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Firsthand perspectives of German WWII infantrymen are rare, as respected historian Dennis Showalter (Tannenberg: Clash of Empires) points out in his excellent introduction. Bidermann, who is an 18-year-old private in the 132d Infantry Division at the beginning of this memoir, takes us through the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, passage across the Dnieper and southern steppes, battles in the Crimea, engagements in northern Russia and retreat through Riga to the Baltic. He retrospectively reviews historical records and sketches the daily happenings and ambience of his unit in a matter-of-fact and unpretentious--yet invariably proud--tone. The translation is direct and generally graceful, sometimes lyrical. Retired Navy SEAL Zumbro, who has translated German accounts for the Eisenhower Center of the University of New Orleans, has translated and expanded Bidermann's 1964 private German publication, utilizing the same preserved documents and retrospective interviews from other members of the 132d. Before war's end, the unit was cut off in Courland, though Bidermann claims it was "never defeated in open battle." After surrender in 1945, the remnants of the division were held in extended captivity. The Wehrmacht subculture, which Bidermann describes but does not connect back to the Reich's atrocities, was compulsively "professional," with loyalty to fellows its all-consuming central ethic. This ethic seemingly sustained these soldiers through continual dire peril of body and soul. Some did survive. B&W photos. History Book Club selection. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"Since 1945, the front-line realities of Germany's Russian war have been submerged under so much myth that a book like this represents a welcome reality check. The 132nd's story, and Bidermann's, are part of the 'master narrative' of a 'demodernizing' Wehrmacht, whose men held against unbelievable odds and in the end were sacrificed to one of history's most purely evil causes. It is a story worth making available to American readers."--Dennis Showalter, author of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires"Stands head and shoulders above the many other books in this genre. Bidermann's style is crisp, succinct, and lucid and Zumbro has done a great job of translating."--David Glantz, coauthor of The Battle of Kursk and When Titans Clashed "What distinguishes Bidermann's book are his soldier's insights on the German army and the Eastern Front. Rather than glorifying the war as Germany's eastern crusade, Bidermann looks at the lives and the feelings of the soldiers as they relate to their adversaries and the battles they fought."--Parameters