Antony Beevor has a talent for writing military history that reads almost like an action novel. His account of the demise of the German 6th Army - the largest in the entire Wehrmacht at the time - during the fight for Stalingrad, is gripping.
Hitler and Stalin both became maniacally obsessed with imposing their will in this contest, neither permitting their beleaguered troops to give up or retreat. The profligacy of lives on both sides is truly appalling. Beevor, like the reader, is clearly enthralled by the carnage.
These battles favoured the Russians, as they denied the Germans the undoubted advantages of their mobile 'blitzkrieg' tactics, drawing them into static battles of attrition, in which the weight of Soviet numbers could be used to wear the Germans and their sometimes less than enthusiastic allies (Italians, Romanians, Hungarians, etc.) down.
He also moves smoothly through the various gears, from the top brass, with their concerns of ideological and personal prestige, down the chain of command to the God-forsaken 'grunts', fighting for their lives in a Dantean inferno, the hellishness of which is made all the worse by the inhumanity of the political ideologies that drove this conflict.
Another striking thing is how many Russians sought to join the Germans. Some might well have done so just as a means to survive. But many, especially those persecuted under Communism (e.g. Kulaks, Cossacks, Poles, Ukrainians) initially saw the Germans as liberators from the Stalinist/Communist yoke.
In typically Stalinist fashion, such people became 'former Russians'. Caught between two such appallingly inhumane ideologies the sufferings of all concerned were, frankly unimaginable. But Beevor does a damn good job of trying to convey how things were, and it makes for terrifically gripping reading.
In researching images for this post I found a really cool post (click here) on abandoned German armour at Stalingrad. Some great images/info!
 Little did they know how prophetic this macabre roadside attraction would prove to be.