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William Lubbeck, age 19, was drafted into the Wehrmacht in August 1939. As a member of the 58th Infantry Division, he received his baptism of fire during the 1940 invasion of France. The following spring his division served on the left flank of Army Group North in Operation Barbarossa. After grueling ...
William Lubbeck, age 19, was drafted into the Wehrmacht in August 1939. As a member of the 58th Infantry Division, he received his baptism of fire during the 1940 invasion of France. The following spring his division served on the left flank of Army Group North in Operation Barbarossa. After grueling marches admidst countless Russian bodies, burnt-out vehicles, and a great number of cheering Baltic civilians, Lubbeck’s unit entered the outskirts of Leningrad, making the deepest penetration of any German formation.
The Germans suffered brutal hardships the following winter as they fought both Russian counterattacks and the brutal cold. The 58th Division was thrown back and forth across the front of Army Group North, from Novgorod to Demyansk, at one point fighting back Russian attacks on the ice of Lake Ilmen. Returning to the outskirts of Leningrad, the 58th was placed in support of the Spanish “Blue” Division. Relations between the allied formations soured at one point when the Spaniards used a Russian bath house for target practice, not realizing that Germans were relaxing inside.
A soldier who preferred to be close to the action, Lubbeck served as forward observer for his company, dueling with Russian snipers, partisans and full-scale assaults alike. His worries were not confined to his own safety, however, as news arrived of disasters in Germany, including the destruction of Hamburg where his girlfriend served as an Army nurse.
In September 1943, Lubbeck earned the Iron Cross First Class and was assigned to officers’ training school in Dresden. By the time he returned to Russia, Army Group North was in full-scale retreat. Now commanding his former heavy weapons company, Lubbeck alternated sharp counterattacks with inexorable withdrawal, from Riga to Memel on the Baltic. In April 1945 Lubbeck’s company became stalled in a traffic jam and was nearly obliterated by a Russian barrage followed by air attacks.
In the last chaotic scramble from East Prussia, Lubbeck was able to evacuate on a newly minted German destroyer. He recounts how the ship arrived in the British zone off Denmark with all guns blazing against pursuing Russians. The following morning, May 8, 1945, he learned that the war was over.
After his release from British captivity, Lubbeck married his sweetheart, Anneliese, and in 1949 immigrated to the United States where he raised a successful family. With the assistance of David B. Hurt, he has drawn on his wartime notes and letters, Soldatbuch, regimental history and personal memories to recount his four years of frontline experience. Containing rare firsthand accounts of both triumph and disaster, At Leningrad’s Gates provides a fascinating glimpse into the reality of combat on the Eastern Front.
...a well-wrought ground level view of daily life in hell.
WWII Magazine No 3, 06/2007
“… compiled with attention to details. The reader will feel as though he is alongside Lubbeck as he calls fire missions on the enemy during his three years of service.”
Military Trader 11/2007
“… a first-rate memoir… The reader will find the narrative flowing. Two appendices, one on German Infantry Regiments in WW II of 1940, and another consisting of references of all places named, are added to assist the reader.”
City Book Review
1 A Village Upbringing 15
2 Under The Nazi Dictatorship 29
3 Prelude To War 39
4 Training For Combat 53
5 War in the West 67
6 Blitzkrieg into Russia 81
7 To The Gates of Leningrad 93
8 Winter at Uritsk 103
9 Counterattack at the Volkhov 121
10 The Demyansk Corridor 133
11 Holding The Line at Ladoga 143
12 Officer Candidate 153
13 Kriegschule 161
14 Return to The Front 169
15 Retreat into The Reich 183
16 Catastrophe 195
17 The Price of Defeat 205
18 Post-War Germany 217
19 A New Life Abroad 229
Posted May 28, 2007
An excellent firsthand account of combat in northern Russia. As a former infantryman, I appreciated his detailed descriptions of life at the front and the remarkable sequence of events that enabled him to survive the last few weeks of the war. The section describing life in East Germany right after the war, including a close encounter with a Soviet patrol, was also interesting. As an aside, I was impressed by the number of personal wartime photographs included with the narrative. Given the campaigns in which Lubbeck participated, it's remarkable that they survived. They're helpful in visualizing the situation within Lubbeck's unit.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 7, 2007
It didn't take me long to finish this book. This one rates up there with 'Adventures of my youth', 'The Good Soldier' and other great German combat narratives. The text is well written and easy to follow. I enjoy reading about the action in the North during the German-Russian war. Don't always find many memoirs involving the Lenningrad area. Great read!!!!!!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 7, 2006
'In telling my story, I do not wish to impress anyone or present myself as a hero,' says ex-Wehrmacht soldier William Lubbeck in the foreword of his book. 'God had other plans for me and spared my life.' How true this seems upon reading At Leningrad's Gates. Lubbeck was in the thick of battle so often that it must have been the hand of Providence which shielded him from the death storm of bullets, bombs, and shrapnel. A forward observer for the 58th Division, Lubbeck witnessed death and destruction on a scale that's difficult to imagine. Whether from a Russian sniper fixing his sights, or Katyusha rockets screaming out of the sky, death was an ever-present reality for Lubbeck and the men he led into battle. At Leningrad's Gates describes not just the chaos of combat, but Lubbeck's chaos of mind as well: One day he feels resigned to death, the next he's fighting with remarkable defiance. For his efforts, Lubbeck earned the Iron Cross First Class in 1943, yet to this day he doesn't consider himself a hero. If you're interested in what combat on the Eastern Front was really like, this outstanding memoir definitely belongs on your bookshelf.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.