A Viennese-quarter Jew recounts his experiences fighting for the German army in World War II.
Because the author’s maternal grandmother was Jewish, he was precluded from participating in the Hitler Youth, and so was marked for life as something less than a full and proper member of the Third Reich. Despite his heritage, however, he was drafted into the army and sent to Russia, where his mechanical skills made him a successful wireless operator, relaying messages back and forth from the front. While his mother was back in Vienna hiding Jews in the attic to save them from persecution, Rauch was struggling to survive gunfire, bombs, harsh weather and starvation. During his time on the front, he wrote a steady stream of letters home, many of which were saved by his family and are reprinted here. At the age of 19, Rauch had already learned the fine art of dissembling, feigning optimism and shrugging off danger in his missives in an attempt to protect his parents from truly understanding the severity of his situation. As so often happens during war, concerns about motivation–particularly apropos for a partial Jew fighting for the Nazis–must be supplanted in favor of basic survival mechanisms. Fortunately, the author’s technical skills, innate charisma and a fair share of luck helped him survive injuries, illness and the hopelessness of not knowing if or when he would return home. While these events were undoubtedly highlighted in part to further enliven an already interesting narrative, there’s little doubt that his experience was as amazing as it is valuable to those seeking to understand a soldier’s experience.
A compelling and unique perspective on World War II.