Feldgrau Author: Stephan Hamilton

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by John W. Howard » Sat Dec 20, 2008 11:48 pm

Hi Fred:
Ambrose and Ryan did go a few rounds; their were allegations by Ryan that Ambrose had plagiarized from his work, something that Ambrose was accused of later on in his career. That is about all I know about it off hand, but a record of Ryan's accusations can be found in his archives at Ohio University. Best wishes.
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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Sun Dec 21, 2008 6:47 am

Yes, I did see the plagiarism charges by Ryan against Ambrose. Without going into detail here (it's easy to research on the internet), it seems to have revolved around just a couple of quotes and, in the end, seemed more like a case of sloppiness. I think Ambrose's case against Ryan's manipulations of fact is more substantial - although Ambrose certainly became a serial plagiarizer in the end.

Looking more at Bloody Streets, the question I have is whether I should continue postings comments/critiques of this book. I've given my overall impression of the book (positive) and I have commented on a few elements I disagree with. Since I have an editor's approach, there is more I can critique, but I worry that I might damage his sales by giving the impression the book is bad or waste my time because people have heard enough from me on this one (especially the author).

Here's an example of things I would continue with.

At the start of Chapter 3, Stephan discusses Himmler's performance as commander of Heeresgruppe Weichsel. Using phrases such as "no military experience", "no positive contribution", and "complete lack of military organizational ability", Stephan effectively skewers Himmler. Stephan's only source for the info in that paragraph is given as "Heinrici Interview", but note that Stephan does not quote Heinrici, in fact, he starts the paragraph with Guderian as the actor so that the comments on Himmler would logically be taken either as Guderian's assessment or supposedly objective facts as determined by the author.

What's wrong with this?
1) In historical writing, sourcing is crucial. Sourcing makes it clear that an author isn't simply inventing history or repeating cliches. It must be clear where these bits of information or judgments are coming from and whether they have been corroborated. There are ways of doing this without bogging down the text, such as shorthand phrases and explanatory footnotes.
2) The analysis of a famous personality's performance deserves better than knee-jerk comments that use words like no, never, and complete lack. In this case, it is easy to rebut such a sweeping (pauschal) commentary on Himmler. Himmler was in the army in WW1, Himmler built the Waffen-SS from a small guard force to a million-man army, and his organizational abilities built an empire against fierce internal competition. Now Himmler may have failed as the commander of HGr Weichsel but let's start from a true picture of the man before we declare why he failed.
3) It may be historically accurate that Heinrici and Guderian believed these literally false things about Himmler and had been quoted saying exactly that, but Stephan needed to make it clear who the owners of these judgments were in that paragraph and whether he, as the author, agreed or disagreed with them.
4) Lastly, I find the use of "Heinrici Interview" too brief as a source citation. If Stephan was using the Ryan Collection as his sole resource for the book and he made it clear that all citations led back to that collection, fine. As it is, "Heinrici Interview" can mean a lot of things, unless Heinrici famously gave only one interview in his life.

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Uncle Joe » Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:33 am

I am just reading chapter 4 and the remarks on Zhukov vs. Konev are most interesting. And something that I have often wondered before:) It seems that I may not sell the book, after all:)

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:21 am

Unit Names

Writing about foreign militaries in a second language forces one to make decisions about translating rank, names, etc. There are a number of considerations to keep in mind, including accuracy, readability, authentic flavor, the expertise of your target audience, and the support of the publisher.

In my opinion, historical accuracy is the primary consideration. A military history author should stick as close as possible to what was the practice in use by the military he is describing. I applaud Stephan's use of German unit names in general, however I believe he goes off the rails when it comes to units above Armee level. Specifically,

- The Heeresgruppen: Stephan chooses to translate units such as "Heeresgruppe Weichsel" as "Army Group Vistula" and then abbreviates it as "AGV". Thus he invents an acronym that is completely ahistorical. (Do an internet search and you will see maybe 2 other instances of AGV for Heeresgruppe Weichsel, both from Stephan!) I also found his explanation of using "Vistula" instead of "Weichsel" rather clumsy, but in any case if he is going to talk about the "25.Panzergrenadier-Division", he should be consistent and stick with "Heeresgruppe Weichsel".

- Verteidigungsbereich Berlin: Stephan uses "Berlin Defense Area" abbrev as "BDA" and also refers to the commander of VB Berlin as "CBDA". Again, more inventions with "CBDA" being one that is not only an ahistorical acronym, it is even an ahistorical category of abbrev for the Wehrmacht. One does not see the smashing of a position together with a unit title like that in a Wehrmacht acronym.

- "German High Command": I'm not even sure what this is supposed to mean. Stephan refers to this entity as something distinct from Hitler and from Guderian as well. Obviously, there was no "Deutsches Oberkommando" and Hitler was both commander of OKW and OKH, so who is this mystery command?

Realizing that my points may seem arcane, let me give an example of why inventing acronyms is a bad idea for history. In World War 2, the "Third United States Army" was sometimes known by the acronym "TUSA". Let us suppose that an author writing about US Army operations decided to use that approach for abbreviating lower units, such as infantry divisions. One could find oneself reading, "At 0430, the FID and the SID launched their attacks, and were supported two hours later by the TID." In theory, one could claim that that the text is more concise and readable with these invented abbreviations for the First, Second, and Third Infantry Divisions. But is it historical writing? No, because those abbreviations are not historical.

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:50 am

Hitler and Berlin

Stephan makes much hay out of the notion that Hitler did not have a defense plan ready for Berlin. I don't understand his point and I think that Stephan, rather than Hitler, is being illogical here.

Put simply, one does not defend a twentieth-century empire by defending one's capital from ground attack. If one cannot defend the empire as a political and economic whole, then defending the capital is like keeping a brain-dead, shattered body on life support.

People often get myopic when criticizing Hitler about the battles at Kursk, Ardennes, and Berlin. Hitler wasn't worried about winning just a battle, he was worried about winning the war. He knew that he had the tiger by the tail and soon he was going to run out of crackers to feed it. To kill the tiger, or win the war, he needed a dramatic victory, not just a delaying tactic. When he attacked at Kursk and at the Ardennes, and didn't prepare Berlin in 1944 for ground attack, he was being very realistic about his situation.

It's true that he was hoping for miracles by the end, but only a miracle, not a cleverer disposition of his forces could save him at that point. And as for manipulating the Allies into some kind of collision based on the Eclipse Plan, Hitler was smart enough to see that the most probable outcome for that would not include a restoration of his imperial seat.

The Battle of Berlin fascinates many of us, but let's not confuse it with a battle where both sides have a chance of winning. This was the last stand of a defeated tyrant where tactics could not alter the outcome.

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Stephan H. » Mon Jan 05, 2009 6:07 pm

Frederick,

I don't think you're being arcane and your questions deserve a response.

The first citation that used Heinrici's interview should read "(RC: 68:3) Heinrici Interview." Heinrici provided a lengthy, and often a bit rambling, interview for Ryan. Though ther was some good information there. He also provided a “Memoir” that what a compilation of his experiences at the time, most of which were already captured in the interview.

I went back and forth on whether to use AGV or the more correct HgW. The problem lay in the fact than most books published in the west, and most of the interviews I quote from, use Army Group Vistula or AGV. Right or wrong I needed to pick something that was consistent, otherwise readers wold have to deal with two sets of terms so I selected AGV.

In terms on "inventing" acronyms, did you really want to read Commander Battle Defense Area Berlin over and over again? Let alone the lengthy German title?

The term German High Command and what it means is on pg. vii.

Western historiography tends to view the "battle of Berlin" as a single event. In other words, that the Russians planned a campaign to take Berlin - and they did for sure - and that the Germans planned on meeting the Russian offensive with a unified purpose. Reality is more complex for the German side. Heinrici planned and conducted the final battle for Berlin along the Oder - and that battle was over in four days. He had no intention of defending Berlin. None. The defense of Berlin was a product of Jodl, Keitel, and Krebs and not Hitler, who was pretty despondent at this point. Berlin was a separate military event from the defense of the Oder conceived at the last minute by elements of the German High Command. The relief attempts of Berlin initiated by Keitel and Jodl were in fact ignored by Steiner, Wenck, and Busse. Their subsequent actions were separate military events that occur within the same Russian offensive for Berlin, but were conducted and executed separately on the German side.

The fact that Hitler didn't prepare Berlin for a better defense is really not the point. The point made is that after the capture of "Eclipse", the efforts by the German High Command to determine if "Unconditional Surrender" was still valid, or if there might be a potential break between the Western Allies and the Soviets, generated no new strategic impetus to shift forces—really anywhere. Defending Hungary, leaving divisions in Kurland, and the Balkans wasn't going to do much good either.

But these are things that can be debated for a long time.

If you want to read a provacative new book that bucks general conventions of late war strategy read Hitler, Donitz, and the Baltic Sea: The Third Reich's Last Hope, 1944-1945 by Grier.

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by KG voss » Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:21 pm

M. Hamilton,

I just got your book from amazon and while a bit expensive I think it is a fantastic read ! definitely the 2008 book of the year for me. I'm really looking forward for your next book about germany's last battle. Keep on the good work :up:

Note: Yes Grier's book is excellent I remember I ranked it as my 2007 best book in a forum here on feldgrau. For me a ground breaking book, the guy was not that mad and many things makes senses..highly recommended. I had some contact with the author and ask him if he would do the same treatment for a mediterranean book showing Hitler's strategy on this part of the front (or lack of). Unfortunately it seems not but his next book should be a bio of Schorner..

best regards

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Marc Rikmenspoel » Sat Jan 10, 2009 12:17 pm

I had a look at this book at the Aberdeen Bookstore on Friday, and it seemed quite impressive, warts and all (no offense, I just mean that various points have been raised in this thread, but the book still made a good impression). It is now on my wants list.

I do have a question about one point I noted. The Nordland Division is indicated as having a strength of about 3000 men in late April 1945. Yet in the Landwehr/Thor Nielsen history of SS-PGR 24 Danmark, it is indicated that during the refit of Nordland west of the Oder in late March and early April 1945, that the regiment was refurbished to a strength of roughly 1500 men, with 80 men per combat company. I would think that the full strength of the Nordland Division would have become roughly 5000 men. But I don't know the Danmark regimental history is necessarily correct. So I'm interested in reading some explorations of this topic. And again, i look forward to reading the book in detail later this year!

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Robert K. » Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:54 am

Stephan at the end of page 188 you wrote about a PzKpfw V on the Berliner Strasse.
We can read that this Panther was not a “Panzerstellung”.
Can you please tell us who claimed that this Panther was a “Panzerstellung”, a Schadpanzer from Pz.Kp. (bo) 'Berlin' .
What are your reasons to claim that this Panther wasn`t a so called “Panzerstellung”.

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Stephan H. » Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:35 pm

KG Voss - thanks for the post. Grier's book is good (superbly written with much original research), but he didn't sell me on his thesis, but it does make you take pause and rethink what you know about Germany's late war "strategy." It will be interesting to see his book on Schörner.

Marc - I think someone said "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" so I hope you enjoy the book "warts n' all" when you read it. The book was clearly a massive undertaking for a first book, and I've noted many of the comments in this forum in order to hopefully make corrections in some future edition. As an aside, I just happened to re-read a section of Beevor's "The Fall of Berlin 1945" and noted that he states the German invasion of Russia began on 22 June 1942 (pg, 304) :shock: I wonder if that was corrected in the "Penguin Classic" edition. As far as Nordland's strength is concerned, I'm not sure what sources Landwehr used but I've given the list of primary documents where I pulled those numbers on pg. 75. Obtaining any authoritative statistics for this period are difficult at best as you can imagine, especially after the shooting starts on 16 April.

Richard - this claim is derived directly from the "Henseler Interview". He made a point of stating that this was "a German Panther tank buried up to its turret but apparently abandoned." Is it possible he was confused? Anyhting is possible; however, I came across various accounts from across the city that talked about other German armor being purposely buried in a "hull down" position after running out of gas.

Cheers!

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Robert K. » Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:01 pm

Stephan as I understood it Hensler never stated that this Panther was "not a Panzerstellung", so it is a conclusion from you right?

Can you please point out more precise why it should be "not a Panzerstellung".


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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Jan-Hendrik » Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:48 pm

Writing about foreign militaries in a second language forces one to make decisions about translating rank, names, etc. There are a number of considerations to keep in mind, including accuracy, readability, authentic flavor, the expertise of your target audience, and the support of the publi
Translating unit designations is one of the major faults in most anglo-saxon military literature on German Army. Not only that those translations are often in the range between funny and ridicoulous they are often simply misleading, too.

Why is it so hard to use german terms, just add one page of explanation and everything is good. Have you ever tried to translate british army unit designations? Simply impossible. Please be so kind and don't do it for the Wehrmacht, too!

Eine Panzerabteilung ist eine Panzerabteilung, kein 'Tank Batallion' :shock:

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:38 am

Jan-Hendrik wrote:....Eine Panzerabteilung ist eine Panzerabteilung, kein 'Tank Batallion' ...
Ideally, everyone who read about the Wehrmacht would do so in German and the problem would be solved. But, to reach an English audience, you have to make compromises. Some of those compromises are forced on you by the publisher. The question Stephan hasn't answered is why he stayed true to the German designation for lower units, but decided to translate the highest units. Why not be consistent and keep all the units in German or translate all of them?

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Stephan H. » Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:23 pm

Frederick L Clemens wrote:The question Stephan hasn't answered is why he stayed true to the German designation for lower units, but decided to translate the highest units. Why not be consistent and keep all the units in German or translate all of them?
Stephan H. wrote:I went back and forth on whether to use AGV or the more correct HgW. The problem lay in the fact than most books published in the west, and most of the interviews I quote from, use Army Group Vistula or AGV. Right or wrong I needed to pick something that was consistent, otherwise readers wold have to deal with two sets of terms so I selected AGV.
I also gave my rationale on p. viii - right or wrong - as I knew there would be someone who would question its use.

My intent was to use all German designations for their units, regardless of level--indeed this was the recommendation from the Publisher, and it made sense. I tried to do that throughout, but it required me to often alter quoted text--something I felt slightly uncomfortable doing as the changes were sometimes significant with Heeresgruppe Weichsel (Army Group Vistula). It was a decision I wasn't necessarily comfortable with, and with 20/20 hindsight (not to mention solid feedback from here) I do regret not using the more appropriate German "HgW".

So here is a question back to those more experienced than I, in these matters. How do you ensure consistency in nomenclature across quoted material in your work? Would you simply replace the original words from quoted material with the more appropriate nomenclature?

Stephan

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Re: Bloody Streets: The Soviet Assault on Berlin, April 1945

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:43 pm

I wouldn't call HgW more appropriate than AGV since the Germans didn't use HgW -that would be an unhistorical invention. Heeresgruppe Weichsel should correctly be shortened to HGr Weichsel. That should be clear enough from the records. There may be some cases of variations such as HGr W in individual documents, but that would be a nonstandard abbreviation, not to be repeated in a way to create the impression that it was standard.

Personally, I wouldn't alter quoted text. You can always make editorial comments in brackets such as [sic] or [brief clarification] if the quote contains an incorrect or unclear designation. If the error is more complicated to explain then use a footnote.

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