Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World

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The lively, immersive story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II that fired the starting gun for the Cold War, by the internationally bestselling master of popular history Giles Milton.

Berlin’s fate was sealed at the 1945 Yalta Conference: the city, along with the rest of Germany, was to be carved up between the victorious powers―American, British, French, and Soviet. On paper, it seemed a pragmatic solution. In reality, now that the four powers were no longer united by the common purpose of defeating Germany, they wasted little time reverting to their pre-war hostility toward and suspicion of each other. The veneer of civility between Allies and Soviets was to break down in spectacular fashion. Rival systems, rival ideologies, and rival personalities ensured that Berlin became an explosive battleground.

The warring leaders who ran the zones that Berlin and Germany were divided into were charismatic, mercurial, larger-than-life men you’d sooner expect to find in a Quentin Tarantino movie than a history book, and Giles Milton brings them all to rich and thrilling life―resourced from their diaries, memoirs, and unpublished papers. We meet men like America’s explosive Frank “Howlin” Howley, a blunt sharp-tongued colonel with a relish for mischief who detested all Russians, and the Soviet Vassily Sokolovsky, who motored around Berlin in a luxury, American-made LaSalle sedan. Worldly and urbane, Sokolovsky sparkled with jokes, witty aphorisms, and folksy Russian proverbs and peppered his speech with quotes from the novels of Jane Austen.

Checkmate in Berlin will recount the first battle of the Cold War as we’ve never seen it. An exhilarating tale of intense rivalry and raw power, it is above all a story of flawed individuals who were determined to win. Just as The Third Man shed light on the Viennese underworld though the character of Harry Lime, so Checkmate in Berlin will reveal the theatre of Cold War Germany through the prism of the actors on the ground. It is a story of unprecedented drama, and one that had a profound, and often underestimated effect on the shaping of our modern world.

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