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The Odyssey of a U-boat Commander: Recollections of Erich Topp Hardcover – 30 July 1992
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Just an opinion but I think the angle of the author was almost too philosophical. Well written and his views although well balanced, I thought compared ancient history with his events a little excessively.
An interesting and enjoyable read...
he doesn't pull ANY punches..not a comfortable read by any means but it leaves yu in no doubt what so ever about just how it felt to be living amidst the political atmosphere , chaos trauma and up heaval of the war and all that followed..
no doubt at all..he just grabs yu by the scruff of the neck and drags yu thru the whole thing from start to finish then flings yu out the front door with a flea in yur ear for good measure wear a crash helmet the landing can be a bit rough.
you can allmost sense him looking at yu saying "well you said you wanted to know...now you do...did you learn anything?"
stunning, unique even but not a simple account of his war patrols by any means...given the high price of the book it's worth mentioning this...mind yu i allmost felt like i had been over whelmed by a work of art rather than having "just read a book" so i have no complaints ..thank you Mr Topp
Top international reviews
Topp's book is excellent for several reasons. First, after the war, he was the German Navy representative with NATO. This gives him a perspective on the twentieth century shared by few others. Second, he writes not only about action at sea, but about the political and philosophical troubles in Germany. Third, the accounts of naval action are first-rate. Fourth, this book refutes the silliness propounded by such as Daniel Goldhagen that everyday Germans were in on the Holocaust. Topp's aunt, Anna, was part Jewish, and sent to a "model" work camp which was open for Red Cross inspection. The ill treatment still led to her death soon after liberation. Topp learned of this after the war, and was sickened to know that she had only received such "good" treatment because of her relation to the famous U-Boat commander (Topp was featured on wartime postage stamps). It is worth noting that the father of von Luck's fiancee was also killed in a concentration camp, and that although von Luck attempted to have him released, it was not until the man was killed that von Luck, a high-ranking officer who was close to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, began to realize that there was something going on.
Erich Topp is a reflective and insightful author. If you appreciate military history in the tradition of Caesar, this is not to be missed. This book is also reviewed on uboat.net.
This is not an account of U-Boat warfare in World War Two although it contains some of that. It is what it says in the sub-title: Recollections. If you want more of an action memoir I recommend Iron Coffins by Herbert Werner who is still alive and living in Florida.
Topp's Recollections are thoughtful, deep and unforgiving of himself and other Germans who followed Hitler. He explores why he fell for Hitler and why he followed him. And it is clearly very painful for him to examine this. He wasn't a member of the Nazi Party, German naval officers of that era were not allowed to join political parties or even vote but he supported Hitler in the first years of the war and it was only when the suffering of the German people and the German soldiers and sailors became unbearable that he reconsidered.
Topp had a clean record and later served with distinction in the reconstituted German Navy including a long stretch as German naval attache in Washington. One day while inspecting a new US nuclear submarine with a group of other attaches and US Navy officers, the wife of a US Navy officer asked, "Captain Topp, have you ever been aboard a submarine?" Since almost everyone knew who he was they must have been forced to bite their tongues to keep from laughing. Topp politely said that he had been aboard a submarine before and did not mention he was one of Germany's ace U-Boat commanders.
Topp's unsparing look at himself and his fellow officers after the war is even more revealing. He didn't really like many of them and kept his distance and they repaid him by saying insulting things about him. Part of his feud with the surviving UBoat officers was over the film Das Boot which many officers felt did not show the German U-Boat force in the best light. This argument became and continues to be vociferous. Topp not only defended the movie, but was one of the officers from WW Two who served as a technical consultant to the movie. The other was Heinrich-Lehmann-Willenbrock who is actually the person on whom the character of the Captain in the novel is based.
Topp was bitterly assailed for this and he basically told everyone to go jump in the lake. Perhaps the most poignant writing in his recollections has to do with the terrible memories of men being killed, of battle, of the horror of war. He writes that many have said time heals those wounds but for him they occupy his nightmares every single night and have never diminished.
In years to come, this will be the memoir students will read in college.
I recommend it highly.
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