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Book Review
Death March through Russia
Death March through Russia
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Introduction

The following is taken from the Pen and Sword website:

In this rare World War II memoir, Lothar Herrmann, a soldier from the Wehrmacht, details his unimaginable experience as a German Prisoner-of-War in the Soviet Union.

Hermann grew up in Bavaria, going through the RAD (Nazi Labour Service) before being conscripted into a Wehrmacht Mountain Division (the Gebirgs division) in 1940. He participated in Germany’s advance through southern Ukraine in 1941 and, in 1944, was arrested in Romania while retreating to Germany. The Romanians passed him onto the Soviets, who placed him in a forced labor camp, where he watched two-thirds of prisoners around him die. In 1949, Herrmann was finally released to Germany and returned to Bavaria.

Three million German troops were taken prisoner by the Red Army and around two-thirds of them survived to return to Germany in 1949, but their stories are little known. Klaus Willmann draws on interviews he conducted with Herrmann, to recount these astonishing recollections in the first-person. Depicting the challenges of growing up in Nazi Bavaria to becoming a Soviet prisoner-of-war, this is a gripping and enlightening account from a necessary but rarely explored perspective.

Review


This offering from Pen and Sword is published by Green hill books, and tells the story of a German soldier in Russian captivity. This is a hard backed offering, with a very good spine, the paper is a heavy matte, and the information is provided over 240 pages. This is the story of Klaus Wilmann, during his time as a prisoner of war of Soviet forces, with a forward by Roger Moorehouse.

The contents of the book are as follows:

Translators Notes

Forward by Roger Moorehouse

Preface

Chapter 1 Apprentice and Journeyman
Chapter 2 At the Reich Labour Camp
Chapter 3 How we became soldiers
Chapter 4 On Sick Leave
Chapter 5 To the Eastern Front
Chapter 6 Rude Awakening
Chapter 7 Forced Labour by the Sea of Azov
Chapter 8 An Unknown Destination
Chapter 9 The Escape
Chapter 10 An Endless Expanse
Chapter 11 Shattered Hopes
Chapter 12 Contact with the Homeland
Chapter 13 Returning Home
Chapter 14 A Difficult Beginning

The first third of this book, tells the story of Klaus Wilmann’s early life growing up and the subsequent conscription into the German Army, and his passing out as a Gebirgsjaeger. You get the story as he progresses into Russia as part of the German invasion in the summer of 1940. His story as the German forces rapidly progress through Russia, in their race towards Moscow, where they were subsequently halted.

His taking prisoner by the Romanians who switched sides is where this book starts to tell a story, that has only had limited coverage before. He was handed over to the Russians by the Romanians and that is where he learnt just how little his life was worth. The story of a soldier being shoot for taking a drink, and the fact that the Russian guards just stepped over the body gives you a glimpse into how little valued a German POW’s life was worth. Once in Russian hands, treatment became steadily more severe, initially they were fit and healthy, and were able to cope the tasks set for them by their captors, but however as time went on, a combination of the cold, poor nutrition and excessive demands placed upon the prisoners resulted in the slow deaths of nearly two thirds of the people that he had come to know and been imprisoned with.

While this book refers to the imprisonment and subsequent treatment of this one German soldier at the hands of Soviet forces, it provides the reader with an insight into the brutal retribution by the Soviet forces on their erstwhile enemies. The behaviour of the Soviet forces involved can be understood, as they had become aware of how their prisoners had been treated and they had seen the treatment of civilians following the German advance. One of the interrogators of Klaus had lost his brother, and his family to German forces during the conflict and so his vehement hatred towards the Germans can be understood. Klaus was one of the lucky ones, to survive everything the Soviets had thrown at him and returned to his home. It should be remembered that German POW’s were finally all released in 1956, 11 years after the war, with a third of their total number having died or been executed.

Conclusion

This offering covering the memories of Klaus Wilmann, telling the story of his life during World War II, and subsequent life as a prisoner of the Soviet forces is an informative read, that covers an important aspect of World War II, and the years after. The treatment endured is reminiscent of that metered out to Russians civilians and military alike, by some elements of the German Military, that does not come close to the treatment of Jews during this horrific period.
SUMMARY
Fay Baker takes a look at a book telling the story of a German soldier as a prisoner of Soviet forces during and following WW2 under the title 'Death March through Russia'.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781784385033
  Suggested Retail: £19.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Nov 18, 2020
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 87.04%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 94.00%

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)
FROM: ENGLAND - SOUTH WEST, UNITED KINGDOM

I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...

Copyright ©2020 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. All rights reserved.



Comments

Grim, insightful and ultimately telling history that few know or care to know. I'm one of those who cares to know as this side of history, without the garland of glory, depicts not only the events but their human costs. Invaluable to any student of history.
NOV 18, 2020 - 02:17 PM
   

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