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The Lighthouse of Stalingrad: The Hidden Truth at the Heart of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Hardcover)
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A thrilling, vivid, and “compelling” (Wall Street Journal) account of the epic siege during one of World War II’s most important battles, told by the brilliant British editor-turned-historian and author of Checkpoint Charlie.
To the Soviet Union, the sacrifices that enabled the country to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II were sacrosanct. The foundation of the Soviets’ hard-won victory was laid during the battle for the city of Stalingrad, resting on the banks of the Volga River. To Russians, it is a pivotal landmark of their nation’s losses, with more than two million civilians and combatants either killed, wounded, or captured during the bitter fighting from September 1942 to February 1943. Both sides endured terrible conditions in brutal, relentless house-to-house fighting.
Within this life-and-death struggle, Soviet war correspondents lauded the fight for a key strategic building in the heart of the city, “Pavlov’s House,” which was situated on the frontline and codenamed “The Lighthouse.” The legend grew of a small garrison of Russian soldiers from the 13th Guards Rifle Division holding out against the Germans of the Sixth Army, which had battled its way to the very center of Stalingrad. A report about the battle in a local Red Army newspaper would soon grow and be repeated on Moscow radio and in countless national newspapers. By the end of the war, the legend would gather further momentum and inspire Russians to rebuild their destroyed towns and cities.
This story has become a pillar of the Stalingrad legend and one that can now be told accurately. Written with “impressive skill and relish” (Sunday Times), The Lighthouse of Stalingrad sheds new light on this iconic battle through the prism of the two units who fought for the very heart of the city itself. Iain MacGregor traveled to both German and Russian archives to unearth previously unpublished testimonies by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. His “utterly riveting” (Alex Kershaw) narrative lays to rest the questions as to the identity of the real heroes of this epic battle for one of the city’s most famous buildings and provides authoritative answers as to how the battle finally ended and influenced the conclusion of the siege of Stalingrad.
About the Author
Iain MacGregor has been an editor and publisher of nonfiction for over twenty-five years. He is the author of The Lighthouse of Stalingrad and Checkpoint Charlie. As a history student he visited the Baltic and the Soviet Union in the early 1980s and has been captivated by Soviet history ever since. He has published books on every aspect of the Second World War on the Eastern Front 1941-45 and has visited archives in Leningrad, Moscow, and Volgograd. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and his writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Spectator and BBC History Magazine. He lives with his wife and two children in London.
"Carefully researched . . . This valuable addition to the body of work about Stalingrad goes a long way toward righting the balance between myth and reality. . . . compelling." —Wall Street Journal
"MacGregor retells [this story] with impressive skill and relish . . . closely researched and enormously engaging." —Sunday Times (UK)
"Splendid. . . . MacGregor writes with great fluency and narrative drive, and his account of the context to the battle and the complexity of its fraught swings of fortune and misfortune is compellingly terse." —New Statesman (UK)
"Closely researched and engagingly written, MacGregor's wonderful book shines important new light on the most horrific, and arguably the most important, battle of the 20th century. It is a story of 'backs to the wall' defence of the Motherland that modern Russians, with the boot now on the other foot, would do well to study." —Telegraph (UK)
"A superb evocation: MacGregor strips away the layers of myth—using a powerful array of sources—and takes us to the brutal heart of this pivotal battle." —Michael K. Jones, author of Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE LIGHTHOUSE OF STALINGRAD
"The battle makes for a compelling account, and MacGregor effectively uses primary sources, including the archived personal stories of Soviet veterans and the unpublished memoir of German officer Friedrich Roske, who comes fully alive in these pages.” —Kirkus Reviews
"The Lighthouse of Stalingrad is the finest of military history, utterly riveting, based on revelatory and superb research, and a heart-rending account of arguably the most impactful battle to defeat Nazism in WWII. A wonderful and important and timely book." —Alexander Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Bedford Boys
"In the midst of Moscow's bloody war on Ukraine, with Putin invoking 'glorious victories' of World War II to inspire his country, Iain MacGregor's vivid, dramatic, day-by-day account reminds us that the awful reality of Stalingrad for soldiers on both sides was: 'The lucky ones bled, froze or starved to death in temporary field hospitals in bunkers or cellars.'” —William Taubman, Pulitzer prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era
"Stunning. History at its very best: a blend of impeccably researched scholarship, genuinely revelatory primary sources, and a beautifully written narrative. The grim brutality of the conditions in which the men of both sides fought—and died—is brought back to life with immense clarity; one can almost smell the smoke and stench of death. Iain MacGregor’s superb book is the most compellingly readable account yet written of this iconic, notorious battle." —James Holland, author of Normandy ‘44: D-Day and the Battle for France
“If you thought you knew all about the Battle of Stalingrad, Iain Macgregor’ s gripping account will put you right. Drawing on a remarkable range of diaries, letters and memoirs, many of which have never been published before, he provides an illuminating, authoritative and unforgettable insight into the decisive days of that most terrible struggle on the banks of the Volga.” —Jonathan Dimbleby, BBC broadcaster and Sunday Times bestselling author of Barbarossa: How Hitler Lost the War
“If you believe there is nothing fresh to be written about the most decisive battle of the Second World War, Iain MacGregor’s The Lighthouse of Stalingrad will be something of a revelation. . . . The sheer brutal intimacy of his descriptions of this fighting are extraordinary. . . . This is a chilling, vivid account that helps to explain not just the Third Reich’s defeat at Stalingrad but also the myths that persist in Russia to this day—for better and, most recently, for worse.” —Frederick Taylor, author of Dresden: Tuesday 15th February 1945