- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Presidio Press; First edition, first impression edition (31 Jan. 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0891416293
- ISBN-13: 978-0891416296
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 894,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Striking Back: A Jewish Commando's War Against the Nazis Hardcover – 31 Jan 1998
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I read books like this partly as war/adventure stories but also and particularly as stories of fighting back against evil. I like to read about the oppressed turning on and defeating their oppressors, of Jews shooting at Nazis. Masters and his comrades did that and did it well.
Masters, born Peter Arany in Austria, escaped Vienna to England in 1938 with his mother and sister, his divorced father escaping separately, also to England. He was 16 and Jewish.
At the start of the war he and his father were interned as "enemy aliens." After all, they had come from a land that was then part of Germany. Eventually he was able to get out to join the army, but only in an unarmed "Pioneer" labor battalion. In 1943 he was finally selected for advanced commando training in a unit of mostly Jewish native German speakers. They underwent extraordinary physical training, running, mountain climbing, parachuting, hand to hand combat, as well as training in all kinds of weapons. Finally on D-Day he went ashore in Europe and fought on the front lines, usually in reconnaissance right up to the enemy lines, in attacks, and in prisoner interrogations. After a short rest in England his unit was back fighting in the Ardennes, the Rhine crossing, and the conquest of Germany.
Although M was 75 when this book was published it was written with much clarity and insight and a considerable appreciation of the viewpoint of his youth.
I read the book a couple of years ago but there are a number of episodes in it that stick in my memory. In one, one of the English trainers runs up a rock face that all of the men, already well trained themselves, thought was too smooth and steep to be climbed. Then he teaches all of the men to do it. If I remember correctly, this gallant and talented Englishman did not survive the war.
In another episode a German air raid on London finds a naked Masters in bed with a young lady staying in the house where the two of them were temporarily quartered. As the owner of the house, a proper Englishman, rushes upstairs to find out if his guests are okay, Masters manages to procure his machine gun and open the bedroom window, posing as the defender of the young lady and the house.
In another, Masters and a partner advance towards a German position in order to scout it out. They move far slower than a tortoise's pace. Unlike in the movies, maneuvering in the face of the enemy is something to be done with great care and alertness, not bravado. After acquiring some experience, he learns to bring a lot less ammunition with him, figuring that stealth, speed and brains, not lots of shooting, will preserve his life and win the day.
In another, Masters observes an American assault on a German position in Germany near the end of the war. Hoping to see a clever and well planned attack, he actually sees the kind of attack that the Royal Marines characterize as "bash on regardless". Men are killed that need not have been. After the Germans surrender Masters' officer confronts the German sergeant who leads his men out of their position. The officer smashes the German in the face, demanding to know why they killed so many Americans when they knew that the war was lost, that their position was lost, and that they were going to surrender anyway.
There were also a number of episodes where Masters was employed in interrogating Germans. All were surprised at his excellent German. But he shared no sympathy with them. They were his enemies in a way that was perhaps not as personal for most other combatants. In at least one he surprised a German who didn't know he spoke German by confronting him after hearing him make some remark to his pals.
Masters moved to the United States after the war and spent the rest of his life here. I would thank him for his service in the war and for writing this book to uplift us all with his experience.
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