This is an interest collection of eyewitness accounts of the fighting in the Second World War as seen from the German side of the lines. The recollections come from members of the army, the Luftwaffe and the U-boat army of the navy. They are organised chronologically and by service, so we start with the army in Poland, France and Russia, then move onto the successful period for the U-boats and the Luftwaffe, the defeat of the U-boats and Luftwaffe and finally the defensive battles between Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin. The book finishes with a section on the experience of German prisoners of war which illustrates the stark difference between Soviet and Western standards of treatment of their prisoners, in turn a reflection on the appalling behaviour of the Germans in Russia.
German eyewitness accounts are fairly common in other books, but generally occur either in small numbers in books on particular battles or in books on particular aspects of the war (German fighter pilots or U-boat crews in particular), so a complete view of the developing attitudes across the war is of great value.
One of the most interesting features of the text are the misconceptions or hard to justify beliefs of many of the eyewitnesses, some dating back to the First World War. This included a sense of betrayal by the Poles - in 1916 the Germans set up a puppet Polish state in an attempt to gain support on the Eastern Front, and at least one of the writers here felt that they weren't properly grateful for this, even though this Kingdom of Poland was always intended to be ruled by the Germans and have a German monarch. Rumours about Allied secret weapons or the source of British radar abound and perhaps the biggest difference between these memories and those of their allied opponents is the role played by government propaganda, which provided a much more distorted view of events than Allied news reports did. The author has chosen not to correct historical errors in the eyewitness accounts, leaving the reader to make their own decisions.
The linking text could do with being a little tighter in places, but it does its job of connecting the first hand accounts of the fighting. These give the reader a clear impression of the way in which the experiences of the German fighting men changed as the war turned against them, from the glory days of 1939-40 to the ghastly defensive battles of 1944-45. This is a fascinating read that reminds us how similar the experience of the soldiers on each side actually were.
1 - The Blitzkrieg Era 1939-1941
2 - The Germans in Russia
3 - The U-Boat War: Days of Success 1939-1942
4 - The Luftwaffe: Eagles Ascending 1939-1942
5 - The U-Boat War: Days of Failure 1943-1945
6 - The Defeat of the Luftwaffe 1943-1944
7 - The Closing Battles: Stalingrad to Berlin 1943-1945
8 - Prisoners
Author: Bob Carruthers
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military