Between Giants – The Battle for the Baltics in World War 2
By Prit Buttar
Osprey Publishing (www.ospreypublishing.com)
RRP GBP £20.00
The countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are located between the borders of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. During World War 2 they were trapped between the giants of Nazi Germany who had invaded Poland and the USSR. Over the course of the war these small countries were repeatedly occupied by different forces.
The civilian population, civil organisations and local government had to repeatedly choose which side to support – the current or future occupiers. Sometimes they resorted to forming partisan units and resisted the then current occupiers.
The German invasion devastated much of the infrastructure of these countries and they became the location for much vicious fighting during the Soviet counterattacks and their push to Berlin. Numerous civilians and armed forces personnel were trapped during the Soviet attacks and there were huge battles for the Courland Bridgehead during Operation Bagration. Hundreds of thousands decided to fight to the bitter end and they never left the area.
About twenty per cent of the pre-war population of these Baltic States were killed during the War and then the curtain of the Soviet Union descended. Again, many more were killed or simply went missing. The author has sought to enlighten the public about the suffering of these States and their populations.
Pritt Buttar has conducted some first class research. His account of the bitter fighting on the Eastern Front and how the fate of these small States flowed and ebbed with the fighting and misfortunes of the war. The atrocities of the Germans in the Soviet Union and the Soviet atrocities in Germany are well known and documented but in terms of the proportion of the population lost these tiny States suffered far more than any other.
They suffered from three occupations in quick succession. Firstly there was the first Soviet occupation in 1939. Then there was the Nazi occupation of 1941 followed by the Soviet occupation of 1944-45. The final Soviet occupation lasted almost half a century and during these occupations there was often significant internal strife. Almost as many locals died at the hands of fellow citizens than those by the occupiers.
This volume is likely to become the “reference” book on the fate of the Baltic States during World War 2. The author’s research has produced an excellent text and it is a very enjoyable read. He does not condone or praise the opposing sides of the conflict but presents their actions against the backdrop of the then situation and not with post-war prejudices. He deserves a “Well done” and significant praise for his scholarly work.