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Mortar Gunner on the Eastern Front: The Memoir of Dr Hans Rehfeldt. Volume 1: From the Moscow Winter Offensive to Operation Zitadelle

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A visceral account from contemporaneous diaries of a soldier who frequently came close to death but somehow survived. Following his Abitur (A-levels) in 1940, Rehfeldt volunteered for the Panzer Arm but was trained on the heavy mortar and heavy MG with Grossdeutschland Division. He was on the Front from 1941 fighting for the city of Tula, south of Moscow. Battling in freezin A visceral account from contemporaneous diaries of a soldier who frequently came close to death but somehow survived. Following his Abitur (A-levels) in 1940, Rehfeldt volunteered for the Panzer Arm but was trained on the heavy mortar and heavy MG with Grossdeutschland Division. He was on the Front from 1941 fighting for the city of Tula, south of Moscow. Battling in freezing conditions, at its lowest -52℃, the descriptions of the privations are vivid and terrifying. With no winter clothes they resorted to using those taken from Soviet corpses. In 1942, fighting near Oriel, however, his battalion suffered heavy losses and was disbanded. Ill with frostbitten legs, Rehfeldt was treated in hospital and once recovered was dispatched to the Front. Following various battles (Werch, Bolchov) his battalion again suffered heavy losses and it merged. In agony from severe frostbite to his legs, Rehfeldt defied the odds and astonished his surgeon when he walked again. He was promoted from Gunner to Trained Private Soldier in 1942, and to Corporal for bravery in the field in 1943. He was awarded numerous honors including the Wound Badge and the Infantry Assault Badge. On 3 May 1945 he was captured by US Forces and held as POW for one month in a camp at Waschow before internment in Holstein from where he was released in July 1945 after agreeing to work on the land. In December 1945 he began studying veterinary medicine: his future career. This astonishing account of a man who kept bouncing back from near death is a testament to the author’s determination and sheer strength of spirit.


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A visceral account from contemporaneous diaries of a soldier who frequently came close to death but somehow survived. Following his Abitur (A-levels) in 1940, Rehfeldt volunteered for the Panzer Arm but was trained on the heavy mortar and heavy MG with Grossdeutschland Division. He was on the Front from 1941 fighting for the city of Tula, south of Moscow. Battling in freezin A visceral account from contemporaneous diaries of a soldier who frequently came close to death but somehow survived. Following his Abitur (A-levels) in 1940, Rehfeldt volunteered for the Panzer Arm but was trained on the heavy mortar and heavy MG with Grossdeutschland Division. He was on the Front from 1941 fighting for the city of Tula, south of Moscow. Battling in freezing conditions, at its lowest -52℃, the descriptions of the privations are vivid and terrifying. With no winter clothes they resorted to using those taken from Soviet corpses. In 1942, fighting near Oriel, however, his battalion suffered heavy losses and was disbanded. Ill with frostbitten legs, Rehfeldt was treated in hospital and once recovered was dispatched to the Front. Following various battles (Werch, Bolchov) his battalion again suffered heavy losses and it merged. In agony from severe frostbite to his legs, Rehfeldt defied the odds and astonished his surgeon when he walked again. He was promoted from Gunner to Trained Private Soldier in 1942, and to Corporal for bravery in the field in 1943. He was awarded numerous honors including the Wound Badge and the Infantry Assault Badge. On 3 May 1945 he was captured by US Forces and held as POW for one month in a camp at Waschow before internment in Holstein from where he was released in July 1945 after agreeing to work on the land. In December 1945 he began studying veterinary medicine: his future career. This astonishing account of a man who kept bouncing back from near death is a testament to the author’s determination and sheer strength of spirit.

30 review for Mortar Gunner on the Eastern Front: The Memoir of Dr Hans Rehfeldt. Volume 1: From the Moscow Winter Offensive to Operation Zitadelle

  1. 5 out of 5

    Miles Watson

    If you were ever curious what life was like for a German soldier on the Eastern Front during World War Two, this book will answer your questions. Tersely. Frankly. Brutally. Hans Rehfeldt is an extreme rarity. He served quite literally from the first day to the last day of the Eastern campaign, from the moment the Germans entered Russia on June 22, 1941, until Germany's final surrender on May 9, 1945, and was somewhat ironically released from captivity on the anniversary of the invasion. All of t If you were ever curious what life was like for a German soldier on the Eastern Front during World War Two, this book will answer your questions. Tersely. Frankly. Brutally. Hans Rehfeldt is an extreme rarity. He served quite literally from the first day to the last day of the Eastern campaign, from the moment the Germans entered Russia on June 22, 1941, until Germany's final surrender on May 9, 1945, and was somewhat ironically released from captivity on the anniversary of the invasion. All of that time was spent in one of the most elite of Hitler's divisions, the "Grossdeutschland," which also served as the dictator's personal guard and Berlin's city watch battalion. Though not an SS formation, it was one of Hitler's favorites and the men selected for this (initially) all-volunteer force were the pick of the litter. Rehfeldt was one of them, joining the GD as a mortar gunner. This is an aspect of soldiering unknown to me, so it was interesting in and of itself to learn how the mortar crews worked in training and in combat, providing close indirect fire to support the attacking infantry. However, the book is most interesting for describing what the Russian campaign was like for the foot soldier. Short answer: horrific. Longer answer: dusty, thirsty, footsore, hot, lonely, frightening, deafeaning, hungry, confusing, chaotic, and violent, violent, violent, homesick, freezing, wet, verminous, occasionally funny, and not occasionally ridiculous. The scope of the war and the number of men involved staggers the mind, as do the casualties. To give some idea of how bad they could be, Rehfeldt records the strength of his battlion on two dates: June 22, 1941: 1,350 men February 21, 1942: 30 men You read that correctly. The Eastern Front was a meatgrinder and after a few months' combat, no one really expected to get out alive or, if they did survive, leave unwounded. Rehfeldt's book, which is written in two volumes (this one goes 'til August of 1943) and taken from his wartime diaries, is a terse, ably written, and often curiously unemotional record of an endless series of advances, skirmishes, marches, train rides, battles and training exercises that shows just how much the German soldier had to put up with, and how much he was expected to bear. But Rehfeldt's personality shows through almost in spite of his efforts to write cooly and self-effacingly. He comes off as a patriotic young man determined to do his duty to the uttermost, not very interested in larger questions of politics or ideology, not blinded by the nature of the regime he serves but also not interested in pondering its excesses and blunders. Though he takes a passionate interest in the Russian and Ukranian languages and their respective cultures, and seems to be extremely fond of the people and completely dismissive of Nazi views on race, his attitude overall is that of a hardened combat soldier. A Russian who doesn't surrender quickly enough is shot without a second thought. A partisan or a sniper is beaten to death with rifle butts. A civilian with a glass eyes is not to be exempted from forced labor. "C'est la guerre," is his usual refrain after cooly recording some unpleasantry. He hates the war, referring to it simply as "this shit war!" but he imagines no outcome but victory. I credit Rehfeldt with painting a picture of the "Ostfront" that none of the other memoirs I've read on the subject quite match. Some are better written or more exciting, others are more thoughtful and philosophical, but this one shows you just how horrible it was, and just how tightly the Germans clung to each other -- "Kam'radschaft" -- as they fought the Soviets, lice, thirst, and temperatures that are hard to comprehend. Rehfeldt's discussions of the effects of frostbite on his legs alone will put you off food for a few days. Now, the reason I gave it four rather than five stars is because the postwar German government decided to excise those chapters which deal with the ideological training of the men in "Grossdeutschland," even to the point of truncating a rather beautiful (visually I mean) chapter in which Rehfeldt discusses the midsummer ceremonies carried out by the division. Also because the opening part of the book is rather slow. Other than that, I think this one of the best and most important books on the subject I've yet read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jose wilhelms Ventura

    I really enjoyed the book Mortar Gunner on the Eastern Front. I have read several biographies, as I have a great interest in the Eastern Front, and from the books I have already read, this one seemed to me to be one of the closest to the daily reality of the German soldier. It is a soldier's vision, therefore far from strategic or tactical decisions but with a very acute appreciation of the reality on the battlefield. He fought from 1941 to 1945 and therefore watched Germany start and end in Wor I really enjoyed the book Mortar Gunner on the Eastern Front. I have read several biographies, as I have a great interest in the Eastern Front, and from the books I have already read, this one seemed to me to be one of the closest to the daily reality of the German soldier. It is a soldier's vision, therefore far from strategic or tactical decisions but with a very acute appreciation of the reality on the battlefield. He fought from 1941 to 1945 and therefore watched Germany start and end in World War II. That he survived to tell us his story is a gift, which graces us with a human history of a conflict that brought so many tragedies.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ian Willey

    Whilst this is an absorbing book the author and the translator both gloss over war crimes of this unit. It would be better if the crimes were acknowledged rather than the I did not see any but they could have happened approach

  4. 4 out of 5

    Darren Martinez

    Very detailed small unit tactics from a soldiers diary. I felt like I was smack in the middle of ww2! Hope to find more memoirs like this! Lots of pictures too! Only complaint was it was hard to find many of the places on the maps as they were spelled differently. Can’t wait too read volume 2!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This is the translation of a diary written by a German solider and his experiences on the Eastern front. It is presented in a diary format: each chapter consisting of a number of daily entries. Some work has obviously been put in to make the passages flow and some hindsight added, but it feels quite genuine. As with most people of the time the author is particularly stoic: he describes the time he had to force march through the snow with frozen feet, open sores on his thighs, infested with lice and This is the translation of a diary written by a German solider and his experiences on the Eastern front. It is presented in a diary format: each chapter consisting of a number of daily entries. Some work has obviously been put in to make the passages flow and some hindsight added, but it feels quite genuine. As with most people of the time the author is particularly stoic: he describes the time he had to force march through the snow with frozen feet, open sores on his thighs, infested with lice and suffering with diarrhoea as "not good" Which is how I described that day my wifi went down for an hour. It is really interesting to get an insight of how a WW2 army functioned. I mean if you get a splinter do you put your hand up and ask to be excused from the battle or do you have to carry on? This diary gives a bit of an insight into it - spoiler alert, there is more admin involved than you might expect. This is a soldiers view so don’t expect too much tactical information, he is only ever really concerned about the battle right in front of him. Also don’t expect poetry on how war is hell, or deep emotional laments about the human condition. The author is generally more occupied about his next meal or dreaming of being able to take a bath. Some reading between the lines is recquired. He recounts gleefully on how Ukrainian locals come out to toss flowers to them as they sweep through their villages. Other times he just recalls the locals were "not-friendly" or "several armed civilians were killed" In the notes it says how even the author, looking back, was surprised at how he could write about death and destruction in such a dethatched manner - the reader certainly is spared most of the gruesome details. This is easy to read and leaves more questions than it answers, but is a very interesting and engaging account.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alan Millar

    Mortar Gunner on the Eastern Front An excellent read, that rings true. Another account of the brutal war on the eastern front. Nothing about the National Socialist Anti-Semitic attitude that was so prevalent amongst the ex-Hitler Youth soldiers. Best to read between the lines about young men fighting an ‘honest’ war for a corrupt regime.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Edward L

    My Review This book gives an in depth description of the life of mortar a German infantrymen on the Eastern front during WWII. It vividly describes what action was like against the Russian army. I found it enlightening.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Luis Delgado

    M Es bastante interesante en que el autor de manera clara barra la vida de un soldado en combate y que confirma que en la guerra los desconocidos se matan cumpliendo órdenes de gente que se conoce.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Life of a regular German soldier on the frontline in Russia Well written memoir of a young German soldier, 19-, 20- 21-years old. Later promoted to an NCO. Lots of action, a little bit of commentary. In diary format. Worth the read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Somers

    13/20.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy Hansen

    i am starting volume2 of thissoldier's history excellent i am starting volume2 of thissoldier's history excellent

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This deserves a long review. It earned 5 stars. I am just too tired however.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jones

    First hand Fantastic read , definitely a diary. I said it before I am so happy that neither myself or anyone in my family had to do war. Would recommend.

  14. 5 out of 5

    A S Rankmore

    Truth Honest in his memoirs. Very detailed and accurate which shows the belief of the solder and the hopeless mess the eastern front became.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shan S Rea

    This is a great first-hand account of GD. It is a bit choppy as one would expect of a war time diary.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Herrmann

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pavel

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ákos Polák

  19. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Burney

  20. 5 out of 5

    zwt

  21. 5 out of 5

    lane noyes

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sonal Patel

  23. 4 out of 5

    Craig

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike Miller

  25. 4 out of 5

    Helmut J Bohn

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeb Schneider

  27. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm Jones

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andy Parker

  29. 4 out of 5

    James F. Richards, Jr

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Overbey

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