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The Forgotten Soldier Paperback – Illustrated, October 1, 2001
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.55 pounds
- Paperback : 508 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1574882864
- ISBN-13 : 978-1574882865
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.3 x 8.9 inches
- Publisher : Potomac Books; Illustrated edition (October 1, 2001)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #34,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Sajer obviously fought for the Nazi's on the Eastern Front during WWII. That said, there's nary a peep of ideology in the book, either pro-Nazi or anti-communist. This is really about one man's experiences, not about what caused the war, or even what he believed when he wrote the book.
The experiences themselves are stunning - frightening, but stunning. He starts off with some pretty brutal details about basic training as a young man/child - Sajer couldn't pass the test to be in the Luftwaffe, so he ended up in the infantry, first driving a truck, later as a member of the renowned Gross Deutschland division, seeing action in many of the most important battles of the Eastern Front.
Sajer himself said he didn't write this book so that it could be cited by historians - the book is about experiences. And like few other authors, Sajer conveys those experiences - hunger, fatigue, hope, fear, sadness, cold. Anyone who believes that war is a glorious experience will be sadly disappointed - Sajer expends no effort to make himself into a hero, and indeed, while Sajer loves some of his comrades-in-arms, the book overall is devoid of positive energy.
I haven't read All Quiet on the Western Front in a number of years, but honestly, I can't imagine it surpassing this book.
There have been some criticisms of this book by reviewers who maintain it is made up. Notably, some of the critics have recanted after corresponding with Sajer, and frankly, I don't know how anyone who reads this book could imagine that it is not true.
This book is an absolute must read. No doubt. Buy it now.
Sajer was a mid-war French recruit who ended up a transportation soldier in the German Army and was later taken into the GrossDeutschland Infantry Division. His experience of the war was essentially, the long retreat of the Germans from the East Front. There is certainly plenty of description of the action. The fighting. The chaos. The fear. The misery .The misery of the environment (Russian winters!). But it is the thread of humanity that Sajer clings to which really ties it all together. His girlfriend whom he never saw again. His friends who fought alongside him.
You get to the end of the book and are left with a vast emptiness that is the bleak reality of what war does to a human being. There is all kinds of misery, horror, and suffering, but this is the horror and suffering of this particular man, who is able to share it in poignant words that leave you with the faintest understanding of what it was like and a vast well of sympathy and hope that a man broken and wrecked by war could have some bit of life left to live. No one can understand who hasn’t been through it but Sajer does a very good job of giving us as much of a taste of the horror of war as we could possibly absorb while sitting in the comfort of our homes and reading about it.
You may pick up this book to read it for a first hand account of some “action” or “adventure” but you’ll put it down with a firsthand hope for peace for a man whose humanity was pressed and tested like most people will never know.
Top reviews from other countries
This is a beautiful, painful, brutal book that anyone looking for a firsthand account of the horrors of combat and war should read. I've heard this referred to as a classic and I now know why
This is probably the best personal account book about the Eastern front I’ve read so far. I say best but I mean that in the most horrendous sense of the word. Other books cover operational and strategic matters but the one shows us the perspective of a young man in the total war of the Eastern Front.
I will start with the cons because there are so few:
*A few typos here and there
*General Guderian was not leading anything into battle in 1943 as the book hints once
*One speech by a Captain character in about the middle of the book seems far too prepared and nobody would have remembered it years later (it is a good speech mind)
This guy was clearly writing with hindsight, having done a little bit of wider research into bits of the conflict around him but not too much that he sounds like he is writing an operational history of the battles around him. Just enough to roughly place where he was.
The book follows a young man from training, into a logistics team running supplies across the vast distances of Russia where he is part of the retreats after Stalingrad, to recruitment into the elite Großdeutschland division where he is part of some of the fiercest and awful fighting to have been visited upon this world. He demonstrates the ‘elation’ of attack with the terrors and horrors of deep winter retreats to the mindnumbing boredom of the times inbetween.
There is nothing he does not say and the mental pictures you can paint point to how mentally broken and scarred he must have been after the war. When his unit retreat from Memel towards the end of the book it starts describing the point where the mind has gone beyond fear and terror into the world of despair and nothingness.
Love, hatred, fear, loathing, hunter, despair, lack of identity, humour, comradeship, death beyond all imagination are all key themes and they are all interwoven into this novel. There will be points where you genuinely feel for these people and what they went through (even though it is unfashionable to do so them being on the losing side)
It is true? There is some discussion nowadays that it might just be a novel. However, in my mind he had to have been there to have written about it in such detail and precision.
Highly recommended for anybody interested in the Eastern front from a simple infantry mans perspective
There is some controversy around the book, and whether the author actually served in the grosse Deutschland division. The lack of detail on dates and people often cited as the reason for doubt. The author himself is clear the book is his experience of the war, rather than a tactical history of the battles. Despite this, the book cannot but fill the reader with horror at the experiences of the ordinary men, the cold being the bitterest of enemies. Perhaps my only criticism is that there is no reference to Nazi atrocities in Russia, it is hard to believe an elite division was not aware or did not participate even in a small way.
The ending is short and sudden, and one wonders if that is how Sajer himself felt in being released. Well worth reading to understand the experience of an ordinary soldier.