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.
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.
Hans Von Luck was a "good German," which makes his memoir an interesting story that has certain elephants constantly lurking in the back of the room. Luck addresses them a few times, though perhaps not to the satisfaction of those who really want to know about the moral calculus of serving as a willing officer in Hitler's army.
I found his account compelling and sometimes riveting for his first-hand accounts of war and all its accompanying terror, as well as the years he spent as a prisoner in Russian camps at the end of the war, before he was finally released back to Germany.
However, his war stories, while detailed, meticulous, and sometimes dreadful, were somewhat lacking in the technical and tactical details. If you want to know all about tank warfare and what is was like to drive Panzers, Luck talks surprisingly little about the machines and the maneuvers themselves. He covers the battles he was involved in as if giving an AAR (After Action Report), narrating his campaigns from the Eastern Front to North Africa, where he served under Rommel, and finally, to the bitter end defense of Berlin, which led to his being captured by the Russians and spending the next five years as a POW.
In the foreword, he issues a plea for tolerance and peace in the hope of "never again" repeating the mistakes his country made, and throughout the book he gives the impression of being a conscientious man who always had his doubts about Hitler, but was just being a loyal soldier. He certainly wasn't anti-Semitic, as his girlfriend throughout the war was 1/8 Jewish, and they were told by the High Command that for that reason, he could not marry her. (He observes indignantly that reserve officers were allowed to marry a 1/8 Jew, but active army officers could not.) Actually, his romance with Dagmar became an ongoing "subplot" in the story, as he would frequently manage to speak to her briefly even while he was in the field and she was back in Germany (in areas being bombed), and at one point she basically hitchhiked through a war zone to meet him! Spunky woman. I won't "spoil" the ending by telling you whether or not they wind up marrying.
All that being said - I experienced some skepticism about his studious disavowals that he or his fellow officers really knew what was going on with the Jews. Dagmar's own father was locked up in a camp (just a prison camp; they hadn't become death camps yet) and Luck tried to exercise his influence to free him. There are also an awful lot of stories about how noble and generous he and his men were to local civilians, and how grateful they were, and it was only in other places where less honorable German soldiers treated non-combatants with less humanity. Not that I doubt Luck's personal conduct — I'm sure he was a conscientious commander who followed the Geneva Convention. But still, he never seems to encounter anyone who actually dislikes Germans, or has reason to.
Later, Luck relates the increasing desperation of the German army as they realize (from about 1943 onward) that the war is lost and they are fighting for survival and increasingly diminishing chances of being allowed something less than unconditional surrender. As this happens, he talks about how Hitler and the High Command were increasingly detached from the reality at the front, how Hitler was trying to micromanage divisions (which often no longer existed except on paper), and how the Nazi police state even affected officers at the front. At one point, one of Luck's platoon sergeants is summarily executed by one of the infamous "flying drumhead" judges who were going around shooting soldiers for any reason they could drum up. Luck is furious, but even a highly decorated colonel can't do anything about it.
This was a good book for its look into the mind of a Wehrmacht officer, but I found the anecdotes like those above more interesting than the actual war, which Luck describes in dry detail. The chapters about life in a Russian labor camp were interesting too.
The narration by Bronson Pinchot is, as always, first rate.
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.
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
The narration I thought excellent and I have read this book before so it was a pleasure
Can't think of any
I was really surprised at his narration he did a excellent
No on either scale it was a good listen
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
I stumbled on this book quite by accident. I had sworn off WWII books for a while but made an exception of this one when I read the brief description. Seeing the war from an entirely different perspective seemed like the right thing to do.
I really can't add anything that's not already been said in both the description and the many rave reviews. From a historical perspective, this added to my understanding of what things looked like from the German side. Not the official party line or the propaganda, but from the battlefield - real men, fighting day in and day out under horrific conditions. That is precisely what this is. That the story is being told by a man with an extraordinary sense of fairness - a true gentleman - makes it all the more interesting.
A quick word about the narration... I could have done without the fake German accent. I got used to it, but most of the time it annoyed me. Von Luck's story is so compelling that I would not have put the book down because of it. But I wondered just how good it could have been without it.
"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
"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
"Great story but a shame about the reader"
Fascinating and understated, One can't help liking von Luck, a gentleman in a time when it was very difficult. The very definition of a good man.
mispronunciation of names and general lacklustre performance. Why use a French speaker to tell a German's story
This is a tremendous tale of an amazing life, constantly surprising, von Luck must have been a remarkable character
The reader of this autobiography does his job superbly and of course the story is fantastic and enjoyabke
"Great with no doubt the best book I've listened to"
the best book I've listened to so far. Hans van Luck must have been a wonderful person to have by so many of his enemy's.
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