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Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World

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From a master of popular history, the lively, immersive story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II as it's never been told before BERLIN'S FATE WAS SEALED AT THE 1945 YALTA CONFERENCE: the city, along with the rest of Germany, was to be carved up among the victorious powers-- the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. On paper, it seem From a master of popular history, the lively, immersive story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II as it's never been told before BERLIN'S FATE WAS SEALED AT THE 1945 YALTA CONFERENCE: the city, along with the rest of Germany, was to be carved up among the victorious powers-- the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. On paper, it seemed a pragmatic solution. In reality, once the four powers were no longer united by the common purpose of defeating Germany, they wasted little time reverting to their prewar hostility toward--and suspicion of--one another. The veneer of civility between the Western allies and the Soviets was to break down in spectacular fashion in Berlin. Rival systems, rival ideologies, and rival personalities ensured that the German capital became an explosive battleground. The warring leaders who ran Berlin's four sectors were charismatic, mercurial men, and Giles Milton brings them all to rich and thrilling life here. We meet unforgettable individuals like America's explosive Frank "Howlin' Mad" Howley, a brusque sharp-tongued colonel with a relish for mischief and a loathing for all Russians. Appointed commandant of the city's American sector, Howley fought an intensely personal battle against his wily nemesis, General Alexander Kotikov, commandant of the Soviet sector. Kotikov oozed charm as he proposed vodka toasts at his alcohol-fueled parties, but Howley correctly suspected his Soviet rival was Stalin's agent, appointed to evict the Western allies from Berlin and ultimately from Germany as well. Throughout, Checkmate in Berlin recounts the first battle of the Cold War as we've never before seen it. An exhilarating tale of intense rivalry and raw power, it is above all a story of flawed individuals who were determined to win, and Milton does a masterful job of weaving between all the key players' motivations and thinking at every turn. A story of unprecedented human drama, it's one that had a profound, and often underestimated, shaping force on the modern world - one that's still felt today.


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From a master of popular history, the lively, immersive story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II as it's never been told before BERLIN'S FATE WAS SEALED AT THE 1945 YALTA CONFERENCE: the city, along with the rest of Germany, was to be carved up among the victorious powers-- the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. On paper, it seem From a master of popular history, the lively, immersive story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II as it's never been told before BERLIN'S FATE WAS SEALED AT THE 1945 YALTA CONFERENCE: the city, along with the rest of Germany, was to be carved up among the victorious powers-- the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. On paper, it seemed a pragmatic solution. In reality, once the four powers were no longer united by the common purpose of defeating Germany, they wasted little time reverting to their prewar hostility toward--and suspicion of--one another. The veneer of civility between the Western allies and the Soviets was to break down in spectacular fashion in Berlin. Rival systems, rival ideologies, and rival personalities ensured that the German capital became an explosive battleground. The warring leaders who ran Berlin's four sectors were charismatic, mercurial men, and Giles Milton brings them all to rich and thrilling life here. We meet unforgettable individuals like America's explosive Frank "Howlin' Mad" Howley, a brusque sharp-tongued colonel with a relish for mischief and a loathing for all Russians. Appointed commandant of the city's American sector, Howley fought an intensely personal battle against his wily nemesis, General Alexander Kotikov, commandant of the Soviet sector. Kotikov oozed charm as he proposed vodka toasts at his alcohol-fueled parties, but Howley correctly suspected his Soviet rival was Stalin's agent, appointed to evict the Western allies from Berlin and ultimately from Germany as well. Throughout, Checkmate in Berlin recounts the first battle of the Cold War as we've never before seen it. An exhilarating tale of intense rivalry and raw power, it is above all a story of flawed individuals who were determined to win, and Milton does a masterful job of weaving between all the key players' motivations and thinking at every turn. A story of unprecedented human drama, it's one that had a profound, and often underestimated, shaping force on the modern world - one that's still felt today.

30 review for Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Book Dragon

    You know you are reading a great book when you feel that you are part of the era the author is talking about, which makes narrative history one of my favorite genres. Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton falls into that category and reads like a fiction while maintaining the sanctity of one of the most pivotal historical moments of the postwar world. This book walks us through the art of diplomacy or in some cases chicanery used between the allied forces and the soviet union and how the events un You know you are reading a great book when you feel that you are part of the era the author is talking about, which makes narrative history one of my favorite genres. Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton falls into that category and reads like a fiction while maintaining the sanctity of one of the most pivotal historical moments of the postwar world. This book walks us through the art of diplomacy or in some cases chicanery used between the allied forces and the soviet union and how the events unfolded which lead to a broken city and a continent. Mr. Milton's narrative of the events makes it an immersive read, which makes you think twice before you put the book down.  The author began the story as Russians enter the war torn city of Berlin and strip the country of everything that they were able to get their hands on with an intent to not leave much for the allied forces. Goons within the red army raped women and desecrated the populace. Fortunately, the allied forces reached the city and eventually learned the clandestine ways the soviets operated. The diplomatic battle between General Kotikov and Col. Howley is epic. Furthermore, the book sheds light on the indefatigability of the allied forces during the Siege which helped secure western Germany.  This will be one of the most satisfying books you will ever read. On a personal note, one night I had a dream of eating caviars and it was probably driven by Milton's exquisite description of soiree held at the time.  Note: Thank you Henry Holt publishing for providing me with an advanced reader's edition of such an eloquent read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Giles Milton’s exciting narrative of Berlin rising from the ruins of 1945 to its rebirth as as the Soviets backed down and lifted the blockade should not be missed. Written in an accessible style of popular history , Mr.Milton begins his story as the Russians enter the devastated city and take control with an iron hand. As the Soviets strip Germany of everything form light bulbs to scientists, and the victorious Red Army rapes and pillages the populace, the reader gets a full picture of the horr Giles Milton’s exciting narrative of Berlin rising from the ruins of 1945 to its rebirth as as the Soviets backed down and lifted the blockade should not be missed. Written in an accessible style of popular history , Mr.Milton begins his story as the Russians enter the devastated city and take control with an iron hand. As the Soviets strip Germany of everything form light bulbs to scientists, and the victorious Red Army rapes and pillages the populace, the reader gets a full picture of the horror of losing . From the point to when the Allies reach the city and learn how to deal with the justifiably proud Russians and their lies, treachery, cruelty and intransigence, to when the roar of Allied aircraft in the Berlin skies , laden with life giving supplies , gave life and hope to Berliners, Checkmate in Berlin is totally absorbing, often tense and ultimately satisfying. Yes, there are statistics : the number of aircraft involved and their types; the number of missions; the tons of coal, pounds of food, doses of medicines. Mr Milton does not stint on footnotes and sources for his history, nor does he miss naming the important personages of those historic days. From Truman to Stalin , all the Generals and some of the almost forgotten quiet heroes and snarling Communist apparatchiks get their due, and the author does it without glazing the reader’s eyes. Well written and researched it is a book for everyone who has an interest in a very good history. I recommend it very highly Note: I won a copy of Checkmate in Berlin from the author and publisher through Net Galley. My thanks to all.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Terrific book for those uninitiated with the Cold War. Given we have returned to a new Cold War, it’s a decent starter. It’s flaw is an overly British focus. But the author’s description of the siege of Berlin is breathtaking, even for one who knows the details.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World by Giles Milton Very few military historians, know how to deliver a factual account of events, without it reading like a text book. Max Hastings, Anthony Beevor and Giles Milton all know how to deliver books about historic events, that don't leave me wanting to yawn. In Checkmate from Berlin, Milton tells the story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II that fired the starting gun for the Cold War, Milton, Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World by Giles Milton Very few military historians, know how to deliver a factual account of events, without it reading like a text book. Max Hastings, Anthony Beevor and Giles Milton all know how to deliver books about historic events, that don't leave me wanting to yawn. In Checkmate from Berlin, Milton tells the story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II that fired the starting gun for the Cold War, Milton, gives readers a glimpse into the cloak & dagger world of espionage and duplicity that followed. The books begins with the fall of Berlin as the Soviet army enters the capital and the Allies start to divide the spoils of war. The Russian's were brutal in they're conquest, taking everything that wasn't bolted down,this included people, specifically scientists. They copied the Nazi's playbook and stole everything of value such as books, art, machines and even beds, back to Russia. This was all done under Stalin's orders and was a declaration to the allies that they weren't allies anymore now that the war was over. When the Allies eventually arrived in Berlin, they thought they would share Berlin. with the Russian's this so things escalated quickly. Recommended read for anyone who loves history or just a cracking good read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark Farley

    What a cracking book! Another period of history I fell asleep to, as a teenager in History class. I mean, yeah, I knew the basic rudimentary facts. Especially as I have been trying over recent years to find out more about the Nazis and the Second World War. That, and having visited the country a couple of times now and loving it. Not great as a 44 year old. But hey, I'm trying. Berlin is somewhere I have visited recently and plan to again in a few months (fingers crossed) because it is a very uni What a cracking book! Another period of history I fell asleep to, as a teenager in History class. I mean, yeah, I knew the basic rudimentary facts. Especially as I have been trying over recent years to find out more about the Nazis and the Second World War. That, and having visited the country a couple of times now and loving it. Not great as a 44 year old. But hey, I'm trying. Berlin is somewhere I have visited recently and plan to again in a few months (fingers crossed) because it is a very unique European city. In that, not only did they experience (in a very short period of time) all that lovely Nazi stuff upon its peoples. But not long after, what should have been a resurrection and rehabilitation for the German people, continued to be a similar (but very different) nightmare scenario. CHECKMATE IN BERLIN is a very well researched account of the 'post-last-minute-panic-Hitler-bunker-orgy' period and into the occupation of the city to four very different nations in a very small space. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Milton follows the stories of the very enigmatic and duly flawed people on the ground who not only decided who got what, whether it be plunder or bodies to rape, but also what was to become of the city in the future. And unsurprisingly, the Russians come off pretty badly in this book. I can't imagine though. Picture yourself in this D-Day euphoria and finally being rid of an oppressive regime, crawling out of your bunker and celebrating liberation, only to discover that said saviors were going to continue to starve you, steal everything and violate your women. It was a necessary carbunkle that had its flaws, yes. Maybe things could have been done differently, absolutely. Could certain red flag waving-individuals conducted themselves more gentlemanly and less like animals, absolutely. But all is certainly not fair in love and war. How about... stop getting into them? It was a period of tremendous bravery and flying by the seat of your pants and trying to work out what seem like impossible problems, that unfortunately affected the country and the continent for decades yet to come. But the other option would have been a lot worse, with hindsight. But I only say that as a fortunate outside observer. Because the stories in this book are horrific and incredibly tragic. But the author still treats everything with the dignity and respect that it deserves and the victims, sadly did not receive. Aside from the horror, I really enjoyed this book and it is a great pre-cursor for my next fascinating trip to this incredible city.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World by Giles Milton Very few military historians, know how to deliver a factual account of events, without it reading like a text book. Max Hastings, Anthony Beevor and Giles Milton all know how to deliver books about historic events, that don't leave me wanting to yawn. In Checkmate from Berlin, Milton tells the story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II that fired the starting gun for the Cold War, Milton, Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World by Giles Milton Very few military historians, know how to deliver a factual account of events, without it reading like a text book. Max Hastings, Anthony Beevor and Giles Milton all know how to deliver books about historic events, that don't leave me wanting to yawn. In Checkmate from Berlin, Milton tells the story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II that fired the starting gun for the Cold War, Milton, gives readers a glimpse into the cloak & dagger world of espionage and duplicity that followed. The books begins with the fall of Berlin as the Soviet army enters the capital and the Allies start to divide the spoils of war. The Russian's were brutal in they're conquest, taking everything that wasn't bolted down,this included people, specifically scientists. They copied the Nazi's playbook and stole everything of value such as books, art, machines and even beds, back to Russia. This was all done under Stalin's orders and was a declaration to the allies that they weren't allies anymore now that the war was over. When the Allies eventually arrived in Berlin, they thought they would share Berlin. with the Russian's this so things escalated quickly. Recommended read for anyone who loves history or just a cracking good read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    "Checkmate in Berlin" may be the best history book I have ever read and I have read a lot of history. It reads like a Le Carre novel. It begins with the race by the Allies to seize Berlin and continues with the diplomatic battles (and the entirely undiplomatic battles) between between General Alexander Kotikovr, leader of the Soviet Sector and Colonel Frank Howley, leader of the American Sector. Milton's description of the siege of the city by the Soviets and the subsequent airlift by the West i "Checkmate in Berlin" may be the best history book I have ever read and I have read a lot of history. It reads like a Le Carre novel. It begins with the race by the Allies to seize Berlin and continues with the diplomatic battles (and the entirely undiplomatic battles) between between General Alexander Kotikovr, leader of the Soviet Sector and Colonel Frank Howley, leader of the American Sector. Milton's description of the siege of the city by the Soviets and the subsequent airlift by the West is white-knuckle breathtaking. If you enjoy reading history, diplomacy or spine tingling thrillers, this is the book for you. I offer my highest recommendation. I received this ARC edition as a first-reads winner and have ordered Milton's previous book, "Soldier, Sailor, Frogman, Spy".

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I received a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Though this book is nonfiction and very well researched, it is an exciting read that is difficult to put down. The narrative is very smooth and interesting as if it is a story. The source notes section indicates many references to personal experiences of the military and political participants involved in the destiny of Berlin as the war wound down. Some of these are touching stories that ease the burden of knowledge about inhumane treatment, I received a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Though this book is nonfiction and very well researched, it is an exciting read that is difficult to put down. The narrative is very smooth and interesting as if it is a story. The source notes section indicates many references to personal experiences of the military and political participants involved in the destiny of Berlin as the war wound down. Some of these are touching stories that ease the burden of knowledge about inhumane treatment, the horrors of war, and power struggles. The author makes us feel as if we are there experiencing the events, the dangers, the humanity, and inhumanity. The ingenuity of those who sought solutions to reestablishing healthy living conditions, basic needs, economy, and government in Berlin is astonishing. This book gives far more detail than ever found in history texts and gave me an insight and appreciation to those who helped make peace and enable recovery. I don't read a lot of nonfiction history books , but I am very appreciative that I had the opportunity to receive a copy of Checkmate in Berlin.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Reena

    While most people know of the Berlin conflict in vague terms, very few have been taught about its beginnings. Milton does a wonderful job at making the history interesting, drawing you into the personal dynamics between those on the ground in the city and the 'ordinary' people who lived through the era. While most people know of the Berlin conflict in vague terms, very few have been taught about its beginnings. Milton does a wonderful job at making the history interesting, drawing you into the personal dynamics between those on the ground in the city and the 'ordinary' people who lived through the era.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This is a very well written, factual, and interesting account of the leaders who shaped history and destinies throughout the world. Power struggles, secrecy, and sometimes situations that brought out personalities that have been omitted from most of our history books. The book shows the good and bad, the power and fear, and how much influence so few can grasp to change the world.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I received this in a first reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed this book. I was familiar with the history of Berlin but I had never read an account that gave quite this much detail. The author does an excellent job of fleshing out the characters which is not something I have seen before in a book. All in all a good description of a very complex topic in an easy to read format.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Haynes

    Growing up in a time where the cold war was coming to a close I thought I had a good understanding of it purpose. After finishing this book I have a new appreciation for the trials that led up to it. I was amazed at how well the book narrated the events that took place after the fall of the Germany and the rebuilding of the country into 2 fractions. This book gave an insight and whole new level of appreciation for what it took to bring democracy to the devastated country and the rebuilding of Eu Growing up in a time where the cold war was coming to a close I thought I had a good understanding of it purpose. After finishing this book I have a new appreciation for the trials that led up to it. I was amazed at how well the book narrated the events that took place after the fall of the Germany and the rebuilding of the country into 2 fractions. This book gave an insight and whole new level of appreciation for what it took to bring democracy to the devastated country and the rebuilding of Europe post WW2. Recommended read for anyone who loves history or just a really good story that has your emotions constantly switching.

  13. 4 out of 5

    TimetoFangirl

    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Historical nonfiction isn't normally my genre, but the premise of this book caught my eye and I decided to give it a try. For all the history classes I've taken over the years, I really hadn't heard that much about how Berlin came to be a little Western island behind the iron curtain. This novel focuses on how the situation in Berlin imploded following WWII and is written in a super accessible way. This is definitely worth a look I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Historical nonfiction isn't normally my genre, but the premise of this book caught my eye and I decided to give it a try. For all the history classes I've taken over the years, I really hadn't heard that much about how Berlin came to be a little Western island behind the iron curtain. This novel focuses on how the situation in Berlin imploded following WWII and is written in a super accessible way. This is definitely worth a look if you're interested in pop history or the specific time period.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nick Crisanti

    A thrilling account of post-war Berlin and the duel between the Soviets and the Western Allies to shape the beleaguered German capital. Berlin, surrounded by the Soviet-controlled section of Germany, was itself split in two. The eastern, Russian half was already doomed by the Communist menace, but this is the story of how the Americans, British and French triumphantly resisted all attempts by the Russians to infiltrate and wrest control of the western half. A story of barbarity, audacity, resili A thrilling account of post-war Berlin and the duel between the Soviets and the Western Allies to shape the beleaguered German capital. Berlin, surrounded by the Soviet-controlled section of Germany, was itself split in two. The eastern, Russian half was already doomed by the Communist menace, but this is the story of how the Americans, British and French triumphantly resisted all attempts by the Russians to infiltrate and wrest control of the western half. A story of barbarity, audacity, resilience, and triumph, with a spirited pace and a white-knuckle grip, Giles Milton delivers an impeccable drama that is hard to put down. **I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.**

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Barker

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have finished reading “Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown that Shaped the Modern World” by Giles Milton When the Soviets got to Berlin, after Nazi Germany killed 26 million Soviet citizens, they didn’t hold back. Looting and rape were not just the work of a few renegade soldiers, they were officially encouraged by the Soviet political masters. Years of allied bombing left the once great city a desolate ruin. The electric grid was in pieces. Raw sewage seeped into the streets. The stench I have finished reading “Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown that Shaped the Modern World” by Giles Milton When the Soviets got to Berlin, after Nazi Germany killed 26 million Soviet citizens, they didn’t hold back. Looting and rape were not just the work of a few renegade soldiers, they were officially encouraged by the Soviet political masters. Years of allied bombing left the once great city a desolate ruin. The electric grid was in pieces. Raw sewage seeped into the streets. The stench of bodies drifted through the city. This city of ruins, by the terms of international agreements during the war, was to be divided between the 4 allies: the US, UK, French and Americans. After much stalling from the Soviets the Western allies moved in to their sectors of Berlin. The US was first, followed by the British team and latterly by the French. Both teams were led by strong personalities. None perhaps as outspoken as Frank “Howlin’ Mad” Howley, the Commandant of the US sector. He was no stranger to rebuilding ruined urban areas after getting Cherbourg up and running after the liberation of Normandy. His expertise, energy and drive was essential to rebuild his sector, but also took keep an eye on the Soviets on the eastern side of the city. Him with his French and British counterparts squared up to negotiate with the Soviets in the Kommandatura, the main governing council for the city. Eventually the meetings got more heated as Frank’s suspicions towards Soviet intentions increased. But his standing orders were to keep cooperative with the Soviets…….for the time being. But the public face of trust could not be maintained forever as more and more evidence of Soviet misdeeds increased. The Soviets unsuccessfully tried to use German Communists to merge and takeover the reformed Social Democratic Party. They employed an ex Nazi to lead the city’s police force as their own goon squad. Meanwhile, a massive defection in Canada alerted the Western world to planned US subversion on an international scale. The promises made by the Soviets at Potsdam were broken one after the other. The die was soon cast for a showdown. Berlin, the divided city, sat over 100 miles in the middle of the Soviet occupied zone, accessible by an autobahn, a railway track and three air corridors. One day in 1948 the Soviets blocked off the land routes and turned the power off the Western sectors of Berlin. Fuel, electricity and food were now cut off to West Berliners, threatening them with certain starvation and death. How the West responded displayed a combination of moral courage, bravery and ingenuity. The Berlin Airlift lasted nearly a year between 1948 and 1949. At it’s height allied planes landed in Berlin nearly every 2 minutes in order to feed West Berliners. Eventually the Soviets gave in, but not before many allied airmen lost their lives either through air accidents. Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. This is one of the best narrative history books I have read, almost on par with the Yuri Gagarin book I read recently. The characters are vividly represented. The hellishness of Berlin immediately after the war and the ordeals Berliners had to go through are represented in detail. This is also a motivational story about small characters in history who have put their heads up above the parapet in order to do the right thing, even if their bosses oppose them. George Kennan risked his career to send his famous “Long Telegram” to warn of the Soviet threat to the West and Berlin. Berliners took risks every day just to survive day to day. A maverick British airman advocated a scheme that seemed mad, the Berlin Airlift only to have the UK Prime Minister and US President to back it all the way. These days I don’t see many reasons to be proud of my country. But I am proud that it was a Brit who conceived of the Berlin Airlift, and that my country was a part of this endeavour to save the lives of innocents.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    The prolific Giles Milton ("Russian Roulette," "Nathaniel's Nutmeg," and many others) ranks among the most acclaimed writers of narrative history today. With "Checkmate in Berlin," Milton brings the reader back to the horrible years after World War II where it looked like the Soviets and the West would launch World War III. Berlin was the flashpoint for this conflict. "Narrative history" has sometimes been called "history that people want to read." In Milton's hands, that is definitely the case - The prolific Giles Milton ("Russian Roulette," "Nathaniel's Nutmeg," and many others) ranks among the most acclaimed writers of narrative history today. With "Checkmate in Berlin," Milton brings the reader back to the horrible years after World War II where it looked like the Soviets and the West would launch World War III. Berlin was the flashpoint for this conflict. "Narrative history" has sometimes been called "history that people want to read." In Milton's hands, that is definitely the case - he tells one hell of a story. As someone born in the 1970s, I grew up in the latter half of the Cold War, and the West-versus-Commies narrative dominated virtually every aspect of American life. But that collective experience has faded somewhat. When my kids watch an "old movie" like "The Hunt for Red October" (ouch) or the more recent "Bridge of Spies," I have to explain the clash of competing systems and the American fear of "Reds." Perhaps the hardest concept to explain is how West Berlin became an island of "the West" inside the Communist East Germany - it just makes no sense. Milton's latest book explains the foundation of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, even though his book stops years before the Wall was erected. Rather, he tells the story of the years immediately following the Allied Victory in World War II. The West responded to their win by seeking to rebuild an exhausted continent (and the Americans wanted to go home), but the Soviets responded with a tremendous power grab. The Western leaders knew the importance of Berlin and so wanted to stay, but they had no idea how hard they would have to fight for it. Berlin, divided into sectors led by the Americans, the British, the French, and the Soviets, was supposed to be a model of Allied cooperation. But the West quickly learns that Stalin wanted them gone and would use every trick and scheme to get the job done. "Checkmate in Berlin" almost reads like a screenplay with cinematic characters on almost every page and war-torn Berlin providing a ready-made backdrop for a Hollywood blockbuster. Rebuilding a war-torn city took tremendous work, but alongside this noble cause we see the rise of the black market, a seedy world of underground nightclubs catering to every desire, German men and women desperately prostituting themselves for the most basic of necessities, and the Soviets leaning hard into kicking the Western powers out by any means imaginable. It's almost over the top. The book builds until the Soviets decide to close off all access to Berlin for the West - the highways and train routes are closed, and the power is shut off. This leads to the should-be-more-famous Berlin Airlift, where American and British pilots lead daring supply flights round the clock to the desperate, isolated Western sectors of Berlin. It's actually a sham that this story isn't more widely known, as it is both classic heroism and of tremendous geopolitical impact. Highly recommended for its narrative thrills and the importance of the underlying story. Milton's book is not the definitive account of postwar Berlin - that book would need to be well over 1,000 pages long. But this is a great introduction to the topic and Milton's lively book will inspire further reading. Highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hassel

    Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown that Shaped the Modern World by Giles Milton This is an excellent book for people who enjoy learning about the early days at the end of WW II, specifically in Berlin. The book essentially begins on the 4th of July 1945 when the 1st Americans enter Berlin ahead of the British but two months after the Soviets have entered and raped and pilfered almost everything they could take and ship to Russia. If I found one fault with Mr. Milton’s book, is he does not Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown that Shaped the Modern World by Giles Milton This is an excellent book for people who enjoy learning about the early days at the end of WW II, specifically in Berlin. The book essentially begins on the 4th of July 1945 when the 1st Americans enter Berlin ahead of the British but two months after the Soviets have entered and raped and pilfered almost everything they could take and ship to Russia. If I found one fault with Mr. Milton’s book, is he does not give a reason for why Eisenhower freezes the US troops for two months from entering Berlin. Perhaps Eisenhower at this point still wanted to believe the Soviets were our ally. In the 1st group of Americans is Frank “Howlin Mad” Howely the leading American representative on the four powers group in charge of setting up and running the municipal government of Berlin. The main focus of this book is on the battles both procedural as well as occasionally with gunfire between the Americans, British and French on one side and the Soviets led by General Kotikov on the other. Howely and Kotikov seem to both have fiery but extremely sharp minds. So this book is less about the plight of the Berliner fighting for survival and instead about the western powers fighting for their survival vs. the Soviets trying to push the western allies out of Berlin. Given the isolation of Berlin surrounded by Soviet controlled territory it is amazing that the West held on and eventually almost 50 years later succeeded and won. I looked through 4 books in my library that I have read enjoyed very much about these first few years after the war ended and did not find Howley or his British counterpart Brig. Robert “Looney” Hinde in them. • The Unquiet Germans by Charles W. Thayer • Before the Wall Berlin Days 1946-1948 by George Clare • Battle Ground Berlin by David E. Murphy, Sergei Kondrashev and George Bailey • Between Containment and Rollback by Christian F. Ostermann I take this as important as it shows the amount of primary research done by Mr. Milton in creating this book. The western allies are not always good guys in this book. Mr. Milton does go into detail about the Black Market and pilfering done by western ally troops as well as the outlandish banquets hosted by the four power leaders while the people survived on 1300 calories a day. The end of the book is about the incredible airlift to bring in supplies to Berlin when the Soviets closed the road and train lines into Berlin. Even here I learned much I did not know. Such as Tegal Airfield which recently closed and I have flown into many times was built in a very short time during the siege of Berlin to add a third airfield to Berlin. Since I am reading a pre-publication e-book I assume the published version will have maps and photographs. This means I will buy a hard copy once the book come out.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    My thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher Henry Holt and Company for an advanced copy of this new history book. As a reader with a long time love of history and historical events I have read many a book about the Second World War and the Cold War that followed it. That is part of the reason why I enjoyed Mr. Milton's new book, as it acted as a bridge between the two events, with the city of Berlin trapped in the middle. I learned a lot of new things, and even more learned a lot more about thin My thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher Henry Holt and Company for an advanced copy of this new history book. As a reader with a long time love of history and historical events I have read many a book about the Second World War and the Cold War that followed it. That is part of the reason why I enjoyed Mr. Milton's new book, as it acted as a bridge between the two events, with the city of Berlin trapped in the middle. I learned a lot of new things, and even more learned a lot more about things I thought I knew. Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World by Giles Milton starts in Berlin as the Soviet army has begun to enter the capital, Hitler has decided on suicide, and the Allies start to divide the spoils. The book covers that atrocities committed by the soviet forces, with full backing of their leaders in Moscow, assaulting and taking anything that wasn't bolted down, art, scientists, machines, beds, back to Russia. The Allies eventually make their way to Berlin with the understanding that the Allies will share the capital, something no one told the Soviets, at least the pretend. The Allies almost lackadaisical, frankly naivety is not shared by some of the Allies, who become the heroes and leaders in this book. They understand that the war might be over for now, but there is no real peace, just maybe a delay. Mr. Milton describes life in the capital, divided in four sections by the Soviets, Americans, French and British. He describes the hardships of the civilians, life in peace is almost as bad as life in wartime, with food shortages and a healthy blackmarket. This all culminates in the Berlin Airlift, as the Soviets surround Berlin, blocking supplies and fuel in hopes for forcing the Allies out and securing more territory for themselves. I thought this was where the book truly took off with Mr. Milton describing the difficulty in feeding and providing fuel for both the citizens and Allies in some of the worst winters in a long time. The Herculean effort that made men and women deal and rise is fascinating and inspiring, as is the descriptions of how the airlift started and continued so successfully. A great book, full of intrigue, derring-do an the will to survive and live. The book takes a bit in the beginning, I think its just there is so much a reader needs to know about the situation that there is a slight bit of data dumping, but once Mr. Milton finds his pace he and the reader are off and running. I learned quite a lot from this book, especially about things I thought I knew, but I can say that about all of Mr. MIlton's books, and that's why I enjoy them.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “Berlin Checkmate: the Cold War showdown that shaped the modern world,” by Giles Milton (Henry Holt, 2021). Any lingering doubt I had that the Red Menace of the postwar period was an overdrawn right-wing nightmare has been essentially wiped out by some recent reading. “Berlin Checkmate” is the most recent, and in some ways the most brutal and direct. Milton describes in horrid detail the last-ditch fighting in Berlin and its aftermath. Most important, he shows how the Russians, from the beginnin “Berlin Checkmate: the Cold War showdown that shaped the modern world,” by Giles Milton (Henry Holt, 2021). Any lingering doubt I had that the Red Menace of the postwar period was an overdrawn right-wing nightmare has been essentially wiped out by some recent reading. “Berlin Checkmate” is the most recent, and in some ways the most brutal and direct. Milton describes in horrid detail the last-ditch fighting in Berlin and its aftermath. Most important, he shows how the Russians, from the beginning, intended to drive the western allies out of Berlin as part of a campaign to dominate Europe. He focuses on a few stalwarts, primarily Frank “Howlin’ Mad Howley, who became the commander of the American sector and stood up as much as he could against constant Russian bullying, insults, and attacks. It took months before the Americans and British became fully aware that the Russians were determined to drive them out of Berlin. The Americans, especially, continued to believe the wartime story that the West and the Soviets were on the same side. Meanwhile, the Russians did everything they could to take over. Milton describes the horrific campaign of rape by Russian troops once the fighting was over; the looting; how the Russians stripped everything they could from the German capital, from factories dismantled and shipped east to artwork stripped from German museums and sent eastward. Everything, of course, leads to the Berlin Airlift, which nobody believed could actually save the Berliners from starvation. Ultimately (well documented in other books), the Allies were sending in so much food the Berliners built up huge surpluses, and finally Stalin gave in. That was the checkmate. Written with all the energy of a thriller, and massive documentation--including from the account by an American woman of which only one typewritten copy exists. Basically, the Russians won nearly every move until the last, at which point West Berlin had emerged as a star of western freedom and abundance shining in the increasing darkness of occupied eastern Europe. Sorry if this sounds jingoistic and without nuance, but that’s apparently what happened. https://us.macmillan.com/books/978125...

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is history at its best. Giles Milton wrote a wonderful and engaging book about early tensions for what would become known as the Cold War. I have been to Berlin, Germany multiple times, and lived in Hungary and the Czech Republic, so I spoke to people who lived under communism and saw Cold War sites like the Berlin Wall as well as Checkpoint Charlie. After these experiences, I want to read about this event. I wanted to start with the beginning and all I can say is this book is great. The ch This is history at its best. Giles Milton wrote a wonderful and engaging book about early tensions for what would become known as the Cold War. I have been to Berlin, Germany multiple times, and lived in Hungary and the Czech Republic, so I spoke to people who lived under communism and saw Cold War sites like the Berlin Wall as well as Checkpoint Charlie. After these experiences, I want to read about this event. I wanted to start with the beginning and all I can say is this book is great. The characters are real but very interesting, especially Frank Howley. This man is extremely quotable. The story begins after World War II. Hitler is dead and the Third Reich has been defeated. Now the question is what to do with Berlin. Milton did a great job explaining the background of the people involved and the tension between the US, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. This books seems like a fictional novel, but it is all true. Milton made the story come to live and kept my interest the entire time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Felt has if I was there in this era. Milton transported me to Germany after WWII and the start of the Cold War. Berlin's fate was pretty much sealed in 1945 at the Yalta Conference. Stalin and the USSR came away with the most land and the better end of the bargain. Except, they forgot about how much people really want freedom to decide for their selves their own lives. Berlin ended up being divided into four sectors. The men who had control were charismatic, mercurial, brusque and oozed charm. R Felt has if I was there in this era. Milton transported me to Germany after WWII and the start of the Cold War. Berlin's fate was pretty much sealed in 1945 at the Yalta Conference. Stalin and the USSR came away with the most land and the better end of the bargain. Except, they forgot about how much people really want freedom to decide for their selves their own lives. Berlin ended up being divided into four sectors. The men who had control were charismatic, mercurial, brusque and oozed charm. Russia had one goal only, they wanted the Allies out of Berlin. This unfortunately set up a drama that had a profound effect on the world. Especially, the ones living in Berlin. If you like history, you should read this book. I gave it 4 ⭐'s because I felt like it got bogged down. Thanks to Goodreads, Henry Holt Books and Giles Milton for a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Happy Reading 😊

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jim Milway

    What a great book. As others have observed, it reads like a novel. As the Soviets are marching through the Eastern Europe on their way to Germany and then through eastern Germany itself, their goal is to place these poor people under their rule. They literally raped and pillaged. And broke all their commitments at Yalta and Potsdam. In working with the other allies, they were intransigent and did everything they could to control the agenda and the decisions. Leaders of the western allies did not h What a great book. As others have observed, it reads like a novel. As the Soviets are marching through the Eastern Europe on their way to Germany and then through eastern Germany itself, their goal is to place these poor people under their rule. They literally raped and pillaged. And broke all their commitments at Yalta and Potsdam. In working with the other allies, they were intransigent and did everything they could to control the agenda and the decisions. Leaders of the western allies did not have the stomach to confront this menace. But then came the siege of Berlin by the Soviets and the air lift in response. Against all odds the airlift broke the siege and the western allies screwed up their courage to take on the Soviets. It took another 45 years or so for the evil empire to vacate Eastern Europe and millions of people lived a horrible life during that period, it could have been worse.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tommy

    As the soviets rolled into Berlin close to the end of WW2, they immediately began ransacking the agreed upon sectors that would go to the Americans and British. The took heavy machinery, watches, raided museums and stole doorknobs. This was little compared to the emotional and physical assaults placed on the civilian population as well. The post war city would continue to struggle under the divided leadership of 4 countries (France now owning a sector as well). Propaganda, street brawls, and ult As the soviets rolled into Berlin close to the end of WW2, they immediately began ransacking the agreed upon sectors that would go to the Americans and British. The took heavy machinery, watches, raided museums and stole doorknobs. This was little compared to the emotional and physical assaults placed on the civilian population as well. The post war city would continue to struggle under the divided leadership of 4 countries (France now owning a sector as well). Propaganda, street brawls, and ultimately siege warfare would kick off the Berlin airlift to feed the millions of service members, families, and civilians in West Berlin. Determined to feed a starved populace and make an example of democratic perseverance over Soviet aggression, the western powers pulled off the greatest airlift of all time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Adkins

    Checkmate in Berlin is the story of the famous city and how it was the focal point at the beginning of the Cold War. The book starts off with the capturing of the city by the Russian Army at the end of the Second World War and the horror that the inhabitants experienced at the hands of their occupiers. It talks about the division of the city into its various sectors (Russian, British, American and then French) and the emergence of the black market and the blockade of the City by Russia and the he Checkmate in Berlin is the story of the famous city and how it was the focal point at the beginning of the Cold War. The book starts off with the capturing of the city by the Russian Army at the end of the Second World War and the horror that the inhabitants experienced at the hands of their occupiers. It talks about the division of the city into its various sectors (Russian, British, American and then French) and the emergence of the black market and the blockade of the City by Russia and the heroic and almost unbelievable airlift that saved the city. The author also talks about the key personalities that influenced life in Berlin as well as ordinary citizens of the city. If you like history then I recommend this book as Giles Milton does a great job of bringing this pivotal moment in history alive.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stanley Turner

    An excellent history of the crisis in Berlin from its origins to its conclusion. I still question why the British and American soldiers were prohibited from entering Berlin, until the Soviets had pretty much clean the place out. Milton, lays out how the spineless politicians almost allowed the Soviets all of Berlin, if not for determined officer like Frank Howley. One point in the book, Milton mentions Churchill’s ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech also known as the ‘Iron Curtain’ speech, again political An excellent history of the crisis in Berlin from its origins to its conclusion. I still question why the British and American soldiers were prohibited from entering Berlin, until the Soviets had pretty much clean the place out. Milton, lays out how the spineless politicians almost allowed the Soviets all of Berlin, if not for determined officer like Frank Howley. One point in the book, Milton mentions Churchill’s ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech also known as the ‘Iron Curtain’ speech, again political leaders ignored him at their peril. When he first started raising the alarm on Hitler, we know now any show of force would have caused Hitler to back down. Any show of backbone against the Soviets would have caused them to back down, but our political leaders squandered the opportunity and allowed the Soviets to regain their strength to our detriment. Highly recommended…SLT

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Olsen

    I found this book very disappointing, especially after reading so many rave reviews. The main characters are never fully developed. The military and political leaders are all rather one-dimensional and seem like stock figures from Hollywood rather than the complex personalities they undoubtedly were. The interesting vignettes of local families' hardships are few and far between, and also incompletely developed. The quotes from the journalist Ruth Andreas-Friedrich are thrown in here and there as I found this book very disappointing, especially after reading so many rave reviews. The main characters are never fully developed. The military and political leaders are all rather one-dimensional and seem like stock figures from Hollywood rather than the complex personalities they undoubtedly were. The interesting vignettes of local families' hardships are few and far between, and also incompletely developed. The quotes from the journalist Ruth Andreas-Friedrich are thrown in here and there as if for a term paper requiring primary sources. On the positive side: interesting photographs are included, and I was introduced to some important historical figures such as Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary and Ernst Reuter, mayor of Berlin's western sector.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Horgan

    Giles Milton follows in the master's footsteps (Manchester, if you had any doubt)... Milton does a spectacular job bringing to light a complicated post WWII subject: Berlin and the Airlift. Weaving anecdotes amidst the heavily researched and annotated material, it reads like a thriller, not a treatise of academia. Milton relies on hundreds of sources, but one of the most poignant is an 80 year old type-written manuscript (Lt Col Harold "Tim" Hays, British officer on staff) that was never publish Giles Milton follows in the master's footsteps (Manchester, if you had any doubt)... Milton does a spectacular job bringing to light a complicated post WWII subject: Berlin and the Airlift. Weaving anecdotes amidst the heavily researched and annotated material, it reads like a thriller, not a treatise of academia. Milton relies on hundreds of sources, but one of the most poignant is an 80 year old type-written manuscript (Lt Col Harold "Tim" Hays, British officer on staff) that was never published. Man 0h man, this was a tremendous read, and i learned a great deal... I will be shopping for further Milton books today!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bookoholiccafe

    Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton is a very well-written and factual story of the aftermath of WWII. I don’t read so many historical nonfictions, however, this book was a very exclusive one. It begins as the Russians take control of Germany and strip the country to when Allied send their aircraft to help people in Berlin with hope and supplies. I can’t even imagine living during that time and it is always easier to observe than going through the experience, I believe this was a time of bravery Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton is a very well-written and factual story of the aftermath of WWII. I don’t read so many historical nonfictions, however, this book was a very exclusive one. It begins as the Russians take control of Germany and strip the country to when Allied send their aircraft to help people in Berlin with hope and supplies. I can’t even imagine living during that time and it is always easier to observe than going through the experience, I believe this was a time of bravery and doing the impossible.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    I had this book delivered to my daughter's family. She was amazed what was left out of her history books. Good because I wanted my grandson who is too young for this book to be able to read and get a deeper sense of history when he is in high school. Right now, all he knows is he lives 12 miles away from one of the Mexican border walls. Border Walls why are they built and do they work from the Great Wall of China to Hadrian's Wall to the Berlin Wall to all the Border Walls popping up all over the I had this book delivered to my daughter's family. She was amazed what was left out of her history books. Good because I wanted my grandson who is too young for this book to be able to read and get a deeper sense of history when he is in high school. Right now, all he knows is he lives 12 miles away from one of the Mexican border walls. Border Walls why are they built and do they work from the Great Wall of China to Hadrian's Wall to the Berlin Wall to all the Border Walls popping up all over the world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carmen212

    Very good books. I didn't know the half of it. Betrayals, opportunities seized, I did know that the Russian raping of German women was part of their war. What really was astonishing was the Berlin Airlift. The planes were so precise, they had just a few minutes to land, dump their tons of cargo, take off and 20 seconds later the next plane came in. 2.4 million people did not starve! Very good books. I didn't know the half of it. Betrayals, opportunities seized, I did know that the Russian raping of German women was part of their war. What really was astonishing was the Berlin Airlift. The planes were so precise, they had just a few minutes to land, dump their tons of cargo, take off and 20 seconds later the next plane came in. 2.4 million people did not starve!

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