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A verbal history of the war in the East.
on May 4, 2012
Mr Schaufler has edited a nice verbal history of the war in the east. The story begins with the Germans crossing the Bug River in June 1941 and ends with the fall of Danzig at the end of the war. It excludes the fall of Berlin. The panzer divisions covered are the 4th, 9th, 11th, 16th, and 18th. There are many other divisions mention on an incidental level. Since the author was a member of the 35th PzR of 4th PzD, the 4th PzD dominates the entire book while the other divisions are covered in two or three engagements each. There were many areas covered but Operation Barbarossa and the Soviet counter offensive in December 41 is prominent and includes coverage of the 4th, 9th 11th and 18th divisions. The other major engagement covered would be the defense of Danzig at the end of the war. Other areas covered include Mtzensk, Gzhatsk, Stalingrad, Kursk, Orel among others. My favorite would be the coverage of 16th PzD during the reduction of the pocket of Stalingrad but the siege of Danzig was also good and I was able to learn some new things.
Accumulating a wealth of primary information like divisional and regimental war logs, personal diaries and interviews during his lifetime, the author has weaved together a creditable war history. It's a verbal history by tankers and foot soldiers. Its personal and tactical; you won't see the strategic, the big picture brought to you by the upper echelons of command. Its also almost entirely from the German perspective; there is little specific Soviet information but the author doesn't pull any punches and presents what the men felt and said. Acts of bravery are of course mentioned as well.
The author shows the hardships of fighting the war in Russia, not only fighting an endless pool of relentless enemy soldiers and partisans but also the freezing, snowy conditions in winter, the deep muddy swamps that the dirt roads turn into after a heavy rain as well as the endless steppes you have to travel when you're low on fuel. The book is almost evenly divided between the fighting of the enemy and surviving the elements. Much is said about surviving the sub-zero temperatures for man, horse or machine.
There are a few hand drawn maps and a lot of good photos though some are quite gruesome. An appendix with OBs of the above panzer divisions including command history is provided but there are no Notes, Bibliography or Index.
The author has also published "Knight's Cross Panzers", a book on the 35th PzR of 4th ID and would make good supplemental reading as well though there is some duplication between the two books.
This is an interesting read though its not comprehensive or strategic and its one sided but there are many small skirmishes mentioned that I've never heard of and for that reason alone I enjoyed the book but I enjoyed it even more by reading about the deeds and thoughts of the Landser as they try to survive an impossible war.