Write heavy; write hard.
11th April 2005
Recently read a couple of books, written within the last 10-15 years by German soldiers. First was the English translation of "Armor Battles Of The SS" by Willi Fey. In 1943 Fey became an SS panxer crewman in "Das Reich" (2nd SS Panzer), eventually becoming a tank commander in Schwere Abteilung101/501 (Tiger unit). He served in defensive battles in Russia, Poland,Hungary and Austria, and was in he Normandy campaign. He finished the war as the commander of a tank killer plattoon in Berlin, and was part of the last breakout attempts by King Tigers on May 2 and following.
Fey apparently has no feelings of remorse about what he believed or did during the war. He is not ashamed of having volunatarily sworn a blood oath givng himself body, mind and soul to Adolph Hitler. His history is selective in what it treats, and there is ablsolutely no mention whatsover of Jews, forced labor, concentration camps or the fates of those Russians who may have tried to surrender to him or his comrades in "Das Reich". It's as if he was ignorant of everyhting. He actually tries to argue there was no Malmedy massacre in December, 1944 by Joachim Peiper's battlegroup in the desperate German offensive in the Ardennes. He is almost pathetic in his attempts to defend Peiper by saying an American officer wrote a letter saying he thought Peiper was an honorable soldier (so what?), and how he claims Peiper was "framed" wihtout bothering to tell us how. What comes through from all this is that Fey is still fiercely loyal to his SS comrades, and is hardly a credible witness when it comes to stories about the SS.
But he saw a lot of combat. Also, we don't have to rely merely on Fey's recollection: He has included in his memoir battle reports or statements of several other SS tankers. What results is a picture of truly vicious fighting in the East, and hardly any better condiitons in the West. The writing, because it is by several authors, is uneven: some is lively, some is deadly dull, wooden and rigid. The stories that seem to come from Fey (it's hard to tell whose story we're readiong sometimes) are of the deadly dull type, although this could be a problem of translation from German to English.
But some sections crackle with intensity and excitement. The stories of the Normandy campaign are extremely detailed, particularly about the battles after Caen, including Hill 112. The story of the Halbe Pocket and the agonies suffered by the German troops as they withdrew westward in a desperate attempt to link with Wenck's army in the last days of the war will keep you up at night. And Fey's story of the last days of Berlin, and the attemtps to use Germany's lasr remaining King Tigers to break out of the Russin encirclement, is fascinating. I have never before read any of the detailed information he gives here.
If you choose to try this book, do so with a jaundiced eye. Fey is an unreiable witness, but he has assmebled a cast with some fascinating stories to tell.
Luke, I am your mother.
2nd May 2005
Good tip, thanks. Frankly, one of my favorite war movie scenes is from Battle of the Bulge when the Panzerlied is playing as Peiper's tanks go up in flames :-)
Update: actually apparently that's not the right tune when they're having a Nazi tanker BBQ, been a while since I saw it. Just in case anyone's curious, details for the soundtrack are at http://www.soundtrackcollector.com/catalog/soundtrackdetail.php?movieid=7140
6th July 2005
I love that movie. Espicially when he assembles his men and they start singing Panzerlied. Ob sturm oder schniet...:lol: