Panzers on the Eastern Front, Erhard Raus, ed. Peter Tsouras

Panzers on the Eastern Front, Erhard Raus, ed. Peter Tsouras

General Erhard Raus and His Panzer Divisions in Russia 1941-1945

This book contains a series of historical essays written for the US military by General Erhard Raus, one of the best German generals of the Second World War. These studies of his actions were written in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and were first discovered by the editor (then a serving officer in the US Army) in the early 1970s.

This book really requires two separate reviews – the first covering Tsouras's presentation of the material and its overall historical value, the second looking at Raus's work.

Tsouras has done a good job of presenting Raus's material, supporting the text with a number of useful footnotes (actual footnotes for a change – hurrah!). There is a useful introduction giving a biography of Raus and his command experiences, some good maps and information appendices. Raus's writings themselves are of great historical value, giving us a clear idea of how one senior German general saw events on the Eastern Front, as well as a series of accounts of individual actions of varied scale and importance.

And now onto that second review, looking at the validity of Raus's views. Here there are a number of problems (none of which detract from the historical value of this book). The first is that you are rarely aware that Raus was fighting on the losing side – even during the chapter on the unsuccessful attempt to rescue the 6th Army at Stalingrad (badly mistitled as 'To Liberate Stalingrad' – if there is one thing the Germans can never have claimed it was that they were attempting to liberate the city!). Raus focuses on a number of small scale German successes, mostly day or two-day battles, and largely ignores the total failure of the operation. The one section on Germany's failure comes at the end, where he reports a conversion with Himmler in which he effectively blames the high command (i.e. Hitler) for the German defeat. 

One can understand the reasons for Raus's tone – having suffered a crushing defeat on the Eastern Front, Raus must have been very pleased to find his expertise suddenly in demand in the United States, something that fitted in with the German belief late in the war that western allies should have joined with the Wehrmacht to fight the Soviets. There is thus something of a tone of 'we told you so', and his work might have been more reliable if someone had whispered 'remember you lost' in his ear from time to time! This isn't to say that Raus wasn't a very successful general himself – his achievements were very impressive, both during the early offensives and the later long defensive campaign.

Overall this is a fascinating and very valuable book, and a very useful source for anyone interested in the details of the fighting on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. 

1 - Barbarossa Begins
2 - 'Raus Pulls Them Through'
3 - 'To Liberate Stalingrad'
4 - Struggle along the Donats, August 1943
5 - The Pomeranian Battle and the Command in the East

Author: Erhard Raus, ed. Peter Tsouras
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 254
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2011 edition of 1996 original

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