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Soldaten - On Fighting, Killing and Dying: The Secret Second World War Tapes of German POWs [Kindle Edition]

Sonke Neitzel , Harald Welzer
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In November 2001, as the world still reeled from the attack on the Twin Towers, German historian Sonke Neitzel discovered an extraordinary cache of documents from the Second World War. The documents were the transcripts of German prisoners of war talking among themselves in prisoner of war camps, and secretly recorded by the allies. In these apparently private conversations the soldiers talked freely and openly about their hopes and fears, their concerns and their day-to-day lives. With a banality and ease which to the modern reader can appear shocking, they also talked about the horrors of war -- about rape, death and killing.
Sonke Neitzel shared the material with renowned and bestselling psychologist Harald Wezler and they set about trying to make sense of the vast piles of documents, the hours of transcripts. The result is SOLDATEN, a landmark book which will change the way we look at soldiers and war, and is as relevant to our modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as it was to the soldiers of the German Army in 1945. Published to huge acclaim and controversy in Germany it was a number one bestseller there and reignited the debate about the banality of evil under the Nazi regime.

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War obviously brutalises man. And yet the book records cases of pilots who, after initial trepidation, are gleefully blazing away at villagers... This book lets us listen to men talking to men. It frightened the hell out of me - The Times

These extraordinary bugged conversations reveal through the eyes of German soldiers with stark clarity and candour the often brutal reality of the Second World War, providing remarkable insight into the mentality and behavior of the Wehrmacht - Sir Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler: A Biography

Historians often dream of being able to eavesdrop on history, but few can hope to obtain such spectacularly direct access as that presented in this major addition to the literature on the second world war - Observer

Soldaten makes for a compelling read - Sunday Express

A remarkable and incontrovertible insight into the mind of the ordinary German soldier - Sunday Telegraph

Peppered with vivid, and often shocking, stories told by the soldiers, sailors and airmen themselves - Financial Times

Soldaten demonstrates how impossible it was for these officers to separate Nazi values of racial superiority from the party s success in restoring economic prosperity and national pride - Spectator

A clearer understanding of the complicity of the rank and file is now available...truly terrifying- The Daily Telegraph

Some of the most important testimony to have emerged from the war - The Daily Mail

Compelling, even shocking, reading Battle of Britain magazine

This is an exemplary piece of history, rigorous in its conception, thought-provoking and clear-eyed in its conclusions. It should be essential reading for those with an interest in Nazi Germany - BBC History Magazine

Soldaten raises unsettling questions about the fate of civilians in the firing line. It provides an essential documentary record: seldom has surveillance been put to such important use - Guardian

Genuinely ground-breaking in letting Hitler s soldiers speak out in their own unvarnished voices ... an important contribution to the great debate on who knew what about the Third Reich s agenda --History Today

About the Author

Sonke Neitzel is Professor of International History at the London School of Economics, having also held positions at the universities of Glasgow, Saarbrucken, Bern and Mainz. He is the author of seven books, including Tapping Hitler's Generals and Soldaten. Harald Welzer is a sociologist and social psychologist, Professor for Transformation-design at the University of Flensburg, as well as Executive Director of the foundation FuturZwei. His main foci of research and teaching are memory, group violence and socio-cultural climate impact research. His books have been translated into 15 languages.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1257 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (25 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007IL51RG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #136,163 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Was hast du in dem Krieg zu tun, Großpapa? 29 Jun. 2013
By Seaweed
`Soldaten' by Sönke Neitzel & Harald Welzer (Simon & Schuster 2012, ppk 2013 £9.99)

(publisher's review copy)

MI 19 (as it became) supported its normal interrogation of PoWs by housing some in bugged quarters where, although German personnel had been warned about this possibility certainly from 1941 (after von Werra's successful (and amazing) escape from Canada), they chatted to each other in an unguarded way. Sometimes a PoW would be lodged with a stool-pigeon who would draw them out on a desired matter. The result was important, even crucial intelligence and not a few surprises. The conversations were listened to and transcribed and, where appropriate, recorded. The English translations of the transcripts were stored, and in 1999 were released to the National Archives under code WO 208.

Neitzel, a German academic historian working in England, discovered these and has worked through tens of thousands of pages of transcripts to select the examples that he is using here. This is a data mine that others will probably explore differently in the future.

With the psychologist Welzer he has distilled them into a study of the German fighting man of WW2. Their sources also include equivalent American records from Fort Hunt. Originally published in German in 2010, we now have `Soldaten' in translation, and fascinating it is. Some may have `met' Nietzel through his participation in a recent Channel 4 programme on the topic.

Initially most of the targeted subjects were Luftwaffe aircrew or U-boat survivors, chosen for their military intelligence value. However it was not just technical revelations that surfaced, but also attitudes.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An academic study rather than a good read 3 Dec. 2013
By traveller TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book quite difficult to 'get into' - it is written in a more academic style than I expected, so although I found the transcripts of the tapes very interesting, for me the actual individuals' narratives got a bit lost in the text around it. In summary, it was a reasonable read, a bit on the 'heavy' side and a bit of a tedious read at times, hence the three stars.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Further Evidence 25 Oct. 2012
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER
Professor Neitzel is an accomplished historian who teaches at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science. He has written another very important book,this time about the behaviour of senior German military personnel during WW2.
Until approximately 25 years ago the standard work on the war stated that the atrocities committed by Germans, particularly on the Eastern Front, were the result of special SS squads not the professional military. Several historians,like Hastings, Burleigh and Kershaw, have in the ensuing years demonstrated that this is simply untrue. Many appalling atrocities against Jews and Russians were deliberately committed by serving army personnel under orders from their seniors. The record is long and beyond dispute.
Professor Neitzel's book,therefore, while telling us little that is new, is a welcome extra piece of evidence.
The involvement of Germany's soldiers,even at the most senior level,in atrocities shows how gullible was the late Sir Basil Liddle Hart who interviewed several captured German generals after the war and accepted their version of events as the truth.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning. 21 Nov. 2012
By Bobby Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Unlike some of the other reviewers I think the marriage of a historian and a psychologist works perfectly well, when it comes to analysing the actions and words of the German military in WW2. I found it fascinating reading the thoughts of the soldiers as they discuss many aspects of WW2 - be they killing, inter-service rivalries, weapon technology or the efforts of their allies. Whilst some of the information is hardly ground-breaking, for instance they thought the Italians were not good fighters, the secretly taped words of the soldiers serve to both educate the reader and condemn the Wehrmacht, as they admit to war crimes and their part in the Holocaust. Although some of the analysis does, at times, explain the obvious, it does lend the book an original feel - something lacking in the authors previous book. All in all this is a superb addition to what we now know about the German military in the Second World War. I also recommend the book: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society as a companion to this serious work of historical analysis.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For an insight into how the Nazi machine persuaded and even brainwashed their military into believing the most incredible things you should read this book. Bear in mind, this was written by German authors who have no axe to grind. They didn't try to make excuses, they haven't tried to cover up less palatable facts. Most of the military, from the lowest to, quite often, the highest believed what they were being told. We've heard so often that it was the SS who were the brutal murderers but here you'll read how the reichswehr and luftwaffe - the ordinary military - also took pleasure in killing. Don't be afraid that the book is full of blood and guts stories 'cos it isn't. It's the story of what the German military said to each other as POWs whilst the allied poweers listened in via hidden microphones. Not a dry boring book, this is an interesting,can't-put-it-down book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Gritty and nasty
Gritty, nasty and not too long war book told by those nasty nazis. I would not like to encourage people to read it, but it does draw you in and compels to read more... Read more
Published 7 hours ago by Charles Griffiths
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Just shows how disfunctional this generation of Germans were.
Published 1 month ago by Fin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very enlightening.
Published 2 months ago by Dorothy Oz
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb
Superb and chilling at the same time. Drags a bit at the end. Helps if you watch the C4 documentary first
Published 4 months ago by M. James Creaven
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great thanks
Published 4 months ago by Mrs E Chadwick
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book from the get go
I enjoyed this book from the get go, despite the lack of continuous of verbatim transcripts as I expected, it goes into psychological profiles a mite, but if one sticks with it,... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Inquisio
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs far many more transcripts of the secretly recorded tapes.
An ok book. Most of it is the analysis of the German pyche during the war which I was not expecting. Read more
Published 5 months ago by MrMatt
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into ordinary people.
Not the easiest thing to read , but a great insight into the way that ordinary people talked about their part in horrors without the hindsight and self protection of later years. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Could no put it down when I started reading
This is a very good book On Fighting, Killing and Dying: The Secret Second World War Tapes of German POWs powerful reading
Published 6 months ago by sadarse
4.0 out of 5 stars The horrors of war:a warning to mankind!
The detail is fascinaing though horrifying at times. It's useful also in providing a German view on key topics during the war's progress. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Thomas O Donoghue
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