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The Greatest Battle

Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II

About The Book

The bestselling first authoritative account of the first colossal World War II battle between Germany and the USSR—based on previously unavailable documents, this is the battle that decided the war, and the one that Stalin tried to cover up.

The battle for Moscow was the biggest battle of World War II—the biggest battle of all time. And yet it is far less known than Stalingrad, which involved about half the number of troops. From the time Hitler launched his assault on Moscow on September 30, 1941, to April 20, 1942, seven million troops were engaged in this titanic struggle. The combined losses of both sides—those killed, taken prisoner, or severely wounded—were two and a half million, of which nearly two million were on the Soviet side. But the Soviet capital narrowly survived, and for the first time the German Blitzkrieg ended in failure. This shattered Hitler's dream of a swift victory over the Soviet Union and radically changed the course of the war.

The full story of this epic battle has never been told because it undermines the sanitized Soviet accounts of the war, which portray Stalin as a military genius and his people as heroically united against the German invader. Stalin's blunders, incompetence, and brutality made it possible for German troops to approach the outskirts of Moscow. This triggered panic in the city—with looting, strikes, and outbreaks of previously unimaginable violence. About half the city's population fled. But Hitler's blunders would soon loom even larger: sending his troops to attack the Soviet Union without winter uniforms, insisting on an immediate German reign of terror, and refusing to heed his generals' pleas that he allow them to attack Moscow as quickly as possible. In the end, Hitler's mistakes trumped Stalin's mistakes.

Drawing on declassified documents from Soviet archives, including files of the dreaded NKVD; on accounts of survivors and of children of top Soviet military and government officials; and on reports of Western diplomats and correspondents, The Greatest Battle finally illuminates the full story of a clash between two systems based on sheer terror and relentless slaughter.

Even as Moscow's fate hung in the balance, the United States and Britain were discovering how wily a partner Stalin would turn out to be in the fight against Hitler—and how eager he was to push his demands for a postwar empire in Eastern Europe. In addition to chronicling the bloodshed, Andrew Nagorski takes the reader behind the scenes of the early negotiations between Hitler and Stalin, and then between Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill.

This is a remarkable addition to the history of World War II.

About The Author

Milo Davis Photography

Andrew Nagorski served as Newsweek’s bureau chief in Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw, and Berlin. He is the author of seven previous critically acclaimed books, including Hitlerland and The Nazi Hunters. He has also written for countless publications. Visit him at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 18, 2007)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416545736

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Raves and Reviews

"Enthralling history of the defense of the Soviet capital." -- The Wall Street Journal

"[A] remarkable account of the battle...Highly recommended." -- WWII History Magazine

"A truly gripping account of arguably the most decisive and yet one of the least well known great European battles of World War II -- written with a genuine feel for the individual dimensions of warfare and compassion for the suffering of both the victors and the vanquished." -- Zbigniew Brzezinski, author of Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower

"Andrew Nagorski has written a gripping story of a strangely underappreciated event that profoundly shaped our world. Nagorski's morally acute, forceful, grimly enlightening account, enriched by interviews with surviving participants, is an urgent reminder of the totalitarian nightmare from which we in the blessed West only narrowly escaped." -- Richard Bernstein, former Berlin bureau chief of The New York Times and author of Fragile Glory: A Portrait of France and the French

"With his dogged reporting, Nagorski has delivered a gripping account of warfare at its cruelest and rawest." -- Max Boot, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today

"...a new and beautifully researched account of what had been a poorly understood part of the war." -- Anne Applebaum, The New York Review of Books

"A landmark in studies of Russia....A fine diplomatic and military history, but its real triumph is in the voices Nagorski collected....Let's pause and listen, as voices -- not conquered territories -- are what matters most." --Constantine Pleshakov, The Washington Post Book World

"Enthralling history of the defense of the Soviet capital.... Nagorski shows [that] Moscow was a turning point: At long last the fearsome blitzkrieg had been forced to a standstill, shattering the myth of Nazi invincibility." -- Ned Crabb, The Wall Street Journal

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