New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

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Le Page
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New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Le Page » 17 Dec 2014 01:16

Just noticed this; it's not out until January sometime. Anyone heard anything about it, or the author?

On the Devil's Tail: In Combat with the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1945, and with the French in Indochina 1951-54

This is the riveting true story of Paul Martelli, a fifteen-year-old German-Italian, who fought in Pomerania, on the Eastern Front, in 1945 as a member of the 33. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS "Charlemagne" and, later, as a soldier with French forces during three years (1951-1954) in the Tonkin area, Vietnam.

Paul recounts his time at the Sennheim military training base, where he was introduced to the rigorous discipline of body and mind: he then goes back to 1940, during the German invasion of France, when he was still a boy in Lorraine, hinting at his motivations for enlisting with the Waffen SS. He reveals his and many young soldiers' exciting and often humorous escapades at Greifenberg, his first love with a German girl helping refugees, his experiences and feelings during the combats at Körlin, during the strenuous defense of Kolberg, while regrouping at Neustrelitz and at the German defeat. With a companion he ends up at a castle delivering a group of women camp prisoners to a Russian officer, living in disguise among enemy soldiers until he escapes and surrender to the Americans.

After his sentence, imprisonment, evasions and military service in Morocco, Paul is sent to fight in defense of bases north of Hanoi, Vietnam. He survives three years of fierce combats, assaults, ambushes, night patrols, fatal traps and mortal risks but, deep down, he compares his service with the Waffen SS during the last year of war with the inefficiency of the French Expeditionary Force in the Far East and comes out deeply frustrated. At almost 26, he has fought and lost in two wars, both against the communists, be they Soviet or Viet-Minh. Unemployed, and with the ideals of a 'Nouvelle Europe' in pieces, he briefly joins the French Foreign Legion, his last hope, but in the end choses another path.

This is a unique memoir, packed with incident and recounting the story of one individual caught up in a series of life-changing events.

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Sid Guttridge » 24 Dec 2014 16:23

Although perhaps interesting in its own right, this book does not apparently deal with Berlin at all. The author appears to be among the 95% of ex-Charlemagne men who did not serve there.

This perhaps helps reinforce the point that few ex-Charlemagne men served in Berlin and even these seem to have been selected by judicious use of peer group pressure.

We don't seem to have any independent evidence of how even these few actually performed in Berlin, though we have some evidence through unsubstantiated Ritterkreuz claims that at least some of the survivors were prone to after event wishful thinking, exaggeration, or downright lies.

They all must have had a terrifying experience, but whether they made any particularly noteworthy contribution to the defence remains unclear.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Marcus Wendel
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Marcus Wendel » 24 Dec 2014 17:29

The thread to discuss Charlemange in Berlin is at viewtopic.php?f=51&t=211141, please keep this one focused on the book.

/Marcus

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Charles - Historika
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Charles - Historika » 02 Feb 2015 12:24

I heard about it during a research concerning the memoirs of French volunteers published in English.

Only information which I was able to obtain about this book is the following one : it is about a testimony of a member of Charlemagne's Division published posthumously.

The link of the publisher : http://www.helion.co.uk/on-the-devil-s- ... 51-54.html

Le Page
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Le Page » 12 Feb 2015 00:42

I emailed Helion, and they replied that the book currently is at the printer's; they expect delivery within 10 days.

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Charles - Historika
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Charles - Historika » 13 Feb 2015 14:07

Thank you for your initiatives with Helion, Le Page ! Since the time that it's expected by a lot of readers.

Le Page
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Le Page » 05 Mar 2015 06:59

Has anyone received it yet? Helion has it, as well as some sellers on Amazon. Amazon itself still doesn't have it in stock...

Le Page
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Le Page » 28 May 2015 08:59

OK - according to another forum, this book is highly suspect, with the Charlemagne part "heavily faked, ridiculous" with "impossible claims contradicted by (historical) facts". French readers are said to be disappointed.

I received the book but have not read it. I note that there are several photos depicting a man's time in Indochina, but none of him in German service.

Reinhard K
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Reinhard K » 09 Feb 2018 18:32

To start with, Germans have always made up an important component of the Foreign Legion - a popular saying is that the Legion is only as good as it's worst German recruit - and in the wake of the World Wars they were an especially high component, with recruitment happening straight from the POW camps. 50,000 German recruits actually sounds about right for Indochina, since roughly 150,000 Legionnaires served between 1945 and 1954, with a peak strength of 36,312, and while the anonymat makes exact figures hard to find, up to 60 percent is reported to have been Germanic (which would include Dutch, Austrians, and some Swiss/Belgians though) depending on the source! Thats a LOT of Germans, so 50,000 cycling through Indochina over nine years sounds totally feasible to me.

The origin of the idea that the FFL was rife with Nazi war criminals on the run though mostly comes from reports by the Vietminh after Dien Bien Phu, claiming that many of the German captives were Waffen-SS veterans. There are many, many reasons however why this ought to be treated with doubt, and why almost every serious scholarship on the Legion these days rejects it, although more than a few picked it up and ran with it back in the '50s and '60s.

For starters, the Vietminh never substantiated their claims. It is quite possible they simply made it up, or perhaps that they just assumed all Germans were Nazis on the run. Also keep in mind, the fact that the majority of their captives from Dien Bien Phu died over the next few months might have made them less than willing to document their claims and in the process demonstrate how terribly they were treating the POWs - during the conflict 26,000 French prisoners died in their care, 11,000 were released in August 1954.

There are other documented factors though. In 1945-46, as the French recruited from POW and Displaced Person camps, they actually did screen candidates to some degree. German recruits especially were given enhanced scrutiny, but all recruits were required to strip and be inspected for the tell-tale blood-type tattoo that would have denoted membership in the Waffen-SS. Even having a scar in the spot where the tattoo might have been could be cause for rejection by the recruiter. This initial wave certainly would have had a fair number of Wehrmacht vets (enlisted only - officers were excluded), but only a small number of Waffen-SS who managed to sneak in somehow.

But even members of the Wehrmacht would have made up only a small portion of the soldiers captured at Dien Bien Phu. While they would have been a larger proportion during the initial campaigning in Indochina, that first wave of recruits had finished their term of enlistment years before the disaster at Dien Bien Phu. The Legion was recruiting about 10,000 men a year, many of them certainly Germans, but by the 1950s, with the average age of a Legionnaire in the very early 20s, most German recruits were young men simply trying to escape the bleak situation in their home country, and the extent of their involvement with the Nazi party being their membership in the Hitler Youth as children.

So thats the sum of it. The French recruited heavily in Germany, as they knew it was prime pickings for the Legion, but they explicitly excluded members of the Waffen-SS. It is certainly possible that there were non-SS war criminals who managed to sneak in and start a new life, but it was not with French knowledge, as they did their best to prevent it. As for how the Germans were accepted in the Legion... very well! As I said at the start, the Germans were viewed as the heart of the Legion, and more than a few officers actually were very eager to see their return in great numbers in 1945.

Reinhard K
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Reinhard K » 09 Feb 2018 18:41

FFL officers were all Frenchmen assigned to the Legion, or else long-time veterans who had risen from the ranks and taken French citizenship by that point. You could be a former general, and if you joined the Legion, you'd still be starting out as a private. They didn't offer commissions to new recruits.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: New Memoir: Charlemagne and Indochina Vet

Postby Sid Guttridge » 13 Feb 2018 10:49

For a scathing review of this book see:

See: http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/FORUMS/ ... ?p=6960285

Cheers,

Sid.


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