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on 19 November 2000
This volume seeks to show, from the viewpoint of the German Army, one of the most decisive events of the Second World War: the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6 June, 1944 and the events leading up to it and those flowing from it. It consists of parts of the military studies written for the US Army by senior (lt. colonel and above) German Army officers post-war and have been used as source material in all subsequent writing on Normandy. They represent, together; the most detailed German account of the fighting.
As has often been pointed out, these documents all have to be used with caution. The earlier ones were done when the authors were prisoners of war, the later ones when they were paid employees of the US Army. Most of them - especially the earlier reports -- were done largely without reference to war diaries, war maps or official papers. While written by participants - many of whom never wrote their memoirs or other accounts in any language - while their memories were still fresh, their immediacy is not matched by attention to detail - dates and places are sometimes wrong or inconsistent - or their impartiality.
In some cases, the threat of prosecution for war crimes obviously influenced the writing. Some ended up doing hard time or the high jump. Blumentritt's admiration of his boss, Field Marshal von Rundstedt, was doubtlessly genuine. But it comes across as "my boss was a wonderful old gentlemen, a natural aristocrat, and ignorant of any atrocities. I can say this because I burned all the incriminating evidence myself". The authors also do not spend much ink on introspection and self-revelation, but self-justification and pointing the finger at others is always in order when former generals are let near a typewriter, as the recent round of Gulf War memoirs show.
A Rashomon-like quality pervades, with the same events being described by multiple writers while - even more frustrating - more significant events are ignored. The quality of the writing and the translation varies greatly.
This book certainly does not tell the complete German side of D-Day. But the documents included in this volume remain a valid part of that picture.
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