Alois Dwenger, writing from the front in May of 1942, complained that people forgot "the actions of simple soldiers.I believe that true heroism lies in bearing this dreadful everyday life." In exploring the reality of the Landser, the average German soldier in World War II, through letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral histories, Stephen G. Fritz provides the definitive account of the everyday war of the German front soldier.
The personal documents of these soldiers, most from the Russian front, where the majority of German infantrymen saw service, paint a richly textured portrait of the Landser that illustrates the complexity and paradox of his daily life. Although clinging to a self-image as a decent fellow, the German soldier nonetheless committed terrible crimes in the name of National Socialism. When the war was finally over, and his country lay in ruins, the Landser faced a bitter truth: all his exertions and sacrifices had been in the name of a deplorable regime that had committed unprecedented crimes.
With chapters on training, images of combat, living conditions, combat stress, the personal sensations of war, the bonds of comradeship, and ideology and motivation, Fritz offers a sense of immediacy and intimacy, revealing war through the eyes of these self-styled "little men." A fascinating look at the day-to-day life of German soldiers, this is a book not about war but about men. It will be vitally important for anyone interested in World War II, German history, or the experiences of common soldiers throughout the world.
Stephen G. Fritz, professor of history at East Tennessee State University, is the author of Ostkrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination in the East and Endkampf: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Death of the Third Reich.
"Fritz does an impressive job of detailing what war was like for the average German soldier on the front lines in World War II."
"Drawn from letters, diaries and memoirs, this impressive study presents a rounded, detailed picture of the daily life of the Landser—the ordinary German infantryman of WWII—and takes an unblinking look at the stark realities of combat.... Helps explain why the German army was so relentlessly efficient in battle."
"A moving account of personal observations combined with a thoughtful commentary in which the author provides numerous insights into the combat environment."
~American Historical Review
"So readable as to be difficult to put down.... Should prove enlightening to students of German as well as military history."
~Virginia Quarterly Review
In Frontsoldaten, Stephen Fritz has chosen to tackle the tendentious and complicated issue of the "everyday life" of German Wehrmacht soldiers during the Second World War. In so doing, Fritz has not only given us a powerful account of the misery and anxiety experienced by the common Landser, especially on the Eastern Front, but he has also made a significant contribution to our understanding of the ideological roots of the German soldiers' resiliency in defense of the National Socialist state.