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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good a war story as any!
What a top book! In my estimation, 'Cross of Iron' rates in war fiction up there with 'All Quiet on the Western Front', which is no mean feat. The translation from German to English makes reading a little 'bumpy' in parts, but the thrill, fear and adrenalin are by no means lost. The story is a bit like a latter day Sharpe epic. Steiner, the hard-as-nails Werhmacht...
Published on 22 July 2000

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4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cross of Yawn
I loved the film - it's pretty tame by today's standards but for a 70's war film it was considered gritty and realistic. And to have a film with a star cast seeing the war from the "Other side" was almost as daring and novel as "All Quiet on The Western Front" must have seemed in its day.
So I looked forward to finally reading the book, expecting it to be so much...
Published on 31 Mar. 2010 by Tony Scribble


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good a war story as any!, 22 July 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
What a top book! In my estimation, 'Cross of Iron' rates in war fiction up there with 'All Quiet on the Western Front', which is no mean feat. The translation from German to English makes reading a little 'bumpy' in parts, but the thrill, fear and adrenalin are by no means lost. The story is a bit like a latter day Sharpe epic. Steiner, the hard-as-nails Werhmacht corpral, is in charge of a ramshackle group of men on the Eastern Front, and the narrative takes you through all the emmotions of war, without the cosmetics and almost 'holiday read' feel of a Sharpe's novel. Gripping stuff....I'd certainly recommend it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pumping read, unlike most eastern front novels, 1 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
The first journey which Steiner and his men undergo sets the tone for a book that qute simply has the ability to make u feel like a part of the novel. Steiner is such a complex character that you have to read on, although written in the 1950's the book has withstood all the latter publications to be in my opinion simply the best fictional story of combat on the eastern front by far. The last few chapters leave u ghasping for air as you become subdued in the brutal fight for a factory. A bit of a weak end but still a superb read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and realistic account of war, 13 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
I liked this a lot.

It's a long novel and fairly slow in places. The opening section of the novel, where Steiner and his platoon are trapped behind enemy lines and sneak back, encountering an all-female Russian unit on the way, is probably the strongest of the novel and could even have been a a stand-alone novella.

The description of the action feels very true to real life:
- There are a lot of characters, some of which appear and disappear again very quickly. In a less realistic novel they would have been turned into a composite character.
- The initial characters are killed one by one in well described, but chaotic, military action scenes until the protagonist, Steiner, and the antagonist, Stransky, are practically the only people left.
- There are several loose ends and plot threads that go nowhere, such as one character being homosexual.
- Random events and 'deus ex machina' like stray shells kill characters, bringing their part of the narrative to a sudden halt.

Although the author has an annoying, to me at least, tendency to tell the reader the outcome of an event and then go back and show what happened, what holds this rather diary-like account of combat at the front together as a story is the feud between Steiner and Stransky which builds throughout the novel until a confrontation at the end.

Battle scenes are interspersed with scenes of the various characters discussing their philosophies of life and the fact that Germany is doomed and they personally are unlikely to survive the war (the real unit the story is based on and that the author served in had 700% casualties during WW2, i.e. it was wiped out and rebuilt seven times).

In places I thought the translation wasn't perhaps doing full justice to the text, seeming a bit stilted. Some of the technical word choices such as translating "sub-machine gun" as "Tommy Gun" were questionable too.

I found the very end of the novel a little unsatisfying, I won't spoil it but suffice to say the ending is left open and there are not really any answers.

For those who have seen the classic film, staring James Coburn, the novel is quite similar, or at least the first two thirds of the novel are. The ending is thematically similar to the film, leading up to a confrontation between Steiner and Stransky, but in detail it is quite different. The film is well known as having a rather bizarre and ridiculous end sequence, as the production company ran out of money forcing them to cobble something together. The novel covers similar ground but in a much more extended sequence where the company fights the Russians, and each other, in an abandoned factory.

Overall, a gripping and realistic account of war. In the end the novel is a large scale vignette of life at the front - the war was going on before the start of the story and it will continue after the end - the heroism or cowardice of the characters is futile. Which is perhaps the point.
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5.0 out of 5 stars classic combat novel set on the Eastern Front, 27 July 2014
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
Cross of Iron is considered one of the classic combat novels about the Eastern Front in World War Two. First published in 1955 (German) and translated in 1956, it is written by Willi Heinrich, who served with the 101st Jäger Division from 1941-45 and was wounded five times. The 101st Jäger Division took part in the Battle for Kharkov and Caucasus campaign, then after the defeat at Stalingrad retreated along the Kuban peninsula toward Crimea, up into Ukraine, through Slovakia, Hungary and ending the war in Austria, suffering seven hundred per cent casualties. Heinrich’s intimate knowledge of warfare and the terrain of battle, the personal dynamics between comrades, and the politics and ambitions of military leaders are clearly evident in narrative. The story follows Corporal Rolf Steiner, a classic anti-hero, and members of his platoon and their immediate superiors. The setup is very nicely done, tracing Steiner’s personal and collective battles, especially his relationship with his platoon members and Captain Stransky, his aristocratic battalion commander who desires the coveted cross of iron but does not want to earn it. Rather than glorifying the war action, Heinrich instead delivers gritty social realism -- the daily grind of staying alive, everyday encounters with wounds and death, petty and class politics and personal rivalries, the formation of bonds between men who would never otherwise associate with one another, and the brutality of close quarter fighting. The result is a compelling, sometimes harrowing, read, with a strong storyline and characterisation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 17 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
I haven't read WW2 books before, this though has definitely got me in th moad for more! Easy to read, great storyline and really shows the harsh reality of what war is all about. Would recommend this book. It's better than the film as well and I love Peckinpah!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't believe the two 1 star reviews!, 29 Feb. 2012
By 
Jason Rimmer (Liverpool UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
I just noticed this book only has 3 stars. I can't believe two reviewers gave it 1 star!

I have a massive collection of WW1 and WW2 books both fiction and non fiction.

This rates up there as one of my favourite fiction reads.

Deserves at least 4 stars.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good, 9 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
Surprisingly good because I prefer factual military and historical books. This novel however is a satisfying read. I give it 5 stars as i was impressed with the imagery and the authentic feel, and because I was thoroughly entertained.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good novel. It is strong even today., 23 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
SPOILERS BELOW.

I remember reading it when I was 23, now I read it for the second time. And I found it to be even better that I thought.

The book focus on Corporal Steiner (soon to be reinstated to Sergeant), who commands a platoon of ten men left behind in a retreat, and they must try to get back to the new German positions in the Crimea. After that, they take part in some battles, the last one inside a factory.

The book was never intended to be a real story (totally unlike "Nothing New On Western Front" which, although it does not say it, it is closely based on Erich Maria Remarque's real experiences and companions).

The small group of characters then proceed to die one by one, in a kind of "And Then There Were None format". The order of their dying is as follows:

1. Zoll: left behind by Steiner, to die in the hands of Soviet female soldiers, after Zoll raped one of them.

2. Dietz: the younger of the bunch. Shot by Soviet soldiers in an occasional encounter in some woods, during the retreat.

3. Dorn and Anselm: blown to pieces by an artillery shell, inside the German lines.

4. Pasternack: shot in the chest during melee.

5. Hollerbach: shot by a tank shell, and subsequently run over by the same tank.

6. Maag and Kern: shot in the frontal assault to the Russian factory

7. Schnubbart: Steiner's best friend. Shot by friendly fire inside the factory. The difference is that the "friendly" fire was on purpose! The shooter thought he was killing Steiner.

8. Faber: a later addition to the group: gone blind after being hit by obus.

9. Steiner: bloody ambiguous ending! One simply can not know if he is seeing literally a light at the end of the tunnel, or if he is indeed going after his lost love, Anne. The higher probability is that he indeed died, because he was bleeding like hell.

10. Kruger: the only one of the bunch still alive and kicking at the end of the book, although the Division seems to be clearly in a hopeless situation (well, since he was the physically strongest of the bunch, he could have been made a prisoner and even survive the harsh Russian treatment...).

Great book.
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4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cross of Yawn, 31 Mar. 2010
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This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
I loved the film - it's pretty tame by today's standards but for a 70's war film it was considered gritty and realistic. And to have a film with a star cast seeing the war from the "Other side" was almost as daring and novel as "All Quiet on The Western Front" must have seemed in its day.
So I looked forward to finally reading the book, expecting it to be so much more than the film, which books tend to be. But the film wasn't a scant summary of the book, the film actually exceeds the book in every respect. How weird is that?!?!

The book is a tedious, long drawn out trudge. The perfect night time read if you're having trouble sleeping. The dialogue between the characters alone was laughable and incredible. The action centres around the veteran remnants of a German infantry platoon, but the conversation between them is often an imitation of a philosophical debate between a group of university professors, with the odd expletive thrown in to make it appear "earthy". They're exhausted and starving, isolated behind enemy lines, but their conversations are more concerned with the Meaning of Life and complex metaphysics, than basic survival.
And this was just the start.

When the shooting starts, somehow the author managed to slow the action down to a turgid crawl so that rather than turn the page I simply wanted to turn the bedroom light off.
I haven't the time to write down everything I disliked about this book. Dull, unbelievable, desperately slow, confusing,(especially the "big punch up" towards the end - I was concerned about giving the plot away, but actually there isn't much), anticlimatic, long winded. Save yourself some time to read something worthwhile instead by buying or renting the film, and for once be assured that the film trumps the novel in every way.
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0 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why not watch paint dry instead?, 6 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
I've only just started reading this book and I think I have made a mistake. I am assuming that the author is a veteran and knows what he is talking about, but it just doesn't sound like it. I have never been a soldier let alone fought in any war but the story doesn't ring true. What annoyed me straight away was the storyline: Band of men trapped in enemy territory are desperate to make their way back to safety and look to the one man capable of getting them home. A leader that all men who have ever met admire, respect and fear. A man of iron Will, endless resourcefulness and ingenuity. Is this a man or Superman? And the story...a cliched dramatic device that's been done many many times before. The platoon he leads are all men quivering in fear, riddled with indecision or are incapable of performing any task demanded of them with throwing up their hands. The story takes place on the Eastern front during WWII in early 1943 just after Stalingrad has fallen. The defeat was a hammer blow to the army and the people back home...and yet many soldiers still believed in their Fuhrer and in ultimate victory. Even after Stalingrad many soldiers believed that their greater expertise on the battlefield would enable them to recover the initiative during the summer campaign that was to follow. That hope was only crushed at Kursk. Evenso, the German soldier kept on fighting to the bitter bitter end. Partly this was because many still believed that the Fuhrer would pull a rabbit out of the hat (eg: the wonder weapons) but mostly because the Germans wanted to keep the Russians off German soil at all costs. Want to know what war in the East was like? The read "War without Garlands", "Life and Fate", the novels of heinrich Boll, "War on the Eastern Front - The German soldier in Russia," and "On the Bloody Road to Berlin", "Bloody Red Snow" and "Berlin - the downfall 1945." Read them but not this book.
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Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS)
Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) by Willi Heinrich (Paperback - 4 Mar. 2004)
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