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Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949 | [Siegfried Knappe, Ted Brusaw]

Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949

A German soldier during World War II offers an inside look at the Nazi war machine, using his wartime diaries to describe how a ruthless psychopath motivated an entire generation of ordinary Germans to carry out his monstrous schemes.
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Publisher's Summary

A German soldier during World War II offers an inside look at the Nazi war machine, using his wartime diaries to describe how a ruthless psychopath motivated an entire generation of ordinary Germans to carry out his monstrous schemes.

©1992 Siegfried Knappe Charles T. Brusaw (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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4.2 (337 )
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  •  
    Erik Sooke, British Columbia, Canada 09-02-13
    Erik Sooke, British Columbia, Canada 09-02-13 Member Since 2011
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    "An incredible true story"

    A very amazing story of a one very lucky man’s experiences through the entirety of WWII. This is a must read for anyone remotely interested in how the average German Soldier perceived the war. It’s also a great background piece for how the East / West divide opened up during this period.

    Narration was sound, but a little uninspiring. It wasn’t difficult to listen to, but it could have had more inflection at times and been more dynamic.

    A warning: an general interest in military issues is an asset, as the average readers eyes may glaze over in parts where units, places, and dates are brought up.

    In summary, an very good piece of work.

    20 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erik WICHITA, KS, United States 07-27-13
    Erik WICHITA, KS, United States 07-27-13 Member Since 2013
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    "1 of the best autobiographies of a German soldier"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, and for several reasons. If you are interested in a German soldier's vantage of WWII or if you are just a WWII history buff, this is the book for you.


    What other book might you compare Soldat to and why?

    The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer


    Have you listened to any of John Wray’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but he is a pretty good reader. His reading seemed very rushed at the beginning - it was hard to follow because he barely stopped at the end of sentences or to even take a breath, but he slowed down later. His style is personable and really helped me get immersed in the book and in Knappe's story.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, but at 12 hours, that wasn't practical.


    Any additional comments?

    I read this book in college and thought it was great. I got the audiobook to listen going to and from work, and ended up listening to the whole thing in only a few days because it is such a compelling and interesting story.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessie United States 08-13-13
    Jessie United States 08-13-13 Member Since 2001

    56 yo female, disabled veteran injured overseas, semi-retired attorney, in decades-long lesbian relationship and married in some of the US.

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    "So believeable, an honest look at a soldier's life"

    This is one of the top 10 books I've ever read. Not an apology, nor a cover up- just a soldier's memories of actions and his personal world, not an overview of WW 2. And the narration is spot on. Highly recommended.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 02-14-14
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 02-14-14 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "Inside the other side"

    I've previously read accounts written by German soldiers who fought in WWII, but this was one of the more interesting and personal ones. As reconstructed from his diary and interviews, we learn that Siegfried Knappe was an unusually capable and dedicated soldier who managed to rise through the ranks, starting as a humble private in the pre-war years, and ending up as a general staff officer who was present at Hitler's bunker before the end. Along the way, he experienced different aspects of German military life in that era, from being a teenager in a labor/indoctrination camp (sort of a pre-boot camp to get young adults used to regimentation), to being a proud young officer in infantry school, to carrying out his duties in an artillery regiment during the invasions of France and Russia, to watching things turn dire for Germany as Hitler's insane decisions doom the army in Russia and allow the massive Soviet military to smash its way to Berlin. A grim epilogue follows as he endures several years languishing in a Soviet POW camp, albeit one of the less bad ones.

    As with most of the other German accounts I've read, Knappe pleads ignorance about the extent of Nazi lies and atrocities (i.e. he knew of concentration camps, but not their murderous function), and expresses remorse for his role in enabling what initially seemed like a just war to most Germans, but crossed the line into a war of aggression and conquest. Chillingly, he observes, "would I have spend much time thinking about this if we'd won the war? Probably not." He doesn't spend a lot of time on self-recrimination, though, and talks more about the horrors of life under Communism (which seems understandable, given his POW experiences).

    Readers looking for combat stories won't find more than a few here, but there were plenty of other details that interested me. I'm often curious about the technical details of how things work, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sections describing how German soldiers were trained and organized, which go against the popular stereotype of mindless stormtroopers. Sadly, although the officers were instilled with a strong sense of professionalism, it seems that many were so intent on restoring the national prestige shattered after WWI and avoiding a redo of the trenches, that it didn't dawn on them that they were being used by crazy people. At least, not until their lives were about to be thrown away. And I could easily relate to the emotional parts of the story, to Knappe's anguish at losing friends and his brother, and at knowing that he might never see his family again.

    Also interesting were his perceptions of Russia, both while on campaign and as a prisoner. Like the US, the USSR seemed to see the Cold War on the horizon. Inside his camp, the Russians used all kinds of Orwellian methods to break and indoctrinate high value prisoners, and some did cave in and become tools for the Soviet Union, as perverse ambitions or deep-rooted shame came to the surface. What little he has to say about the US and Britain is favorable, though I wonder if he was pandering to his audience a bit.

    All in all, a humanizing and fairly sincere portrait of the other side. It's impressive that Knappe even survived to tell his tale, but he obviously had a lot of good luck. 60 million didn't.

    Audible note: this isn’t one of the better narrated works here. The reader just rattles off the text in front of him. Didn’t bother me much, though.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B.J. Minneapolis, MN, United States 01-24-14
    B.J. Minneapolis, MN, United States 01-24-14 Member Since 2007

    I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.

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    "This could have been SO much better."

    The positive: This is the first time I've ever read anything that was so personal from a German WWII soldier. I loved the fresh perspective. I didn't anticipate his reaction to some of the events and decisions. So, content (story) gets 4 stars.

    Now let's talk about the narration and audio. To say the narration is flat is an insult to flat things. It is unbearable. Even the lighthearted moments are delivered in that same one-tone voice. And the audio? Whenever the audio needed to be edited, it was done with a clip that didn't match the audio quality of anything before or after. So all of a sudden, you'll hear a sentence that sounds completely different. It's really amateurish and annoying.

    It's really too bad the audio and narration has been this mangled. I think this book would be a great read. Forget listening until it's fixed.

    18 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne Ballwin, MO, United States 02-11-14
    Anne Ballwin, MO, United States 02-11-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Compelling story, grocery list delivery"

    The author covers his own life and career, which parallels the rise and fall of the Third Reich. His focus is on his experiences, however; not the political issues or overall situation in Germany unless these things directly touched his life. His history is fascinating and his story gave me an insight I had not previously had about what life was like for "ordinary Germans." I am very glad I completed this book.

    Having said that, the depth of the characters and the breadth of the story were not done ANY justice by the narration. It was flat, uninteresting and delivered as if the author was some kind of stereotypical extreme of the Nazi automaton. By the time the book was half completed, I was truly angry with the narration. If the main character was having dinner in Paris the narrator gave it exactly - EXACTLY - the same intonation, emotion and impact as he gave the death of Knappe's brother. I could read a grocery list with more depth and humanity.'

    Having soundly criticized the narration, however, I am still glad I listened to this. Flaws of delivery notwithstanding, it was moving, fascinating and gave me an insight I have never had before.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer San Francisco, CA, United States 02-04-14
    Jennifer San Francisco, CA, United States 02-04-14 Member Since 2005
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    "Thoughtful voice and perspective"

    Well constructed story line, moving forward and backward in time, that tells of a young man coming of age within the German army during WWII. The author is not the common soldier, but one of education and social skills who rises both due to his merits and the war itself. The daily life and honor of the professional military is the focus, giving clear differentiation between being a soldier in the German army and a member of the Nazi Party. Excellent perspective to add for anyone interested in WWII history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TM Chicago, IL United States 01-31-14
    TM Chicago, IL United States 01-31-14 Member Since 2012

    TJM

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    "Compelling Inside Account of WW2"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely!

    The book is interesting for so many reasons.

    Firstly, the author was present at so many of the most notable moments of the war. Such as the invasion of France and capture of Paris, the bitterly cold winter campaign in Russia, the final defense of Berlin, and the last days inside Hitler's bunker. So on that level it is a very interesting historical account of WW2.

    Secondly, it is a single soldier's personal adventure story. It covers a boy's transformation in to a man through labor duty, military training, numerous battles and narrow escapes, capture and detention by the Russians, and finally release and getting to West Germany and subsequently the US.

    Thirdly, it provides many insights in to the evolution of the German people's moral perspective of their country and political leaders (most notably Hitler) over time. This particular German soldier seems to have been a pretty decent fellow (based on his account anyway). Prior to, and during the early part of the war he was best friends with a Jew. He disciplined his own soldiers against anti-semitic behavior. He did not engage in war crimes and he knew nothing of what was happening in the death camps beyond Jews and dissidents being detained in them. His account seems believable based on how heavily involved in the fighting he was on various fronts.

    However, he describes how his early support for Hitler (as he solved many of Germany's problems, and reclaimed regions of Europe confiscated from them under the Versailles Treaty) transformed later in to disgust (at his orders not to sue for peace when the war was lost, and thereby unnecessarily sending huge numbers of young men to needless deaths, and eventually finding out about the extermination of millions of Jews at the concentration camps).

    It is important to understand how this terrible chapter in world history could have come to pass and Knappe's account is a valuable lamplight on the subject.


    What other book might you compare Soldat to and why?

    It made me think of "Endurance" (the story of Shackleton) due to the long string of impossible situations and the fact that he survived them all. Perhaps not quite as riveting as Endurance, but certainly a truly incredibly story.


    What does John Wray bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    At first I found his narration to be lacking in emotional weight and too matter-of-fact, but as Knappe's account progressed I realized that the narrator had the perfect tone. The sobriety of the performance reflects the mindset of the man and (one would suspect) a German officer of that period. Whilst the author does describe his feelings, they are always expressed efficiently and rather abruptly. I think this is actually a critical aspect of the story in that it helps to explain how he was able to survive through such events and emerge with his dignity.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Actually, I did find myself thinking - someone should totally make this in to a movie!

    "One man's attempt to survive World War 2 not just with his life, but with his soul"


    Any additional comments?

    Heartily recommended!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel Langenfeld Shoreview, MN United States 01-28-14
    Joel Langenfeld Shoreview, MN United States 01-28-14 Member Since 2005
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    "Deliver us, O Lord, from this publisher!"

    Here's the Publisher summary:
    A German soldier during World War II offers an inside look at the Nazi war machine, using his wartime diaries to describe how a ruthless psychopath motivated an entire generation of ordinary Germans to carry out his monstrous schemes.

    This book contains the memoirs of a rising German officer and his experiences. He had access to the Fuerherbunker in the last days of Hitler's life. This much is true.

    There is very little "discription of how a ruthless psychopath motivated and entire generation....".

    Knappe had a remarkable story to share, and well worth reading. Like all memoires, what you get is "how I would like others to remember my life", and you have to take the unverifiable with a grain of salt - especially after his boasts of having told is Russian interrogators precisely what would paint himself in the best possible light.

    However, the publisher evidently thought that a simple narrative would not suffice. Note the summary. I'm surprised every third word was not in boldface with multiple exclamation points.

    Cheesy marketing copy would have just ellicited an eyeroll, however it's clear that the publishers interference went far deeper. The book opens with the section covering a couple of months in 1945. Granted, the action was the Battle of Berlin which would probably draw the most readers, but it was clear that this exerpt was simply plucked from the back half of the book and inserted at the front. There is no introduction, people who you would "later" meet in are mentioned by surname only, etc. There is no transition to the next section, which was obviously intended to be the first. Finally, there is also the gap, without transition, from the story leading to the Battle of Berlin across the chasm to Knappe's imprisonment by the Russians following his capture.

    I found the later the most interesting, as Knappe's description of life as a Russian prisoner was much more compelling than his tangential connection with Hitler. Knappe lashes out against the collaborators among the other prisoners, their motivations, etc. He's also doesn't shy away from naming names.

    FInally, there is a continuing thread in which Knappe's disenchantment with Hitler and the high command grows and periodically recalls the prophetic words of the ski resort owner he encountered in 1936 - that Hitler would lead German to ruin. It is up to other readers to sort out how much of that is fact, Knappe's revisionism, or a ham-fisted publisher's demand that it would tie everything together. I couldn't manage it.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saman Houston, TX, United States 05-24-14
    Saman Houston, TX, United States 05-24-14 Member Since 2010

    sam_perera

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    "Enticing ..."

    There is no doubt that this is a remarkable story. A man situated at the right place at the right time? Perhaps not! Still, there is so much of information here from Siegfried Knappe. Even though he was not necessarily fighting house to house in Stalingrad or facing the D-Day landings from the cliffs, he was close to the major operations as an officer. Especially telling is the last days of the battle of Berlin and the fight to defend the last vestige of the Third Reich. I read that part atleast twice to understand the mental pressures of the last men standing. However, as with other memoirs of the German soldiers, it is troubling to always note the absence of knowledge of the holocaust. Numerous times, he briefly mentions momentous occasions such as Kristallnacht, or his memory of a Jewish friend. But it is unconvincing, atleast to me. Yet, it is about country, family, and honor that drives Knappe to the end. Problems aside, it is a remarkable piece of history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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