German WW2 Reviews

Discussions on books and other reference material on the WW1, Inter-War or WW2 as well as the authors. Hosted by Andy H.
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hannibal2
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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by hannibal2 » 07 Mar 2021 23:11

Wigand Wuster was a truly remarkable man. I had the privilege of getting to know him directly through a personal correspondence I had with him some years before he died in 2017. We talked very little about his experiences as a soldier at Stalingrad and his years as a slave laborer in the GULAG. Rather, we discussed the unique place of Stalingrad in the strategic picture of German operations on the southern front in Russia in 1942, especially about the wisdom of the simultaneous advance on Stalingrad and into the Caucasus, as well as about Hitler's insistent order to hold on to Stalingrad at all costs. In discussing these issues we had some disagreements, to be sure, but it was all in good spirit and always respecting the other's point of view.

What had brought us into contact in the first place was the fact that my great-uncle, Oberst Albert Newiger, was the CO of JR 194, one of the three infantry regiments of 71. Infanterie-Division, the very same division in which Oberleutnant Wuster was chief of a battery of howitzers in its artillery regiment, AR 171. Oberst Newiger, whose regiment had been instrumental in the capture of the vital bridge over the Don at Kalach, fell ill in early September 1942 and had to be evacuated to a hospital behind the front. He thus missed the terrible battle within Stalingrad and the equally horrendous consequences of the surrender of the Sixth Army. That was a tremendous stroke of luck for him since otherwise he would most likely have shared the fate of Olt. Wuster or worse. After recovery, in June 1943 he was promoted to Generalmajor and appointed commander of 112. Infanterie-Division.

harmel
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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by harmel » 14 Mar 2021 00:19

I bought a few books during lockdown and one of them was An Artilleryman in Stalingrad
It was excellent and agree with Hannibal as you just looking at his picture can see that he was an efficient and confident person.
Jason has produced remarkable books on the German Military which I recommend as a neuteral collector of German Military.
At the same time I also bought From the Realm of the Dying Sun vol1-3 by Doug Nash excellent book,The Rzhev Slaughterhouse by S Gerisonova
and Sacrifice on the Steppes by Hope Hamilton-The Reckoning by Pritt Buttar of which I have a few and GL Georg Reinicke published by Fleshsig
Just received today The Devils Accomplice Odilo Globocnik by Max Williams I have some more of his books and I also recommend the excellent books
by Michael D Miller with Andreas Schulz and Ken McCanliss.
I will finish off by saying that reading is a great mechanism to calm people down even the beautiful subject of Poetry
Have a nice stress free 2021
Regards
Harmel

harmel
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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by harmel » 14 Mar 2021 00:23

Forgot too add reason for liking Military subjects.
Spent 22 years in the British Military
Last Rank Warrant Officer Class 2
Harmel

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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by Cult Icon » 15 Mar 2021 15:07

I contacted Jason Mark a while ago and bought most of his books from him directly, all shipped in one box from Australia at a sharp discount from retail. Otherwise his books are going for exorbitant prices on amazon, etc. I have "artilleryman on Stalingrad" on my to do list, coming soon.

Larso
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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by Larso » 12 Apr 2021 07:06

Mortar Gunner on the Eastern Front by Dr Hans Rehfeldt

Hans joined the infantry regiment Grossdeutschland in late 1941, arriving and fighting around Tula, south of Moscow. As the title spells out he is a mortar gunner and continues in this role, in various capacities through this first volume of his memoirs. It is actually a diary but a very detailed one. Some days the description runs to several pages and frankly, a lot happens. It is edited to a degree to reflect his later understandings of events. There are also some good notes contributed, by I take it, the English editor and a forward by the Forum’s own Marc Rikmenspoel.

There is certainly a lot of combat! The Russians are desperate to thwart the German drive on Moscow and commit overwhelming forces to destroy the German attackers. The weather quickly becomes an equally deadly factor. Grossdeutschland falls back in mid minus 40 degree temperatures and it’s not even winter! No preparation had been made for such conditions and the German troopers suffer terribly.

Hans starts in the 8th company II battalion. When the regiment is upgraded to a division in April 1042, he becomes part of 9/2nd battalion 1st Regt. He is wounded but returns in time for the 1943 offensives, including Kursk. As I said, he is always with the mortars, usually running up additional ammunition but the nature of the front and their close support of the infantry, essentially has him in the front line. He uses his rifle and indeed, grenades at times so close quarters is the fighting in the swirling break-throughs and encirclements.

One treat for us is his frequent and clear references to German and Soviet weapons, particularly tanks and support vehicles. Many individual actions of targeting specific targets are covered. There is a lot of artillery use by both sides and colossal casualties. Hans is one of a handful that are still left standing.

It is all as authentic as you can get too. There are many references to villages and places where the fighting took place. Many comrades and commanders are named and specific deeds recounted, including those for which decorations were earned. Hans also has many photos of himself engaging in the various aspects of soldierly life. Hans somehow recorded things in detail and managed to preserve them. It is frankly, quite an exciting read and given his unit’s significance, he is often involved in historically notable events. Highly recommended!

Larso
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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by Larso » 03 May 2021 06:02

Wiking: A Dutch SS-er on the Eastern Front by Henk Kistemaker

Though Henk was Dutch, his father was an enthusiastic admirer of the Nazis. He encourages Henk to join the SS and he ends up in the Germania Regt of the 5th SS Division. He is in a machine-gun section to start but manages to get a transfer to the division’s Panther battalion in 1943.

Henk’s account of infantry battle is quite exciting. He is wounded several times and sees a lot of comrades die – which decreases his excitement considerably. The winters are bitter but he writes they are supplied quite well. There is even more excitement when he becomes a radio-operator in a Panther. There are some brutal slugging matches from which the Panthers invariably emerge triumphant. It is pretty visceral stuff at times, with one of Henk’s duties to machine-gun any Russian tank crew trying to escape their knocked out vehicles. He does write quite a bit about the interior and operations of a Panther. This was particularly interesting to me.

Oddly, Henk seems to call any artillery or Pak shell a grenade? There are also mix ups regarding sub-unit designations, including seemingly calling everything a division. Perhaps these are translation issues? Despite seeming to have been involved, he writes nothing of the Cherkovsky pocket? Though it is mentioned by the editor that Henk refused to discuss aspects of the war that were too emotional.

Despite its Wiking name, the unit was predominately German, though Henk mentions a smattering of other nationalities. It’s not a long book but it is reasonably detailed. It includes pictures of Henk and various shots of their tanks. Henk writes of being in battle and what he did. There are only a few accounts by panzer men and I think this is a very relevant read if that is your interest. 4 stars.

Larso
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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by Larso » 08 Aug 2021 03:40

Death March through Russia

This account is about Lothar Herrmann, written in the first person by Klaus Willmann, based on meetings. Lothar was born in Breslau in 1920. He became a painter and decorator. He is called into the RAD in May 1940 and pretty quickly learns it is military training dressed up with a positive name. He subsequently joins the Mountain troops. He has a clerical role at the start of Barbarossa in support of Romanian troops. Health problems see him sent back to Germany for a time. When he returns to the front in late 1943, he is posted to 3rd Battalion, 4th Regt, 4th Mountain Div and mostly works as an artillery observer.

His time at the front is only covered briefly. There is some shelling he writes about but it is clearly not the focus of his book. There is some interest in the collapse of the front upon the Romanian’s switch of sides. Things get disorganised very quickly and despite a determined effort to rejoin with German forces, Lothar is captured by the Romanians. It was interesting to read of this. The Romanians were quite harsh from the start and I guess this pointed to the tenuous nature of their alliance with Germany. This early treatment was nothing though compared to what would happen when the Germans were handed over to the Russians.

Pretty much in common with all German accounts of being POWs, Lothar sees and faces death everywhere. Anyone unable to keep up is shot. Anyone in poor health is simply allowed to die. The survivors quickly do whatever they have to to live. There are some grim stories, especially in the bitterly cold conditions of winter. Whether by design or not, it seems very few prisoners remained with comrades, so essentially, every man is out for himself. It is only later, after the war is over that friendships have a chance. While the war continues however, there is no spare resources for POWs and numerous men die. It would be no consolation that it was often far worse for Russian prisoners of the Germans.

In time, the Germans get treated better, especially as they become more useful to their captors. Lothar’s special skills give him some very handy opportunities. Indeed, the Russians seem to have the attitude that ‘Germans can do anything’. I guess their educations helped, while the dead hand of Communism played its part in curbing Russian abilities. Anyway, Lothar prospers to a degree and is fortunate to be released relatively early (1949? I seem to have forgotten??).

He is then fortunate to return to a home that has not suffered too badly and is able to start his life again. His optimism throughout is remarkable and has a lot to do with his survival. This is an interesting account overall. Lothar’s youth and entry into the workforce are worth reading. There is very little on combat but the pages on captivity are quite compelling. 3 stars

Larso
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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by Larso » 11 Jan 2022 11:31

Until the Eyes Shut - Hans Kahr, with/by Andreas Hartinger

Hans was an Austrian farm boy from the Styrian region. This book is written in the first person from his point of view, in conjunction with Andreas his grandson. Life on the farm was primitive and hard. He grew up robustly and fit, which toughened him sufficiently to serve as a mountain trooper and survive Russia. Han’s father had served in Italy and Hungary himself in WW1 and unusually, enjoyed telling his war stories to his children. After the coming of the Nazis, Hans found himself doing military training at the local Hitler Youth camp, in June 1941, though he didn’t actually join them. He was called up in August 1941, just after he turned sixteen and did the RAD program through early 1943. Military service was valued in his community and considered a rite of passage into manhood. After the completion of his training, Hans is assigned as a machine-gunner to 4th (Heavy) Co, 1st Bn, 138th Gebirgsjäger Regt, 3rd Mountain Division. He arrives at the Dnieper front in Dec 43 aged eighteen.

The Germans are in a precarious situation and face many battles with swarming Russians. The following retreat from the Dnieper is reminiscent of Guy Sajer’s descriptions in Forgotten Soldier. It is close to a rout, with many dead and the wounded sometimes abandoned. The Germans are in a state of collapse. The winter contributes to the difficulties, with mist and snow adding to the confusion and enabling sudden, deadly encounters. Then there is a similar situation between the Bug and the Dniester. Things are a little better as they retreat through Romania but that becomes very problematic. Hans finally gets to fight in mountains at least.

There is some useful historical information and general context, particularly regarding the defection of the Romanians. Encounters with Partisans also occur. Han’s war is virtually of unending retreat, with bitter fighting occurring on a regular basis. He faces tanks at times and more interestingly, cavalry. Much of his fighting is as a gunner or a loader, though he writes of more intimate killing at times. He also writes quite a bit about the horror of war injuries and the unrelenting stresses that break some men, leaving them unable to go on. His descriptions of Russian captivity are brief but typically difficult. As an Austrian he is allowed home in 1947.

I see on Amazon that some reviewers have question its authenticity. More pictures (there’s only one) would have helped. Perhaps the story of the Sergeant was a bit too convenient? And there is a chapter where the author’s horse changes gender every page. I had no qualms myself, there were fascinating titbits about army organisation (a couple brand new to me), including March battalions, which vouched for it being a first-hand account at heart. I liked it, the author is pretty much in the Front line the whole time, so it’s largely an action account. 3 ½ stars

harmel
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Re: German WW2 Reviews

Post by harmel » 14 Jan 2022 23:20

Agree with Larso ref-Mortar Gunner on the Eastern Front an excellent read!
Also I recommend Radio Operator on the Eastern Front by Erhard Steiniger.
Just read the The Defense of Moscow 1941 (The Northern Flank) by J Radey-Charles Sharp,
Foreword by the excellent David Glantz.
Harmel

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