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The desperate struggle between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army for Budapest in 1944 and 1945 was as lethal and destructive as any of the urban battles fought during the Second World War. The losses of men and equipment sustained by the Germans were so great that they hastened the collapse of Hitler’s regime. Yet what happened in Budapest is less well remembered today than other flash points in the conflict on the Eastern Front. Anthony Tucker-Jones’s photographic history is a fascinating and graphic introduction to this neglected episode in the closing months of the war.
The battle began with Operation Panzerfaust in October 1944 when the Germans seized Hungarian leader Admiral Horthy to prevent his country defecting to the Soviets. Red Army advances then left German and Hungarian units trapped in the city and sparked fifty days of intense fighting. Then in March 1945 Hitler launched Operation Spring Awakening, the reckless final German offensive of the war, designed to recapture Budapest and stabilize the Eastern Front. It failed spectacularly, opening the road to Vienna for the Red Army. The selection of archive photographs gives a sharp insight into every aspect of the fighting in and around Budapest and records the ravaged city the battle left behind.