SOLDAT by Siegfried Knappe


Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949
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 World War II from inside the Wehrmacht. Knappe, one of the Third Reich's best and brightest, trained under Rommel and distinguished himself rapidly, meeting the FÅhrer as a young peacetime soldier. He lived and fought through most of the major campaigns (France, Russia, Italy, the defense of Berlin), cheating death time after time, surviving for nearly five years as a Russian prisoner. Here, aided by Brusaw (The Business Writer's Handbook--not reviewed), Knappe offers precise, affecting memories of the WW II era--of his family, his circle, and a Jewish friend who had to leave Germany; of the way people lived in different places he was billeted, and of the textures of his life: the Russian winter and the hell of combat are palpable. No everyman, Knappe comes off as sensitive as well as dutiful, and remorseless in his respect for his own life. Yet the self-deceptions of nationalism and war appear in justifying asides here and there. He was bothered by the use of children in the war, he tells us, but outraged when a teenaged leader failed to report that they had fled their position, and he was nonplussed by a Russian woman who thought Fascism would be as bad as Communism. His memoir displays an unnerving acceptance of an establishment: There is no hint of civil disobedience. Knappe was disturbed about the treatment of Jews and wondered, ``Why invade Russian when we have a treaty?''- -but his ethic of discipline did not allow him the initiative of those who plotted to kill Hitler. Withal, a superb description of the German war machine from creation to defeat, and a fine, absorbing chronicle of a remarkable time. (Forty-five b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-517-58895-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1992