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Hitler's Commander: Field Marshal Walther Model, Hitler's Favorite General Hardcover – 1 Apr 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press Inc; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306813998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306813993
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 770,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Steven H. Newton is an associate professor of history at Delaware State University. His previous books on World War II include Kursk: The German View and Panzer Operations.


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Format: Hardcover
Many a student of WWII will have wondered when a decent biography of this much-overlooked Field Marshal would appear. His long service on the Eastern Front and lack of personal papers perhaps explain this. No matter; Steven Newton's book is well worth the wait. This is a truly superb book.

I was initially a little sceptical given the dearth of material from his personal papers (he destroyed them before committing suicide). This is a handicap, in that there is next to nothing about Model the man, his personal life and his inner thoughts. What there is hints at a shallow, tormented soul, drowning his fears and what few contradictions he may have felt in increasing amounts of alcohol.

Where this book soars out of the ordinary is in the analysis of Model's tactics on the Eastern Front, his supposed favouritism from Hitler and his fanatical obedience to his Fuhrer's orders.

On the tactics point, Model has been seen as a peerless improvisor; abrasive and fanatical, but one of many German generals who employed elastic defence in the face of overwhelming Soviet hordes. Newton points out that Model took his own individualistic approach; opting for a thin, continuous defensive line rather than the elastic 'defence in depth' favoured by Manstein et al. I have never seen the case for this approach, elsewhere always castigated as naive, put forward as being a logical and successful tactic on the Eastern Front. For this alone, this book is worth reading.

As far as his favour with Hitler, Newton makes a strong case that Model's rise was by dint of merit, seniority and his General Staff training.

The final point about his fanatical obedience to Hitler is probably the most rewarding facet of this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the BEST ( and only English Language Book ) about this General , who only has a few pages
written about him in ' Hitler's Generals ' , edited by Correlli Barnett
or ' Hitler's Fieldmarshal's and their Battles ' by Samuel Mitcham
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9f3ca6b4) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f2c23b4) out of 5 stars A very informative read 5 July 2006
By P. Welch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting and informative account of Walther Model as a military commander.

There seems to be a paucity of material relating directly to Model (he destroyed his personal papers at the end of the war), and the author has done a very good job of piecing together this well-written narrative. There is not much in it about his personal life - a few lines about his upbringing, and the odd allusion to things like his drinking. He seems to have had only one period of leave, 3 months at the end of 1943. It does not gloss over his character, especially his treatment of his fellow officers and superiors, and suggests why they mostly disliked him, whilst the ordinary soldier may have felt somewhat differently. (When he left one of his commands he had been disliked so much that only one office escorted him away, and after Model had taken off in th eplane phoned to tell the others `Schweinfurt' - not a reference to the town, but `the pig has flow'!).

The book is really about his military career, from before WW1 to his suicide in 1945. I found the author to be fair in his opinions - praise where due, criticism where not, though there was no hindsight judgements. It made clear why Model was supreme in defence. There is quite a bit of information about some of the lesser know battles on the Eastern Front, for instance the defence of the Orel salient during the Kursk battle. The scale of the fighting, and casualties, is made apparent. His relationship to Hitler is explored, and suggests reasons why he was one of Hitler's favourite Generals in spite of - or perhaps because of - Model standing up to him. The half-truths of some of the postwar Generals' accounts is also made apparent. All in all a very informative read. The one major criticism I had was the lack of maps, so it was often hard to follow the battles. There is no map of Poland in 1939 for instance, so it is impossible to follow any of the fighting there. I always feel that in works of military history where possible every place name should figure on a map, and this book falls badly short in that respect. There also seem to be a few unnecessary digressions, for instance a longer than needed account of the German atrocities in WW1 and the reasons for them. However all in all a very informative account, and the author does well in trying to flesh out the details of Model's military career.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f18896c) out of 5 stars An Insightful look at Hitler's favorite GFM 5 Mar. 2010
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There are a number of German commanders from the Second World War who are fairly well known, beginning of course with Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian, but including Erich von Manstein and Albert Kesselring. These men made their reputations primarily in the glory days of the Wehrmacht in 1940-42 and also played prominent roles in the Western theater of operations. However, German commanders who made their names later in the war or primarily in the East have generally been neglected and one name stands out in particular: Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model, whom Hitler referred to as "my best field marshal." In Hitler's Command, noted East Front specialist Professor Steven H Newton provides an interesting look at Walter Model's military career, particularly in the critical years of 1942-45. Rather than a biography, this book is more of an operational assessment of Model's command style and the outcome of his achievements. Reading this book, it's hard not to leave with the impression that Model was not only a superb defensive tactician but that he probably helped to delay the inevitable collapse of the Third Reich by at least six months. Professor Newton's book is informative, thought-provoking and challenges certain accepted wisdom about the German officer corps in the Second World War and it does all this very well.

Hitler's Commander consists of four parts (Model's military career from 1914 to 1941, his command of 9. Armee in 1942-43, the "fireman on the Eastern Front" in 1944 and his final campaigns in the west, 1944-45), which are sub-divided into a total of 15 chapters. Model's early life is not well-documented and the author does not spend much space on his early life or even his service in the First World War, although the author does point out individuals who helped foster Model's rise in the German officer corps. The book has nine sketch maps and half-a-dozen B/W photos. The maps are simple, but one interesting feature is that each has a short caption that the author uses to drive home an important conclusion about each action described. The author also provides 25 pages of footnotes and a 9-page bibliography.

Initially, the author strives to show Model's career as typical for a General Staff-trained officer, alternating between staff and command assignments. Model played a supporting role in the initial campaigns of 1939-40 and it was not until he took command of the 3. Panzer Division in Operation Barbarossa in 1941 that he began to rise above his peers. It is in part two, where the author details Model's dogged defense of the Rzhev salient that the book really takes off. Model's 9. Armee beat off repeated offensives by Marshal Georgiy Zhukov and then conducted a skillful withdrawal of the salient which provided sufficient reserves for the Wehrmacht to conduct the Kursk offensive in 1943. Although the author takes pains to demonstrate that Model was fairly orthodox in the offense, he highlights his innovations that led to defensive successes that frustrated or mitigated even large Soviet offensives. The author points out that Model's fighting withdrawal from the Orel salient was in itself, an impressive accomplishment, despite the Soviet recapture of Orel. Throughout these chapters, the author shows how Model integrated intelligence, indirect fires, obstacles and reserve forces to dilute, deflect and often stop, Soviet offensives. Indeed, Model's accomplishments - particularly his ability to pull together a new front after the destruction of Army Group Center in June 1944 - are so significant that it is hard to believe that they have been minimized by historians for so long.
The final section of the book cover Model's efforts to patch together a new Western Front after the Allied breakout from Normandy, which resulted in not only another temporary reprieve for the Wehrmacht, but signal Allied defeats at Arnhem and Hürtgen Forrest. Thus, Walter Model might be the only commander who could claim to have beaten all three Allied commanders - Zhukov, Montgomery and Bradley. Overall, Hitler's Commander is an excellent operational-level study of the most successful German defensive commander of the Second World War. There are a few minor flaws, concerning editing and fact-checking (some dates appear to be off), but this book should be read in conjunction with David Glantz's works to provide modern insight from the German perspective.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f2c2f18) out of 5 stars Finally a Biography of a Little Known German General 6 Mar. 2006
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Exhaustive research gives us an intriguing account of one of Hitler's most trusted commanders

Walther Model was the German commander thrown by Adolph Hitler into so many of World War II's worst crises that contemporaries nicknamed him the `Fuhrer's fireman.'

The son of a music teacher, he sported a monocle and a field marshal's baton. He also stood up to Hitler in a way that hardly anyone else dared.

Newton dispels rumors and myths that discount Model's intellectual prowess and tactical acumen. Model's motivation was patriotism, but more likely he `internalized almost an eighteenth-century model of the professional soldier...one who served primarily for the glory of the fight...(with) single-minded focus on his own military success.'

Newton suggests that Model's suicide had less to do with honor than his inability to face his own future in defeat. Copious notes and bibliography show the extensive research the author did in both German and American archives and in German war diaries and memoirs. A treasure for history buffs!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1adb40) out of 5 stars The "Fireman" 5 Aug. 2006
By Peiper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Much needed and overdue biography. FM Model served on both the Eastern and Western fronts and commanded all kinds and sizes of German Army units. Professor Newton gives a fair, balanced and thorough description of the man and the commander. This book is for both those who specialize in the German Army and those who will like a good biography.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1adcf0) out of 5 stars Finally! 11 Mar. 2010
By William R. Kitchens - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an avid reader of history I have encountered Field Marshal Model many times in the course of my digestion, but a concrete basis of work on him always eluded me. This book finally allowed me to learn about the man and his history - if, unfortunately, by third-hand accounts - and helped piece together more of the story of the past than I had before.

The writing is well done, the account engaging and thoroughly enjoyable.
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