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"Frontsoldaten"

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by Srdo, Dec 3, 2003.

  1. Srdo

    Srdo Member

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    I am currently reading "Frontsoldaten" by Stephen G. Fritz. If you are looking for "bottom up" view of life on the front of German infantry, this is an excellent reading!
     
  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    That's a coincidence, srdo - so am I ! I'm about half-way through.

    Published by the University of Kentucky Press, it's a scholarly work which is also very interesting to read. However, he leans quite heavily on Guy Sajer's book so, if you're one of the people who has a problem with Sajer, this one maybe isn't for you....
     
  3. Srdo

    Srdo Member

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    Heh...nice coincidence:) Yesterday I finished book and I enjoyed it quite much. As far as Sajer is concerned, I don't have a problem with his "Forgotten soldier". But I must admit that there are parts in book I don't like, but it doesn't matter.
    Martin, I have just begun reading "Armor battles of Waffen SS" by Will Fey. I don't suppose you're reading that one also...? :D
     
  4. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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  5. Srdo

    Srdo Member

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    Hahaha, Martin:) You bet it is spooky because I have ordered Waffen SS with Tigers in the mud from Amazon, also! [​IMG] Only difference is that I ordered from US Amazon and I got books after two weeks;) And I have ordered two more books but I am not going to tell you which beacause I will develop a serious case of paranoia... [​IMG]
     
  6. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Srdo, i'm happy to note that [​IMG] Otto Carius is still alive and doing well.
     
  7. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    if anyone is interested the newer version of Will Fey's book.......Armor Battles of the W-SS has different fotos included which are not shown in the older hard back edition. I find that refreshing but a little weird too
     
  8. Srdo

    Srdo Member

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    Erich, my copy of Armor battles is published by Stackpole books. Is that you are talking about?
     
  9. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Srdo you have the small soft bound book yes ? Mine is the old oversized with the colored painting of Tigers against T-34's in the wheat fields........

    ~E
     
  10. Srdo

    Srdo Member

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    Yes, this is a soft bound book, green cover with two Waffen-SS soldiers
     
  11. Daniel Jones

    Daniel Jones Member

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    I think it is important to note for all you non-believers, that in Fritz book he quotes alot of Guy Sajer.
     
  12. Mehar

    Mehar Ace

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    I finished reading this book today. It does a pretty good job at delving into the experiences of Wehrmacht soldiers during various parts of the war, the rise of Nazism, and even post war.

    It concludes in a weird way, it's hard to determine exactly what the author is trying to say.

    The last chapter really got me thinking, it looks into veteran attitudes post war and it was essentially about them coming to grips with what happened with the Nazi's and how they all share a certain sense of responsibility even if they never intended for things to happen. I can't begin to imagine how it must feel having to carry such feelings with you for the rest of your life and even beyond that. As one soldier put it, "...we have become victims and perpetrators".

    I never really understood Hitler's "Bolshevik/Jewish" plot worked or the influence it had on soldiers first hand. From what I've read from the book, the goal was to indoctrinate the population into thinking the Bolshevik's with the help of Jews and other enemies of the state made Russia a horrible place to live, as a result, they were planning on spreading such ideals throughout Europe and it was up to Germany to stop them. Memoirs that Fritz quotes support these ideals, soldiers would write about entire families living in primitive, filthy, and unhealthy states and blame the Bolsheviks. One soldier wrote about his unit having to stay with a Ukrainian family in the "bread basket" of Russia, the family only had a single fire to heat the entire house and had to sleep around it at night for warmth. The conditions were so poor that newspaper was used to cover the house, the family's child was also suffering from malnutrition.

    Essentially the vibe I got from it was the propaganda attempted to play off of conditions in the Soviet Union at the time, as a result soldiers were more willing to believe the threat did indeed exist hence were willing to fight it. This may also explain why certain soldiers were so willing to lash out at civilians. I guess in a way it's like the Taliban and how they are perceived, the main difference being that the Bolshevik plot was largely if not entirely false.

    As an aside, a few soldiers even began to foreshadow exactly what would have happened to Germany if the Red Army would win as earlier as 1941.

    It does a great job at detailing camaraderie in the Wehrmacht, Hitler Youth, etc and how the Nazi's intended to warp it into something that would sustain the Third Reich on the front and at home. I forgot the exact term that Hitler used for it but Fritz claims this was a Nazi ideology so by supporting it in the Wehrmacht you could say this was one of the Nazi supported ideologies soldiers fought for and I can see his reasoning for that.

    Guy Sajer is quoted quite a bit in the book but that shouldn't matter, his book does a great job at looking at the realities behind war for a soldier (which is what Frontsoldaten does as well). It's been a while since I've read TFS but I don't think Sajer explains what the "ideology" the Wehrmacht (his companions specifically) were fighting for but Fritz implies this was the Nazi ideology and even uses quotes from the book about it. Sajer in the book wants to be accepted for his German half but again, Fritz makes it seem like he wants to be accepted into the ideology.

    The book also claims soldiers were very supportive of Hitler to a point where they were specifically fighting for him towards the end of the war and even includes a quote from Himmler justifying this. Towards the end of the war, didn't Hitler's support see a decline? There were cases of entire divisions failing to give the Hitler salute or the Sieg Heil to Nazi officials but these aren't mentioned.

    Fritz is very upfront when he says the Wehrmacht was supportive of the fact that Hitler survived the assassination attempt. From veteran accounts that I've read, after hearing of Rommel's involvement, those who had served under him began to question by such high ranking officials would be involved in such an attempt. To these men Rommel could do no wrong, yet such examples aren't even given in the book. Fritz isn't really trying to push one side of an argument either so I found it strange that such crucial material wasn't mentioned when coming to such a decision.

    Fritz quotes from deceased soldiers as well, he might paint a gloomy picture using a soldier's letter home, journal, etc and immediately following add something like "he was killed the next day". I had mixed emotions as a result, the use of such material from soldiers who died in battle is of course a different discussion. There are some editing issues as well, in one part of the book Fritz's uses the same quote by an officers to talk about the same subject on two following pages! Quotes from the beginning of the book are also used later on towards the end, almost verbatim.

    Asides from a few issues, it's a pretty good resource. It has well over 40 pages of sources so I highly recommend it for that alone. If you ever need memoirs to read or a quick reference book for further research later on it does a great job.

    I think that's just about it for me. So, in the seven years following this thread, has anyone else given the book a go?

    Edit: Forgot to mention, I was somewhat disappointed that S.S. memoirs were not consulted despite certain units having interactions with the Wehrmacht, and an S.S. soldier is even featured on the cover of the book but that could be the publisher's mistake.
     
  13. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Not a bad book. Read it about 10 years ago....
     
  14. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I see it's almost seven years since my last contribution to this thread :)o!) and I haven't altered my opinion - a very worthwhile book which I still refer to frequently.....
     
  15. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I see that University of Kentucky Press have just published another work by Stephen G Fritz - 'Ostkrieg - Hitler's War Of Extermination In The East'. Apparently, he's tried to satisfy a demand from many of his students for a reliable, readable single-volume account of the Eastern Front which includes much of the latest research and information which has appeared over the last 20 years.
     
  16. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II, by Stephen G. Fritz, The University Press of Kentucky, 1995, 299 Pages, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

    This book is a psychological study of the German Infantryman in WWII. The author restricts his examination to the Heer, so it cannot claim to encompass all German serviceman's experiences, but it comes pretty close. While all fronts and all campaign's are included, it is primary the Eastern Front soldier we hear from.

    The book looks at a variety of aspects of the Landser's life, outlook and goals. Comradeship is a recurring theme. It got them through training, first taste of battle, death of buddies, the first setbacks and the long retreat. It also allowed them to cope with waging a pitiless and cruel war of extermination.

    The author makes a compelling argument that the Landser was
    a willing, at to some degree an eager participant in Hitler's eastern adventure. There was a genuine (to them at least) fear of both Communism and Russia itself. The vast expanses,
    the ferocity of the Soviet soldier, the seeming squalor of the common Russian and the magnitude of the conflict all acted to give the German soldier the impression that he was not fighting fellow human beings but some form of alien and evil lifeform.

    That alone can not explain the tenacity and willingness of the Landser to fight long past the point where common sense might mandate a more prudent course, and to accept the making of total war not just on a nation but a people itself. Soldier, worker, farmer, mother and child.

    The German soldier believed he was not only making a better world, but a better Germany as well. War they thought was stripping away the last vestiges of the old world class system, and creating a new German. A new German that could be anything he wished to be, but also a German who saw his fellow German as his equal and brother in the classic sense.

    The Landser felt deeply that Hitler was bringing this change to Germany and eventually to western civilization in an almost religious conviction. Volksgeneinschaft, a sense of national community was seen as an acceptable goal for all the German soldier endured, and equally importantly, all he did.

    This book is not for someone new to the study of WWII for I feel you need a solid foundation to properly digest the complex and at times contradictory nature of the German soldier. But for those who wish to look deeper into both how and why the Landser fought, this is for you.

     
  17. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Good to see this thread is still alive
     

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