Fortress Budapest 1-2

Published: November 4th, 2020     
Product Image
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Author: Kamen Nevenkin
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
Company: Peko Publishing
ISBN #: 978-615-80072-5-2
Other Publication Information: Hard Bound, Portrait, 6.69” x 9.44”, 1576 pages
Price: $129.95
Product provided by: Casemate Publishers

Although the idea itself was born earlier, the Hungarian Peko Publishing, was established in 2012. Even though this is quite a young company, it became popular and well known by the modeling community in a short period of time. The key to their success is that they own thousands of original photographs, most of which have not yet been published. PeKo Publishing Books are distributed in North America by Casemate Publications.

Kamen Nevenkin was born and lives in Sofia, Bulgaria. His interest in the Second World War dates back to his early childhood, but it was only in year 2000 when he decided to go professional. In the years that followed he devoted himself to hard work, mastering languages, studying and collecting a wealth of archival materials. The latter included several onsite visits to the military archive in Freiburg, Germany. The first result of all these efforts was a reference book dedicated to late-war German panzer divisions, "Fire Brigades". The book received excellent reviews all over the world and became an instant hit with the fans of military history. Over the past couple of years, Kamen Nevenkin has focused his research exclusively on the battles on the Eastern Front in 1944-1945. Despite the narrowing of the focus of his research, he remains faithful to the principles he had followed while writing "Fire Brigades", namely - working with archival documents, ignoring the myths imposed on the public for decades and bias-free approach to the themes he is researching. In his work, he is guided by the principle of the balanced approach and by his belief that since there are two sides in a battle, the viewpoints of both belligerents should be made known to the public. His language skills include English, Russian, German, as well as some other East European languages.

Kamen Nevenkin covers the 108-day Budapest Offensive operation, and specifically, the 50-day Siege of Budapest, a 50-day-long encirclement of the city by Soviet led forces. Encirclement of the city began the day after Christmas in 1944. Perhaps the bloodiest battle of the war ensued with thousands of military and civilian deaths. Stalin, eager to take Yugoslavia prior to the Yalta summit, pushed his generals to make quick work of Budapest. The first push into the city ended in failure on the prepared earthworks that halted the vaunted Soviet tanks. These rows of tank ditches were dubbed the 'Attila Line' and were quite effective, despite the Soviet command being fully aware of them. The second factor was the German and Magyar (Hungarian) defenders. The Russians respected the German army but was quite surprised by the Magyar's ferocity on the battlefield. Soviet adjustments to improve cooperation amongst the Soviet generals, eventually carried the day for the Allies, but only after many tactical mistakes.

The arrival of an anti-aircraft regiment and a battalion of radar and searchlights in mid-January 1945 proved to be the turning point by effectively ending the German airlift to Budapest. Short on supplies, the German led defense literally ran for the hills before an unconditional surrender was agreed to on February 13, 1945.

Kamen Nevenkin goes into depth into what led to the Siege of Budapest, details about every unit involved by all combatants, the aviation, armored fighting vehicles, artillery, and the infantry equipment used. The conversion of Budapest into a fortress is detailed along with the city's structure, including its suburbs. Combat operations are covered on nearly a daily basis.

This huge two volume tome is split into two parts. The first volume is 1,107 pages of pure text. All of the photographs, sketches, and maps are provided in the second volume. The cover photograph of Volume 1 depicts the wreck of a Jg.Pz. 38(t) Hetzer on Fo Street 81. The cover photograph of Volume 2 is a trackless Zrinyi II assault gun that belonged to First Lieutenant Tibor Ratz on Krisztina Boulevard. I counted 83 black and white maps with color highlights that were often accompanied by black and white photos of the buildings in the maps. There are also 31 black and white sketches, 26 with color highlighting. These maps and sketches depict the military movements in the city along with the battles for the strongholds. I also counted 729 black and white photographs. The Table of Contents includes the following sections (Please note, I have excluded subchapters that are dates due to their sheer quantity):

  • Fortress Budapest 1
  • Foreword by the Publisher
  • Chapter 1: The Bloody Road to Budapest
  • Chapter 2: The Strategic Bombing Campaign
    • The Allied Bombing Campaign
    • The Soviet Bombing Raids
    • The Actions of the Soviet Long-Range Air Force Against Budapest
    • The Kill Claims of the German Night Fighters
  • Chapter 3: The "Attila" Line - Budapest Becomes a "Fortified Place"
    • Pest Bridgehead
  • Chapter 4: The Defenders - The Axis Forces - A General Overview
    • The German Divisions Were Organized Very Much Alike
    • Defending "Fortress Budapest"
    • III. Panzer Korps
    • The Budapest Group
    • Hungarian I. Army Corps
  • Chapter 5: The Red Army - Stalin's Sledgehammer
    • Infantry
    • Armored Troops
    • Tank Army
    • Mechanized Corps
    • Tank Corps
    • Independent Brigades and Regiments
    • Artillery
    • Artillery Divisions
    • Light Artillery Brigades
    • Howitzer Artillery Brigades
    • Heavy Howitzer Artillery Brigades
    • Cannon Artillery Brigades
    • Super-Heavy Artillery Brigades
    • Mortar Brigades
    • "Army" Brigades and Regiments
    • Anti-Aircraft Artillery Divisions
    • The Tank Killers
    • Rocket Artillery
    • Combat Engineers
  • Chapter 6: The Prize
    • The Setting
    • Buda
    • Pest
    • Transport and Communications
    • Road Network
    • Railway Network
    • Public Transport
    • Air Traffic
    • River Traffic
    • Bridges
  • Chapter 7: The First Onslaught - The 46th Army Attacks Pest, 2-4 November 1944
    • The Prelude
    • The Raid of Zhdanov's Corps
    • The Soviet Push From the South
    • Zhdanov's Corps Is Stopped
    • Sviridov's Corps Is Beaten Back, Too
    • The New Soviet Plan
    • The Battle Reaches Its Climax
  • Chapter 8: The Slogging March - The Positional Battles Along the Southern Limits of Pest, 5-11 November 1944
    • Stopped at the Gates
    • The Slogging Match
    • The Front Is Stabilized
  • Chapter 9: The Second Soviet Attack - A Change in the Plan
    • The Offensive of 7th Guards Army
    • General Conclusions
    • The Offensive of 46th Army
  • Chapter 10: The Third Battle: Attack From the North
    • The Regrouping of the Soviet Assault Formations
    • The Plan
    • The Axis Troops
    • The Battle Begins
  • Chapter 11: The Taking of Vac and the Attack on Budapest from the North, 8-11 December 1944
    • The Defenders
    • Preliminary Situation
    • The Soviet Plans for the Continuation of the Offensive
  • Chapter 12: The Fighting on Csepel Island, The Landing at Ercsi
    • The Fighting on Csepel Island
    • The Landing at Ercsi
  • Chapter 13: The Attack from the Northeast: 155th Rifle Division and 27th Guards Tank Brigade Attack Fot, 9-14 December 194
    • The Defenders
    • The Attackers
    • The Soviet Plans
    • Preliminary Situation
    • The Aftermath
  • Chapter 14: Between the Epoly and the Garam
    • The Soviet Plan
    • The Opposing Forces
    • The Soviet Offensive
  • Chapter 15: The Breakthrough from the North: The Offensive of 30th Rifle Corps, 20-31 December 1944
    • The Plans
    • The Devil Is Always in the Details
    • The Defenders
    • The Attackers
  • Chapter 16: The Rumanians Strike from the East: 7th Army Corps (Rum.) Attacks the Pest Bridgehead, 5-31 December 1944
    • The Rumanian 7th Army Corps
    • The Advantage on Budapest
    • The Rumanians Resume the Assault
  • Chapter 17: The Offensive of 46th Army Against the Southern Sector of the Pest Bridgehead in the First Half of December 1944
    • Change of Priorities
    • Dunaharaszti
    • Vecses - Maglod - Isaszeg
  • Chapter 18: Containing Afonin's Onslaught - The Offensive of 18th Guards Rifle Corps Against the Southern Sector of the Pest Bridgehead, 16-30 December 1944
    • The Breakthrough
    • The Death of the Parley Delegates
    • Ultimatum
  • Chapter 19: Festung Budapest (Budapest as a Fortress)
    • Budapest Becomes a Fortress
    • Buda Bridgehead
    • Internal City Defense System
    • Logistic System
  • Chapter 20: The Besiegers
    • The Pest Side
    • The Buda Side
    • Miscellaneous Troops
    • Tactics
    • The Rifle Divisions
  • Chapter 21: The Besieged - The German and Hungarian Troops Trapped in Budapest
    • The Garrison
    • The Germans
    • The Hungarians
  • Chapter 22: The Encirclement of Buda and the Clearing of the Danube Bend
    • The Crossing of the Danube at Ercsi
    • Breaking Through the "Margit" Line
    • Clearing of the Danube Bend
  • Chapter 23: The Soviet Offensive in Obuda, 27 December 1944 - 3 January 1945
    • Fighting Back to Back
    • The Actions North of Buda
    • The Offensive of 37th Rifle Corps
    • The Actions of the 37th Rifle Corps
  • Chapter 24: The Soviet Breakthrough into Pest 1-11 January 1945
    • The Night
    • The Day
  • Chapter 25: The Fall of Pest: The Fighting in the City Centre, 12-18 January 1945
    • The Budapest Group
  • Chapter 26: The Taking of Margit Island
    • The Setting
    • The Battle
  • Chapter 27: The Fall of Buda
    • Group "Budapest" Relocates to the Western Bank
    • The Axis Garrison
    • The Soviet Plan
    • The Taking of Obuda
    • Conclusions
    • The Breakthrough in the Middle
    • The Crushing of the Buda Bridgehead
    • The Stalemate Along Margit and Krisztina Boulevards
  • Chapter 28: The Breakout
    • The Preparations
    • The Assault
    • The Destruction of the Last Pockets of Resistance in the Castle District and Buda Area
  • Chapter 29: The Air War - The Units, the Machines, the Tactics
    • The Opposing Tactical Air Forces
    • Tactical Air Operations Before the Siege
    • The Axis Air Defense
    • The Tactics Employed by the VVS During the Siege
    • The Air War Chronology of the Soviet Aerial Activity
  • Chapter 30: The Supply War - The German Supply Efforts and the Soviet Countermeasures
    • The Preliminary Situation
    • General Overview
    • Air-Supply Operations Staff "Budapest"
    • The Air Transport Units
    • The Equipment
    • Airfields and Support Facilities
    • The Air Supply Operations Until the Fall of Pest
    • The Air Supply Operations Until the End of the Siege
  • Summary and Conclusions
    • The Soviet Reaction to the Axis Airlift
    • The Reluctant Kriegsmarine
    • The Odyssey of the German Supply Barge
    • "Destroy the Bridges!"
    • Supply War: Soviet Kill Claims
    • Supply War: Other Soviet Claims
  • Epilogue: The Siege of Budapest, Myth and Reality
    • The Inevitable Siege
    • The Planning: Malinovsky, Tolbukhin and the Others
    • The Combat Performance of the Soviet Troops
    • The Numbers
    • The Rumanians
    • The Defenders
    • The Axis Numbers
  • Sources

 

  • Fortress Budapest 2
  • Maps
  • List of Keys
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Strongholds
  • Sketches
  • Photos
  • Prelude
  • Fights in the City
  • Aerial Photos
  • The Breakout
  • Budapest Under Siege
  • Military Equipment
  • Command Centre on Sas-Hegy Hill
  • The Soviet Danube Flotilla and the Air Forces
  • Persons
  • Leaflets

 

This tale has been told before, but not in depth like this. Kamen Nevenkin had access to newly declassified Soviet archives resulting in a strong Soviet point of view in conjunction with the German and Hungarian viewpoints. This certainly is not a quick read, but it is a fascinating one. I particularly enjoyed the multitude of first person accounts. The use of the stronghold photographs next to the maps and sketches give a rich perspective of what you are seeing in the photographs.

There are many first person accounts throughout the book. One that still sticks with me was the capture of the Budapest Opera House on January 16, 1945. The Opera House had been ordered to be spared if possible by the Soviet command, so artillery preparation was not utilized. Soldiers attacked and faced close combat that would break down into fierce hand-to-hand fighting. The Germans were forced to flee the Opera House followed by and exhausting search of the building to root out any other fascists. Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Zushmanovich was participating in the search when the crying of children was heard coming from the Opera House's cellar. Running into the smoky basement Zushmanovich ran into the confusion of villagers. After reassuring the people several times in German, English, and French, a man came forward and said:

"I am Mihaly Szekely, an opera singer. These men and women are all performing artists or theatre workers. We have been living here, in the basement for more than two months now in the darkness without anything decent to eat, sometimes even without water. The Germans told us all the Soviet soldiers are savage beasts, who would rape women and murder us all..."

Zushmanovich ordered his soldiers to bring as much bread as they could and to establish a soup kitchen next to the Opera House. This was completed within 30-minutes. The villagers threw themselves at the bread and soup. One young man excitedly asked:

"Will the theatres be allowed to reopen? Will the artists be allowed to play?

The Lieutenant Colonel laughingly answered:

"Oh Sure they will. Will you do it, just for now? We, Soviet people, love music, songs, theatre."

The Hungarians began consulting among themselves. Then a young woman stepped up to Zushmanovich.

"I am Julia Orosz, a singer. If we may, we'd like to put a concert on here, among the ruins. We have nothing with which to express our gratitude for your friendship and support."

So amidst the gunfire sounding from outside the Opera House, folksongs rang out in the dim light inside the cold walls...The faces of the soldiers lit up with smiles...A sergeant handed over his submachine gun to his comrade, placed his cap on his head and started dancing...

Fortress Budapest is not a short read; it took me nearly two weeks. Still, Kamen Nevenkin has a great writing style and will keep you engaged. This two volume set has a high price point, but it is an incredible value for that price. I'm guessing this will sell very quickly, so get yours now while they are still at a reasonable price. You are getting 1,576 pages with over 700 photographs. If you have any interest in World War II, this is an incredible work.

My thanks to Casemate Publications, PeKo Publishing Kft., and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

Frank Landrus, IPMS# 35035

  • Peko Fortress Budapest -1 Front Cover
    Peko Fortress Budapest -1 Front Cover
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