• Checkmate in Berlin

  • The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World
  • By: Giles Milton
  • Narrated by: Giles Milton
  • Length: 13 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (100 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

This program is read by the author.

From a master of popular history, the lively, immersive story of the race to seize Berlin in the aftermath of World War II as it’s never been told before

BERLIN’S FATE WAS SEALED AT THE 1945 YALTA CONFERENCE: the city, along with the rest of Germany, was to be carved up among the victorious powers - the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. On paper, it seemed a pragmatic solution. In reality, once the four powers were no longer united by the common purpose of defeating Germany, they wasted little time reverting to their prewar hostility toward - and suspicion of - one another. The veneer of civility between the Western allies and the Soviets was to break down in spectacular fashion in Berlin. Rival systems, rival ideologies, and rival personalities ensured that the German capital became an explosive battleground.

The warring leaders who ran Berlin’s four sectors were charismatic, mercurial men, and Giles Milton brings them all to rich and thrilling life here. We meet unforgettable individuals like America’s explosive Frank “Howlin’ Mad” Howley, a brusque sharp-tongued colonel with a relish for mischief and a loathing for all Russians. Appointed commandant of the city’s American sector, Howley fought an intensely personal battle against his wily nemesis, General Alexander Kotikov, commandant of the Soviet sector. Kotikov oozed charm as he proposed vodka toasts at his alcohol-fueled parties, but Howley correctly suspected his Soviet rival was Stalin’s agent, appointed to evict the Western allies from Berlin and ultimately from Germany as well.

Throughout, Checkmate in Berlin recounts the first battle of the Cold War as we’ve never before 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, and Milton does a masterful job of weaving between all the key players’ motivations and thinking at every turn. A story of unprecedented human drama, it’s one that had a profound, and often underestimated, shaping force on the modern world – one that’s still felt today.

A Macmillan Audio production from Henry Holt and Company

©2021 Giles Milton (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about Checkmate in Berlin

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Excellent history of the early days of the Cold War

I really enjoyed this. It filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of what happened between the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War in earnest. Lots of fascinating characters. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the period.

6 people found this helpful

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Enlightening Book

Brilliantly written. Full of facts and interesting characters. Would make an excellent Documentary for Television.

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Best author/ narrator in the business

Giles Milton is a most talented author. Not only can he make history come to life, but he narrates like a full time narrator. He can do it all. He makes post war Berlin come to life like a live action spy novel. It’s cat and mouse non stop. Bravo!!

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superbly researched and written.

great descriptions of the tragedies and intrigues brought on in the negotiations at the end of WWll. the failures by western leaders in dealing with Stalin are striking. this is a must for any history buff interested in the development of post war Europe and Berlin in particular. Great narrator. a book for your next cross country trip.
where is Hollywood on this one? this would be an extraordinary miniseries like Band of Brothers. captivating story that lends itself to the people craving great intrigue and spectacle only coming from stories of great and powerful events.

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Great detail on Berlin after ww2

Author is narrator. I really enjoyed this story. Gave me facts without favoring one side over the other. But I favored one side!

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Powerful story, splendidly recounted

Giles Milton is a remarkable historian, able to blend original research with telling anecdotes and a highly principled, empathetic point of view. This book is a gripping page-turner as it recounts the suffering of post-war Berliners, and the efforts of not-too-noble heroes and not-beyond-redemption villains to determine the fate of the city and its inhabitants. The author is also the narrator, and he knows exactly where to put the inflection points. Overall, as text and narrative, this is a splendid achievement.

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Not what I expected… even better

I heard Giles Martin on a podcast talking about post-war Berlin, so I looked up this book. It was a shockingly deep investment on the dramatic split up of Berlin and the battle of the allies over land, politics, and resources.

A great addition is that it’s read by the author, so there’s nothing lost in perception.

I highly recommend if you’re looking for a post-war/pre-cold war book that moves quickly and at times reads like a dramatic novel.