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Cross of Iron (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) Paperback – 4 Mar 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (4 Mar. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304352411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304352418
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

A modern classic of war fiction, this is a realistic story of action on the Eastern Front in World War II ¿ famously filmed by Sam Peckinpah, starring James Mason and James Coburn.


Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 22 July 2000
Format: 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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Format: 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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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).
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The true story behind Sam Peckinpah's 1977 classic movie Cross of Iron, in which the tough-as-nails Iron Cross-wearing NCO of the 228th Jager Regiment of the 101st Jager Division fighting in the Kuban in 1943 contends with a far more insidious adversary than the onrushing Red Army; a Prussian aristocrat who's determined to win the Iron Cross without having to fight to get it. The protagonist is actually still alive at 101!
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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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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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