The rarely-heard voice of a World War 2 panzer crewman, now in a modern English translation.
Born in 1925, Wolfgang Faust left school at age 15, going directly into the German youth labour forces and then the Wehrmacht panzer training schools. By the age of 18, he was the driver of a Tiger 1 tank in the Wehrmacht Heavy Panzer battalions, seeing extensive service on the Eastern Front from 1943-45, during which time his family were killed by Allied bombing.
After experiencing the catastrophe of the Battle of Halbe in April 1945, he managed to break through Russian lines and surrender to the Americans on the last day of the war, a fact for which he was eternally grateful. His account of a German tank crew's breakout from the Halbe Pocket through the Red Army encirclement, entitled 'The Last Panther,' is now available on Amazon.
After the war, Faust wrote his memoir, 'Tiger Tracks,' which was a brutal personal testimony to the carnage and sacrifice of all combatants on the Russian Front. The book was serialised in a number of magazines in the then Federal German Republic, and horrified many readers with its unflinching violence and portrayal of the sheer scale of destruction in the East, both material and human.
Readers who acknowledged the power of the writing were nevertheless shocked in particular at the memoir's closing scenes, which some critics described as 'needlessly provocative' in the context of a West Germany trying to rebuild its identity after the horrors of the war. Other critics were moved by the clarity and poignancy of Faust's story, and considered it a contribution to understanding the experience of both German and Russian troops.
Stung by the book's reception, Wolfgang Faust wrote 'The Last Panther,' which was unpublished in his lifetime, and then devoted himself to his family business and became a successful machinery dealer. He died in 1995.
Today, his books stand as some of the great semi-autobiographical accounts of World War 2: bleak, haunting and utterly compelling in their depiction of panzer warfare.