This is a very interesting and quite different approach to experiencing the events of the Second World War. It is interesting in the fact that it comprises a sort of social history of the members of the Wehrmacht, or regular German army itself. So, this then is a fascinating if somewhat oddly focused study of the war along the eastern front from the viewpoint of the German foot soldier. It is often frightening and revealing, especially when one considers the fact that the author actually survived over five years of combat. So, although the writing style is a bit stiff and belabored, it is well worth the effort.
Given its attempt to be both more rigorous scientifically and paying attention to the details that comprise the German soldier's cultural makeup and prime orienting values, this is a very readable and absorbing exploration of an "average" foot soldier involved up to his muddy ankles in the most outrageous and provocative battles in modern history. This is truly a story for the record books, one told with brutal frankness regarding the soldiers existential circumstances as well as his willful cooperation in the widespread and savage atrocities systematically ordered and committed all along the eastern front; this is a story deserving of your time and study. Imagine slogging through the heat and rain and mud and snow and ice of the campaign into and then through Poland and Russia, and retracing mile by mile, yard by yard, foot by foot as the Russians relentlessly push the 200 divisions of the German Army slowly and painfully back from all of the gains, inflicting murderous tolls along the way.
The portrait given is one revealing the levels of hardship, depravations, depravities, and extreme experiences of a common soldier involved in the most terrible and hard-fought campaign of World War Two, Operation Barbarossa. One sees how the culture from which they sprang made all of this possible, the savagery toward Russian civilians, the rampant anti-Semitism, and the butchering of everything that walked, crawled, or flew into their pathway. Indeed, the changes such experiences must make on any ordinary human being; the slow but inexorable metamorphosis from callow and self-assured young men to war and world weary cynics willing to do anything to see another tomorrow, and the vaguest hope of someday going back to home and the world, makes them into battle-hardened survivors who do what need to be done to protect themselves and their comrades with trained indifference.
This is indeed a worthwhile and well-described (which is not to say easily read) story of a view of the Wehrmacht informed by a consideration of the social and cultural factors surrounding their participation in the barbarian behavior of the German Army in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. In the last analysis, it is in the close knit circles of comrades and friends that such things become possible, and the cultural background and social factors allowing these thousands of otherwise decent young men to willingly participate in the excesses of the Gernamn Army are much more understandable in light of the factors examined and discussed herein. Finally it comes down to living in the small community of buddies and surviving in that context that becomes paramount in the day-to-day experiences. This is, in that sense at least, a very moving and graphic document in describing such experiences, and should be read and understood by any serious student of WWII.