difficulties encountered by the campaign's main effort, the two panzer groups of Army Group Center. In his new book, the author continues that theme by showing how the panzer groups that linked up east of Kiev in late September were dogged by exhaustion, bad weather, supply and maintenance bottlenecks, and relentless Soviet counterattacks. Stahel does not overturn our understanding of the Wehrmacht's failure in the East by highlighting German difficulties, but his perspective is fresh and compelling--it is hardly an account of invincible blitzkrieg. …

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