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The Cross of Iron Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1981
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would be converted to electronic format. We can only hope...
I remember reading it when I was 23, now I read it for the second time. And I found it to be even better that I thought.
The book focus on Corporal Steiner (soon to be reinstated to Sergeant), who commands a platoon of ten men left behind in a retreat, and they must try to get back to the new German positions in the Crimea. After that, they take part in some battles, the last one inside a factory.
The book was never intended to be a real story (totally unlike "Nothing New On Western Front" which, although it does not say it, it is closely based on Erich Maria Remarque's real experiences and companions).
The small group of characters then proceed to die one by one, in a kind of "And Then There Were None format". The order of their dying is as follows:
1. Zoll: left behind by Steiner, to die in the hands of Soviet female soldiers, after Zoll raped one of them.
2. Dietz: the younger of the bunch. Shot by Soviet soldiers in an occasional encounter in some woods, during the retreat.
3. Dorn and Anselm: blown to pieces by an artillery shell, inside the German lines.
4. Pasternack: shot in the chest during melee.
5. Hollerbach: shot by a tank shell, and subsequently run over by the same tank.
6. Maag and Kern: shot in the frontal assault to the Russian factory
7. Schnubbart: Steiner's best friend. Shot by friendly fire inside the factory. The difference is that the "friendly" fire was on purpose! The shooter thought he was killing Steiner.
8. Faber: a later addition to the group: gone blind after being hit by obus.
9. Steiner: bloody ambiguous ending! One simply can not know if he is seeing literally a light at the end of the tunnel, or if he is indeed going after his lost love, Anne. The higher probability is that he indeed died, because he was bleeding like hell.
10. Kruger: the only one of the bunch still alive and kicking at the end of the book, although the Division seems to be clearly in a hopeless situation (well, since he was the physically strongest of the bunch, he could have been made a prisoner and even survive the harsh Russian treatment...).