I enjoyed this book, it gave a great insight to pre-war Germany and how very much Like the Anglo Saxon the German Saxon is, with reservations of course. Points I picked up along the read was the almost constant singing by his fellows, and how so many of his comrades played musical instruments, how good for morale all that must have been. The 'routine in defence' seemed to evolve around the MG bunkers, the minefields and occasional patrolling. Life on the north of the Eastern front with total darkness can only be imagined, the only light for the six months of winter was what was reflected off the white snow. The death of his comrades was explicitly explained and sadness and depression naturally followed each occasion. To read of the column of mules passing his position with the bodies of his comrades draped over them on the way to burial after an engagement with Ivan must have certainly been thought provoking for the author. I did find the book a bit philosophical regarding the author's personal political feelings, it also went into ancient historical detail of the Goethe war that the British soldier wouldn't even tolerate to listen to. The description of the withdrawal from the East Front and the long march home via Sweden and Norway; the fatigue, sometimes despair, the almost starvation, falling asleep on the march, is so very well described. The move to the Western Front and the mood of the soldiers as they went by train through a bomb ravaged homeland can only be imagined as some of them gazed in anguish at there own home towns as they passed through and stared into empty shells of buildings and total darkness. And yet they as SS still had the fight within them to viciously attack the Americans in Alsace, only to be quite surprised in return by the ferociousness of the American Infantry. A good book a good read!
I'm really impressed by Voss' prose style and his eye for what matters in a particular situation. He wrote this in captivity at the age of 20-21, which makes it all the more remarkable, untainted by retrospection or future constraints on the controversial subject of The Waffen SS. As such, this is another of the remarkable documents written by young soldiers rather than high ranking officers wishing to protect their reputation.
The description of action against Russian, Finnish and American foes is unembellished and thus remains convincing. His portrayal of pre-war Germany and the glimpses of Germany at war are welcome and revealingly. Even more than this, are the passages that deal with guilt by association, the power of comrades and the unity of purpose that can make up for being overwhelmingly outnumbered, outgunned and outresourced. This is a remarkable testament.
This is the kind of book I had always hoped to find - an intelligent and well-written first-hand narrative and reflection of someone who has been a volunteer of the Waffen-SS. I'm glad that with this book I did. I don't think there are many other books that even fall in the same category, let alone that would compare to it.
The book might be disappointing to those who are interested merely in battle field action, but for the same reason it can be all the more fascinating and rewarding to those who are also, or perhaps even mainly, interested in the private thoughts and motivations of people who volunteered in those days and went on to do the fighting (and sometimes even, as in this case, lived to tell the tale).
It's a very personal account - "A memoir of combat AND conscience". So nobody should be surprised if it isn't anything else, that is, more or less than that.
I chose this this rating as I thought the author could have put more into his narrative. I am not sure if he is being politically correct at times given the nature of the subject. However it is a really good read and I do so in two days. I was impressed with the way the story unfolded but there was a nagging boubt about the "denial" passages where he stated he had no idea about the general situation re SS contribution to the "darker side" of WW2. For me it was about the execptional long march and the stab in the back from Finland. I understand better now the war in that inhospitable region and also give credit to the tenacity of the SS in the march back to Germany through Finland and Norway. It made me smile at times in particular the chapter about the engagement on the Swedish border and the almost carnival approach the Swedes took to the unfolding battle across the river. History is tempered by time and for me Mr Voss has had to walk the tightrope between what the victors imposed as criminality and how he saw himself as a prisoner trying to escape that persecution or more accuratley prosecuction. I would agree not all SS soldiers were aware of the Einsatsgruppen commandos 100% but the evidence was certainly out there. Maybe fighting in the Arctic circle insulated the SS gebirgsjager from the vast majoirty of it. However a good book, worth a read and if it is an honest account so much the better. Buy it and see!!
I have to admit I was expecting non stop action with this book, which unfortunately fell flat on its face. If you like loads of action, this isn't the book for you. I felt as if the author was just trying to get the point across that not all of the ss were blood thirsty thugs, but well trained and equipped troops that could more than hold their own in a fight and that quite a few did not join the organisation because of the political rhetoric, but because they actually believed that communism was a serious threat not only to their country but Europe as a hole.
Decent book, which i found a eye opener to the Finish front and how the germans were froced to retreat. More factual than about soldiers minds and experinces. Having said that, it does give a insight to why so many young soldiers from all over Europe went to fight the Soviets with the SS. Plenty of romatic visions of 'Old Europe'.