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Siegfried Knappe (1917-2008) was a soldier in the Wehrmacht, the German Army, before being captured by the Russians.
This engaging, introspective memoir, coauthored with Bruslaw ( The Business Writer's Handbook ) offers insight into the thinking and attitudes of a Wehrmacht officer. Knappe served in the artillery during the invasions of Czechoslovakia, France and the Soviet Union and as a staff officer during the Italian campaign and the defense of Berlin. Though he had moral reservations about the Czech campaign and was troubled by his government's betrayal of its non-aggression pact with Russia, Knappe believed that his participation in combat was honorable and that the overriding purpose of the war was to correct the injustice perpetrated against Germany by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Only after he was captured by Soviet troops in 1945 did he begin to understand that he had been an ``unthinking cog,'' accepting without question Hitler's might-makes-right philosophy. The memoir closes with an account of his release from a Soviet prison camp in 1949 and his reunion with his family in Leipzig. Knappe came to America in 1955 and is now a retired corporate executive in Ohio. Photos. (July)
Knappe's Wehrmacht career began in 1936. He participated in the final collapse of the Eastern Front, then spent more than four years as a Russian POW. Readers may doubt Knappe's insistence that he fought not for National Socialism but for Germany, but this mindset, common among his generation, cannot be dismissed out of hand as special pleading or selective memory. His memoir, based heavily on a wartime diary, shows a talented professional soldier and unreflective patriot who initially regarded Hitler as fulfilling legitimate German aspirations; by the time he began probing beneath the regime's surface, it was far too late to take action. Soldat makes a worthwhile companion to Hans von Luck's Panzer Commander ( LJ 10/15/89). Both works highlight an unresolved paradox: never did soldiers perform better in a worse cause than the men who served Adolf Hitler.-- D.E. Showalter, U.S. Air Force Acad., Colorado Springs