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on 4 November 2008
This book just demonstrates that you can get any opinion you want on the internet.
Having read many WWI books I noted someone stating that this book was much better than Ernst Junger's 'Storm of Steel'.
I could not get a quarter of the way through this book. Having bought it I really did my best. As soon as I started, it did not feel right. When I see a memoir full of dialogue I immediately get suspicious. I could not get anything out of this book. I feel really annoyed by it. It is almost unknown for me not to finish a book. I could list any number of good war memoirs. This wasn't even good as a novel. I found it terrible, and I am astonished that it has ever been so highly rated, and surprised that it's authenticity has only recently been questioned.
A complete waste of time and money!!!
Wikipedia leads to articles on the matter.
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on 11 October 2013
This book is well written and is gripping reading; the problem is that it is plainly not what it claims to be. How leading authors such as Max Hastings (who quotes it in his book All Hell Let Loose) fail to see this, totally defeats me. I have read a number of memoirs of soldiers on the Russian front and they are all detailed and specific. They can't wait to give you chapter and verse but this book is always vague, names are avoided unless they are famous and everything is arranged so that a researcher cannot check up on what the book says. The book is also full of historical errors. I will mention only two, which refer to aviation, a subject I know a good deal about. The book starts with Sajer being rejected for pilot training by the Luftwaffe and then volunteering for the infantry. Before his rejection he is sent to a trining squadron in Chemnitz under the command of Hans Rudel, the famous Stuka pilot and he describes sitting in a Stuka. No trainee in any air force gets near a warplane until they have done their basic training and learned to fly. If rejected for pilot training Sajer would not have been released to join the army, he would have been retained by the Luftwaffe for one of a thousand other jobs. Rudel was not in charge of a training squadron in Chemnitz at the time Sajer alleges. Later in the book he claims to have helped out one day in the ruins of Berlin after an air raid in the summer of 1943. It is made quite clear that his is a daytime raid but there were no daytime raids on Berlin before march 1944. The claim is sometimes made that these are understandable lapses of memory but if one reads the book and considers these events, it is clear that these mistakes cannot be mere lapses of memory. I emphasis that there are many other such errors in the book.

In the light of these failings the book must be considered a novel and not the true history it claims to be. It is, therefore, at bottom, a fake.
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on 10 June 2012
I simply cant believe that anyone has been taken in by this book. The author has quite plainly never been a soldier at all, let alone served in an elite Wermacht division.

Things dont start well for this Guy when he gets bounced out of Stuka aircrew training. The very elite within an elite of an elite. He then inexplicably finds himself out of the Luftwaffe altogether and serving as a rifleman or driver or something in Poland. He then spends a couple of chapters bimbling around the eastern front, forgetting his rifle and generally behaving like a clueless nitwit until you lose the will to carry on with this tripe.

I couldnt get more than a quarter of the way in to this book before tiring of snorting with derision at the ludicrous accounts of how the author imagines soldiers might behave and boggling at his supposed ability to recall verbatim an ad hoc speach by some Nazi fuctionary.

You would get a better idea of the war in the east by reading a gardening handbook than you would by reading this drivel.
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on 29 July 2017
The author never once acknowledges that he was fighting for one of the most evil regimes in history and at times seems aggrieved that he and his colleagues were never acknowledged as war heros. By invading Russia the Germans unleashed unbelievable hideous suffering and yet he seems to see the Russian defence of their own country as somehow wrong - yes, the Russians were brutal in the fight for Prussia and in the race to Berlin but they also suffered losses and destruction worse than any other country. Also, no acknowledgement of the Holocaust and the millions of others who suffered as a result of the regime he was fighting for.
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on 28 January 2016
It is spoilt for me, because I'm not convinced about the true story claim. When you consider that it was first published in 1971 some 26 years after the end of the war and yet he can quote a speech from his captain in 1943 which stretches over two and a half pages and this continues through the book like any good novel. He also mentions that the German army only committed war crimes in retaliation to those perpetrated by the Russians. If this book is intended to be a true story and he was oblivious of what actually happened then he had enough time in the 26 years to correct these statements. If anyone is interested in learning the true nature of the war in the east then I would recommend books by Michael Jones, a war historian.If you accept it as good novel, then it is a good read.
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on 2 May 2016
It is very clear that the writer has either total memory loss or is making the whole thing up. In particular it would be easy recalling the fog of war to forget the calibre of the enemies weapons but surely not those of your own side. The standard German infantry rifle of WW2 was the Gewehr 41 or 43 both fired the standard German rifle and machine gun round of 7.92mm, the author refers to it as a 7.7m, which was the standard Japanese rifle round In one scene he refers to a German Soldier carrying a Spandau across his chest as though it was a machine pistol rather than a heavy machine gun weighing 69 kilo's .He refers to the German artillery as 77mm rather than the highly effective 88mm. To a soldier his weapons are his best friend, its obvious that the writer is more interested in the action scenes, rather than accuracy of detail. Nonsense.
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on 25 October 2000
I am able to review this early as I have unearthed an old edition. This book quite literally lives with you from the moment you open it, to the moment you finish...and then a bit longer. The story of a half-french, 17 year-old from Alsace takes you from his misguided decision to volunteer for military service, with the Nazi-German army, through the bloodiest, most ruthless and savage campaigns of the Eastern-Front. The sheer brutality, wretchedness and loss of reasonable hope is bewildering. The close knit team that develops and the esprit de corps of the Grosse Deutschland Division is inspirational. The gore and carnage they endure and inflict is awe inspiring. Such is the fierce reality of the writing, the images of battle and of frozen death, that I ended up having to keep reading until Guy Sajer (this is autobiographical) was in relative safety and comfort. I could not "leave him". Read it, you will then know what I mean. Whatever political persuasion you belive in or stand for, no 17 year old should be made to endure this. I cannot recommend a book more highly. Forget Blitzkrieg, this is Blitz-education. It batters your senses. Thank God my 5 years in the Army never came to this.
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on 24 June 2016
This book is certainly a gripping read. It describes the horrors of war very well.

In the UK we often see WW2 in "black and white" ... Allies = good, Axis = bad. However the book recounts many instances of German soldiers showing decency and kindness, despite their uniform and their ideology. The book also shows the awful pomposity, hypocrisy and unreasonableness of some Nazi officials, which is much closer to the caricature that we have of a Nazi soldier.

I have far more sympathy with the civilian partisan fighters than Sajer did. Unlike him, I thought their actions were totally legitimate. They were not terrorists, and they had as much right to resist as the German army did to invade in the first place!

Is The Forgotten Soldier fact or fiction? It's probably both, but this does not matter. I strongly suspect the book often recounts events in an illustrative way rather than being a totally factual and linear account of what happened. This means the events being recounted make a blended, composite picture rather than being the totally separate events the author portrays. By his own admission, Sajer frequently didn't know exactly where he was, and the chaos and confusion of war would not have helped him to collect or record all of the facts of the case at any one time. Some stories are told in great detail, yet in others there is far less detail. However these inconsistencies do not detract from the power of the book.

Reading the book makes me extremely glad that I was not born in Germany or the Soviet Union in the early 1920s, as the stories in the book could very well have become my own fate. I once read that there was roughly a 10% chance of a German soldier going out to the east and coming back alive without a serious physical injury. That is not unrealistic, going by what I read in the book.
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on 11 March 2016
The best War Memoir I've ever read! Heart breaking, brutal, real, lyrical, depressing, insightful, and in some ways familiar - I simply loved this book. Guy Sajer tells his story as a young half french, half german boy joining the Wermacht in 1942. His story spans his journey from Germany to Poland for training in the transportation Corps and then to the east in the winter of '42 to resupply the German Army at the Don river. Later he joins the Gross Deutschland division as an infantryman in order to qualify for some leave and participates in many of the big battles of the eastern front. He was a soldier in the German army 67 years ago but, some of his descriptions of life as a soldier in a combat zone ring true to my own experiences. His storytelling is lyrical and heartbreakingly real. He's honest about his inadaquacies as a soldier - he doesn't recast his war experiences to make himself out to be a hero - and he doesn't shy away from describing his early fanatacism about the ideals of the third Reich and then his later disillusionment (based at least partly on his realization that being "french" - his dad was french and he was raised in france - he wouldn't ever really fit in with his german komeraden). His vivid descriptions of the Russian landscape, combat against the Bolsheviks, the bombings of cities in Germany and their aftermath, are amazing.

This is a beautiful, painful, brutal book that anyone looking for a firsthand account of the horrors of combat and war should read. I've heard this referred to as a classic and I now know why
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on 2 October 2002
One can only begin to imagine the horror, misery and deprivation of fighting on the Russian front, but this book goes a long way to getting this across.
However what is missing is an insight into the motivation of Sajer. Why did he join the Werhmacht? What was in the mind of the German fighting man? How did they view the Russian population upon whom they visited such cruelty? How did his training in a crack SS division alter his mind-set?
Sajer spent most of his war in a state of absolute terror, and the final third of the book is more or less a constant tale of misery. It's not that I expect this kind of story to be entertaining, but it lacks any kind of historical of personal perspective.
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