Historian produces a new view of D-Day





Antony Beevor, having published internationally acclaimed World War II accounts of the battle of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin, had assumed that his next front of historical endeavour would be the siege of Leningrad.

But the British author and professor was required to change his strategy earlier this decade when the Soviet archives that had served as the foundation for much of his work were closed to foreign researchers.

Beevor's colleagues even suggested that he was to blame for the decision, the assumption being that the Russians were miffed that certain details contained in Stalingrad and Berlin: The Downfall 1945 did not paint the Red Army in the most heroic light.

Whatever the reason, any professional disappointment Beevor might have felt was mitigated by a sense of personal relief.

The brutality of the fighting on the Eastern Front was hard to stomach, even from a safe historical remove.

It was such that the author's Russian research assistant was often reduced to tears by eyewitness accounts contained in the archives of the Soviet secret service and other sources.

"I had a bit of a nervous breakdown at the end of the Berlin, not just because of the pressure of finishing the book on time but because of the horror of the material," Beevor says, on the line from his home in London...

... At the encouragement of his publisher, Beevor switched his focus to the Western Front. D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, now out in Canada after being published in the U.K. earlier this year, is not without its share of carnage, with much of the worst fighting coming after the successful landing on the beaches on June 6, 1944. Beevor will promote the book during public events in Toronto on Tuesday at the U of T (www.tinyurl.com/beevorlunch) and the Toronto Reference Library (www.tinyurl.com/beevorlibrary).

"The myth is that after D-Day it was all over but the shouting," says Beevor. "In fact, the real fighting started with the battle for Normandy itself. That has tended to be underestimated."...


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