A stunning look at World War II from the other side.... From the turret of a German tank, Colonel Hans von Luck commanded Rommel's 7th and then 21st Panzer Division. El Alamein, Kasserine Pass, Poland, Belgium, Normandy on D-Day, the disastrous Russian front - von Luck fought there with some of the best soldiers in the world. German soldiers. Awarded the German Cross in Gold and the Knight's Cross, von Luck writes as an officer and a gentleman. Told with the vivid detail of an impassioned eyewitness, his rare and moving memoir has become a classic in the literature of World War II, a first-person chronicle of the glory - and the inevitable tragedy - of a superb soldier fighting Hitler's war.
©1989 Hans von Luck (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
This is not a book I would have normally found on my own. But, a good friend recommended it and I am most grateful that he did. It is a recollection of World War II that everyone should read.
These are the memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck and in it he shares his experiences of his life as an officer in the German army leading up to and through World War II. It also gives his account of the five years he spent after the war in a Soviet POW camp and his eventual return to life as a civilian.
This book is not a glorification or romanticization of war. It is not a defense of Hitler's Germany, nor an apology. It is an explanation of how men who were patriots of their country had that loyalty twisted and abused in Hitler's quest for world domination. It is a view "from the trenches" and gives great insight into both the details of the battles von Luck fought in, and the thoughts and feelings of him and his men through the various stages of the war.
While I did find the narrative bog down from time to time with the details of movements during some of the campaigns, what really makes this book a standout are von Luck's insights into how the German army viewed the war as well as the descriptions of encounters that he had with his enemies both as captor and prisoner. von Luck also brings into this collection additional stories from his companions who got separated from him over the course of the war - of people he befriended in Paris during the time Germany initially occupied it, of subordinates captured by the Americans in North Africa and the time they spent in POW camps in the American Midwest, of the woman who was for a time his fiance before his capture and five year internment.
In war, governments seek to make their citizens see the enemy as something not human. von Luck makes nots of the Nazi propaganda machines efforts to make the German citizens see the Soviets as "sub-humans" at the time that Hitler broke his non-agression pact with Stalin and started the disastrous invasion of the Russian homeland. This book shows that all of these peoples - Russians, Germans, French, Brits, even the Americans - weren't just "others" but were men doing their best to follow the orders of the civilian leaders under difficult circumstances. It is a book anyone who would claim the mandate of leader of a country should read to better understand the human face of war and the young men whose lives are spent engaging in "politics by other means."
For the narration - Bronson Pinchot did an excellent job of bringing this story to life. His inflection, rhythm and accents really made me feel like Colonel von Luck was sitting down in the room with me and telling his story.
Han Von Luck was in almost all the theaters of the war. The invasion of France, North Africa, Invasion of Russia, then Normandy and defense of Berlin. He takes you though the battles and politics of the war. Von luck was not a Nazi, but had to live with the insanity of the war and prison in Russia. He was an exceptional man who was not bitter after years of war with limited supplies, and then he endured years of captivity in the Russian coal mines including a punishment camp. Yet he has good things to say about everyone, North Africans, the allies and even the Russians. He was later released and was not able to get a good job since he was a war officer. He endured all over a decade, and kept his spirits and head up. He is an example of a great spirit, a survivor, and a man of character. Someone to look up to.
Delightful, Humbling, Forgive
Nice accent...sometimes German...sometimes French...but always delightful. He tried hard to sound German
Reconciliation is Necessary for Soldiers
I was a tank commander with D. Co. 2/112th AR, 49th Armored Division. Military History was my minor in college. I needed to listen to this book. The reader does a great job. He tries the accent. Sometimes it sounds German...sometimes French. But always delightful. It only takes about 15 minutes to get used to it. The book is delightful!! But...if you want to hate someone...Germans, Russians, Blacks, Democrats, Republicans, Gays, Straights, Muslims, Christians...whoever!!!! You will not like this book Von Luck ends up saying that "forgetting" is good..."forgiving" is better..."reconciliation" is the best. He should know! Think you have a reason for hating??? You should have lived his life. I don't think he ever reconciled with the Nazis, but he did with everyone else he fought or suffered under.
I am moved by this story. Ive never been exposed to the German perspective of the war. It humanizes an enemy I've been taught to hate my whole life. The fairness of war that was frequently mentioned changed my perspective on the war as a whole. It was great learning about the African campaign from a firsthand account. This is a must rrad/listen
Yes, the subject was interesting, the author erudite and engaging, and the performance delightful
Hans von Luck, and many of his conversations with various other military figures
The pathos of a cultivated and decent fellow caught in the dirty maelstrom of the Second World War.
A splendid book to gain insight into aspects of the war not in the common American narrative. Contrary to the usual story the Germans were not monsters, and not even largely Nazi. Also provides that the Russians weren't quite as monstrous as we have been led to believe too. And like most, only wish they had never been subjected to the pernicious ideology of their insane government.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Von Luck was born in 1911 in Flensburg, the son of a naval officer and descends from an old military family. Von Luck joined a Cavalry regiment in the 100,000 strong Reichwehr in 1929 but was soon transferred to the motorized infantry. In 1931 he came under the tutelage of Erwin Rommel. By 1936 he was a company commander. He served in every battle from Poland, Russia, Africa and France. He was a battalion commander under Rommel. He was captured by the Russian at the end of the war and put into a punishment camp in Kiev. He was released in 1950 and repatriated to West German. He obtained a job working for a coffee company. In 1960 he was on the staff of the British Military Camberley Staff College. He instructed students about the German Tank corp. in various battles in WWII and in particular the battle at Normandy. He did the same for the Swedish and French military. He made a military staff training file with Major General “Pip” Roberts. Von Luck died in January 1997.
Through Von Luck’s memoir you can obtain a rare perspective of the German soldiers and get to see a unique behind the scenes look at the German Army during WWII. Von Luck writes with an easy to read direct style. He offers no excuses and begs no forgiveness for serving his country. He fought because he was a soldier. The book contains hundreds of anecdotes and observations that bring the story to life. If you are interested in World War II this is a must read book. Bronson Pinchot narrated the book.
You won't get bored.
Hans lives through some pretty extraordinary experiences and escapes death more than can be count. The circumstances leading up to his surrender in Berlin are the climax of the story.
German accent appropriate for the conditions of the book.
Hans recounts an extraordinary example of wartime civility and respect between the Axis and Ally armies.
I found this book fascinating because it gives a very tangible impression of what it really meant to play an active soldier's part during WWII. Compared to allied accounts, the book is also unique because Hans von Luck took part in action on all fronts, sometimes repeatedly, over the entire duration of the war. This perspective is completed by his subsequent experience of 5 years imprisonment in Russia.
Although the tone of the book appears at times a bit old-fashioned today, together with the matter of fact style of reporting it also conveys somehow the mindset at the time. Overall, I found the book to be a very balanced account, also when it comes down to the level of his individual interactions. A particular strength of this autobiography is that Hans von Luck was a commander in the field. This brought him close enough to upper level decision making and strategic overview, while not removing him too far from the hands down action (thus the title of this review). In summary, in my opinion a credible account of the war, and also of the depressing injustices individuals have to suffer in times of unrest (thinking particularly about the stories of fellow prisoners, like communists imprisoned by the nazis in Germany that were re-interned by the Russians into USSR camps, etc.).
This book ranks at the top!
The whole book is an amazing story.
Bronson Pinchot gives a 5 star reading of this story. Von Luck was sent to every war campaign. the eastern front, to Africa with Rommel to the western front then back to the Russian front. He fought a losing battle and faced his challenges with dignity.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Not quite what I was expecting. I imagined that this would be a cold and clinical book on the nature of tank warfare (a topic I was curious about, having done work on military simulations). Instead, the author, who comes across as a friendly, gregarious man, spends little time on the technical details of war and writes about his impressions of places he was sent to and people he met.
Von Luck isn't a great writer, but he served on several different fronts (Eastern, Africa, Western) and spent five years in Russian captivity, and has lots of interesting anecdotes. We learn how chronically undersupplied the German military was post-1941, how civilians saw them (many people in Soviet territory or Africa welcomed them at first, and some were unaware of the outcome of the First World War), what it was like to be on the receiving end of Allied attacks, and how German civilians felt under increasingly harsh air raids. The time he spends doing forced labor in the Soviet Union certainly reveals a lot about the mentality of Russians, who were often "employed" in ways not much better. Von Luck does seem to hold a positive view of most civilians and soldiers he meets, regardless of side or country, so there's a strongly optimistic feel to the book -- though perhaps the space of decades between experience and writing helped.
The parts of the story set in North Africa are especially interesting, as it appears that both sides tried to fight the war in a gentlemanly, chivalrous way, looking after each other's wounded, having occasional truces, and so forth. Maybe "chivalry" wasn’t much comfort to those about to die, but there were definitely nastier theaters of World War Two.
As for Hitler, there's a certain recurring rationale one gets in the memoirs of former Wehrmacht officers, and it goes: "we were just regular soldiers fighting for Germany and we didn't know the full extent of what the Nazis were up to, nor did we like them much anyway. Especially not at the end, when they screwed us over and justified it with insane propaganda." Any readers looking for self-recrimination will find that Von Luck's personal narrative sticks to this familiar line. While he was apparently aware of atrocities in locations behind his line, he blames them on rear-echelon and political units, and insists that his own men behaved correctly towards civilians and captured enemies. To be fair, I doubt the Russians would have let him go if they'd been able to pin any war crimes on his troops, and he did seem to make lifelong friends among his former British, American, and French enemies.
As World War Two memoirs go, this isn't the most riveting one I've come across, but it shows that decency had existed inside the German officer class, before fascist brainwashing infected the armed forces. That things could go so wrong is why I sometimes worry about the politicization of the military in the US, given some of the crazier segments of right-wing politics.
"Shame he was on the wrong side"
Honest, forthright and non-sensasional
The very sincere way he felt about the fighting
The journey back home and his feelings of the world he was now away from
He was a very honest man who must have felt bad that he was tarred with the brush of Nazism
"Fascinating funny and horrific read"
This guy took part in almost every theatre of the war. Gives a fascinating insight into the life of the average soldier in detail rarely told, a must read for anyone interested in military history, especially from the German perspective!
Superb book for those interested in the German viewpoint - honest and sometimes brutal a must for anyone interested in WWII
"Incredible story of survival against the odds"
Remarkable that a man could have survived so many theatres of battles in WWII, to say nothing of 5 years in a Russian Gulag. Had this man been on the winning side we would have become a much celebrated war hero. He comes across as a real gentlemen from the old school with respect for his enemy and he politely avoids the obvious blood and gore he must have witnessed. The narrative is a bit lilting at times with the unusual accent but convincing all the same. I liked the story within and at times wanted to listen way beyond bed time . a good read
"Enthralling insight into the life of a German Army Officer"
There is a lot of material regarding the 2nd World War yet very little from the German perspective. This book provides a fascinating insight into the view from a German Officer who started his career in a reconnaissance regiment. Became familiar with Rommel and fought in most of the campaigns, finally defending Germany from the Russians. After his capture the Russians held him and his fellow soldiers for 5 years paying the price for reparations demanded by the Russian state. Fascinating and enthralling, a true masterpiece. Well worth the time to listen.
"Excellent alternative perspective of entire war"
This book provides an excellent perspective from a high ranking non-Nazi from before the war to becoming a POW in Russia and life after all in a first person autobiography. Very enjoyable.
"Barely believable personal history"
This book is read by someone with a German accent which is very off-putting in the opening chapters but soon helps the account, particularly when there is reported dialogue.
The Author is involved in the Polish campaign, North Africa, Normandy and Eastern front. He meets or works with just about every German General: Rommel, Guiderian, Manteufel and Jodel.
Sometimes I had to smile and think 'is this even possible?', but I wanted it all to be true.
Historically this book is useful, it describes experiencing the use of rocket launchers from aircraft as well as Russian captivity.
It gives an insight into the high level of training of the Wehrmacht on the eve of the War and how, for example, at the end of the war there was no shortage of tanks, just no experienced crews to man them.
"A good German."
Epic story of war and captivity. The author was on the wrong side. Great listen.
Very interesting humbling account of a professional soldier caught up in the bloody mess that is war.A great insight and nice stories of the occasional humanity despite all the chaos.Only minor downer is the choice of narrator.Sounds like a Frenchman doing a German accent!
This is such a moving story, anyone who is in to military history should read this
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