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Publisher's Summary

The Brandenburgers were Hitler's Special Forces, a band of mainly foreign German nationals who used disguise and fluency in other languages to complete daring missions into enemy territory. Overshadowed by stories of their Allied equivalents, their history has largely been ignored. 

First published in 1984, de Giampietro's highly-personal and eloquent memoir is a vivid account of his experiences. In astonishing detail, he delves into the reality of life in the unit from everyday concerns and politics to training and involvement in Brandenburg missions. He details the often foolhardy missions undertaken under the command of Theodor von Hippel, including the June 1941 seizure of the Duna bridges in Dunaburg and the attempted capture of the bridge at Bataisk where half of his unit were killed.

Translated into English for the first time, this is a unique insight into a fascinating slice of German wartime history, both as an account of the Brandenburgers and within the author's South Tyrolean origins.

Widely regarded as the predecessor of today's special forces units, this fascinating account brings to life the Brandenburger Division and its part in history in vivid and compelling detail.

©1984 Sepp de Giampietro; English translation copyright 2019 by Eva Burke (P)2021 Tantor

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Memoir of a Liar and War Criminal? Perhaps.

This book smells an awful lot like the author, Sepp de Giampietro, wanted to whitewash and hide his true story. The summary boasted that this was an incredible view into the Brandenburgers, the German commandos in WWII. It wasn't incredible, nor was it insightful. They were soldiers that wore enemy uniforms. That's all the more insight the reader/listener gets into that. As for the author, he spends an inordinate amount of time in this "memoir" talking about how much he was against the war and Hitler. I find that hard to believe. To me, it came across as a whitewashing of his personal history, of him fervently denying that he was diehard supporter of the Nazis. I doubt that a ho-hum recruit that questions Hitler and the War Germany is fighting would get picked up by the Brandenburgers, as Sepp claimed he was. I don't think Sepp is entirely truthful in this memoir. Maybe that wasn't so, but there are other oddities about this book that make me believe otherwise.

SPOILER ALERT - the rest of this review will give away the book, so stop here if you want.

Sepp gives a fairly detailed experience of his life before the war, volunteering for service, going through training, and then his battles in Yugoslavia, Greece and Russia. He's then selected for War College and becomes an officer. The next portion of his service, hunting partisans in Yugoslavia (a particularly gruesome location and time of the War) is all of about 1 sentence, something along the lines of, "I went on anti-partisan activity, got shot and returned home." That skimming of a year (or more) of his life certainly didn't go unnoticed by me. That left me feeling cheated and that Sepp was hiding something. The only conclusion I can draw is that he was likely involved in heinous war crimes that he doesn't want to mention and tarnish his life story. Anti-partisan hunting behind the front lines in '43-'44 in Yugoslavia was a dirty business. Yugoslavia was in the midst of a 3-way civil war. Torture and murder on all sides was a common occurrence. I don't see any other reason why an individual would skip such a major portion of his military history and life story that he's documenting in a memoir. At the end of the war, he's captured in Italy. The war is all but over (the time wasn't specific at the end, but it sounded like April 1945 in Italy). He's insistent on escaping the POW camp that he's in and can get no one else to join him. They all seem to know that the quickest way home, especially in the captivity of the Americans, it to just wait it out in the POW camp. Again, Sepp's insistence on escaping (not to rejoin German forces still fighting, but just to run and hide), leads me to believe he's a war criminal worried that his past will be discovered while in captivity. So he escapes and then goes back into detail about his flight. Finally he gets home, but then doesn't say what happens. The book ends right as we find out he's made it to his parent's village. We don't hear what happens to him, it's just over. The book just ends.

I was disappointed. Not a great memoir, and it leaves you with a nagging feeling that you're being lied to about his true life story - ironically lying is something Sepp boasts that he's very good at throughout the book.

Read/listen to with a grain of salt and a healthy does of skepticism.

P.S. - The performance was great. P.J Ochlan is a fantastic narrator that I've enjoyed listening to in several other books. In this one, he uses a very good German accent throughout. Bravo.