Recommended reading on the Nationale Volksarmee & GDR

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Martin B
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Post by Martin B » 05 Oct 2007 15:09

A Cold War in the Soviet Bloc by Sheldon Anderson

The Russians in Germany by Norman Naimark

The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor

all give good background as well

George Lepre
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Post by George Lepre » 26 Oct 2007 06:06

Hi Martin -

Thanks for your selections, particularly Naimark's book, which is an example of history at its best.

Best regards,

George

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Dan W.
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Post by Dan W. » 02 Nov 2007 21:16

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An objective and fact based analysis of the intial year and a half period that followed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Washington Post writer Thomas Ricks (author of Making the Corps )has written the definitive analysis of the myriad mistakes committed following the invasion of Iraq that helped doom any chance of a peaceful conclusion. Ricks relies on many accounts based first hand from officers in the field, and mixes in a grunts eye viewpoint at times and more often on junior level officers but concentrates primarily on the highest levels of the military leadership and their fractured and dysfunctional relationship with the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) inside the Green Zone who made U.S. policy.



link

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Dan W.
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Post by Dan W. » 02 Nov 2007 21:19

Peter H wrote:Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall.

Fall's classic on the French experience in Indo-China.

More on Fall here,who was killed in 1967:

http://www.historynet.com/wars_conflict ... ured=y&c=y


Great book.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 21 Dec 2007 10:30

The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam

http://www.latimes.com/features/books/l ... &cset=true

...seems certain to become the standard one-volume history of the Korean War, superseding even Clay Blair's "The Forgotten War" and Stanley Weintraub's "MacArthur's War:Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero."

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Peter H
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Re: Recommended reading on Post-WW2 History

Post by Peter H » 17 Feb 2008 04:21

The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961—9 November 1989, Frederick Taylor

Review here:

http://www.quadrant.org.au/php/article_ ... le_id=3770

Taylor’s superb narrative centres around the Wall from its hasty construction as a barbed-wire barrier on the boundary line of Berlin’s Soviet Sector on August 13, 1961, through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when it seemed to be an impregnable barrier about which Paul Johnson could write in the Spectator of April 27, 1985, that it would divide Germany for “perhaps for a century or more”, to its demise in good-natured chaos on November 9, 1989.

There is more here, however, than just this single dramatic story. Radiating outwards, Taylor gives us a history of Berlin from its beginnings as a Slavic swamp settlement, through its life as the capital of Brandenburg (and Prussia after 1618), its depredation by the Swedes during the Thirty Years War, its glory days under the Hohenzollerns and its raffish days in the Weimar Republic. Nazi Berlin is only seen briefly in sepia.

Taylor gets into stride with his description of how in the immediate postwar years East Germany and East Berlin gradually separated from the rest of Occupied Germany. For the three years after the war the Allied Control Commission based in Berlin was supposed to have been the ruling body for the whole country. Berlin was 160 kilometres inside the Soviet Zone. Inside the Soviet Zone’s boundaries lay much of the industrial and cultural heart of old Germany and the great cities of Dresden, Leipzig, Weimar and the centre of old Berlin itself. It was only after the Allied Airlift of 1948 broke the Soviet Blockade that Berlin was divided politically and administratively. By that time the Control Commission was a dead letter and, within a year, two hostile German states had come into existence.

In Berlin for the next twelve years sector borders and occasional checkpoints and restrictions ambiguously coexisted with the free movement of people around the city and with shared telephone lines, water, sewerage and transport. All this took place while the 1381-kilometre border between the two German states from the Baltic to the forests of Bavaria froze into an impregnable line of fortifications. The biggest eruption in these times was the June 17, 1953, uprising in Berlin’s Soviet Sector, which was ruthlessly crushed by Russian tanks at the cost of 267 lives (with a further 200 executed and 1400 sentenced to life imprisonment after perfunctory trials). The bloody lessons of this traumatic event fuelled the DDR leadership’s corporate paranoia to the end.

Berlin staggered on for a while as a unique mixing place between the communist and Western worlds. The price the communists paid for the porosity of Berlin’s internal boundaries was the flight of discontented East Germans into the West. As time went on the leakage became a human tide, reaching thousands a week in the last days before the Wall, threatening the very viability of the DDR as a state, a matter of concern not only to the Soviets but, furtively, to many in the West as well. All the while intermittent Soviet and East German pressure on West Berlin was applied as and when Khrushchev or Ulbricht saw fit. According to Khrushchev, Berlin and its access routes were “the testicles of the West. Every time I want to make the West scream, I squeeze Berlin.”


TAYLOR GIVES US a pellucid picture of the DDR that stabilised itself in the years after 1961 as the nasty intrusive despotism revealed in Anna Funder’s Stasiland and Florian von Donnersmarck’s brilliant film The Lives of Others. He shows us in some detail the DDR’s reptilian top political and secret police leadership living in their secret luxurious theme park at Wandlitz just north of Berlin and completely hidden and sealed off by yet another wall from the public; their cars exempt from all traffic laws, especially speed limits.

The portrait of the unspeakable (“pointy beard”) Walter Ulbricht, who ruled the DDR during the crucial years from 1950 to 1971 and who often outpaced and surprised the Soviets with “facts on the ground” in dealing with the Western allies, is almost palpable. We also see at close quarters the ruthless and manipulative bureaucratic survivor Erich Honecker, who actually built the Wall and who was eventually to have the rug pulled from under him by Gorbachev in 1989, and the murderous secret policemen Erich Mielke and Marcus Wolf, who with their brilliance and guile propped up their bankrupt system with blackmail and naked force for so long.

We see ordinary DDR citizens living out their lives without any hope of change before the unexpected demise of their polluted statelet. Taylor movingly quotes one woman born around 1950 who would say after 1989 that she had not realised before the fall of the Wall that she lived in a place so shabby, so grey, and with such foul air. Ordinary citizens in the latter days of the DDR were not generally harassed if they kept out of politics or areas of state interest. Many tended to huddle in Kultur groups interested in music, literature, model trains or the like that always kept to safe anodyne paths.

Importantly, Taylor shows convincingly that the building of the Wall was not an unwelcome development for the Western allies, who saw it as stabilising the wobbly DDR and who, in any case, did not particularly want to bait the Soviet Union. In fact the West, as Taylor says, quickly showed that “it could live with a divided Berlin and a closed-off East Germany”. There were a few perfunctory sabre-rattlings, but nothing much more. President Kennedy was in fact intensely annoyed at Willy Brandt’s pressure as Mayor of West Berlin to do more. After the dramatic “Checkpoint Charlie” standoff over military and diplomatic access to East Berlin in October 1961, caused by Ulbricht’s “relentless inability to leave well alone”, the whole situation tended to flatten out. Thereafter the Cold War in Europe went into aspic, with all the real action taking place elsewhere.

Taylor also shows that not everyone in the West welcomed the end of the Wall and the DDR. Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand, for instance, were very much opposed to a reunited Germany and hatched some hare-brained schemes to block reunion—schemes that quickly failed. Taylor even quotes Thatcher’s gormless Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, remarking in December 1989 that the Cold War was “a system … under which we’ve lived quite happily for forty years”.

Frederick Taylor has given us an outstanding book about vital aspects of our recent history. It is now difficult for Germans to recall clearly the strangeness of what they call “DDR times”. In the period between the end of the Second World War and the building of the Wall over three million people left East Germany. The Wall undoubtedly saved the DDR from collapse and thereby stabilised postwar Europe. The debit side of the ledger involved the deaths of an estimated 227 people from various Wall-related incidents and the dull misery endured by the people of the DDR for over forty years. All that to allow other Europeans and the Russians to sleep easier in the knowledge that Germany remained divided.

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Mariner
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Re: Recommended reading on the Nationale Volksarmee & GDR

Post by Mariner » 09 Nov 2008 19:27

Its been awhile since I posted here but here are a number of books I've read.

TWO ARMIES AND ONE FATHERLAND by Jorg Schonbohm

REQUIEM FOR AN ARMY by Dale R. Herspring

FROM CONFRONTATION TO COOPERATION by Frederick Zilian, Jr

These 3 books focus mainly on the disbandment of the NVA and the elements that were incorporated into
the Bundeswehr. The first title written by Gen Jorg Schonbohm, who commanded Bundeswehr Command East, which was the West German military unit initially charged will the elimination of the NVA and its equipment, then the integartion
of former NVA units/personnel into the Bundeswehr. Much of the information in the following 2 titles paralells the first book which was published in 1992 (German ed).

The 2nd title is written by an American political science academic who was formerly a Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department and published in 1998.

The final title was written by a career US Army officer whos was stationed in Germany as the events which led to the demise of the DDR and the NVA were occurring. It was published in 1999.

What I liked best about all 3 books was the descriptions of conditions of service (some of which truly suprised me,
i.e. run down decrepit barracks/unsanitary messing facilities) and the stark contrast in leadership/command/control
procedures of western officers and NCOs in comparison to the NVA (Soviet) model.


DIE VOLKSMARINE DER DDR by Siegfried Breyer and Peter Lapp

DIE ANDERE DEUTSCHE MARINE by Hans Mehl and Knut Schafer

THE THREE GERMAN NAVIES: DISOLUTION, TRANSITION AND NEW BEGINNINGS, 1945-1960 by Douglas Peifer

The first 2 books focus exclusively on the Volksmarine and are in German. The first book, published in 1984 by Breyer and Lapp is similar to Breyer's 1970 GUIDE TO THE SOVIET NAVY which was an updated English translation of his 1964 DIE SEERUSTUNG DER SOWJETUNION. It has excellent pictures, drawings and an overview of the personnel and conditions of service in the VM. The second book is an excellent description of the VM from its beginnings as the Seepolizie to
its end. Again, high quality drawings and pictures of the vessels of the VM. My edition was published in 1992. THere is a later 2004 edition available, but difficult to acquire in the US (and very expensive). The main author, Hans Mehl, former Kapitan zur Zee, was a scientific and special project engineer for the VM.

The 3rd book in English traces the beginnings of both the Volksmarine and Bundesmarine from the demise of the Kriegsmarine to 1960. In following the information presented in this book one can postulate that Kriegmarine forces
through the Minessweeping Administration administered by the British and the Labor Service Units on the Rhine and the Historical Office (composed of former senior officers of the KM) set up by the US managed to exist in one form or another till the creation of the Bundesmarine. A very interesting book covering a period about which not much information is available in English.

More to come.

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Re: Recommended reading on the Nationale Volksarmee & GDR

Post by Beek » 09 Feb 2009 03:46

I just finished reading "REQUIEM FOR AN ARMY" and loved it. I was facisinated at what I learned and that preconceived notions that I had were so wrong. Beside the aspect of disentergration of the DDR, it was amazing how the simple name "National Peoples Army" was a major obstacle in case they had been called to put down the revolts. Many in the NVA including leadership, thought how can the army of the people be called to fire on the people

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Re: Recommended reading on Post-WW2 History

Post by Karl » 14 Jul 2009 08:11

Taylor's Berlin Wall sprung to mind again. Decent book:

'So...they built the Wall to stop people leaving, and now they're tearing it down to stop people leaving. There's logic for you'
-Unnamed drinker in East Berlin bar, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Novermber 1989
[page after dedication]

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Peter H
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Re: Recommended reading on Post-WW2 History

Post by Peter H » 18 Jul 2009 10:39

A good read.Al Haig was one of DePuy's "golden boys".

General William E. DePuy: Preparing the Army for Modern War ,Henry G. Gole

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Nice review here:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/featur ... ricks.html

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der alte Landser
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Re: Recommended reading on the Nationale Volksarmee & GDR

Post by der alte Landser » 12 Aug 2009 18:41

Here are a few of my recommendations regarding the NVA. Most of them have to do with the Grenztruppen, but not all.

Die Generale und Admirale der DDR - Ein Biographisches Handbuch. Klaus Froh und Rüdiger Wenzke. Ch. Links Verlag, 2007. This is an essential book for anyone who wants to learn about the higher cadres of the NVA. It has a biographical sketch for every single military member who achieved the highest ranks, along with exhaustively tabulated data about practically everything to do with command structures, who served where and when, who got which orders and decorations, who was in the SED, the NSDAP, who fought in Spain, and on and on.

Die Grenzen der DDR - Geschichte, Fakten, Hintergründe. Klaus-Dieter Baumgarten und Peter Freitag. Edition Ost. 2005. GO Baumgarten served as Chef der Grenztruppen from 1979 to 1989 and this book is his take on the borders of the DDR. It is definitely written from his own perspective and although I don't agree with everything in the book, it is a fascinating look into this subject.

Gefechtsdienst im Frieden - Das Grenzregime der DDR, 1945-1990. Peter Joachim Lapp. Bernard und Graefe Verlag. 1999. Mr Lapp was a refugee from the DDR and has been researching and writing about the GT for many years. He published a small book called "Frontdienst im Frieden in around 1986, which was also about this subject. The current book is a look back at the structure and evolving nature of the border troops, and also the development of the border fortifications.

Einstrich-Keinstrich - NVA Tagebuch. Joerg Waehner. Kiepenheuer und Witsch. 2006. The author served from 1982 to 1983 as a draftee in the NVA. he tells his story in an episodic format that is familiar to soldiers anywhere in the world. What makes this book relevant and compelling is his description of the inner struggle he endured both before and during his service, since he was not an adherent to the SED and the system of the DDR.

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Beek
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Re: Recommended reading on the Nationale Volksarmee & GDR

Post by Beek » 13 Aug 2009 03:34

Thank you for that great info! At present I am reading the book "Stasi". The book deals with the technical aspects of that organization such as : bugs, cameras, codes and invisible ink. Unfortunatly the book is a little dull and repeatitive.

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der alte Landser
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Re: Recommended reading on the Nationale Volksarmee & GDR

Post by der alte Landser » 13 Aug 2009 17:22

Beek: I'd like to recommend a book that you can buy through Amazon.de. It's title is "Allzeit Treu zu Dienen" and the author is Major a. D. Gerhard Lehmann, formerly of the DDR border troops. He joined the Grenzpolizei as a young man after the war and served until 1990. He spent his entire career in the Grenztruppen in the Rhön, which is an amazingly beautiful part of Germany. I've had the opportunity to meet Major Lehmann twice in person, and we correspond from time to time. His book is full of unique anecdotes of life on the border, and a personal history including growing up during the war. If you're interested, here's the link to the book on Amazon.de:

http://www.amazon.de/allzeit-treu-diene ... 885&sr=1-1

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der alte Landser
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Re: Recommended reading on the Nationale Volksarmee & GDR

Post by der alte Landser » 13 Aug 2009 17:32

This is me with Major Lehmann in June 2009 during a visit to Meiningen.
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Peter H
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Re: Recommended reading on Post-WW2 History

Post by Peter H » 12 Oct 2009 12:00

War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals ,David Halberstam

Halberstam looks at US foreign policy in the 1990s,much as he detailed the Vietnam experience of the 1960s in his The Best and the Brightest.A good,intense account of how the challenges of Somalia,Bosnia(the central theme),Rwanda,Haiti and Kosovo were meet and resolved.This also involves dwelling into the make up of the major players,Clinton,Lake,Holbrooke,Powell,Shalikashvili,Albright and Clark.

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