Tuesday, August 30, 2016

We Will Not Go to Tuapse: From the Donets to the Oder with the Legion Wallonie and 5th SS Volunteer Assault Brigade ‘Wallonien’ 1942-45 by Fernand Kaisergruber

I've read my share of memoirs of the Eastern Front, both from the Wehrmacht and the Red Army.  "We will not go to Tuapse" is not one of the more memorable reminiscences but, as is usually the case, there are some interesting events recounted.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for Kaisergruber, he was either assigned to duties that made him avoid/miss fighting on the frontlines for much of his military career, or he was sick/wounded and in the rear or recuperating and eager to get to the front and rejoin his friends.  There is a distinct lack of discussion about the politics or ideology of what the German Army is doing on the Eastern Front.  This raises the question of why exactly some of those who volunteered for service in the Wehrmacht did so.  Much of what the author recounts sounds like it's coming straight out of the mind and mouth of an adolescent, and in that might be one answer - it was an adventure, a right of passage to manhood.  For the most part what we have here is a soldier who's fighting a war almost in a vacuum - he sees what's before his eyes and omits most the rest.  He likes most of the inhabitants of the Soviet Union he runs across or develops "relationships" with but he never questions why is it that he and the Wehrmacht are waging war against them, the Red Army (which includes their male and female relatives) or their state.  He seems more interested in an experience in the "wilds" of the east and hardly treats his actions as anything other than responsible for self-preservation first and foremost.  The more memorable passages are those dealing with his escape from encirclement and the casualties his unit suffers in their attempt to keep the Red Army from closing the pocket.  The majority of the text is taken up with literary descriptions of everyday life in Wehrmacht, a lot of aches and pains from marching as an infantrymen, hunger due to lack of food, freezing in the cold, and wounds from combat or stomach issues due to food (or lack thereof).  Finally, the poem the author listed as found after the capture of a Ukrainian village is by Konstantin Simonov, a famous writer and war correspondent, rather than an "unknown Red Army soldier," entitled "Wait for me."

No comments: