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It was for the individual soldiers not so much antisemitism that drove them to participate in genocidal behavior, but the opportunity to do acts that are otherwise punishable, the feeling of absolute power, getting away with killing, something you couldn't do in real life. I for one am not a fan of Goldhagen either. They could have easily switched from Jews to Russians, Belgians See 1 question about Soldaten. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3.
Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Jun 24, Scott rated it really liked it Shelves: historyworld-war-two. Soldaten is chilling stuff. This is not bedtime reading. There are some grim truths in this book, grim truths about soldiering, war, and the complicity of many German soldiers in heinous war crimes.
Even more shocking than revelations of actual crimes are the casual way they are discussed, something that suggests that such evils were both widespread and accepted as normal. Based on thousands of protocols made from secret recordings of German internees in POW camps in both the US and UK, Soldaten explores the compelling, and often meandering, chats that imprisoned soldiers had about the war, combat, crimes against humanity, morale, women and the German state.
While the transcripts are what sets Soldaten apart from other works on World War II, the book is more than just a collection of conversations. Working from the protocols the book also explores the nature of violence and the way in which framing-societal, ideological and professional- influence men at war and the choices they make. At times Soldaten is not a pleasant read.
Men openly discuss rape, murder and executing innocent civilians to make a point. Their talk of killing is often cold and unconcerned with right or wrong. The lasting impression I finished this book with is that for many soldiers Nazism and it's associated baggage were not of great importance, but they each operated in a temporal and social context so alien that their views on life, death, war crimes and killing seem shockingly different to ours.
Soldaten provides a fascinating insight into the values, beliefs and experiences of German Wehrmacht soldiers who fought in World War II, and the way societal attitudes can condition people to kill, torture and abuse people designated as 'enemies'. In an era when 'us and them' thinking seems to be making a comeback this book is a warning of what can be unleashed when we send our soldiers to fight those we have designated as 'other'. I couldn't help but think of the abuses at Abu Ghraib while reading this book, and reflecting that the behaviors of Wehrmacht soldiers in the s and 40s aren't as far away as we might hope.
Nov 19, David Bird rated it it was amazing Shelves: in-extremis. This is an important book. It makes one sit a little less complacently in one's skin.
It has the courage to trace a line from ordinary humanity to the ordinary German soldier to the commission of atrocities. One is reminded throughout that it's a German academic book; infelicities of translation abound.
But being reminded of its Germanness is often a good thing, because one also realizes that the authors, had they been in a different generation, would have been likely to have been combatants This is an important book. But being reminded of its Germanness is often a good thing, because one also realizes that the authors, had they been in a different generation, would have been likely to have been combatants rather than students of the war.
The source material for the book provides a unique perspective: it is based on transcripts of surreptitiously recorded conversations among German POWs made during the war; while there is occasional involvement of a British or American agent posing as a soldier to elicit specific types of information, the men believed they were speaking to comrades, and therefore take for granted the frames of reference prevailing at the time, without the self-justification to outsiders, interrogators, or posterity that one would find in other oral history.
The mixture of military history and social psychology means that this work won't please those who like a straightforward military history-one Amazon review criticized the authors for using thematic rather than chronological and geographic organization. The degree to which such a comment betrays a failure to grasp the essential of the work is stunning: their point is that a sample of humans will respond, within a range, based on the context in which they find themselves.
I have always been fascinated with the experiences, perspectives, and self-justifications of humans functioning in extreme circumstances, and the Nazi period represents an interesting case study of this. One realizes that Speer was, in his autobiography Inside the Third Reichcarefully finding the space on the Venn diagram where "Nazi experience" and "conventional western European outlook" intersected.
In such a situation a clever person can tell true stories without telling the whole truth. The verdict of the authors is that the capacity to commit atrocities is far closer to the surface of most people than most people would like to allow.
We want, as a society, to treat massacres of civilians as exceptional, but the reality is different. Feb 06, Charles Weinblatt rated it really liked it. They seized three year-old Jewish children by the hair, held them up and shot them with a pistol. The Latvians and German soldiers were standing there, looking on.
The whole thing sounds just like a fairy story. If one were to destroy all the Jews in the world simultaneously, there would not remain a single accuser laughing. The authors of this book uncovered almost pages of transcripts recently declassified at the British national archives.
Some of the conversations occurred during interrogations. Others were surreptitiously recorded in barracks, holding cells, social halls and dining areas. Some of the most chilling transcripts came from German POWs conversing with each other, in what must have appeared to them as a confidential atmosphere. They had, by and large, a typical upbringing. Yet their recorded conversations reveal a terrifying picture.
This was particularly evident in their discussions about participating in genocide. They do not regard these actions as unjust, immoral or negative in any real sense. On the contrary; they brag about it. That the majority of these POWs felt justified in murdering civilians is enough to chill the soul of almost any reader.
Certainly not every POW held these wicked sentiments. For some, it was exciting to be able to kill without encountering consequences. This singular lack of remorse is stunning. They described the deliberate mass murder of civilians as though it was no different than exterminating annoying insects.
Many of the captured German pilots and submariners cheerfully described murdering the enemy. Luftwaffe personnel were only too happy to describe their deliberate shooting and bombing of British and American civilians. Submariners gleefully discussed torpedoing medical and other civilian ships, in addition to military ships and convoys transporting war material and supplies.
Their only form of apology was that they were not more successful. They were proud to proclaim that murdering civilians was their job. Soldaten carries the reader on a whirlwind of genocide in which no one felt personally responsible for their actions; yet everyone seemed proud to participate. The frame of reference encompassing mass executions and extermination camps represents an idiosyncratic amalgamation of anti-Semitism, support for genocide and innocence based upon delegated responsibility.
In a sick voyeuristic way, large crowds of soldiers and civilians were allowed to watch the mass shootings for personal edification. German POWs described without emotion the murder of Jewish children as though they were making widgets in a factory. The majority of POWs laughed when describing these acts of violence. The Nazi officers, sailors, airmen and soldiers describe their war crimes and genocide as the norm, or a job that had to be done to improve the quality of life for Europe and, eventually, the rest of the world.
Rape, pillage, torture, starvation and genocide were distasteful but necessary. The murder of innocent civilians, who were completely unable to defend themselves, had become for many German POWs an excuse for committing crimes that outside of war would land them in prison.
Luftwaffe personnel laughed while describing with pride the deliberate murder of British civilians on the ground. Soldaten will send a chill through your heart. The reader will listen along with British intelligence as Germans describe with gusto their annihilation, rape and torture of the innocent. These transcripts lay bare the projection of honor that German armed forces proposed to rationalize their actions.
Distinction between genuine military combatants and innocent civilians was completely dissolved. As we see here, German POWs had been only too happy to murder women and children as legitimate targets. The German soldier in these transcripts saw nothing depraved with these horrific deeds. The POWs accurately describe transporting huge numbers of Jews in cattle cars to extermination camps, even when they had nothing directly to do with those events.
This debunks the suggestion that hardly any Germans were aware of the massive genocide occurring at Nazi death camps scattered across Eastern Europe. These were not innocent men blindly following orders of the Fuhrer. The authors reveal a clear mentality of powerful violence - men who find murder of the innocent a thrilling experience.
They joke about the poor innocent souls whom they gunned down with rifles, machine guns airplanes and submarines. The hardcover edition of Soldaten is handsome, with thick paper and a descriptive cover. The text is well written, although somewhat divergent of function at times.
Although sprinkled with 21 photographs and illustrations, it could have been improved with additional pictures, diagrams and maps. Many readers are visual learners.
Near the conclusion, the authors paint a picture of German soldiers as transformational figures. They change from ordinary, law-abiding citizens into terrifying monsters bent upon rape, murder, torture and genocide because they put on the uniform.
The POWs in this case do not include those captured on the eastern front, who suffered greatly from weather conditions, loss of supplies, a massive resentful civilian population and fanatic Russian soldiers fighting from street to street.
Soldaten is definitely not a light read. While a bit repetitive and long winded, the book is extremely informative. The accounts within peels back the skin of humanity and shows the demon dwelling just underneath the surface/5. Don't waste your time chatting with fake profiles on anonymous dating platforms - at US Love Wiesbaden, you can rest assured that you will be talking with real people thanks to our unique and easy video welcome chat. Find a new friend, go on a date and/or fall in love with another member or meet a new travel companion to explore the world with! Dating soldaten - If you are a middle-aged woman looking to have a good time dating man half your age, this advertisement is for you. Join the leader in rapport services and find a date today. Join and search! Rich man looking for older woman & younger woman. I'm laid back and get along with everyone. Looking for an old soul like myself. I'm a woman.
There is also little way to fact-check some of more grandiose statements, whose commentary was perhaps infused with more bravado than veracity.
However, Soldaten has an extensive bibliography and it is well-indexed, making the book an excellent scholarly text. The writing style is succinct and evocative. The authors have produced an outstanding expose of the rampant racist mentality and brutality of German soldiers, airmen and sailors during WWII. Reviewer Charles S. View all 6 comments. May 16, Bas Kreuger rated it really liked it.
Disturbing book as it shows how thin the line is between 'normal' civilised peacetime behaviour and also normal wartime behavior and thinking.
The best example was at the very end of the book where the attack by American soldiers in Iraq was described from an Apache attack helicopter against unarmed civilians and it was shown how their state of mind was so pre-conditioned that there was hardly any possibility for them to see those unarmed civilians as anything else than armed insurgents.
The Disturbing book as it shows how thin the line is between 'normal' civilised peacetime behaviour and also normal wartime behavior and thinking. The pipe one of the men was carrying was no pipe, didn't even look like a pipe, but because the Americans operated in a high threat environment and were on the lookout for rebels, the pipe WAS a RPG-7 shoulder launched rocket.
This switch in perception is what is a recurring topic in the book, the more or less industrialized "work" view soldiers have of their handiwork of fighting and killing.
An intriguing book as well as the soldiers who were eavesdropped upon were candid in their opinions against their fellow soldiers and POW's and thus used hardly any political correct language. You never know for sure if they talk the truth in what they are telling, but it mostly was their true opinion or vision on war, warfare and their fellow soldiers that was aired. Apr 30, Dschreiber rated it really liked it. Reports based on interrogations were well known to him, but not transcriptions of private conversations recorded by hidden microphones in POW camps.
Intrigued, although expecting very little, he took a trip to London and requested the documents at the British national archive. A large bundle of pages was delivered to his desk, covering September As he read through them, he wondered, Were there similar reports for October and November? For POWs from the army and the Luftwaffe? For the rest of the war years?
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By the end of his investigation, Neitzel turned up 48, pages of surveillance protocols in Britain and over 40, in the U. The Allies had kept them classified for fifty years in order to keep their intelligence methods secret, not even providing them to prosecutors in war crimes trials. From the day they were declassified in until Neitzel unearthed them inthey had lain forgotten in the two national archives. Even though he specialized in World War II studies, Neitzel recognized that it would take more than a historian to tease out the complete meaning of the documents, so he partnered with Harald Welzer, a social psychologist with a background in the study of perceptions of violence and the willingness to kill.
Working together they produced Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying, an extraordinary study of soldiers at war chatting unguardedly-to each other, not to interrogators; while the war was still in progress, not afterwards with the benefit of hindsight and attempting to justify their actions.
For particular conversations they often provide analysis of the social setting and of the interpersonal dynamics. But at the heart of the book are the transcriptions themselves. Everywhere we saw women doing compulsory labour service. MULLER: They were employed on road-making-extraordinarily lovely girls; we drove past, simply pulled them into the armoured car, raped them and threw them out again.
And did they curse! SOLM: Yes, all are dead.
SOLM: Because we have a big book. This book contains all the ships of the English and Canadian steamship lines. We look them up in that. He took aim and shot civilians in completely cold blood. Not always. Eight of the sixteen bombs fell on the town, among the houses. I did not like that. On the third day I did not care a hoot, and on the fourth day I was enjoying it.
It was our before-breakfast amusement to chase single soldiers over the fields with machine-gun fire and leave them lying with a few bullets in the back.
Even in our most gritty movies, soldiers appear grim-faced or fierce in their killing. We rarely see the joy of killing. Then we flew at low level over the streets, and when any cars came toward us we put on the searchlights and they thought another car was coming toward them. Then we turned the canon on them. We had plenty of success like that. That was grand, we got a lot of fun out of it.
But afterwards we shot up the town; we fired at everything that was there. Whatever we came across; country houses on a hillside made the best targets. You flew up from below, then you aimed-and crash! There was the sound of breaking windowpanes, and the roof flew off. At the marketplace, there were crowds of people and speeches were being made.
They ran like hares! It was just before Christmas. Soldaten is a study of the mentality of the German POWs and includes few references to other conflicts.
When we got there, we saw a large mansion where they seemed to be having a ball or something; in any case we saw a lot of women in fancy-dress, and an orchestra. We turned round and flew toward it. The first time we flew past, and then we approached again and machine-gunned them. It was great fun! And how do soldiers in any conflict deal with captured or surrendering enemy when it is impractical or impossible to deal with them according to the Geneva Conventions? They were locked in a room and three or four hand grenades were flung in through the window.
Apr 09, Roger rated it it was ok Shelves: military-historynazism. This is a fascinating book with an odd premise. One of the authors, in the course of research, stumbled across the little-known fact that during World War II both the British and Americans bugged their POW camps, and transcribed tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of pages of conversations between the inmates.
This was done during the War for intelligence purposes, and after the conflict the transcripts were filed away in archives. This resource is a treasure trove for historians and has, and no This is a fascinating book with an odd premise. This resource is a treasure trove for historians and has, and no doubt will continue, to spawn scholarly monographs such as this one.
What Neitzel and Welzer have done with the material is to explore whether there was a particularly National Socialist way of making war, or whether the German Army was the same as the other fighting forces of the time. Something that the authors don't address until the final part of the book, but which seemed obvious to me from the opening chapter was the problem of who is supplying the evidence.
The inmates of the camps were by no means a simple cross-section of German Troops - Naval and Air forces were disproportionally strongly represented for much of the War, as the Allies were taking more of them than ground troops prisoner.
Of course all of the subjects were taken on the Western, Italian or Middle-Eastern fronts, and while some of them had experience of war in the USSR and Eastern Front, it was by no means representative of the whole of the German combat forces. There are of course other problems with the provision of evidence of this sort as well - the Allies didn't record every conversation, only the ones that they were interested in keeping, and of course the prisoners may have been telling less than the truth one way or the other, either to put off their captors, or to boast to their fellow inmates.
This doesn't make any of the transcripts any less fascinating for the insights they do provide us.
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And a lot of those insights are fairly gruesome. It seems many troops were aware of the Final Solution, and many of them had been involved in, or had witnessed mass shootings of Jews. While each soldier is more or less comfortable with what they saw or did, none of them really question the fact that it's taking place.
The horrendous actions against partisans also cause little conflict amongst the POW, with troops sometimes expressing happiness over the actions they undertook.
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In fact what comes out from many of the transcripts is that many troops thought they pretty much had a licence to commit whatever crimes took their fancy. Many of the troops were also cavalier with any prisoners they took, with some stories here from Normandy of Germans killing GI prisoners because they were Black, or "looked Jewish". These stories stand out amongst the others in the book that refer to decorations, equipment, superior officers, and the other more mundane cts of life in a military world.
What surprised me more, after reading the work, was that the authors conclusion is that there was nothing particularly Nazi in the way these soldiers, sailors and airmen fought. While it is fairly clear from the transcripts in the book that there were not many active Nazis in the forces, certainly the stories they told, that they acquiesced to or took part in do actually indicate that the German Armed Forces in World War II were engaged in a different sort of war than the other combatants.
We haven't heard stories of Allied troops engaging in mass atrocities against a particular ethnic group even the Russians didn't kill all the Tatarswe don't hear of other armies murdering POW as a matter of course, and certainly in the US and British armies many troops would have rebelled if they'd been asked to do so. Obviously there were circumstances where these other armies committed atrocities, and got away with it, but in the German Army these were committed as a matter of course, under superior orders.
I find the last chapter disturbing as well - "War as work", which describes in detail the footage provided by Wikileaks showing an ISAF gunship identifying a group of civilians as combatants and killing them. The authors use this to show how easy it is to make a mistake on the battlefield when working in the frame of reference of a firefight.
I had the feeling and this could just be me that the authors were trying to equate many of the crimes described by the POW earlier in the book to this phenomenon.
I think the transcripts they quote show in the vast majority of cases that there is no similarity between many things discussed by the POW and this incident.
Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying
With all my reservations, I found this still to be a book well-worth reading, with a lot to say about how the war was fought, what German Soldiers thought, and the lengths the Allies went to in gathering information. Jan 11, Arthur rated it really liked it.
There is a lot of background and commentary leading up to the different sections of actually commentary from prisoners. At times it tedious but it does provide much useful context. One warning, you wont be hearing about the prisoners talking about their living conditions at their internment camp or the food quality, although I'm sure that was tales about, this is focused, in large parts, about truly sickening acts- being spoken about in what seems to be a matter of fact, even nonchalant manner.
Also of interest is there is no benefit of hindsight. It's a transcription of thoughts taking place at that time, without knowing necessarily how the war would end or what would follow. Aug 18, Fenriz Angelo rated it really liked it Shelves: wwii-history. Interesting recount on the sociological cts german soldiers endured during World War II. Though is mainly focused on the eastern front since the information recollected comes from POWs in England, there's still some accounts regarding the Afrikan Corps.
This book takes on how the early ages of National Socialism influenced and made possible the desensitization of acts of violence from it's citizen and feed them with antisemitism whether the citizens agreed with it or not. It was all a subtle Interesting recount on the sociological cts german soldiers endured during World War II. It was all a subtle progression with inimaginable consecuenses. This could be seen in the battlefield, while the SS had a real fanatic behavior, Wehrmacht weren't exempt from criminal actions against habitants of the places they invaded.
There's also an analysis of the different mindset every army division had, SS, luftwaffe, navy, and foot troops that adds a even more specific insight. I personally found the insight of the luftwaffe worth for my research.
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S Army acts in Vietman, Afghanistan and Iraq to make a point that things hadn't changed much. Soldaten provides a perspective that is much needed to understand the magnitude of war. Jan 07, Joe Sibley rated it really liked it. Promising an in-depth historical and psychological analysis of the German armed forces of WWII, I couldnt help myself, as I was curious about the true variety of perspectives and whitewashing of the war.
Both authors were are well qualified within their fields and both had prior works related to WWII. In summary, Soldaten provides a detailed account of many of the different cts of the war E. Additionally, Welzer provides an explanation of the frame of reference of the war and the way that frames of reference can gradually shift and shape the way that people react to the events around them, giving us context for the insights to come.
The personality and perspective analyses have all been very thorough and contextual, measured both individually and against the differing perspectives shown in other accounts in order to make both broad and specific objective characterizations. The following is a lengthy excerpt Pg.
The number of Jews we killed in Poland! We did them in mercilessly. So is it fair to say that Fried represented humanistic Germany whereas Wehner was an anti-Semitic ideological warrior? Conversely, of course, we can conclude that Wehner was fanatic enough to refuse to read books by Jewish authors his other statements confirm this.
The juxtaposition of these two excerpts indicated the spectrum of opinion expressed in the protocols about Jews and racism in general.
On the one hand, the transcripts contain praise for Heine and Jewish doctors, chemists, and physicists as well as emotional rejections of the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in general. In short the transcripts contain just about everything under the sun This book has two primary draws. The first is the unique usage of POW transcripts in order to see exactly what military members were willing to say without speculation.
The second is the opportunity for psychological analysis afforded by Harald Welzer, letting us see what soldiers thought throughout the war.
I appreciate that the authors have provided before unseen insights into the military of the Reich using a unique and readable source and style of presentation.
I also enjoy the objectivity that this source provides - Welzer never attempted to breach this with his ultimately subjective analyses. He also never shied away from opportunities to discuss the most despicable actions of the Reich, trying to explain the mindsets and frames of reference that could lead to the events and their corresponding responses, though this should not be confused for some foolish attempt at justification.
I would say that anyone interested in a uniquely psychology and sociology focused account of WWII, or simply an insight into some of the more human experiences of the fanatical losing side of the war, would enjoy this book.
It flows more smoothly than can sometimes be expected of the genre, making the book more easily digestible. Nov 30, Michael Flanagan rated it it was amazing Shelves: ww For me this book ticked all the boxes and was a highly enjoyable read. It takes the time to explain the mind set of Werchmat soldiers and explains how the normalization of violence experienced by any front line troops occurs. A fantastic study into the world during the war and those who fought it.
Through the transcripts of German POW's the author pulls apart the social and human cts of war and soldiers and shows it in a crystal clear perspective. This book should be mandatory reading of any For me this book ticked all the boxes and was a highly enjoyable read. This book should be mandatory reading of any military leadership group as the lesson to be learnt go to the heart of man at war. In short it pulls apart what it is to be a soldier and lays it bare for all to see.
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