Thursday, December 22, 2016
The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer
This work recounts the author's time in the German army during WWII. Involved in the initial stages of Germany's retreat in the East all the way to the end of the war, the author experienced the worst of what the conflict had to offer and describes it in full detail.
The blood, the cold, the depravity, the cowardice, the heroism, the anger, hatred, frustration, disillusionment, starvation, mutilation...its all here. Sajer doesn't shy away from his own failings and the work comes across as a beautifully honest recount of his service. Which isn't to say the book should be taken as a pure academic recap of the German effort of WWII in the East. It isn't. It has inaccuracies as others have pointed out. That's not the overall point and Sajer has been one to say so.
Its more of an emotional synopsis of his experience and the reader comes away with the feeling that no one should have survived what he went through and certainly no one sane could have.
This work is not one to delve into the issues behind Germany's efforts, there is really little mention of Hitler and zero mention of the Holocaust or other well known events of the war and its evils. If you are looking for that or for Sajer to fall on his knees and beg forgiveness for having fought on the losing side, this is not your book.
If you are looking for an epically honest depiction of the German grunt's viewpoint of how it felt to be driven backwards by the unstoppable masses of Russian soldiers over a period of years through the worst of living conditions, then this is more appropriate.
I have not read a more vivid description of the obscene nature of ground warfare anywhere. Nowhere else have I felt it better shown the indifferent nature of combatants as to their superiors motives or overarching goals, rather these are purely men fighting for the man next to them and merely in the hope of living to see another day. Politics and preaching are absent here...as you come to realize, they are in all trenches.