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Soldados del Tercer Reich : testimonios de…

Soldados del Tercer Reich : testimonios de lucha, muerte y crimen (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Sönke Neitzel

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Title:Soldados del Tercer Reich : testimonios de lucha, muerte y crimen
Authors:Sönke Neitzel
Info:Barcelona : Crítica, 2012
Collections:Your library
Tags:Historia, Alemania, S. XX, Segunda Guerra Mundial

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Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying by Sönke Neitzel (Author) (2011)




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Showing 4 of 4
I was expecting something wholly different from the description offered of this text. It seems there were a few main points the authors decided to concentrate on and then used various bits of the evidence at their disposal to support and reinforce their ideas. What I expected was a candid look at the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of German soldiers: what they thought of their enemies, of the war, their commanding officers, orders they were forced to carry out, etc. Yet that hardly features in the sound bites the authors chose to concentrate on. Instead, it appears the authors believe the Wehrmacht has already been proven to have been an instrument of genocide and their interests are showcasing how the Wehrmacht was also a rather banal military instrument in the hands of the Third Reich. Specifically, that the attitudes of the soldiers within the Wehrmacht were created by their experiences in the First World War and the environment that they grew up in (Weimar Germany and the beginning of the Third Reich), which regularly featured violence and death on the streets and in the news.

Thus, there is a rather pointless concentration on the mundane experiences of soldiers, highlighting that the Wehrmacht was in many ways similar to the German Army in the First World War, the armies they faced in the Second World War, and even the armies and soldiers of the Vietnam era and today's veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. For some this is perhaps a worthwhile read, and in some ways it is a step in contextualizing the fact that some actions of the Wehrmacht can be and have been replicated throughout the past half-century in conflicts like Vietnam and the recent wars the United States (and many other countries) has participated in. Soldiers do take liberties with the power they've been given and the forces that they represent and are supported by. But, then again, the US featured a rather large and outspoken anti-war movement and many turned on US soldiers and what they stood for (during the Vietnam era). The same cannot be said for the Nazi Germany era. Thus, in some ways, this book misses the forest for the trees. Concentrating on just the soldiers and the Wehrmacht is useful and helpful in understanding their thoughts and interactions (with the enemy and each other), but it wholly omits the numerous organizations soldiers also had to interact with that were not represented by the Wehrmacht. Personally, however, I am more interested in understanding how much German soldiers knew of what was going on outside the confines of the 'front line', their views and attitudes toward the future Hitler was building with their services to the Third Reich, and whether any exhibited some type of opposition and remorse for what they, or the Wehrmacht in general, had done. Those issues, unfortunately, are hardly covered or contextualized in any meaningful way. ( )
  Kunikov | Mar 28, 2014 |
This book is based on tapes found by a German researcher made by eavesdropping German prisoners of war by the British. Some times just ad hoc discussions but often initiated by spies. The intent was to gather intelligence but the tapes give an insight into the minds of the soldier.

It starts interestingly enough and I was captivated up until maybe half-way. Unfortunately the very dry scientific style added with lots of repetition made the book rather boring to read after that so I actually quit at the point where it started discussing how the research was conducted.

The first part of the book is well worth reading, though. It gives a good insight into the minds of soldiers doing horrible things. Not only the "normal" warfare but the more gruesome atrocities done by German soldiers. It tries to explain how ordinary men could murder innocent civilians and how they coped with it. But it also tries to explain how the soldiers handled the war and how they saw their part in it. War is, after all, the most brutal and most disconnected thing from your normal civilian life that anyone can participate in. It is hard to really understand this, partly because there is always a gulf between soldiers and civilians: we can't possibly fully understand how it was, so most who have been in war don't really try to explain it. Of course this is also caused by the traumas that front-line soldiers have faced. It is impossible to be in the front line and not see things that would severely traumatise anyone. Soldiers might have to face them for years. How can anyone stay sane under such conditions?

So the book takes a scientific approach to the tapes and using modern psychology tries to explain these and many other things. It's not an easy read for more than one reason but if war and it's psychology interests, the book is well worth a read. ( )
  Makis | Feb 17, 2014 |
>the transcripts of conversations between German prisoners of war, secretly recorded by the British and American intelligence services, offer a vivid and at times surprising insight into the mentality of the German military.

>Between 1940 and 1945, in camps specifically set up for this purpose, the British and Americans bugged about 13,000 German and several hundred Italian soldiers of all ranks and services. The goal was to discover military secrets of potentially strategic importance. Selected stretches of conversations were transcribed verbatim and also recorded. Altogether, the tape transcripts come to 150,000 pages, which, even after their declassification in 1996, continued to slumber largely undiscovered in American archives.

Be still, my bearing heart. Just the thought of all of those records is astonishing. My inner historian is drooling.
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Most oral history is tainted by two biases. Firstly, the time elapsed between the retelling and the action told may change the narrative. Secondly, the interviewer subtly influences how and what the interviewee tells. The sources for this book do not suffer from these problems. These are secretly recorded conversations among German WWII POW in Allied prison camps. Some of the conversations were triggered by agents provocateurs, but mostly it is soldiers and officers talking amongst themselves. The authors have sifted through 150.000 protocol pages and arranged the material into topical bundles. I wish the authors had included more statistical data about their process, offering some quantitative measures to their qualitative method, It remains unclear to me how typical or atypical some of the topics of discussion were.

Another element of their source deserves to be mentioned: The composition of German POW in Allied camps is highly skewed torwards Luftwaffe and navy personnel. Only in 1943/1944 did the Allies capture German infantry in sizable numbers. The soldier's experience between these groups is very different. The impersonal (almost video game-like) killing done by pilots and submariners is not comparable to the gritty hands-on butcher's work of the infantry.

The authors' main message is that soldiering is a trade like any other, with a bloody twist. Like other tradesmen, the soldiers like to discuss the tools of the trade, boast about their successes and lament about their failures. Like a butcher killing hogs, the soldiers express admiration for a job well done or dismay for a botched action. The casual acceptance and perpetration of war crimes is shocking but well explained by the author's use of different "frames of reference". What I didn't know about was the high level of sexual violence and forced prostitution perpetrated by the Wehrmacht. A topic that seldom reaches the history books but was a favorite topic among the POWs - to the frustration of the note takers interested in military secrets not sexual peccadillos.

One interesting finding is that offering the perpetrators wide leeway in choosing their role facilitates war crimes, as opponents and bystanders can rationalize their guilt by performing tangential jobs. A high level division of labor dilutes overall responsibility - a fact used today by the corporate use of Chinese factories with atrocious working conditions.

Overall, a very interesting book that did not quite live up to its potential. ( )
1 vote jcbrunner | Nov 1, 2011 |
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Welzer, Haraldmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Though initially recorded by British intelligence with the intention of gaining information that might be useful for the Allied war effort, the matters discussed in these conversations ultimately proved to be limited in that regard. But they would supply a unique and profoundly important window into the mentality of the soldiers in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the German navy, and the military in general, almost all of whom had insisted on their own honorable behavior during the war. It is a myth these transcripts unequivocally debunk.… (more)

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