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4.2 out of 5 stars148
4.2 out of 5 stars
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I had never heard of Jude Law before I watched the film `Enemy at the Gates' which tells the fictionalised tale of a Russian sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad. I vividly recall how those Russian troops were sent into battle with one rifle for every two soldiers. True or not, that portrayal was never far from the reality of the day and I mention it only to draw the reader into one of the fiercest and costliest times of WW2 - the Eastern front fought between Russia and Germany.

This is a captivating work from Albrecht Wacker in which he reveals the memoirs of a German soldier - and sniper, who was awarded the Knights Cross for his service. Many readers will possibly think an `Iron Cross' is an Iron Cross but the Knights Cross was only awarded to those who already held the Iron Cross and was made to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. No German soldier became any less brave just because his country was beaten and this is the story of one of the bravest.

As with all good books, this finely crafted work begins right at the beginning where we find accounts of the differences between the hardened soldiers and the newest recruits on the eve of battle. Even the biggest and hardest of men have been known to lose control of either their stomach or their breakfast before a battle and yet, in this work it is explained in such a way that we might begin to understand such matters.

With consummate skill, as the book progresses, we are drawn into one man's part in a huge conflict and the subsequent retreat for those who were lucky enough to escape either death or Soviet imprisonment. I use the words `consummate skill' because we are given the benefit of reliving this simple soldier's life from the day on which he arrived as a raw recruit right through to his eventual survival. Throughout the work there is no triumphalism or defeatism aimed at either one side of the conflict or the other. In short, it is an account of what happened to one man movingly told - exactly as it happened with exaggeration, false modesty or unnecessary anti-Russian sentiments.

Right at the end of the work, we are treated to a poem found in a document which was written by an unknown poet - probably a dead soldier. In many ways that poem explains how true professional soldiers feel after their wars are over. In some ways it almost explains Post Traumatic Stress. For the subject of this book, it also explained why he was required to do what he did but, please, do not read that poem until you get to it or you will miss the enjoyment of the splendid way in which the book is concluded.

A few relevant historic black and white photographs appears together about midway through the work and one of these shows Sepp Allerberger wearing both his Iron Crosses.

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on 19 November 2006
A very good read, well written and fascinating. Follows a German sniper's war from the eastern front to the end of the war and his homecoming. A great insight into the thoughts and fears of German soldier and the horrors of any conflict. A well researched and factually rich account that isn't disjointed like so many accounts. There are a few horrific accounts of atrocities committed by the Soviets and an acceptance that such acts occurred on both sides. A very human account that made me hope, as I read that Sepp's storey would have a happy ending for him. Highly recommended.
33 comments46 of 51 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 January 2006
The sniper is one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood figures in warfare, and this vivid first hand account helps to give an important insight into the role they play and the reactions they evoke amongst comrades and enemies. The Eastern Front was the scene of some of the most vicious fighting of the war, with the Russians and Germans each losing millions of soldiers, not to mention the countless civilian casualties, and in these conditions humanity and ethics were often abandoned in favour of survival.
Sepp Allerberger, a self-taught sniper specialist in the German Wehrmacht, fought for over a year against the Russians, from inside Russia back to the Reich, and his memoirs give a brutally honest and compelling view of this conflict.
Following his life from the time he was conscripted to when he finally arrived home after the war ended, it tracks the friends he made and lost, and the battles he fought in during which he was wounded numerous times and won several medals. It is a rare example of an account of war, not only because the accounts of snipers themselves are so rare, but also because German soldiers from the time rarely publish accounts outside their own country. The book is important in this respect for dispelling the ideas held about german soldiers fo the time, and German snipers in particular. While Allied snipers, especially in the Russian Army, are often held up as glorious heroes and heroines, their German counterparts are often depicted as sly, evil assassins, and this book demonstrates that the truth was nothing of the sort.
There is nothing left out for fear of being too candid; from the torure and rape of civilians and wounded soldiers by the Red Army to the ad hoc executions of suspected spies by the SS, death is a constant and defining feature of the book. Make no mistake; this is not for someone who is easily upset or squemish, but without the poignant examples witnessed by Allerberger, this would not be the same book.
A unique and thoroughly enlightening book, it is not exactly relaxing, but was never meant to be. A view of war through the eyes of a sniper on the losing side is such a rare thing, and this is so vividly written that it cannot fail but leave an impression.
66 comments84 of 94 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 February 2006
Ok so this book was a must buy when I saw it on, I was however disapointed. To start its a very very short read 146 pages which hardley seems enough for one of the German Army's top snipers memoirs, further more this book is NOT written by Josef Sepp Allergerger but Albrecht Waker who interviewed Mr.Allerberger and wrote a book that is titled "Im auge des Jägers" which is double the size of this English translated edition (why cut the book in half?) All of this aside you would imagin that it could still be good, but really its just 146 pages of the most vile and descriptive violence imaginable, very little military information, or even a realistic narrative of what Soldiers on the Eastern front faced, just vivid descriptions of what someones head looks like after Herr Allerberger puts a 7.9 bullet through it. There are also a few attrocious recollections witnessed by Allerberger by the hands of Russians that are akin to the crimes you read about in books about the Holocaust. I have read many many memoirs and the fact the book is very cruel almost makes it feasible, but Im still unsure too much dosnt add up with this title, and in comparison to the likes of "Grenadiers - Kurt Meyer" "Forgotten soldier - Guy sajer " and "Black Edelwiesse - Johann Voss" this book really does not compare in anyway, nor does it stand out as a example of how to do a German memior differant. I have never heard a veteran describe shooting somone in the head as "Like wathching a ripe melon explode" regardless of the savagry of the fighting I think A.Waker add-libb'd a little too much.
Only read this book if you are dead set on doing so, otherwise hope that they re-print "Im auge des Jägers" which is apparently the full story, not half of the story as the english readers seemed to have purchased.
66 comments83 of 96 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 March 2007
It is a mirracle the author has come across a living German sniper with 2 years experience in the Eastern front. He apparently appreciated what he found and put a fair amount of sweat into this book as it is brilliant.

I don't know why the publishers reduced English version to a half of the original. But not being fluent in German I'm still greatful to have got a chance to read at least that much. Many good German books never get translated into English at all. Buy it!
44 comments27 of 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This is one of those rare biographies that are readable as a story rather than a series of chronologically tacked together events. The story is harrowing and interesting. The operations of a WW2 sniper and the way they perceive things was very interesting. It certainly gels well with many others and in fact reading the US view of combat in "If you survive" it's almost as if they were written to go together. Sepp explains why he is the merciless killer he is and what turned him into what he became (The Russian Front, and especially the brutality Partisans brought to the battle that up until they got involved still had some of the rules of war operating.) Another example of contrasts is when Cossacks butchered Medics and Red cross personnel doctors and slaughtered hospital wounded when they over ran those hospitals (born out in many recollections of WW2) so when Sepp was transferred to the Western Front they were bemused to see American troops wonder out onto the battlefield to tend to their wounded, as if on a Sunday foorball match. In some instances the germans shot the medics which the Americans viewed as Barbaric. However they never understood that the Germans had been fighting to different rules up until that point. I think not only does this book fascinate with interesting points of being a sniper but the contrast between battlefronts, behaviour and conditions is worth noting. Finally I think some of the most difficult experiences are explained in the book when it comes to self control of a sniper. Knowing when to make a difference and how and controlling anger and emotions until that moment is clearly explained in some of his recollections. Great Book. Good Read.
44 comments42 of 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 23 January 2007
Gripping read and you almost feel as though you cannot move sometimes in fear of what the russians did to captured German marksmen but having read Stalingrad I just felt as though the writer could beef up certian areas and topics and generally prolong the read. At 100 odd pages it isn't the longest book. Perhaps a better understanding of the shifting front line might have helped but overall my first word in this review is justified by the still anticipation that the author takes you through prior to this guys so many kills, this mixed in with the usual russian/german brutality makes it a worthwhile read (even if it'll only take a week or so)
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on 5 February 2016
This book is NOT an autobiography or memoir despite the title. There are well established methods of incorporating personal testimony into a broader historical narrative, and this is not one of them. When one uses personal testimony it requires careful use so as not to misrepresent, and it also needs to be referenced fully and accurately. This book is methodologically flawed as an historical account. It makes no distinction between the words of the subject and those of the compiler. This alone makes the text useless as a valid historical account.

If none of that bothers a reader then I suppose it's fine as a romp through the nasty side of warfare. But even then it is difficult not to be critical of the one-sidedness of some of the text, which may or may not be that of Sepp Allerberger. I did feel as though the author (compiler) had his own agenda with his rather odd introduction which seeks to explain the motivation for the German invasion of the USSR! Of course it's something worth discussing (however ill-conceived the approach might be), but why engage with it here?

I really could not recommend this book at all as an historical account. In fact, if the author wanted to write a work of fiction (which this is) then he should have gone ahead and done so and not published under the banner of a 'memoir'. (p.s. I put this text as a comment in a different review).
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on 15 February 2014
The life of the foot soldier is full of horror and death. This more than most. Quite difficult to read but no where near as difficult as it must have been to live.
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on 22 July 2013
The book really brings home what it must have been like during WW2 for the average soldier fighting the Russians on the Eastern Front. The daily brutality from both sides in an effort to outwit eachother, the stress, lack of sleep and poor diet took it's toll. It made me wonder how much equipment and bodies were buried in unmarked graves from Russia all the way into europe. I certainly would have liked to know how this sniper coped after the war with all the mental scars left from those battles.
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