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Grim and rare.
on 3 November 2009
Bruno Sutkus' Scharfshutzenheft (sniper's log) recorded his killing of 207 Soviet soldiers between May 1944 and January 1945 and formed the basis for a book published in Germany in 2003, the year in which Sutkus died, after a life which can only be described as very harsh by today's standards.
The first part of the book contains sparse detail of his early life and is mainly about his career as a sniper with Grenadier Regiment 196 on the Eastern Front. It is a grim kill-by-kill account, he was clearly an exceptional shot, 'winning' 52 sniper duels. It is a bit repetitive though, besides narrative on each shooting, it reproduces the log entry for each kill. There are also 18 pages of plates reproducing parts of his handwritten log. To me, in this English language edition, it would have been more interesting to have a just a couple of log samples then perhaps some previously unpublished photos germane to the topic. The narrative tell us little of Sutkus' obviously excellent fieldcraft or weaponry other than that he used the ZF-K98k rifle. On both tactics and German sniper weapons, Albrecht Wacker's book, 'Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger (Pen & Sword, 2005) provides more detail and a more interesting read. Sutkus' book reflects what was in his log and his memory of subsequent events but would benefit from more editorial narrative and explanation of the circumstances. Ultimately, one gets the impression that Sutkus showed little contrition for the fact that his country had started the war, or the way it proceeded to wage a war of annihilation. He was clearly an extremely tough character and when you read of his apalling treatment in post-war Soviet labour camps you can understand his rabid anti-communism. Of course he takes this too far stating, for example that "[B]efore the Bolshevik Revolution the Russian people were wealthy and propertied. They harvested so much that their barns overflowed with wheat to the extent that they were at a loss what to do with it all" (p132). That said, this book will interest historians of the Second World War, not for its writing but the comparative rarity of such accounts in English.