Book Review: The Devil’s General: The Life of Hyazinth Graf von Strachwitz, “The Panzer Graf” by Raymond Bagdonas

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

There are numerous biographies of German officers and soldiers from World War II and The Devil’s General: The Life of Hyazinth Graf von Strachwitz, “The Panzer Graf” by Raymond Bagdonas is yet another. I cannot quite make up my mind if this is a good book or not. I lean towards yes but something is lacking to make this a truly great biography.
The numbers; there are 338 pages of text making up an introduction, 23 chronological chapters and 6 appendices. There is also a bibliography and index. There are notes at the end of each chapter. Th bibliography contains only secondary sources such as books and a few articles, I saw no primary sources, not even contemporary news accounts.
There are several issues I have with the work and its reliance on secondary sources is the first and most worrying. The author acknowledges in the introduction that many official records were destroyed in the war. This leaves him no choice but to rely on secondary sources but if it is so that no primary sources remain about the Graf then the book should not be presented as a biography because that is not what it is. What it really is, is a book about the war as fought by the units the Graf was in with him as the central character. There are large excursions discussing the various campaigns where it seems the Graf is only a secondary figure at best.
The book makes for interesting reading for its faults. It is an excellent history of small unit combat on the eastern front and the details about regimental and divisional scale combat are excellent as well. The units the Graf was part of were in the thick of the fighting in France, the Balkans, and in Russia and were generally at or near the decisive point. This makes for an excellent campaign history.
While The Devil’s General is not the biography I wish it was it is still a good book and worth reading, if nothing else for its description of the brutal campaign in the east. I recommend this book for students of the Eastern Front as there is a lot of good information here that is usually omitted given the scale of the theater and size of the armies involved.



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