Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Checkmate in Berlin:

Those crazy Soviets don’t play well with others.

Quick synopsis:

The story of how post-World War II Berlin became split in half.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

During the height of the Berlin Airlift, a plane was landing with supplies every 30 seconds.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Winston Churchill could be kind of a mess. When giving speeches, his oratory was untouchable. After a few drinks while arguing with other heads of state, he could be a bit less effective.

My Take on Checkmate in Berlin:

This book could have been so boring. It is definitely not.

The story of how Berlin became East and West Berlin is all about post-World War II personalities going at it. (Tangent: I shudder to think how many young people have no idea Berlin was partitioned. Or the Berlin Wall. God help me.)

Giles Milton picks up right after the war ends as the Allies start to figure out what Europe looks like after cessation of hostilities. Germany, and Berlin specifically, are a mess. They have been bombed into oblivion. People are homeless without the barest necessities. On top of that, the people who can help them are the Allies, who are not all that inclined to help Germans. They do, but the tension is pretty high.

This is all just a side dish for the main course. Soviet aggression! Oh, and actually an amazing amount of passive aggression. If not for the fact that actual lives hung in the balance, the back and forth between the Soviets and everyone else borders on pure farce.

Somehow, Giles Milton made all of this come together without making it too hard to follow and keeping it interesting throughout.


This is a great book even if you are not a history nerd. Read it. Buy it here!

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