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Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II Paperback – June 19, 1997

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (June 19, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813109434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813109435
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drawn from letters, diaries and memoirs, this impressive study presents a rounded, detailed picture of the daily life of the Landser-the ordinary German infantryman of WWII-and takes an unblinking look at the stark realities of combat, particularly on the Russian front, where 80% of the German soldiers fought; the hardships endured; and the crushing anxiety of being surrounded by death and killing. The evidence that surfaces in these pages demonstrates that the remarkable unit cohesion and fighting performance of the Landser was due in large part to the bonds of military friendship inherited from Prussian tradition; Wehrmacht leaders "raised the concept of camaraderie almost to the level of strategic doctrine." The study also reveals ways in which the German soldier embraced ideological commitment to National Socialism and how, encouraged by Nazi propaganda, he was free to engage in virtually unlimited criminality if it was directed against the so-called enemies of the German people. Fritz, who teaches history at East Tennessee State, makes edifying comparisons between the Landser and his American, British and Russian counterparts. His book helps explain why the German army was so relentlessly efficient in battle.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The experience of the British and American common soldier in World War II has been extensively studied. Not so, at least in English, that of his principal opponent, the German Landser (infantryman). Fritz draws on both published and unpublished material, little of it previously translated, to make up for the deficiency. The German soldier survived far more rigorous training than his Allied counterparts (which explains much of his superior proficiency), survived (on the eastern front, at least) indescribable conditions, and was more sympathetic to the objectives and attitudes of National Socialism than has been admitted previously. He also feared death and wounds, mourned comrades overtaken by them, yearned for home, and took a dim view of mud, lice, brutal NCOs, inept or martinet officers, and hostile artillery. In short, he was a soldier doing his duty; the tragedy is that he did it so well in such an abominable cause. Roland Green --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Instead of reading this book i will just get Sajers and read it.
Tim Grasshoff
Besides that, it seemed like 50% of the quotes came from the Forgotten Soldier, making this book feel like a cliff notes version of Sajer's.
Scott A. Nowak
If the book had photos to break it up a bit I would have given it three stars.
Steven E. Medved

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By M. G Watson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an indispensible, if somewhat superficial, look at the ideological motivations of the German soldier (or "landser" as he called himself) during WWII. It is the only book I've ever read that actually attempts to probe the mindset of the rank-and-file soldiers and junior officers who fought Hitler's war rather than dismissing them as brainwashed robots or mindless products of a militant culture, content to "just follow orders."
Author Fritz genuinely wants to understand why the Landser fought so long and so hard, and against such overwhelming odds, for a government that committed such outrageous crimes against humanity. To do this he examines the correspondence of, and some of the memiors and fiction written by, the average Wehrmacht soldier (he excludes works written by veterans of the Waffen SS, because he feels they come from a different place ideologically than the guys in gray). In his examination, Fritz makes a number of assertions, observations and discoveries, some of which are extremely interesting, while others which come off as facile and opinionated.
On the plus side, Fritz does an excellent job of examining how Hitler's promise of a 'social revolution' which would produce a truly classless society by transferring the selfless, all-for-one values of the combat soldier (the 'frontsgemeinschaft') to the whole civilian population (creating the 'Volksgemeinschaft'), intensely motivated millions of young men. He does a fairly poor job of explaining why Germans had such intensely anti-class feelings (it is not generally knpwn that Germany has traditionally had intense class divisions and hatreds going back centuries....see Bailey's excellent work, 'Germans'); the two go hand in hand.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
I had high expectations for this book as a "human story" supplement to the more technical or tactical perspectives of the Wehrmacht. I was rather disappointed as Fritz for the main simply regurgitates excerpts from the memoirs of Sajer, Knappe and other Eastern Front survivors. I also find it rather odd that the author does not include material on the Waffen SS who fought along side the Wehrmacht Landser, yet the dustjacket cover photo (which has been widely reproduced in WW2 literature) is the photo of a young SS panzer-grenadier from the Battle of the Bulge.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Paul H. on January 30, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Fritz does a remarkable job of painting a picture of the "average" German infantry soldier or Landser by pulling quotes from diaries, letters and interviews. The young men who marched to war under the swastika were motivated, well trained and indeed raised to carry the ideology of the Reich to their enemies. This book does not paint a glorious picture of the Germans, nor does it make the average soldier look like a war criminal. Nor does it glorify war and destruction.
Some of the quotes from the front are remarkably poignant and insightful, especially when one considers the conditions under which they were written and by young men besides. There are two reasons that I did not give this book 5 stars, they are: No photographs, even simple photographs to put faces with the voices in this book would have been incredibly powerful. The photo on the cover of the book is of an SS troop (you can see the edge of the emblem under the knife hilt), which Mr. Fritz claims is different than the average Landser. Two many quotes from the same people are recycled. Mr. Fritz uses some of the arguably better quotes 2 or 3 times in the text. With as many Landsers as were involved in the war, it seems that other voices could have been added to this text to make the points necessary. Guy Sajer is quoted many times, which is a shame since he already has a published voice, so many others do not.
This book also helps to understand how so many fell under the spell of Hitler, when viewed from below, so many of the policies of the Nazi's seem to make sense. Especially when the subjects are immersed in the reams of propaganda generated by the regime.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Fritz takes the reader into the heart and mind of the German infantryman. He presents them as individuals, not merely mindless cogs in the German war machine. The reader comes to realize the incredible suffering that was life on the Eastern front. These men were little more than children placed in circumstances that made them monsters, indifferent to society's conventions or their own human conscience. Unlike another reviewer, I did not find the book heavily padded. The author exhibits a clear and powerful style of writing, reading more like a good novel than a history book. The overwhelming bulk of the book consists of quotations from the Landsers themselves translated from their letters and diaries. Fritz does give a fascinating comparison of the Landser to their American counterparts in the last chapter, but this is hardly padding. All in all, this is a moving account of life for the German infantyman, who has been often ignored in favor of the members of the SS. It is a must-read for any student of military history and World War II, but it is also valuable for those interested in the human soul and how it is altered by the horrors of war.
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