Andrew Nagorski is a senior editor at Newsweek International and author of several books, including The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II.
From Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg's interview with Nagorski for the Wall Street Journal, November 2007:
Read the full interview.
The Wall Street Journal Online: How did you choose this topic?
Andrew Nagorski: Having served in Moscow twice, I was a bit skeptical about doing anything related to the Great Patriotic War. There is so much propaganda and so much information that has been sanitized. My agent, a militant history buff, said look, this battle has never gotten its proper due.
There is more than just a military history here; there are so many personal stories that could be told. I began doing some interviews and looking at what was coming out of the archives, and I realized this was fascinating on every level. I felt I would learn a lot by talking to people. Also there were people willing to open up near the end of their lives. It was a chapter of the war that deserved to be told.
WSJ.com: How were the Russians able to lose nearly 2 million killed, wounded or taken prisoner in such a short period and continue fighting?
Mr. Nagorski: Stalin considered his manpower his most expendable element. The reason that the losses were so colossal was that Stalin's mistakes leading up to the war were colossal. In Putin's Russia, the cult of Stalin has been somewhat revived. My book shows that in the beginning of the war, he was really a disaster. And he almost led his country to defeat. The purges of 1937 and 1938 meant that the officer corps was decimated. As a result, much less experienced officers were leading the military when Hitler attacked. And Stalin refused to believe everyone who told him that Hitler was getting ready to attack. So he didn't allow his army to prepare properly. Huge numbers surrendered or were killed in those early days.
Read an excerpt from The Greatest Battle, and learn more about the writer and his work at Andrew Nagorski's website.