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Publisher's Summary

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.

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A compelling look into WW2 from the "other" side

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.

24 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Neil
  • San Francisco, CA, United States
  • 06-03-14

Fantastic Read of an exceptional life

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.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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From a former tank commander

If you could sum up Panzer Commander in three words, what would they be?

Delightful, Humbling, Forgive

Who was your favorite character and why?

Von Luck

What about Bronson Pinchot’s performance did you like?

Nice accent...sometimes German...sometimes French...but always delightful. He tried hard to sound German

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

Reconciliation is Necessary for Soldiers

Any additional comments?

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.

19 of 24 people found this review helpful

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A Lover of His Enemies

He loves the Russians, he loves the Polish, he loves the French, he loves the bedlams. He was a professional solider. He killed Russians, he killed Poles, he killed Frenchmen. This guy never meet an enemy he didn't love and kill. He did not like Hitler or the SS. Pretty interesting how politically correct he is in his old age.

This is a must read for Military enthusiasts and World War II historians. The book is full of German Strategies, military jargon, and high adventure.

I got it, because I thought I might get some answers on why Hitler did what he did and why people followed him. Luck did what he did because he was a Prussian Aristocrat, whose family had a history of being in the military. He followed orders. If told, "Go invade Poland", he did not question it and looked forward to the adventure of getting out and killing Polish people. The same for France and for Russia. He knew nothing about concentration camps, even though all his Jewish friends kept disappearing. I never found out why Hitler invaded anybody.

This is a great book for looking at World War II from the rarely seen other side, as far as strategy goes, but don't look for Why?

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

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A much needed perspective

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

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 11-30-14

Eminently Readable

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.

16 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 07-12-15

The view from regimental HQ

Hans von Luck's memoir is heavy on unit maneuvers and very light on the sort of combat detail and anecdote which makes Stephen Ambrose's writing so compelling in "Band of Brothers." One learns almost nothing about what it was like to go into battle inside a Panzer tank either tactically or from the standpoint of moment by moment experience. Very serious devotees of military history will, however, be extremely pleased with his comprehensive description of the movements of his battalions or regiments in each of their engagements especially since he was involved in so many of the crucial campaigns of the European war. He also provides a window into the workings and mindset of the Wehrmacht from the first shots of the invasion of Poland right through to the allies' inexorable advance on Berlin. We get a fascinating view of the culture of the professional military as it was confronted with command decisions ultimately in thrall to an obsessed ego maniac.

Along the way von Luck introduces us to a long series of individuals who played a variety of roles in his wartime experience. Occasionally these characters are brought to life in colorful anecdotes; at times they seem like instances of simple name dropping, and very often they are plainly heartfelt acknowledgements of revered comrades.

For me the most satisfying part of the book was the account of the author's years in Soviet prison camps. He does a fine job of bringing us into a unique world about which few others have written. I found it fascinating and often surprising.

Finally, Bronson Pinchot does an extraordinary job of narrating the book. As a theatre professional for my entire life I know that there are very few real experts on dialect. This is because there is a huge range of authentic variety in the dialects for any language. There are, in fact, dozens of German accents just as there are dozens of "southern" accents in the U.S. For a voice actor the challenge is to find one which fits the character and master it so that you can be consistent and use the language effectively to express a wide spectrum of emotion and intention. I continue to be deeply impressed by Pinchot's ability to do this with such great facility.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • david
  • Warnbro, Australia
  • 06-24-16

enjoyable good pace

no bs shows hard the German solider fought and what may have happened if supplys and the yes men that let Hitler rule also sjows how binding thire oath ment

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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More interesting than the cover.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

You won't get bored.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Panzer Commander?

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.

What about Bronson Pinchot’s performance did you like?

German accent appropriate for the conditions of the book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Hans recounts an extraordinary example of wartime civility and respect between the Axis and Ally armies.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An inside view between bird's eye and ground zero.

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.).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • R
  • 08-27-14

Shame he was on the wrong side

If you could sum up Panzer Commander in three words, what would they be?

Honest, forthright and non-sensasional

What did you like best about this story?

The very sincere way he felt about the fighting

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The journey back home and his feelings of the world he was now away from

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No

Any additional comments?

He was a very honest man who must have felt bad that he was tarred with the brush of Nazism

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Les
  • 05-03-15

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Simon Pell
  • 10-31-16

An Unmissable Different Perspective

As a British person growing up watching war movies you believed all Germans were bad and emotionless. Listening to this book my eyes opened to the German cause and suffering. It also highlighted to me how crazy some of the actions the German high command made during the war. Would you believe that half way through I started to feel sorry for the ordinary German soldier who didn't stand a chance in many aspects but was forced to carry on. Excellent book, highly recommend to anyone to read or listen and get a perspective from the other side of the front line. RIP Hans Von Luck

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • frank
  • 01-10-15

Fascinating read

Superb book for those interested in the German viewpoint - honest and sometimes brutal a must for anyone interested in WWII

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Will Leggett
  • 03-28-18

Brilliantly written.

Loved it, sometimes real life truly is stranger than fiction. It goes to show that the bonds of friendship and comradery are the same whichever side of war you fight on.

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  • Rebecca H R Wells
  • 03-27-18

Excellent

Probably one of the best ww2 memoirs I've read so far. The closing chapters detailing his captivity in Russia and subsequent return to Germany are particularly good. Not an in depth review of the tactics and weapons used but a captivating and very human account of the experiances of one German front line soldier.

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  • John
  • 03-08-18

I feel lucky to have experienced such a book.

If you're on the fence, dont hesitate, give this attention gripping book the listen it deserves.
Thank you audible for making this book available, this quality is what will keep me subscribed for life.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-20-18

Excellent audiobook

Gives a great account of the war from a German perspective. If interested in this area well worth a listen.

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  • John
  • 02-11-18

Unique War and Post War Memoir

My only slight reservation is that the sound level was slightly quiet.

Otherwise Luck's account was revelatory to me particularly in terms of the professionalism and approach of the Wehrmacht and Luck himself through all of the arduous situations they went through. If only they had stood up to the Nazis!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-26-18

Spellbinding

This is one of the best biography I have read/listened to. Unlike a lot of other books this memoire gives a detailed account of life as a POW and life on his return to Germany. I would thoroughly recommend this audio book.

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  • Scott Goldsmith
  • 09-20-17

A view from the other side of the fence.

What did you like most about Panzer Commander?

This was a great insight into WWII from the other side.

Any additional comments?

It is not often that we in the Allied countries get to hear a story from the Axis point of view. Quite an eye opener at times, and it reinforces the point that the average German Soldier was just a normal person like all our grandfathers.

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  • David
  • 11-15-16

Amazing insight

What was one of the most memorable moments of Panzer Commander?

The brutal murder of a German Army NCO by Nazi henchmen for the crime of having a meal in a tavern while his vehicle was being repaired.

Any additional comments?

Amazing insight into a German Army officer combat experiences.

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  • aidan
  • 09-03-16

An incredible experience of the war

A commander who sees action in almost all the theatres of the war and often at the most crucial moments. Extremely dignified and insightful. A credit to Germany and the Prussian military tradition

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  • Iain
  • 02-20-15

A great tale

An excellent tale, telling a little told side of the Second World War.

Shows that the usual generalisations made about Germans in the war can be inaccurate, and indeed soviets post war and I am always amazed at the civility that can be found in the unlikely of situations.