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Neglected for years by Americans in favor of Normandy, the bulge, and the victorious march into Germany, the eastern front lately has seen a surge of interest as the pivot of World War ii. “If nothing else, the sheer numbers, the size and sweep of the battles, the enormity of the suffering, and the clash of ideologies have forced recognition of this conflict’s importance,” says historian Stephen Fritz, author of the award-winning Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Extermination in the East.

Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War 1941–1945

Evan Mawdsley (2007)

Mawdsley provides a balanced, comprehensive, and well-researched history of the war between the Germans and the Soviets from the perspective of a historian of the Soviet Union.”

Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict, 1941–1945

 Alan Clark (1965)

“Controversial in its day as one of the first English-language histories of the Eastern war to recognize the Soviet role in defeating Nazi Germany, this narrative remains readable, though dated. All those decades ago, however, its sweep, vivid language, often devastating judgments, and evocation of human agony made a profound impression on a young would-be historian.”

Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East

 David Stahel (2009)

“In the opening salvo of what became a quartet of detailed histories of the Eastern war’s decisive first year, Stahel fundamentally reassesses the German campaign, highlighting the invader’s problems. Displaying a firm grasp of strategic, operational, economic, and logistical factors, he exposes German weaknesses and shatters the myth of Wehrmacht superiority.”

The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March 1942

 Christopher R. Browning (2004)

“The timing and implementation of the Holocaust hinged on German military success, a duality too long unacknowledged by historians who treated the war in the east and the Holocaust as unrelated. Browning shows how intimately connected these two events were, and how Wehrmacht victories propitiated the radicalization of Nazi anti-Jewish policy that resulted in the Holocaust.”

The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

Adam Tooze (2006)

“Tough not specifically addressing the Eastern Front, Tooze’s brilliant book challenges commonplace assumptions and illuminates the logic, albeit often flawed, that lay behind Hitler’s decisions, in the process making clear that the Führer’s economic ideas demanded war—and a racial war of extermination—against the Soviet Union.”

 I Will Bear Witness 1942–1945: A Diary of the Nazi Years

Victor Klemperer (1999)

“Diaries have long fascinated me as avenues to insight into given eras. None offers a more profound look at Nazi Germany than Klemperer’s diaries. A Christian convert regarded as a Jew under Hitler’s racial laws, he writes compellingly of life under Nazism, often contradicting received wisdom.”

Stephen G. Fritz is a professor of history at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. In addition to Ostkrieg, he is the author of Endkampf: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Death of the Third Reich, and Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II.


Originally published in the June 2015 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.