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Publisher's Summary

This is the remarkable story of a German soldier who fought throughout World War II, rising from conscript private to captain of a heavy weapons company on the Eastern Front. 

William Lubbeck, age 19, was drafted into the Wehrmacht in August 1939. As a member of the 58th Infantry Division, he received his baptism of fire during the 1940 invasion of France. The following spring his division served on the left flank of Army Group North in Operation Barbarossa. After grueling marches amidst countless Russian bodies, burnt-out vehicles, and a great number of cheering Baltic civilians, Lubbeck's unit entered the outskirts of Leningrad, making the deepest penetration of any German formation. 

The Germans suffered brutal hardships the following winter as they fought both Russian counterattacks and the brutal cold. The 58th Division was thrown back and forth across the front of Army Group North, from Novgorod to Demyansk, at one point fighting back Russian attacks on the ice of Lake Ilmen. Returning to the outskirts of Leningrad, the 58th was placed in support of the Spanish "Blue" Division. Relations between the allied formations soured at one point when the Spaniards used a Russian bath house for target practice, not realizing that Germans were relaxing inside. 

A soldier who preferred to be close to the action, Lubbeck served as forward observer for his company, dueling with Russian snipers, partisans and full-scale assaults alike. His worries were not confined to his own safety; however, as news arrived of disasters in Germany, including the destruction of Hamburg where his girlfriend served as an Army nurse. 

In September 1943, Lubbeck earned the Iron Cross First Class and was assigned to officers' training school in Dresden. By the time he returned to Russia, Army Group North was in full-scale retreat. Now commanding his former heavy weapons company, Lubbeck alternated sharp counterattacks with inexorable withdrawal, from Riga to Memel on the Baltic. In April 1945 Lubbeck's company became stalled in a traffic jam and was nearly obliterated by a Russian barrage followed by air attacks. 

In the last chaotic scramble from East Prussia, Lubbeck was able to evacuate on a newly minted German destroyer. He recounts how the ship arrived in the British zone off Denmark with all guns blazing against pursuing Russians. The following morning, May 8, 1945, he learned that the war was over. 

After his release from British captivity, Lubbeck married his sweetheart, Anneliese, and in 1949 immigrated to the United States where he raised a successful family. With the assistance of David B. Hurt, he has drawn on his wartime notes and letters, Soldatbuch, regimental history and personal memories to recount his four years of frontline experience. Containing rare firsthand accounts of both triumph and disaster, At Leningrad's Gates provides a fascinating glimpse into the reality of combat on the Eastern Front.

©2006 William Lubbeck and David Hurt (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Erik
  • WICHITA, KS, United States
  • 12-19-14

Another Great German Soldier's Memoir

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

I think so. The story is very good and moves fairly quickly, but the narration is hard to listen to.

What was one of the most memorable moments of At Leningrad's Gates?

Lubbeck's recollection of life after the War.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Learn how to speak German. It drives me crazy when narrators read books about German soldiers and can't speak German. His constant mispronunciation of "Wehrmacht" (vermaaaaaaaaacht) and "Leutnant" (looot-nant) drove me absolutely crazy.

Any additional comments?

Overall, I think this is a great story. However, I was a bit uneasy when Lubbeck kept claiming he and his family weren't Nazis and had absolutely no knowledge of Nazi atrocities or even of any concentration camps. I can understand wanting to clear your name if you are truly innocent, but the repetition of these claims just didn't sit right with me...I don't know...I guess it just didn't sound sincere. Maybe that was the writing, maybe it was the narration. I wasn't there, so I can't say for certain, but I have ready many, many accounts of German soldiers and civilians. I find it hard to believe that a veteran of the entirety of the war on the East Front never once witnessed a war crime, when Lubbeck himself claims that they were fighting the barbaric (insinuating less than human) Red Army. I find it hard to believe that, living in Eastern Germany, he never even heard of a concentration camp until after the war. I've read other accounts of German families in the mid to late 1930s joking with their children that if they didn't behave, they'd be sent to a concentration camp, showing that they knew of the existence of these camps. Maybe they didn't know the extent of the horror that was going on inside, but they knew of the existence of the camps. Lubbeck knew of none.

Other than that, I think the story is well told. It went a bit quick for me, and didn't go into great detail, but it was interesting to hear the story of an artillery soldier that rose through the ranks, having served through the entirety of the War.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

an ok book!

Would you try another book from William Lubbeck and/or Jonathan Cowley?

no

What could William Lubbeck have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

nothing

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

yes

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

absolutely not!

Any additional comments?

It always amazes me that all, absolutely all, books by german soldiers go out of their way to assure the audience that they, the writer, absolutely had no idea about the genocide being carried out by their government, and their comrades in the name of nazi ideology. How is it possible for a whole society not to see the horrors forced upon the world around them?!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Daniel
  • Marietta, GA, USA
  • 04-28-17

Interesting story

Worth a listen for insights into a regular German soldier in WWII on the Eastern front. Limited in scope so it is not cluttered with too much historical context. The narrator is a bit tiresome. Not every sentence needs to end on a dramatic inflection!

I do recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Neil
  • San Francisco, CA, United States
  • 05-25-14

Excellent Read, it Also Moves Fast

This book takes you from his recruitment through the years after the war in North America. He sites an inspiration from the diary of a Napoleonic foot soldier but Jacob Walter a short book I also recommend on audible. I have read many books on WW II, but this is detailed as it is from his own diary. What I found very compelling was his life after the war in East Germany. How the communists worked and how they persecuted his family, over and over. Lubbecks family were not Nazi's, which caused them problems during the war and they were certainly not communists. To read how families survived through all this Nazi persecution and Communist government theft, and insanity makes one appreciate life in the west today even though it is not perfect. It is a very brisk read, and I had to stop it several times to hear chapters again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 08-14-13

Kind of interesting

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, if they were interested in hearing about the German view of a typical soldier in WWII.

Would you be willing to try another book from William Lubbeck? Why or why not?

Probably not. He doesn't provide enough details for me.

Which character – as performed by Jonathan Cowley – was your favorite?

There was only one character--the guy who wrote the book.

Was At Leningrad's Gates worth the listening time?

Sort of. I listened till the end.

Any additional comments?

Not enough details. Too many "high level" observations. Like just saying "We fought Russia" instead of telling why and how.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Pompous

While there are interesting parts, such as hearing from a German forward observer, and one who fought in the Battle of France, it gets old hearing him kiss the victors behinds the whole book. Every other word he wants to convince the reader how tolerant and progressive he is. His hindsight is 20/20 but he managed to convince himself his forethought was 20/20. He pays lip service to the acceptable common beliefs, then his actions tell a different story. He's always sure to let us know that at all times, he is the most upstanding and moral being to exist. He snubbed and brow beat Hitler's supporters as being "uneducated" idiots, despite being an average student from a farm in a village that sounds like Podunk. you He wears he and his family always hated the Nazis and he is the smartest person to ever exist. Then, surprise, he VOLUNTEERED to join the Wehrmacht. He swears he and his family were so politically correct, they never once fell for the propaganda or the nationalism. His actions contradict his excuses. You can really tell if Hitler would have won, he would be singing a very different tune. He's mostly concerned with what the general public deems acceptable. He was a Nazi then and now he's a liberal... Big surprise there.
In the book, he acknowledges that the Western allies were actually waging war against German civilians. at the end of the book, he says, in an attempt to please everyone, that the United States was fighting the Nazis, not the German people. That was probably the most ironic contradiction in the book.
Other than the Stockholm syndrome and the holier than thou attitude it had some nice tidbits, like how Krupp gave dud gas canister artillery shells to France for WWI reparations.

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Any conscience after all these years?

Even though the testimony of these nazi soldiers is unique and precious, i am always shocked by how little understanding of their story came out years after. These guys mistreated Soviet civilians and soldiers as he admits himself, and you see him fighting until the bitter end, killing more people. I suppose he wanted to be an officer, what’s wrong with that? even for adolf Hitler... And the death camps of course he never heard of until after the war. He did not mention it but I wonder if he had German 14 or 16 years old boys to command in the last year or months of that WWII, and if that part at least bothered him, but he is just one more of these obedient gentleman who tells his own story that will not be useful for the future of humanity.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Illuminating

having mostly read about the allies it is a wonderful way to begin Research to the German side

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Great insight into the German Wehrmacht experience

Awesome listen. Great narrator who tells the story of a German soldier who made it from start to finish. He delves into what it was like after the war that I found very interesting. Turned out to be more American than most Americans today. enjoy the read

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Ww2german soldiers ww2 memoir.

Narration: clear pronunciation, slightly slower pace than optimal, sing song rhythm is annoying.

Content: interesting perspectives on antecedents of ww2. Interesting descriptions of weapons and tactics.

Author frankly states Germany justified in usurping Czech lands, coercing Austria into melding with Germany, hitler justified in attacking Poland.

Important listen for ww2 buffs.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Laura
  • 11-19-15

This book is truly an amazing story of the day to day life of a German soldier during the highs and lows of Hitlers nazi germany

Having read and listened to many books regarding the Second World War , I must say this book is excellent and gives a different perspective on the war and most importantly from the German side of the war .
I would highly recommend this book .....

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ian A
  • 04-26-18

Not what I was looking for...

A story of a farm boy who falls in love. And there is a war on. If you are looking for a war story, I dont think this is for you. Nevertheless I quite enjoyed it. Stories of childhood go on way too long.

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  • Northern Monkey
  • 03-14-18

was ok but the narrator let it down

some interesting things in the book but the narrator let it down with numerous pronunciation... for example I'd expect the word Wehrmacht to be spoken correctly.
A small detail but it annoyed me!

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  • john
  • 02-11-18

An interesting insight into the Wermacht

Would you consider the audio edition of At Leningrad's Gates to be better than the print version?

Jonathan Cowley's performance is very good. This is the first book that I've picked up from a German soldier's perspective of WW2. William Lubbeck's survival of the Eastern Front is a story in itself. He made the most of post-war life and became a leader in his field of work. An easy listen and an interesting one at that.

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  • T
  • 03-30-16

A very good biography, But...

A very good biography, very interesting. But spoilt by the narrator's word pronunciation which has to be heard to be believed!
Shocking!

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  • Mike
  • 01-14-15

Great personal perspective

I have read this book in the past and decided to get it on audible due it being so long since I read it. I loved it as much as the first time and have actually listened to it twice through now. if you are after a gritty first person account of combat then this book probabaly isn't for you. If you want a very honest and personal opinion on the war from a German soldier then this book is perfect. the author comes across as a very modest individual and tried to convey to the listener/reader what the feeling was like at the time. I found it completely engrossed me in his life everything from his childhood growing up on his families farm to his life after the war in America. A truly remarkable individual and story. I would personally recommend it.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Rubio
  • 09-07-16

Disappointed

Expecting a first-hand account of what it was like to serve in the Wehrmacht, I was disappointed to find this to be nothing more than a list of major events on the eastern front.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-10-18

a well written and easy to listen to book.<br />

very insightful and easy to listen to. recomend to anyone interested in a German soldiers life.