Between Giants: The Battle for The Baltics in World War II

Between Giants: The Battle for The Baltics in World War II

Hardback General Military

By (author) Prit Buttar

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  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing
  • Format: Hardback | 416 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 234mm x 38mm | 748g
  • Publication date: 21 May 2013
  • Publication City/Country: Osprey
  • ISBN 10: 1780961634
  • ISBN 13: 9781780961637
  • Illustrations note: 35 MONO
  • Sales rank: 126,628

Product description

During World War II, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia found themselves trapped between the giants of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Over the course of the war these states were repeatedly occupied by different forces, and local government organizations and individuals were forced to choose between supporting the occupying forces or forming partisan units to resist their occupation. Devastated during the German invasion, these states then became the site of some of the most vicious fighting during the Soviet counter-attack and push towards Berlin. Many would be caught up in the bitter fighting in the region and, in particular, in the huge battles for the Courland Bridgehead during Operation Bagration, when hundreds of thousands of soldiers would fight and die in the last year of the war. By the end of the war, death and deportation had cost the Baltic States over 20 per cent of their total population and Soviet occupation was to see the iron curtain descend on the region for four decades. Using numerous first-hand accounts and detailed archival research, Prit Buttar weaves a magisterial account of the bitter fighting on the Eastern Front and the three small states whose fates were determined by the fortunes and misfortunes of war.

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Author information

Prit Buttar studied medicine at Oxford and London before joining the British Army as a doctor. After leaving the army, he has worked as a GP, first near Bristol and now in Abingdon. He is extensively involved in medical politics, both at local and national level, and serves on the GPs' Committee of the British Medical Association. He appears from time to time on local and national TV and radio, speaking on a variety of medical issues. He contributes regularly to the medical press. An expert on the Eastern Front during World War II, he previously wrote the critically acclaimed Battleground Prussia: The Assault on Germany's Eastern Front 1944-45 (Osprey 2010).

Review quote

"[A] carefully balanced account of the predicament in which Balts found themselves...Mr. Buttar is himself an army veteran, and it is from the military perspective that he relates the savage unraveling of the Baltic world during World War II's last year. There's plenty here on weaponry, on tactics and strategy." "Andrew Stuttaford, The Wall Street Journal" "A magisterial account, "Between Giants "does not attempt to judge the decisions made by the leaders and the people of the Baltic States, who struggled to reconcile the situation in which they found themselves with their own aspirations. It elucidates the terrible destruction and bloodshed that had such a devastating effect on this corner of Europe, the consequences of which are still felt today."- Savannah Jones, "By magnificently mining and marshaling sources, Buttar potently recaps this tragic chapter in Baltic history. Serious students of WWII's Eastern Front should make Osprey's terrific tome required reading."- David E. Veres, "Buttar potently recaps [a] tragic chapter in Baltic history."- David L. Veres,

Table of contents

Introduction * Brief outline of the independence wars, and the relationships between the Baltic States, Germany and the Soviet Union. * The political situation in the three states during the 1930s. * Discussion of the ethnic tensions within Lithuania and Latvia and its consequences for what followed. Chapter 1. The first Soviet occupation * Soviet intentions towards the Baltic States: Stalin's xenophobia; the classification of the Baltic States as 'enemy nations;' the purging of Baltic communists within the Soviet Union; exploitation of racial disharmony in Latvia and Lithuania. * The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the 'mutual assistance treaties' and the arrival of Soviet troops. * The Soviet occupation of the Baltic States in 1940; Soviet policy after occupation; mass deportations in 1941; the polarisation of ethnic tensions in Latvia and Lithuania. Chapter 2. German intentions towards the Baltic States * Rosenberg and plans for the creation of Ostland. * The deployment of Army Group North. * The Einsatzgruppen and their orders. Chapter 3. The German conquest * The swift conquest of Lithuania and Latvia. * The destruction of the Soviet 8th and 11th Armies. * The Battle of Raseiniai between Hoepner's 4th Panzer Group (Reinhardt's XLI Panzer Corps, Manstein's LVI Panzer Corps) and the Soviet III and XII Mechanised Corps; the resumption of the German advance. * The seizure of Tallinn. 4. The Baltic Holocaust * Lithuanian and Latvian actions against Jews. * The creation of ghettoes. * The arrival of Jews from Western Europe. * Mass extermination. * The role of Latvians and Lithuanians in Soviet territory. 5. Reluctant allies * Baltic police units and anti-partisan operations. * The creation of SS formations. * The deployment of Estonian and Latvian SS Divisions and their war record. 6. The Soviet conquest of Estonia * The Red Army's advance from Leningrad and the Panther Line. * The fall of Tallinn. * The capture of the Baltic islands. 7. The battles for Riga. * The initial isolation of Army Group North, and the counter-attack by von Saucken (4th, 5th, 7th Panzer Divisions and Grossdeutschland) and von Strachwitz (Operations Doppelkopf and Casar). * The Soviet advances towards Riga and German attempts to disrupt it. 8. Bagramian's drive to Memel * The drive to the Baltic coast. * The battles between Soviet units and Grossdeutschland, 5th Panzer Division and 7th Panzer Division. * The siege of Memel. 9. The first three battles for Courland * Early Soviet attempts to break into Courland; the vital role of 4th, 12th and 14th Panzer Divisions. * Rising opposition to the German presence in Courland. 10. The last three battles for Courland * The final battles in Courland. * The growing partisan movement. * The fate of Baltic units elsewhere in the Reich. 11. The surrender * German attempts to evacuate the Courland bridgehead. * The final surrender. * The fate of Germans and Baltic citizens in Sweden.