Cover image for Soldat : reflections of a German soldier, 1936-1949
Title:
Soldat : reflections of a German soldier, 1936-1949
Author:
Knappe, Siegfried.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dell Book, 1993.

©1992
Physical Description:
xvii, 430 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 18 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
Added Author:
ISBN:
9780440215264
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Paris. The Somme. The Italian Campaign. The Russian Front. And inside Hitler's bunker during The Battle of Berlin . . . World War II through the eyes of a solider of the Reich.

Siegfried Knappe fought, was wounded, and survived battles in nearly every major Wehrmacht campaign. His astonishing career begins with Hitler's rise to power--and ends with a five-year term in a Russian prison camp, after the Allies rolled victoriously into the smoking rubble of Berlin. The enormous range of Knappe's fighting experiences provides an unrivaled combat history of World War II, and a great deal more besides.

Based on Knappe's wartime diaries, filled with 16 pages of photos he smuggled into the West at war's end, Soldat delivers a rare opportunity for the reader to understand how a ruthless psychopath motivated an entire generation of ordinary Germans to carry out his monstrous schemes . . . and offers stunning insight into the life of a soldier in Hitler's army.

"Remarkable! World War II from inside the Wehrmacht."-- Kirkus Reviews


Author Notes

Siegfried Knappe (1917-2008) was a soldier in the Wehrmacht, the German Army, before being captured by the Russians.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Though the world has never heard of Siegfried Knappe, it is very well acquainted with the grotesque psychodrama of Hitler's last days in the bunker. The author's small role in this came about from being the Berlin commandant's operations officer, and as such, his reports and maps represented reality to the dictator's retinue while the Russians closed in. By the time Hitler was conducting his little Gotterdammerung, Knappe had fought the entire war, been thrice wounded, and had demonstrated enough native military talent to rise to staff rank at age 28. This absorbing memoir is said to be based on Knappe's diary, which, upon his surrender and imprisonment, one would have expected the Russians to confiscate--but perhaps he secreted it somewhere and retrieved it after his release in 1949. In any event, the rearranged version occasionally bears the heavy hand of his co-writers, notably in reconstructed conversations and landscape descriptions, but Knappe's undiluted voice speaks with the attractive artlessness of laconic accuracy. His first sight of a dead soldier in France, his eulogy to a dead comrade, an account of a massacre of Russian soldiers, his pervasive fatalism, the tribulations of his family in Leipzig, his faith in the German cause, intact until the end--the cumulative effect of such themes and incidents renders a work worthy of any superlative. And, frankly, libraries need to tap the trickling supply of memoirs as the war generation passes on. ~--Gilbert Taylor


Publisher's Weekly Review

This engaging, introspective memoir, coauthored with Bruslaw ( The Business Writer's Handbook ) offers insight into the thinking and attitudes of a Wehrmacht officer. Knappe served in the artillery during the invasions of Czechoslovakia, France and the Soviet Union and as a staff officer during the Italian campaign and the defense of Berlin. Though he had moral reservations about the Czech campaign and was troubled by his government's betrayal of its non-aggression pact with Russia, Knappe believed that his participation in combat was honorable and that the overriding purpose of the war was to correct the injustice perpetrated against Germany by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Only after he was captured by Soviet troops in 1945 did he begin to understand that he had been an ``unthinking cog,'' accepting without question Hitler's might-makes-right philosophy. The memoir closes with an account of his release from a Soviet prison camp in 1949 and his reunion with his family in Leipzig. Knappe came to America in 1955 and is now a retired corporate executive in Ohio. Photos. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Knappe's Wehrmacht career began in 1936. He participated in the final collapse of the Eastern Front, then spent more than four years as a Russian POW. Readers may doubt Knappe's insistence that he fought not for National Socialism but for Germany, but this mindset, common among his generation, cannot be dismissed out of hand as special pleading or selective memory. His memoir, based heavily on a wartime diary, shows a talented professional soldier and unreflective patriot who initially regarded Hitler as fulfilling legitimate German aspirations; by the time he began probing beneath the regime's surface, it was far too late to take action. Soldat makes a worthwhile companion to Hans von Luck's Panzer Commander ( LJ 10/15/89). Both works highlight an unresolved paradox: never did soldiers perform better in a worse cause than the men who served Adolf Hitler.-- D.E. Showalter, U.S. Air Force Acad., Colorado Springs (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.