I am a big fan of Stalingrad as most WWII wargamers are. The shear scale of the butchery and tragic end for the German soldiers who were captured just has a great deal going for it. As such I have read a good many books on the subject from really good to rather pathetic. My expectations from Voices from Stalingrad was fairly low. I picked it up for a couple of pounds from a bargain bookshop for starters but also I am not the biggest fan of the history through others mouths kind of book. I like quotes and use of extracts but I just am not a fan of quotes making up the books substance. Jonathan Bastable though, manages to tread a line between over use of quotes whilst keeping the first person perspective strong. The book starts with the usual potted history of Hitlers move to the East and war up to the drive on Stalingrad and then through the encirclement through drive through the shattered city and then the counter attacks on the flanks and envelopment of the trapped German forces. Then on to the slow steady starvation of the German forces and eventual surrender and the effects on the city afterwards. in many ways it is a shame that he did not cover the German prisoners fate and the return of the few who made it back years later. A shame as Bastable captures the human element really well. he seems to have equal compassion for the Russian families bombed out of their houses, as for the trapped Germans in the freezing rubble as well as the Russian troops holding out in such places as the Grain Elevator or Pavlov's House.
This is the crux of the book and what it gives beyond the typical voices type of book. He connects you to the people who wrote the original lines and he seems to have been fairly choosy with what he included. It's not all rhetoric (though it has it's say as well) and whilst he removed the names of most of the German soldiers comments it was still poignant when you then read that the writer was killed and the letter had been taken from the body etc. What really makes this book work is what Bastable actually writes between the first hand accounts. His words hold the story in place and keeps the reader well informed of the bigger picture that influenced the writer at the time. Also you do not feel that he has a axe to grind, he comes across as neutral, some what at odds with to many who seem to have to play down the evil of one of the two regimes so that they can set the other up as the bad guy. Given the record of both sides in the war I would say it's best to keep away from such nonsense. It is good to see this being the case here.
Amazon have the book in the UK for £6.56 new and a cracking 88p second hand. Well worth a look at if WWII is your thing and if like me, the Russian Front remains your hot spot, then just get it, you will enjoy.