Battle for the Ruhr

The German Army's Final Defeat in the West

Derek S. Zumbro

With Allied armies poised on the banks of the Rhine, Nazi Germany tottered on the brink of collapse. The ensuing battles on German soil—especially those in the so-called Ruhr Pocket—were as fierce and hard-fought as any in the European theater. Going well beyond previous accounts, Derek Zumbro chronicles this key military campaign from a unique and fresh perspective—that of the defeated German soldiers and civilians caught in the final maelstrom of the war's western front.

Best known for his translation of In Deadly Combat, the bestselling World War II memoir, Zumbro chronicles the relentless assault on the Ruhr Pocket through German eyes, as the Allied juggernaut battered the region's cities, villages, and homes into submission. He tells of children pressed into service by a desperate Nazi regime-and of even more desperate parents trying to save their sons from sacrifice at the eleventh hour. He also tells of unspeakable conditions suffered by foreign laborers, POWs, and political opponents in the Ruhr Valley and of the mass graves that gave Allied soldiers a grisly new understanding of their enemy.

“A masterful account of the final collapse of the German forces along the Rhine front in the early months of 1945. Zumbro deliberately sets out to tell the story of the campaign from the German perspective. . . . Zumbro truly succeeds in creating an account of not just the military experience but the human one as well. The balance is perfectly struck. An essential contribution to the literature on the war.

—Journal of Military History

Battle for the Ruhr is a fascinating book providing fresh insight that many may find disturbing, but is a story that has value and is a welcome addition to the genre associated with Army Group B and the final days of the war. Zumbro has clearly fulfilled his stated intent of providing insight into a little-discussed aspect of the war: the way in which the defeated enemy experienced and viewed the U.S. soldier as a conqueror, while recounting a compelling chronicle of human experience.

—Parameters
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Zumbro also recounts the story of Field Marshal Walter Model's final hours. His eventual suicide effectively ended the existence of the Wehrmacht's once-formidable Army Group B after being pursued, methodically encircled, and finally destroyed by U.S. and British forces. Through interviews with surviving members of Model's former staff, Zumbro has uncovered the attitudes-and harrowing experiences-of beleaguered officers that official records could never convey.

Other interviews with former soldiers reveal the extent to which Allied bombing contributed to the rapid deterioration of German combat effectiveness and tell of civilians begging soldiers to abandon the war. Zumbro's deep research reveals the identities of specific characters discussed in previous works but never identified, describes the final hours of German officers executed for the loss of the bridge at Remagen, and offers new insight into Model's acquiescence to Hitler in military affairs.

By taking us inside the first-hand experiences and memories of Germans from Reichsmarshals to Burgermeisters, Battle for the Ruhr gives a profound and harrowing ground-level view of the enormous destructive power of war.

About the Author

Derek S. Zumbro, a former Navy Special Warfare (SEAL) officer, is a respected translator of German-language sources whose translation of Gottlob Bidermann’s In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier’s Memoir of the Eastern Front was a main selection of the History Book Club.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series