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Publisher's Summary

When Guy Sajer joins the infantry full of ideals in the summer of 1942, the German army is enjoying unparalleled success in Russia. However, he quickly finds that for the foot soldier the glory of military success hides a much harsher reality of hunger, fatigue, and constant deprivation. Posted to the elite Grosse Deutschland division, with its sadistic instructors who shoot down those who fail to make the grade, he enters a violent and remorseless world where all youthful hope is gradually ground down, and all that matters is the brute will to survive. As the biting cold of the Russian winter sets in and the tide begins to turn against the Germans, life becomes an endless round of pounding artillery attacks and vicious combat against a relentless and merciless Red Army.

Sajer's perspective as a German foot soldier makes The Forgotten Soldier a unique war memoir, the book that the Christian Science Monitor said "may well be the book about World War II which has been so long awaited". A work of stunning force, this is an unforgettable reminder of the horrors of war.

©1967 Editions Robert Laffont; translation copyright 1971 by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. (P)2017 Tantor

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  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 03-31-17

A Beautifully Written Heartrending Tragedy

This is one of the most beautifully written, most vivid and horrific accounts of war I've read/listened to in a long time. It's absolutely amazing.
It was so amazing in fact, that I Googled it: and tho' I found that there were a few inaccuracies, it is true, it was lived. Guy Sajer himself says that it's not meant to be a strategic/chronological account but is instead meant as an emotional rendering of what he experienced.
And emotional it is. It starts with him as an optimistic young soldier fighting for the Germans even tho' he's half French (from what I Googled, it is suggested that he did it because he felt the Germans were Europe's best hope to save countries from Bolshevism), goes through testing as a member of an auxiliary unit, and then the greatest part of it is flat-out war and chaos.
There is smoke, fire, death all around him. Struggling innocents, struggling participants. I'd just finished listening to "Enemy at the Gates", about Stalingrad, and here in "The Forgotten Soldier" there was a greater accounting of it at the costs of Germany. But there is so much more: more battles, more to be won and lost, and so much hunger and privation.
I have never suffered so much alongside another person as I did with this book, it's so humane.
It's not just warfare that's soooo vividly portrayed; this is just a well, well-written book. Nature, comradeship, fear are written elegantly, with brilliant prose, and Derek Perkins delivers it flawlessly, humanely.
This is a credit well-spent, 21 1/2 hours I wouldn't trade for the world.

57 of 62 people found this review helpful

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  • Theodore
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 04-13-17

an amazing book

Story of survival as a German soldier in Ww2 Soviet Union. You don't usually think of them as human, with human emotions. They were, and it is a very touching story. At the end, the symptoms he suffers are clearly post traumatic stress disorders. An amazing story of survival.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Heartbreaking, exhausting, and insightful

This is an exhausting listen, but very worthwhile. You'll find criticism of the accuracy of the historical details, so it's not meant as a tactical military history. It nonetheless does an amazing job of putting the listener with the men who lived this and providing a window into how they likely experienced it. Very highly recommended.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • shalte
  • san jose, CA, United States
  • 03-16-17

WWII Memoir That Must Be Read

Guy Sajer's The Forgotten Soldier is a memoir of his experiences as a German Landser caught in the maelstrom of the Eastern Front between 1942 and 1945. I have read this book several times and now I have listened to Derick Perkins' narration and I am as blown away as I was when I first read it.

I cannot even attempt to try to say "...it felt like I was right there handing Sajer another box of machine gun ammunition...." because that would just be a lie. I, dear reader of this review, have spent exactly 0 seconds in anything even resembling a foxhole under fire and the next time I face 6000+ "Urrah!" screaming Soviet infantry charging my positions will be the first time. In other words, I am an avid reader of military history, plain and simple.

This memoir is a genuine reflection of how one man tried to cope i.e. stay alive, during the middle and later stages of largest conflict we humans have ever concocted. It has been said that if you separated the WWII Eastern Front from 1941-1945 from the larger conflict from 1939-1945, the Eastern Front theatre would by itself be the largest military conflict in the history of mankind. Now, I can go on and back this up and type in total casualty figures, but even today the numbers of Soviet solders KIA in WWII is still but a "guesstimate" with high teen 8 digit numbers as a conservative amount. But what is the point?

The Forgotten Soldier must be read by anyone, be they combat veteran or armchair general, who respects the sacrifice that soldiers throughout our common history have made not only for for some conception of "the Fatherland" or "the glory of....(insert whichever kingdom, empire, petty successor state hopping off some rickety polity inexorably fragmenting into oblivion, or the Good Ole Stars and Stripes)" Suffering has a universal quality all its own.

Listen to this book. You will hear 21+ hours of what is probably the greatest memoir ever written not just of WWII but of any conflict anywhere and at any time. Guy Sajer was not in the forefront of some Panzer Division manning the main gun of some Pzkpw Mark III storming across the rolling plains of the Ukraine in June 1941 in the vanguard of Operation Barbarossa. He was part of the successor wave of reinforcement levies sent East to shore up an already sagging German front line that was overextended, undermanned and dangerously exposed to Soviet counterattack.

If lucky can find its place somewhere in Guy Sajer's experience, it might be that he found himself quite unexpectedly being scooped up by the best led and equipped Wehrmacht armored division in the war - the Grossdeutschland Division - and being teamed with "the Veteran" as a two-man machine gun team. I tell you, I cannot think of anyone I know or have read about whom I would prefer to have standing next to me in any kind of situation that has gone pear shaped and lethal than "the veteran". To say he was "a guardian angel" type person sent by some benevolent diety to keep Guy Sajer from getting his ass shot off is not for me to say. But Guy Sajer better have at least proverbially bought that stud as many beers as he wanted to pay back the hard headed and hard earned leadership "the Veteran" exercised in many extremely lethal combat situations. That stud was the definition of "Alte Hasse" in every way I can think of.

Finally, I must mention that Mr. Perkins narrated this book like the pro he is. The Forgotten Soldier has renewed my love for audiobooks. This one is a must purchase!

24 of 28 people found this review helpful

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BRAVO!

Many war diary and histories seem to have dull monotonous narration but this is absolutely fantastic. The narrator does different voices for different characters and matches the emotions of the situations in a way that brings the story alive. The story and writing style are superb as well. Don't miss this one!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Engrossing, Amazing Account

Probably one of the best books I have ever read. A very engrossing account of a German landser fighting his way with the retreating Wehrmacht out of Russia during the last phases of WW2. Sajer brings out the horrors of war as a simple soldier fighting not for any ideology, but for survival. A must read for any person interested in WW2 .

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Long, but worth the read.

Very complete story, with emotional impact. The reading was slow, but had veritible dialect where needed.
The story of a 17 year old French-German boy who entered the German army and fought on the Eastern front was definitely worth the investment of time. It painted the picture of how in that environment, men were ready for death at any moment.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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best war story ever

this was by far the greatest war story. I actually felt like I was there.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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an amazing story

for those that enjoy and know ww2 history this is a must listen. the time line and personal insight makes for a wonderful tale

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • B.J.
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 06-11-17

Devastatingly honest view of WWII

I never would have discovered this book without the callout by reviewer Gillian. Thank you. I too thought it was 21 hours well spent.

I've read my share of WWII books, but this one is different. It's not just the foot soldier view of battle -- a view delivered without heroism or medals -- it's the realism. This is a brutal look at how decisions further up the chain impact the front line. And it's not pretty. Plus, it's a view of the Eastern front which tends to feature less often in any kind of WWII book that crosses my path.

I think in some ways this is a view of a poet soldier. Much of what happens is related in a personal way -- not in the historic way with dates and locations. It's more about how the march felt than where it started and where it ended. I appreciate that. It's a unique perspective, beautifully written and beautifully read.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful