Zitadelle (citadel) was the German code name for their planned operation to force back the Russian forces around the Kursk salient and to regain the offense footing on the war in the east. A very impressive book that delves deeply into this massive land battle on the Eastern Front, Zitadelle not only goes into great detail
regarding the strategies of both armies but also the dynamics that brought them to this point. The author
delves into the commanding generals, their expertise in setting the strategies for their forces, and their relationships with their respective leaders, Hitler and Stalin.
This battle, up until the 1973 war in the
Middle East, has always been considered the largest tank battle in history. While the Germans fought at an extremely high level of skill and professionalism, they made a major error in allowing the Russian forces the time to prepare their defenses in depth
- a skill that by that time the Russians had developed into a fine art. Due to a variety of German delays, the Russians were given enough time to build their defensive structures. Those defenses, combined with overwhelming Russian suppositories of men and materials, culminated in a conclusion that was almost predetermined. The Russians could afford to lose men and tanks and ground; the Germans could ill afford any of those losses.
Especially interesting is the analysis of both the German and Russian economies of these war years. The book reveals how poorly prepared both countries were for the all-out war that erupted between them since the German invasion of Russia in 1941. Even by late 1942, the German economy was not on an all-out war footing due to their early successes in the West. Hitler still thought victory would be quick and decisive in the East and did not see the need to fully mobilize the German industrial capability. Also of great interest
is the widely differing approaches to weapons design and manufacturing. The German armaments companies wanted the best designed and built weapons systems. Adhering to that strategy always takes longer and costs more. Even when the German military asked for weapons that could be brought to the field more quickly with a little less quality, the historical German approach to weapons design and manufacture was slow to change. The Russians deployed a quantity-versus-quality war-making mentality that they endorsed until the end of the
Zitadelle is not for the novice WWII buff who wants a light overview about this critical key battle. The level of depth and detail could soon overwhelm the casual reader looking for a quick snapshot of this point in history. It is,
however, a great book for the WWII aficionado who wants to delve into the details from both a military and economic perspective that brought about this huge clash of armored forces.