on 22 January 2003
Opening with an excellent foreword which puts you in the mindset of the German General Staff, this book allows you to understand WWII from the German perspective.
The book starts off by describing the development of German armoured warfare which arose out of a need for mobile defence, a direct result of the Treaty of Versailles. This gives valuable insight into how the Germans were able to bring about swift victories in Poland and France at the start of the war by using their experiences from re-militarising the Ruhr region and the friendly invasion of Austria.
Guderian then gives an account of his campaigns in Poland, France and Russian up to the end of the first year when he was dismissed by Hitler. The account is backed up by sketch maps and you get an impression of what it was like to be there with the difficulties they faced from supplies to weather, the enemy and worst of all with their own high command.
Later in the war Guderian is recalled to service to try to reverse the worsening fortunes of the Army and it is this part of the book which is probably the most interesting as you see his constant battles with Hitler and the high command to make them see sense such as not to launch operation Citadel (at Kursk). However in the end sense rarely prevails and you see the disastrous consequences that Guderian has predicted come to light.
At the end of this book you come away with a good impression of Guderian and I feel that he was trying to make the best of a bad situation. However like Antony Beevor says in his book Stalingrad this type of book was written after the war and is no doubt written in such a way that the suffering of civilians is rarely mention, such as soldiers evicting russian peasants into the freezing cold and also the interactions between the Generals and the infamous SS divisions 'clearing up' behind the lines. You'll also find that the disaster at Stalingrad is not really covered in this book due to the book being a personal account from Guderian and not a full history of the campaigns.
All in all this is a great book and gives a good perspective of the war from the German perspective from the rise of German military power to it's catastrophic downfall.
on 12 September 1997
"Panzer Leader," written by a former Colonel-General of the Wehrmacht, Heinz Guderian, is a fascinating book. It is fascinating in its own right in that it describes Guderian's efforts to create and operate effective all-arms formations including armor, armored infantry and towed (later self-propelled) artillery in spite of the opposition from the more traditional elements of the Wehrmacht. With Hitler's keen interest and help, Guderian succeeded in creating such formations in "Panzerdivisionen" - armored divisions. The subsquent successes which Guderian had as a commander of such formations in Poland, France and Russia make an exciting and informed reading.
However, the book is also fascinating because of the falsehood contained in it. Principally, there are two major "untruths" which often escape notice from the casual reader. The first falsehood is the credit which Guderian attributes to the late Sir Basil H. Liddell Hart as the "founder" of Blitzkrieg "doctrine." Guderian was jailed after the Second World War by the Allied authorities in the West, and it was Sir Liddell Hart who championed his (and other jailed German generals') cause. He brought them gifts and attempted to convince the authorities to free them, and eventually became the editor of their memoirs in the West. Sir Lidell Hart had been indeed an innovator of military doctrine in the 1920's, but he had, by 1930's, rejected the concept of armored warfare as viable. In any case, his reputation had fallen during the war, and this he attempted to salvage rather successfully with the help of the grateful ex-German generals after the war. Hence, Guderian inserted the line crediting Sir Liddell Hart as the founder of Blitzkrieg idea in the English edition of the book (it does not appear in the German edition) which was then edited by Sir Liddell Hart himself. Guderian really deserves the credit for integrating armor, motorized infantry and motorized artillery into an all-arms fighting formation known as Panzer Divisions.
Second major "irregularity" of the book concerns the infamous "Commissar Order." Prior to launching Case Barbarossa, the invasion of Soviet Union, Hitler directed that German forces to eliminate Soviet political officers (and eventually other "undesirables" including Jews) among the captured Soviet POWs. Guderian claims in the book that he did not distribute this order to units under his command, the Second Panzer Group (later the Second Panzer Army) and that hence the order was not carried out in his command. This is an outright lie as was later effectively rebutted by the books written by Professor Omer Bartov. In fact, the Commissar Order was carried out in the Second Panzer Group.
There are other smaller problems. While the account of the war in the book is largely accurate, Guderian often fails to mention that his mistakes were at times reponsible for the failure of military operations under his command. Instead he blames Hitler who, though he shares a large part of the blame, did not make the mistakes alone.
This book was instrumental during the earlier years of the Cold War in implanting the idea that the "Shield of the Wehrmacht" was "untainted" - that it was Hitler and the SS who were responsible for the military failures and the atrocities and that the German army's honor and operational brilliance remained untainted. The book was welcomed in the West because it helped to buttress the argument for the rearming of the Federal Republic of Germany, and because it pointed a way to defeat the Russian "Slavic-Asiatic" hordes with West European operational and tactical brilliance.
We now have a more accurate portrayal of the war available. Nonetheless, the book is useful in that it provides an insight into why the Panzer Division was such an effective instrument of war. The books shows that it was the operational and tactical brilliance of integrating all arms and allowing the unit to deal flexibly with all forms of enemies while maintaining the momentum of operation which made the German armored units so formidable, not the superior number of German tanks during the early years as Sir Churchill inaccurately pointed out in his writings.
At the same time, the reader must understand the context of the book and what it does not contain and what it falsifies. For the shield of the Wehrmacht was tainted with the blood of its victims and occassional military blunders by its commanders. So long as that understanding is present, the book makes an interesting and fascinating military history reading.
James J. Na
on 9 December 2009
I've had this book sitting on my bookshelf for years and finally decided it was time to read it or get rid of it, and I am pleased to say that I made the right choice to read it. The book is an absolute gem. It details Guderian's rise through the ranks and his work on motorised infantry, his part in the campaigns, particularly the fall of Poland and France and the invasion of the Soviet Union and his efforts to make Hitler and his inner circle see the terrible mistakes they were making with their poor military decisions, especially in the latter part of the war.
The impression you are left with is that Guderian was a proud Prussian and proud soldier. He speaks warmly of his friends and family and he appears to be a dedicated individual who really cared about the state of his soldiers.
He details quite explicitly the campaigns he was involved in, whether as the victor or the deafeted and his rows with the supreme HQ and Hitler are eye-openers. He does not discuss the "jewish question" nor does he speak at any great depth about things like the Commissar Order when invading Russia or the work of the Einsatzgruppen. In fact he is very quiet about this dedicating something like 3 or 4 sentences to the actions and then rounding off with the conclusion that orders like that did not win hearts and minds!
There was an eyebrow raising moments in the book, when the Allies call for unconditional surrender and he suggests that this would be oppressing the German people and very unfair - considering this was in late 1943 and the Commissar orders and the final solution were both well underway it would be tongue in cheek if it wasn't so tragic. It would also have been very interesting to hear his views on the crimes against humanity and his feelings about the war after he was released by the Allies. The other thing I found chilling about this book was that Hitler had all these capable, competent and well loved (by the troops anyway) military leaders and he over-ruled them and constantly undermined them, which meant a lack of cohesion and in-fighting which was good for the Allies, but tragic for Germany.
Overall, this is a very good book and I would warmly recommend it to anyone with an interest in military history.
on 16 April 2014
This book is a classic. Colonel General Heinz Guderian was one of the senior commanders in the Wehrmacht in the Second World War.He survived the war, even though he stood up to Hitler frequently. But he was never made a Field Marshal. The book is largely reconstructed from his own war diaries, and so get a bit tedious at times. Complaints were made that he did not describe in more detail how he coped with orders from Hitler to exterminate Jews and whole populations. Conscientious officers like Guderian had little option but to go along with orders, and do as little as possible. On the whole the book compares well with the notorious memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery who believed he was always right, and any failure was the fault of others.
Guderian, like most senior officers in the Second World War, had survived the First World War. He was lucky enough to be selected as an officer in the 100,000 strong defense force, the Reichswehr, allowed to Germany. When Hitler came to power, this army had to be expanded to millions and trained. Tanks had to be built, even though Germany no longer had the facilities to make armor plate. Tank divisions, always called panzer divisions, had to be devised, furnished with tanks, and trained together.They were mostly light tanks, some armed only with machine-guns.But they brushed aside the much heavier British and French tanks.
This new army was thrown into war years before the generals considered it ready. What they achieved was astonishing, hence the interest in Allied circles how they managed it. But the Wehrmacht was ground down because Hitler could never bear to give up ground. In the closing days of the war he was dismissed from all offices by Hitler for defeatist views. Churchill, who was as interventionist as Hitler in military matters, tolerated those who opposed his views. General Alan Brook, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, had constant disagreements with Churchill, but was never sacked. Had Hitler listened to Guderian's advice the war might have lasted much longer.
It is no wonder that people were so eager to read Guderian's account of events
on 30 November 2001
A very good book, describing the difficulties of Guderian's battles against the Inept Nazi high command, plus the actual battles he fought in against the allies. He comes across as a good general who didn't mind getting up front to where the fighting was, and seems genuinely worried about the wellfare of his troops. He is also critical of the Nazi policy against the Slavic people saying it was a wasted opertunity to rally the russian people against the threat of communism, instead treating them as slaves instead of allies. Overall a very good book.
on 8 September 1998
Guderian's memoirs provide a fascinating look at the people and events that shaped both the successes and failures of the BlitzKrieg, combined arms operational concept. This is a MUST READ for any fan of Military History or Operational Combat (Heavy Manuever) theory.
If you enjoy this book; I would also recommend the 4 volume set of Military History by Hans Delbruk (Warfare and development from Marathon to Waterloo).
on 26 September 1998
This book offers a rare opportunity to observe the workings of the mind of one of the foremost proponents of blitzkrieg (lightning war). "Schnelle Heinz" Guderian was one of the guiding forces behind the blitzkrieg tactics of the German Army's formidable panzer divisions of World War Two. A frontline general during the lightning campaign against France in 1940, he later became Inspector General of all Germany's armored formations. By 1945 he was out of favor with Hitler and unemployed because of his outspoken criticisms of the Fuhrer's conduct of the war. He was passionate in his efforts to create the first modern all-arms mechanized armies. This book deserves a place in the library of any serious student of armored warfare. It is readable without being overly technical. A related work which focuses on German panzers and blitzkrieg in action is PANZER BATTLES by Von Mellenthin.
on 21 June 2013
Battlefield and politics should never mix, and nowhere is that clearer than in Panzer leader. Charting the developments of Germany's Panzer forces during the 1920s & 1930s, Panzer Leader provides valuable insights into the challenges Guderian faced within his own service branch from vested interests, and the political interference that dogged him at every turn.
As others have pointed out, Guderian takes credit for the works of others, and any serious student of world war two would do well to cross reference this work with the writings of Von Manstein and other established academic texts.
On the question of ethics and morals, Guderian does little to explain why he served such a barbaric regime, using the shield of duty and the Prussian mindset to explain away his committed service.
His ignorance concerning the treatment of Jews in occupied Russia, and the notorius commissar order, is remarkable, given what we know about the co-operation of the Germany army in aiding the death squads operating behind the lines, but as somebody once said, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
In saying that, the above should not detract from what is a valuable piece of both military and political history. The folly of Hitler's insistence in micro-managing the German army is laid bare, and is in stark contrast to the shrewdness of Stalin, who was more content to detach himself from the military decision making (at least until victory was assured.) All in all, a great book for any student of military history.
on 2 September 1997
For students of miltary history interested in the development of armor as a stand-alone weapon, this book is invaluable. However, its value far surpasses that of an account of the evolution of mechanized force; the insight it provides into the inner workings of the Third Reich and Hitler are of unparalleled value for anyone interested in understanding why Hitler, and not the German Army, lost the Second World War.
on 11 December 2010
This book gives you the Guderian version of what he did in WWII. It is very good, deals with a lot of operations and allows to understand better the german point of view, I really enjoyed it. However, some scholars claim that Guderian took a very positive view of himself and his actions, not telling what could tarnnish his reputation. In any case, the book is absolutely worth a reading.