Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43by Christine Alexander, Mason Kunze
Hans Roth was a member of the anti-tank (Panzerjager) battalion, 299th Infantry Division, attached to Sixth Army, as the invasion
This book presents the remarkable personal journals of a German soldier who participated in Operation Barbarossa and subsequent battles on the Eastern Front, revealing the combat experience of the German-Russian War as seldom seen before.
Hans Roth was a member of the anti-tank (Panzerjager) battalion, 299th Infantry Division, attached to Sixth Army, as the invasion of Russia began. Writing as events transpired, he recorded the mystery and tension as the Germans deployed on the Soviet frontier in June 1941. Then a firestorm broke loose as the Wehrmacht tore across the front, forging into the primitive vastness of the East.
During the Kiev encirclement, Roth's unit was under constant attack as the Soviets desperately tried to break through the German ring. At one point, after the enemy had finally been beaten, a friend serving with the SS led him to a site where he witnessed civilians being massacred en masse (which may well have been Babi Yar). After suffering through a horrible winter against apparently endless Russian reserves, his division went on the offensive again, this time on the northern wing of "Case Gelb," the German drive toward Stalingrad.
In these journals, attacks and counterattacks are described in "you are there" detail, as Roth wrote privately, as if to keep himself sane, knowing that his honest accounts of the horrors in the East could never pass through Wehrmacht censors. When the Soviet counteroffensive of winter 1942 begins, his unit is stationed alongside the Italian 8th Army, and his observations of its collapse, as opposed to the reaction of the German troops sent to stiffen its front, are of special fascination.
Roth’s three journals were discovered many years after his disappearance, tucked away in the home of his brother, with whom he was known to have had a deep bond. After his brother’s death, his family discovered them and quickly sent them to Rosel, Roth’s wife. In time, Rosel handed down the journals to Erika, Roth’s only daughter, who had meantime immigrated to America.
Hans Roth was doubtlessly working on a fourth journal before he was reported missing in action in July 1944 during the battle known as the Destruction of Army Group Center. Although Roth’s ultimate fate remains unknown, what he did leave behind, now finally revealed, is an incredible firsthand account of the horrific war the Germans waged in Russia.
“…an enlightening window into what it was like to cope with all the elements that war can throw at you, clearly not a nice experience.”
Military Modeling, 1/2011
“His observations of fighting are both blunt- Everything is Scheiss- and intelligent. ... describes the viciousness of the fighting…”
Military Illustrated, 06/2011
“…particularly important for two reasons. Unlike letters from the front, they were never seen by the German Army censors and so Roth was free to record his real feeling as the fighting continued. Second, because of Roth’s untimely death in 1944 the journals weren’t edited post-war, leaving them in their original raw state. As a result, we get a rare soldier’s eye version of the fighting on a day-by-day basis.
History of War, 05/2011
“…remarkable personal journals…revealing the combat experience of the German Russian War as seldom seen before. Witness to unspeakable carnage at the front, this is a harrowing yet poignant story.”
Military Times, 06/2011
“..without a doubt a unique account that offers many new insights and details which the author himself may have suppressed has he survived. It shows why the Eastern Front was totally different, the horrors kept from those at home…”
Military Modelcraft International, 7/12/2011
“…a very interesting book which gives you the human side of a man reluctantly sucked into a war…gives a glimpse into both the subtle influences of the Nazi State on its soldiers and attitudes…”
Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy, 09/2011
“With all the bias, rightness and wrongness of real life, and written in “real time”, this book accurately describes the impressions and experiences of everyday life and combat in the Russian steppes. It will not help you with your next scale model project or diorama. But it will give you a priceless insight into the people who lived and died by the equipment and groundwork that you will be modeling.
Recommended to all history aficionados and modelers.
“Put simply…this is one of the best accounts of war by an ordinary soldier...”
“The editors are in fact the grandchildren of the author of these diaries (Hans Rooth) who was in the 299th infantry Division’s anti tank battalion. Unable and unwilling to describe the horrors of the Eastern Front in his letters home to his wife, he committed them to these diary journals. He went missing in action in t he summer of 1944 and has no known grave… a harrowing yet poignant story of an ordinary soldier caught up in the worst that war can bring. There is not much in the way of technical or tactical detail and it makes for pretty grim reading at times, but it appears to portray well the day to day emotions and experiences of this dreadful conflict
It is quite often the case that the only accounts of first and second world war that we get to read are written by our own side. It is more likely that, were we wanting to read about the horrors of the WWII Eastern Front, we would turn to an account written by an Englishman or an American. Publisher Casemate specialises in bringing out books that tell the stories of all parties involved, and this collection of journal entries belonging to a German "Panzerjager", a member of the elite Wehrmacht, whose job it was to hunt down and destroy tanks belonging to the allies, provides an altogether different perspective on the various campaigns. An important part of the history of WWII that should not be overlooked, and should appeal to all students of 20th century warfare.
The book is spectacular. Hans Roth provided a wonderful service for his family and future generations by recording what he witnessed and what he was ordered to do.
You can feel the fear he felt. You can sense the mixed emotions he experienced. The day to day log of his units actions with his understanding of what was going on are amazing. The detail and description he provides of the surroundings paints a remarkable portrait of the times...an important resource for anyone interested in the Eastern Front as well as those who want a realistic look at the terrors of war. It is gripping and paints one of the clearest pictures ever of how war is horrendous.
Kepler's Military History
- Casemate Publishers
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Meet the Author
Christine Alexander specializes in military history.
Christine Alexander and Mason Kunze are the grandchildren of Hans Roth, through whom the translation and background information of these journals has been made possible. Christine currently lives in North Carolina and Mason resides in California.
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