Like many others, I was expecting something wholly different from the description offered of this text. It seems there were a few main points the authors decided to concentrate on and then used various bits of the evidence at their disposal to support and reinforce their ideas. What I, and many others it seems, expected was a candid look at the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of German soldiers: what they thought of their enemies, of the war, their commanding officers, orders they were forced to carry out, etc. Yet that hardly features in the sound bites the authors chose to concentrate on. Instead, it appears the authors believe the Wehrmacht has already been proven to have been an instrument of genocide and their interests are showcasing how the Wehrmacht was also a rather banal military instrument in the hands of the Third Reich. Specifically, that the attitudes of the soldiers within the Wehrmacht were created by their experiences in the First World War and the environment that they grew up in (Weimar Germany and the beginning of the Third Reich), which regularly featured violence and death on the streets and in the news.
Thus, there is a rather
pointless concentration on the mundane experiences of soldiers,
highlighting that the Wehrmacht was in many ways similar to the German
Army in the First World War, the armies they faced in the Second World
War, and even the armies and soldiers of the Vietnam era and today's
veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. For some this is perhaps a
worthwhile read, and in some ways it is a step in contextualizing the
fact that some actions of the Wehrmacht can be and have been replicated
throughout the past half-century in conflicts like Vietnam and the
recent wars the United States (and many other countries) has
participated in. Soldiers do take liberties with the power they've been
given and the forces that they represent and are supported by. But,
then again, the US featured a rather large and outspoken anti-war
movement and many turned on US soldiers and what they stood for (during
the Vietnam era). The same cannot be said for the Nazi Germany era.
Thus, in some ways, this book misses the forest for the trees.
Concentrating on just the soldiers and the Wehrmacht is useful and
helpful in understanding their thoughts and interactions (with the enemy
and each other), but it wholly omits the numerous organizations
soldiers also had to interact with that were not represented by the
Wehrmacht. Personally, however, I am more interested in understanding
how much German soldiers knew of what was going on outside the confines
of the 'front line', their views and attitudes toward the future Hitler
was building with their services to the Third Reich, and whether any
exhibited some type of opposition and remorse for what they, or the
Wehrmacht in general, had done. Those issues, unfortunately, are hardly
covered or contextualized in any meaningful way.