Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II

Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II

Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II

Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II

Synopsis

"Alois Dwenger, writing from the front in May 1942, complained that people forgot "the actions of simple soldiers.... I believe that true heroism lies in bearing this dreadful everyday life." In exploring the reality of the Landser, the average German soldier in World War II, through letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral histories, Stephen G. Fritz provides the definitive account of the everyday war of the German front soldier." "The personal documents of these soldiers, most from the Russian front, where the majority of German infantrymen saw service, paint a richly textured portrait of the Landser that illustrates the complexity and paradox of his daily life. Although clinging to a self-image as a decent fellow, the German soldier nonetheless committed terrible crimes in the name of National Socialism. Idealistic and motivated by a desire to create a new society, he waged a cruel ideological war on behalf of a racist conception of national community. Though he was fiercely proud of his skill and resilience, his stubborn efforts ultimately led only to more senseless destruction." "With chapters on training, images of combat, living conditions, combat stress, the personal sensations of war, the bonds of comradeship, and ideology and motivation, Fritz offers a sense of immediacy and intimacy, revealing war through the eyes of these self-styled "little men." In contrasting these German soldiers with their American counterparts, he makes clear how much soldiers everywhere have in common, but he also reveals differences in ideological intensity, group cohesiveness, ingenuity, discipline, and quality of equipment that will come as a surprise to many readers familiar with the history of World War II." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This is not a book about war in the sense that such histories are usually understood; instead, it concerns the nature of men at war. Indeed, war serves as merely the backdrop against which human actions and emotions can be illuminated. As a consequence, I do not take a traditional “top-down” approach, relying on official documents and assessments of events, but rather approach history from the “bottom up,” from the perspective of the common fighting man. This approach, of course, has certain limitations, foremost among them the fact that the broad strategic sweep of traditional military history is absent. Nor is there any of the usual conjecture over matters of tactics, leadership, command decisions, or the relative merits of various weapons. Not only have those matters been dealt with elsewhere by other historians, but pursuing them here would negate the entire intent of everyday history. My purpose is to allow average German soldiers to speak, with a minimum of external interference; to hear their words and see the war through their eyes so as to get at the reality of the combat experience as lived by the men in the bunkers and foxholes. It is this sense of immediacy and drama, unfiltered and uncluttered by excessive analysis, that is at the heart of everyday history.

By its very nature, everyday history relies extensively on the comments of average people, which is why I have leaned heavily on quotations from the soldiers themselves. This does not mean, however, that there is no analysis or that the book is simply an edited collection of combat experiences. In reading countless letters and diaries, I analyzed them for personal, social, political, or ideological content, looked for recurring themes, created a systematic framework within each chapter in order to focus the words of the average soldiers, and then commented in a concise, analytical fashion. I could certainly have summarized much of this material in my own words, but then it would have lost the intimacy and impact of the moving stories of “little men” that are the strength of everyday history.

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