Book Review: Soldat: Reflections of German Soldier, 1936-1949 by Sigfried Knappe

Book Review: Soldat: Reflections of  German Soldier, 1936-1949 by Sigfried Knappe and Ted Brusaw

I realized this morning that it has been a while since I posted a book review and I just finished re-reading this book yesterday and thought I would post a review of it.

This is a ghost-written account of Major Knappe’s time in the Wehrmacht between 1936 and his release from Russian captivity in 1949.  I first read this book in the mid-90s when it was first released.  At the time, I was very much into reading about World War II and thought that reading a book from the German perspective would be enlightening.  I was not disappointed with this book.

Initially, I thought this book would be somewhat of an apologetic or an excuse for the elephant in the room in any discussion of Nazism, the Holocaust.  It is not though; it is a matter of fact account of the war and Knappe does not try to make excuses, he states simply what he knew and when he knew it and leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions.  In fact, discussion of the treatment of the Jews is only a minor part of the book as he spends most of the time relating what he experienced directly.

This is a very well written account and Major Knappe had a very adventurous career during World War II.  He served on every front except for in North Africa and was a keen observer.  He started the war as artillery officer and ended it as a member of the General staff and was captured during the fight for Berlin at the end of the war. The book was put together from his memory and the use of a diary he kept before and during the war.  His descriptions of the training he received and his combat experiences are first-rate and his training especially goes far to explain why the Germans were so hard to defeat.

I found the story of his time in a Russian Camp post-war to be the most interesting.  He details life in the camps and eloquently expresses the hopelessness about their fate that the Russians encouraged by the way the prisoners were treated.

This is an excellent memoir of World War II from the German perspective and the author simply tells a story.  He does not try to influence the reader’s opinion of either himself or Germans in general except through his honesty in relating his experiences.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in World War II who would like to know how the Germans saw and experienced the war.  This is especially important for Americans who have grown hearing how evil the Nazis, and by extension, the average German was during the years before and during the Second World War.
Has anyone else read this? If so, what do you think?

  • Anna L. V. Josephs

    “This is especially important for Americans who grew up hearing how evil the Nazis and by extension, the average German was . . .”

    Do you mean the Nazis were not evil?

    What else were they, if not evil? History shows there are no two ways of qualifying them.

    • http://www.military-history.us Patrick Shrier

      No, the point is that the average German was and is not evil, not that the Nazis were great guys.

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