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Heaven & Hell: The War Diary of a German Paratrooper Paperback – 16 Aug 2010
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About the Author
MARTIN POPPEL was from Munich. He first told his story in the 1980s. This translation from the German is by Dr Louise Willmot.
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This book is set out in chronological order, it covers the fighting, the downtime and the general goings on in the life of the author and his comrades.
Due to other commitments i don't get the opportunity to read as often as i would like to but when i do pick this book up i often cannot put it down.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in WW2 history/Fallschirmjager/German Military.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Martin Pöppel's personality and outlook will be familiar to anyone who has ever read Ambrose's books on the 101st Airborne. He was a tough, outspoken, mischievous, and rather defiant kid who took these qualities with him when he joined the fledgling German airborne force prior to the outbreak of the war. In the paratroopers (the "Green Devils" as they came to be known) he found men of similar temperament - men who weren't afraid, to use a German expression, of death or the devil, and who lived to jump into combat and fight. Well, Hitler's ambitions allowed them plenty of opportunities for that, as Pöppel soon discovered - he takes us on a journey from his training to his service in Poland, Norway, Holland, Crete, Russia, Sicily, Italy, France, and finally Germany itself, rising from the ranks to become a highly decorated junior officer, albeit one with a tendency to get in trouble. What makes the book so interesting to me personally is not the battle sequences, but rather how Pöppel describes war for those who participate in it - largely a game of waiting, marching, retreating, listening to rumors, drinking, training, and getting into trouble. I was also thoroughly gripped by his descriptions of life in the English POW camp after the war and in postwar Germany.
This is not to say the combat accounts aren't interesting. Pöppel fought on Crete, which was such a blood-bath that even Hitler was jarred by the casualty list, and Pöppel does a good job of recounting just what made it so awful. Likewise, his reconstruction of the brutal, chaotic brawling that was the Normandy campaign is worth the price of the book alone. I also enjoyed his memories of Sicily, told in that present-tense style that makes the book such a page-turner.
Pöppel's estimations of Germany's allies and enemies make for even more interesting reading. Although he like most Germans was rather fond of "Tommy", he is thoroughly unimpressed with the British soldier after about 1940, and he utterly despises the Italians, "who only run and never fight." As to the Americans he has mixed feelings, though he is impressed by their sheer physical size and ferocious appearance, likening some of the prisoners he takes to "inmates of Sing Sing."
On the technical side, the German-to-English translation of this book is pretty awkward, the organization of the paragraphs is often clumsy, occasionally timeshifting from Pöppel in WW2 to Pöppel today in such a way that is extremely confusing, and the editing is also rather poor - I found typos everywhere. This shoddiness distracts a bit from what is otherwise a very interesting story, but I'd still recommend HEAVEN & HELL, especially to those who want to know what it was like to fight for the "other side" during World War Two.