I just finished reading your amazing book, and I was really impressed. It is an excellent piece of work, and I enjoyed reading it. I hated to finish it, but was drawn from chapter to chapter, forcing myself to stop and save the next part for the next day. I have read many other books about the fight for Berlin, and I found some things that were familiar from your other sources, but there was also so much that I hadn't read about the struggle, and some things that it seems others were afraid to include, for a variety of reasons, such as the Soviets killing each other in the zeal of their commanders to please Stalin and beat each other to the Reichstag.
I agree with your premise that the attack was more of an assault than a battle. It was certainly an assault in many ways, from the sometimes chaotic small unit engagements, to the hand-to-hand fights to the death in alleys, back streets, and the inside of rubbled buildings. You could also use the word assault to describe the treatment of the civilian population during and after the conflict, and you'd be right on target. Your explanation that the defense of Berlin was only put together at the last moment, in a hodge-podge fashion, with all sorts of commanders, but thin on the actual fighters, was new to me. This explanation cleared up a great many questions I had about the battle, and why it progressed in the way it did.
Also, your detail of the impact of the panzerfaust hit home on many levels. It was a terrifying weapon, extremely versatile, able to be used by mere boys with a high degree of success, and its results were gruesome for the Soviet tankers. Your premise that it had a huge impact on the assault was very correct. You would have thought the Soviet high command would take into account the real possibility that this weapon would prove deadly in their attack, especially since they saw how successful they themselves were in the battle for Stalingrad, where they were able to neutralize the panzers of the Sixth Armee and didn't have panzerfausts, relying on stopgap measures and the courage of their individual fighting men.
Your account of the way Stalin played Zhukov and Koniev against one another was not new to me, but the details were. I'd always suspected that the rank and file Soviet soldiers fought against each other accidentally, but your accounts of the fratricide were the most extensive and detailed that I'd seen to this point. Koniev's assault through Chuikov's blocking attempt, ordered by Zhukov to prevent Koniev from beating Zhukov in the race for the Reichstag, was amazing to read about. The battle, with Soviet soldiers and tanks blasting away at each other, FOR HOURS, was terrible to realize, especially when you know that it was all because Stalin was playing his generals against each other in the race for the Reichstag.
There is so much more I could say, but I couldn't be more pleased with your efforts. I didn't find the page set-up to be all that difficult to adapt to. I hadn't planned to read through it fast, as I wanted to slowly savor the contents. I was more interested in what you were writing than how it was placed on the page. I did find the many spelling errors a little disconcerting at times, but it never detracted from the overall enjoyment. The photographs were quite helpful to keep the reader immersed in the action, and I really enjoyed the maps. It meant that you never really got lost, and could always drop back a page or two to see the map and regain your bearings, so to speak. Your photographs of actual locations greatly helped me get a visual of the key locations. The chapter breaks by day, and within by areas of defense were very well done, and gave an order to the battles and small unit engagements. It was really interesting to follow some of the single tanks and their commanders, and even see photos of their tanks after the battle.
I especially enjoyed the last section, where you took us on amazing journeys of the individuals we'd come to know in the battle, as they tried to break through to the west and freedom. It gave a sense of closure that many authors ignore. If I've been reading about a particular individual who is surviving battle after battle, I'd also like to see what actually happened to him. Did he make it out to the Elbe? Was he eventually captured? Did he survive the terrible war into peacetime, or did he die in captivity in some Soviet gulag? Or, in the case of Hans Henseler, did he make it all the way to the Elbe, only to sit on a "log" to rest for a moment, and find the "log" was a sleeping Soviet soldier with a subgun, who took him prisoner only a river's width from surrender to the Americans? Hans' story was amazing, as he was marched all the way back through Berlin, and then dodged out of the column and snuck back into Berlin, going underground until he was smuggled into the western sector and freedom.
I enjoyed your attention to detail, your research, and the manner of your presentation. This is a very important book about the battles in Berlin, and you have done a credible job. Thanks for an excellent presentation on the struggle for Berlin.
It has a position of honor on my bookshelf.