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Through Hell for Hitler: A Dramatic First-Hand Account of Fighting on the Eastern Front With the Wehrmacht Hardcover – November 1, 2001
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An interesting perspective of the average soldier on the Eastern Front. Unlike some other books in the genre, the Author acknowledges the attrocities committed against the Russian people and we see him struggle to come to grips with the ideological differences between National Socialism and Communism. In fact, the most interesting aspect of this book is the numerous encounters the Author had with ordinary Russian peasant and soldier. Very well told. This book is the thinking man's "Forgotten Soldier." --By A in Scottsdale "ashackel"
Until I read Henry Metelmann's obituary in the Daily Telegraph I had never heard of him. I downloaded his book and found a rich historical narrative from the point of view of a soldier first as victor then vanquished. This book is not an apology, rather it is a statement about what happened and what drove events. To understand the German war machine, and no doubt atrocities since, you need to read a book like this without making judgement until you have completed it. Read this book and yours will be a far more informed understanding and opinion. --By Bryan Jones
The author offers almost no "big picture" of his war, he basically recounts what he would have known as a driver. He mentions in passing that he was in the Anti-tank Unit. I don't know if he ever mentions that he was with the 22nd Panzer Division, an ill-fated division that was formed in late '42. It's early performance was not stellar. The unit was disbanded in early '43 after being decimated in the Russian counter-offensive at Stalingrad. The author is very unsentimental about his time and experiences in the Wermacht, in great contrast to most German accounts of the war. This is the most interesting aspect of the book. He is quite candid about the German arrogance that characterized the conquering armies of the first half of the war. He talks of what people knew and did not know. His unit was not a paragon of German invincibility, or even a company of brothers. Our soldier participated in battles with senseless casualties and poor leadership. The author had many hair-breadth escapes. The Herren have written many books with one point of view. This soldat gives a very good insight into how some of the others felt. --By A Customer
About the Author
Henry Metelmann was a Hitler Youth member and fanatical Nazi supporter. He later joined the German Army as a Panzer tank driver. This is Metelmann's true story of the horror and tragedy of the war which caused him to question his dedication.
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Top Customer Reviews
Mr. Metelmann claims to be a veteran of the 22nd Panzer Div. who went to the eastern front in the winter of 41/42. The author's story begins at childhood, then moves to his training and service in the Wehrmacht on the eastern front,fighting and surrendering to the Americans, and finishes in the immediate post-war situation.
This book gives the reader little information about the war on the eastern front except for his contact with soviet soldiers and civilians. Despite the premise of the book (i.e. as a war memoir), the author spends little time on his supposed combat experience. He doesn't talk about his weapons or the vehicles he drove (he claims to have been a panzer driver). He doesn't talk about the types of tanks he drove, their characteristics, or being retrained for new models (tank types were upgraded throughout the war on all sides).
The author, unlike all other war memoirs (axis and allied) that I have read, does not even name his comrades. In fact, he hardly mentions them and then only with first names. This seems strange in light of the strong bonds communicated in books as diverse as "Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer and "With The Old Breed" by American Marine E.B. Sledge.
He seems to spend an inordinate amount of time with soviets. All Soviet soldiers are portrayed as heroic figures who die making political speeches about the glories of marxism. Every soviet civilian he comes upon vows they will defeat the evil facists while also making boring political speeches about Lennin and the communist cause. I find it odd that he never ran into anyone in the Ukraine that welcomed the German invasion since the Soviets had starved millions there. He never runs into a russian civilian who curses the collectivization that destroyed the lives of millions and sent millions to the gulags. He never speaks to a soviet soldier who was forced into suicidal attacks by commissars and NKVD troops. Curious.
His brief overviews of combat actions always extol the wily Soviets who always seem to get the better of the Germans whose officers are usually portrayed as mindless Prussian aristocrats who can think of nothing other than costly frontal assaults. This seems to be exactly the opposite of all other historical analyses of German vs. Soviet performance. Curious.
Strangely enough, he seems to omit all of 1943! He seems to go from the retreat after Stalingrad in the winter of 42/43 directly to the retreat after Bagration in the winter of 44/45! He does not mention participating in Manstein's counterstroke at Kharkov in spring 43 even though he certainly would have taken part, given that he was part of Army Group South. He makes no mention of Citadel except to mention that an officer he served under will finally die in the battle. Curious.
His encounters with soviet soldiers and civilians seem almost scripted, like bad Soviet propaganda. Although he accurately portrays the brutality of the war on the eastern front with regard to the treatment of civilians by the Germans (but, strangely enough, not by the Soviets), there's very little else here to be commended.
In short, this is a book which has very little useful historical information to offer. This book would not be reccommended by anyone who knows anything about the eastern front and I certainly would give it zero stars if I could. Buy "Forgotten Soldier" instead.
Now, you'll see a picture of the author wearing a M36 Heer (Army) uniform. The German Army stopped giving them out after 1939 when they were replaced by the M40 uniform. How did he end up in Russia in 1942 in an M36? By then all the German Army had was the M40 uniform.
The Author says he drives a Panzer III. But we don't see any picures of that nor or much fighting with the tank. Instead he is assigned to a half track and spends his time pulling around a 50 mm anti-tank cannon (PAK).
The Author is abandoned in a Russian village with an Panzer III at about the time of the major fighting of Stalingrad. He ditches his uniform, lives with the Ukranians, and the tank is allowed to rust in a field. It sounds like he was told to drive a tank some place and it "just broke down". When he and the tank is found the authorities must have figured he was not worth it. By that time in the war everybody was need, even a screw off.
By the author's own words he is caught stealing from an army food supply truck. Also, when coupled with several other incidents, it becomes clear the author may have been a "barracks thief", a person of low character in any army.
I do not like this book. The author seems like a petty criminal who just happens to be in events larger than himself. It's kind of like reading the exploits of a pick-pocket on the Titanic who was lucky enough to live.
I speculate this soldier was in jail for some years over some crime. He then is set free and has to be watched closely by his superiors and fellow soldiers. That explains his dislike of officers and inability to remember anybody he served with. You can't cross reference his story with other characters.
If you're going to read any books on the individual soldier then read either "A Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer or "The Good Soldier" by Alfred Novotny. "Forgotten" goes into great detail on everything; "Good" is one of the best because it's a short and an easy-to-read book. This review likes easy.
This book is two stars. And it didn't earn them.
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