While the Battle of Berlin in 1945 is widely known, the horrific story of the Halbe Kessel remains largely untold. In April 1945, victorious Soviet forces encircled 80,000 men of the German 9th Army in the Halbe area, South of Berlin, together with many thousands of German women and children. The German troops, desperate to avoid Soviet capture, battled furiously to break out toward the West, where they could surrender to the comparative safety of the Americans. For the German civilians trapped in the Kessel, the quest to escape took on frantic dimensions, as the terror of Red Army brutality spread.
The small town of Halbe became the eye of the hurricane for the breakout, as King Tigers of the SS Panzer Corps led the spearhead to the West, supported by Panthers of the battle-hardened 21st Panzer Division. Panzer by panzer, unit by unit, the breakout forces were cut down - until only a handful of Panthers, other armour, battered infantry units and columns of shattered refugees made a final escape through the rings of fire to the American lines. This first-hand account by the commander of one of those Panther tanks relates with devastating clarity the conditions inside the Kessel, the ferocity of the breakout attempt through Halbe, and the subsequent running battles between overwhelming Soviet forces and the exhausted Reich troops, who were using their last reserves of fuel, ammunition, strength and hope.
Eloquent German-perspective accounts of World War 2 are surprisingly rare, and the recent reissue of Wolfgang Faust's 1948 memoir Tiger Tracks has fascinated readers around the world with its insight into the Eastern Front. In The Last Panther, Faust used his unique knowledge of tank warfare to describe the final collapse of the Third Reich and the murderous combat between the German and Russian armies. He gives us a shocking testament to the cataclysmic final hours of the Reich, and the horrors of this last eruption of violence among the idyllic forests and meadows of Germany.
©2015 The Estate of Wolfgang Faust; Bayern Classic Publications (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
If this book never existed.
Wolfgang Faust is not a real person.
In the same vein as "Tiger Tracks," "The Last Panther" is a fake story being advertised as a memoir. These two books by "Faust" are fake memoirs and are literary fraud. The fantastic, outlandish fiction tales told in these books dishonor the real veterans who experienced the horrors of tank warfare, who suffered and lost comrades during the War, diminishes their real and important stories and clouds historical fact. Shame on Amazon and Audible for not vetting and fact checking the authenticity of this "Wolfgang Faust," these two books and of Sprech Media as a whole.
Wolfgang Faust is a fake name, probably for an American/English writer who wrote this story within the last few years. There's no mention of Wolfgang Faust anywhere ON THE ENTIRE INTERNET (except for what's been released directly from Sprech Media and/or Amazon). I can't find any documentation in any form as to the existence of this person. No pictures of the man. No information on his estate or where it is located. No specific details as to when he died or the location for where he is buried.
"Faust" allegedly published "Tiger Tracks" in the late 1940s and wrote shortly thereafter "The Last Panther" and never published it due to the heavy criticism he received for "Tiger Tracks." Where is the original "Tiger Tracks" book? What's its ISBN? The "Tiger Tracks" story was "serialised in a number of magazines?" Which magazines? When? Where are they??? Critics in the Federal German Republic described the original release of "Tiger Tracks" as needlessly provocative? What critics? Where's their reviews and criticisms? The fact is that "Tiger Tracks" is a fake memoir and there was no original book.
With that out of the way, let me speak to the specifics in "The Last Panther," supposedly written but never published until recently, and is another groundbreaking memoir from a panzer crewman.
Having supposedly been "stung" by the public’s reception of "Tiger Tracks,” "Faust" wrote "The Last Panther" and never published it. One would think the author's tone would change after being hurt so, that descriptions of battles would be different, that this harsh criticism would seep through his writings in some way, that he'd try to prove the importance of this next story by writing in a slightly different style, but that isn't apparent at all in this book. The writing and the amazingly descriptive recollections are written in exactly the same manner as “Tiger Tracks.”
Unlike "Tiger Tracks," "Faust" actually has a rank (Feldwebel), reports his general location (Halbe), states his unit (the 21st Panzer Division) and give details of some of the neighboring units. They're fighting to get out of the Halbe Kessel, to get to the Twelfth Army, cross the Elbe and surrender to the Americans. The story reads like an action movie script. The story itself is okay - there are no more than two characters and, now that I think about it, I believe that "Faust" is the only person in the entire book referred to by name. If that's true, that makes the book even more bizarre. Even in "Tiger Tracks," “Faust” referred to his crew members by name. The book isn't even enjoyable if you consider this work as a fiction novel, because nothing of consequence happens. If you read this book expecting it to be a memoir (as it is advertised), even an amateur historian, you'll soon figure out that it's unbelievable and ridiculous and begin to question its authenticity (I'll go more into that later).
As an action story, the plot is a bland, repetitive trek with lots and lots of descriptive gore. There's no characters, there's no real plot (other than to escape out of the Halbe pocket), and there's no theme, unless you want to consider "war is a lot of gratuitous violence" as some sort of deep, insightful narrative theme. Here's the plot: move, fight, describe some horrific gory scene, repeat 6 or 7 times, cross Elbe, fin. Sorry for the spoiler.
The story contains a lot of gore described in detail and in the same manner over and over again - starbursts from exploding tanks, wheels and turrets flying meters into the air, decapitated and dismembered infantry, burning tank crews, people dying gruesome deaths covered in burning fuel, gurgling breath escaping from a person hanging from a noose, etc... It's all much too descriptive for a memoir. I've never read a memoir in which the author is so enthusiastic to describe gore with such detail.
Let me summarize some of the items that "Faust" writes about that bring into question the authenticity of this book:
- Tank crews did not wear hobnail boots. Hobnails on tank steel is not only very slippery (making climbing and moving a dangerous activity), but hobnails have the nasty little tendency to spark on steel. Sparks in a tank = fire = death.
- “Faust” refers to his commander as “Capo.” That nickname struck me as an oddity. I’m not fluent in German, but I can manage reading and speaking it well enough. “Kapo” was a term used within the Concentration Camps to refer to a prisoner who served as an overseer. So, when listening to this book, I figured, okay, they call their (nameless) LT the Overseer. But when I started writing this review and looked at the printed book, I noticed the nickname is spelled “Capo.” I cannot find reference to that term or its usage anywhere in the German language. I have no idea what it is supposed to stand for. In the German language, the letter “C” is a rare letter. I might be completely off on this point, but this nickname is suspicious and another point of concern with the authenticity of this book.
- The Iron Cross was not worn around the neck. The Knight's Cross (a high award) was worn around the neck. Faust says he takes the “Iron Cross” from his dead “Capo’s” neck. The differentiation between the awards would not have been confused by any German at the time, let alone by a member of the Heer.
- Faust doesn't mention any of his tank crew by name. He doesn't describe them. He doesn't talk about them in any detail whatsoever, other than describing their gruesome deaths. He doesn't describe his intimate service with them, as I would expect from any tank crewman's memoir. Life in a tank is a life in close-quarters. You would expect a fraternal relationship to develop among the crew, but that is not evident at all in this book.
- Except for one instance in which "Faust" reveals that he once drove a tank, recollections of previous battle or war experiences are completely absent. The author of every other memoir I've read recollects his past experiences in the War and the people he has served with.
- Just as in "Tiger Tracks," "Faust" somehow has the omnipotent ability to see inside the tanks around him during combat (in which he should be buttoned up within his own tank), describing in detail ricocheting rounds, painful and ghastly deaths.
- "Faust's" Panther is constantly on the verge of running out of fuel, but miraculously keeps finding more and more fuel along the way. I don't know exactly what route he took, but from historical maps of the breakout attempts, it looks like the shortest distance from the edge of the Halbe to the Elbe through the Twelfth Army is more than 120 km (almost 80 miles) - that's in a straight line.
- "Faust" describes everything with way too much technical detail. It's as if he were in on the design decisions of each and every tank he comes across, pausing in the middle of the description of some battle to talk about what chassis a Jagdpanzer is built on or how heavy a Hetzer is and pondering on how useful 3,000 or 4,000 of them would have been to the Reich. In my experience, this isn't what a German veteran would muse on. He wouldn't call an MP40 an MP40 - it'd just be, "MP." The Soviets weren't called "Reds" by the Germans. He seemed to know every aircraft that buzzed them, and could describe in detail the type of artillery bombarding them. It's all too detailed for war memoir, in my humble opinion.
- The tone of this "memoir" is not of a German veteran writing it in the 1940s. The verbiage is much too modern and contemporary. The writing does not sound like a German translation at all.
I've read similar criticisms of the authenticity of Sprech Media's other books (e.g. "D Day Through German Eyes" and "World War 2 Through German Eyes").
I think I've made my point. I don't know for 100% certain, but it seems to me that "The Last Panther" is a fake memoir and is literary fraud. Spend your credit elsewhere. If you are interested in this kind of book, but want a real memoir, I'd highly recommend both "Panzer Commander" by Hans von Luck and "Soldat" by Siegfried Knappe.
I would read it again not only for the battles but the effect the story has on your outlook of war and the mental hardship and weight is vivid.
I still think back to the events and relate them to todays world.
For me..... the horrors of the woods when your trapped and people do desperate things,,, or the most simple of human things when in the face of death.
I heard 1 other, he does this book justice.
Yes I would however the narration takes away from a most interesting part of history - the fall of the 3rd Reich, a battle that took place south of Berlin. The narrator perhaps was trying to convey the drama, the desperation of the German forces but the the voice of the narrator reminded me of the voice of the "Wizard of Oz" from that movie - Don't think I would want to listen to any future narrations of said narrator.
The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer. War in Russia from a common German Soldier's point of view. The horror, the brutality all the the things that happen in war that are not glorious.
Whiny in deliverance
Having been born in 1943 I grew up hearing about WW2 all the time. Talked to veterans who fought in Europe and the Pacific, hence my fascination with WW2.
Horror of war
When the tank was finally lost.
Yes - The collapse of human beings
There is a price to pay when people let their government become all powerful and out of control.
The narrator is easy to listen, meaning you don't really notice him. That's high praise cause a lot of books are ruined by the reader clashing with the flow of your attention. I did not know about the events in this book which are well told by 1st person perspective..
This book really describes what a desperate and savage struggle took place on the eastern front during the second world war.
the narration however wasn't able to match the story. it was as if the narrator didn't think the story was good enough to stand on its own and he felt that he had to make up for it by adding emotional sound effects. in my opinion he made it more difficult to listen to.
this is an eyewitness account not a novel with a bunch of different characters where vocals if we'll done enhance the narrative and make it easier to follow.
I find the contrast of this story incredible when compared to “The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brian.
there you had a sub par story with excellent narration.
in spite of the narration I will be listening to this story again.
If you know your history from this part of the WW2, then it's a must read.
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