The last defenders of Berlin, those that faced the massive and well-equipped Red Army in April 1945, numbered about 75,000. They were made up of army, SS, Luftwaffe, Volkssturm (very young and very old civilian militia), police and Hitler Youth. They were very short of weapons, armour, food and fuel, and desperately short of ammunition. The final outcome of the battle was never in doubt, yet it has continued to fascinate many people, not least because of the enormous consequences it had on the history of Europe.
It could be said that this set rose from the ashes of Odemar’s first attempt to show this subject – an attempt that was cancelled due to production difficulties. However the figures from that set (seen here) were used as the starting point for those in this one, as shown above. The first two rows show what seem to be clearly military subjects. The first figure wears an overcoat and helmet but has a very unmilitary full beard and an armband, suggesting he is from the Volkssturm, the call up of old men and young boys that had little training and sometimes no weapons. The rest of the figures in these rows wear an assortment of military clothing, and so could be used for many formations. The clothing is very varied, including smocks, camouflage and some late war items that are fine for this subject. The last figure in the first row is wearing a gasmask, which is quite strange as there would be no danger of gas being used. This could perhaps have been worn to protect from dust but we felt this was not a wise choice by the designer. The fourth figure in row two has a large gorget indicating he is probably part of the Feldgendarmerie or military police. The second and fifth figures in that row wear shorts and short sleeves, which makes us think they may be intended to represent the Hitler Youth. Certainly it was not shorts weather during this battle, yet eye-witness accounts confirm shorts were worn by defenders at the time.
The final row has some more figures of particular note. The first appears to be a policeman, and beside him is a man with a neck flap attached to his helmet, giving him the appearance of a fireman. The last two figures are of women, but they have a fairly standard uniform that could belong to one of several organisations.
The weaponry on display is a pretty good mix of the assorted armoury available to these people. It includes an assault rifle and several copies of the famous Panzerfaust, the one-shot anti-tank weapon that was issued in large numbers for this battle. We were surprised to find the Volkssturm man carrying a Panzerschreck anti-tank weapon – a rather sophisticated one to be in his hands, so he is fortunate indeed to have it.
The poses are not a particularly active lot, even allowing for the fact that, as defenders, the Germans would have spent more time being static than the Soviets. There are a lot of people apparently just standing holding their weapons and relatively few who seem in the midst of battle. Some of the poses are quite awkward too. The policeman seems to be throwing a grenade, but doing so very unconvincingly, while the Hitler Youth boy is firing his Panzerfaust incorrectly (to be fair this could be a sign of his poor training and apparently did happen).
The sculpting on these figures is not particularly good, with some being quite flat and a fairly rough quality in places. However some like the man running are not at all flat and quite nicely done. It is good to report, especially given their pedigree, that there is very little flash on show here.
These are not good-looking figures but if you happen to be building a game or diorama of the last days of Berlin then this does offer something new. Odemars deserve credit for investing in an improved product after the problems with the initial set, but compared to the best on the market (which inevitably includes the Pegasus set) the quality of these figures still has a lot of room for improvement.