A selection of the Military Book Club To many close students of World War II, von Manstein is already considered to be the greatest commander of the war, if not the entire 20th century. He devised the plan that conquered France in 1940, thence led an infantry corps in that campaign; at the head of a panzer corps he reached the gates of Leningrad in 1941, then took command of 11th Army and conquered Sevastopol and the Crimea. After destroying another Soviet army in the north, he was given command of the ad hoc ...
A selection of the Military Book Club To many close students of World War II, von Manstein is already considered to be the greatest commander of the war, if not the entire 20th century. He devised the plan that conquered France in 1940, thence led an infantry corps in that campaign; at the head of a panzer corps he reached the gates of Leningrad in 1941, then took command of 11th Army and conquered Sevastopol and the Crimea. After destroying another Soviet army in the north, he was given command of the ad hoc Army Group Don to retrieve the German calamity at Stalingrad, whereupon he launched a counteroffensive that, against all odds, restored the German front. Afterward he commanded Army Group South, nearly crushing the Soviets at Kursk, and then skillfully resisted their relentless attacks, as he traded territory for coherence in the East.
Though an undoubtedly brilliant military leader-whose achievements, considering the forces at his disposal, cast those of Patton, Rommel, MacArthur, and Montgomery in the pale-surprisingly little is known about Manstein himself, save for his own memoir and the accolades of his contemporaries. In this book we finally have a full portrait of the man, including his campaigns, and an analysis of what precisely kept a genius such as Manstein harnessed to such a dark cause.
A great military figure, but a man who lacked a razor-sharp political sense, Manstein was very much representative of the Germano-Prussian military caste of his time. Though Hitler was uneasy about the influence he had gained throughout the German Army, Manstein ultimately declined to join any clandestine plots against his Führer, believing they would simply cause chaos, the one thing he abhorred. Even though he constantly opposed Hitler on operational details, he considered it a point of loyalty to simply stand with the German state, in whatever form.
It is thus through Manstein foremost that the attitudes of other high-ranking officers who fought during the Second World War, particularly on the Eastern Front, can be illuminated. Manstein sought only to serve Germany and was a military man, not a politician. Though not bereft of personal opinions, his primary allegiances were, first, to Deutschland, and second, to the soldiers under his command, who had been committed against an enemy many times their strength. With his grasp of strategy, tactics, and combined arms technology, he proved more than worthy of their confidence. This book is a must-read for all those who wish to understand Germany's primary effort in World War II, as well as its greatest commander.
Lemay, well regarded in France as a military historian, offers a well-researched, convincingly reasoned analysis of a general widely considered one of WWII's great commanders, whose memoir is regarded as a classic. Lemay depicts Manstein, who served Hitler to the end, as a master strategist and an inspired general, "the most accomplished product of the Prussian military caste of his time." His talent and achievements gained the respect of his enemies. Hitler himself feared Manstein's independent spirit and strong character. Yet Manstein never addressed the wider aspects of the war he fought and the regime he served; he insisted on restricting himself to military matters, and attributed Germany's defeat to Hitler's incompetent meddling. He insisted the army remained "honorable and upright." So Lemay does a service in carefully compiling, from documents and testimony at Nuremberg, evidence of Manstein's participation in the extermination of the Jews in Ukraine and Crimea. Manstein considered the battlefield "a sort of autonomous territory," separate from politics. In this way, Lemay concludes, he made himself "an obedient instrument in a criminal enterprise." 16 pages of illus. (July)
Globe At War
...a must-read for those interested in not only gaining familiarity with a more moderate position on Manstein but also for all those who wish to understand Germany's primary effort in World War II, as well as its greatest commander.
This book is a must-read for all those who wish to understand Germany's greatest World War II commander, for both his strategic brilliance and moral ambiguity
The Past in Review
“…an objective analysis not only of Von Manstein's campaigns but also of his participation in the criminal aspects of Nazi Germany's war effort. Much to the author's credit, he does not flinch when he exposes Von Manstein's participation in the “Final Solution” and an intense examination of the Field Marshal's politics, attitudes and behavior towards his enemies. An excellent biography of a flawed yet brilliant soldier.”
Lone Star Book Review
“…never lets us forget that he was morally responsible for his own actions… informative and objective… A worthwhile addition for World War II enthusiasts.”
World War II Magazine
“…a sophisticated analysis…sheds fresh light on the Eastern Front’s moral quagmire…offers promising new ways to reconcile the gifted general with the convicted war criminal.”
World War II magazine
“It is widely agreed that Erich von Manstein was the Wehrmacht’s finest general. He was a master of strategic planning, operational command, and tactical boldness. . . . Lemay, a civilian scholar and one of the best of the rising generation of French military historians, synergizes Manstein’s campaigns and his role in the Final Solution.”
...straightforward and uncomplicated... succeeds in cutting through the post-war rewriting of history perpetrated by Manstein (and others) and gives us a realistic pictures of Manstein's career warts and all.
History of War
The author has successfully maintained a balance between admiration for the military skills of Manstein and condemnation of his involvements in war crimes and total failure to understand the nature of Hitler's rule during the war. The result is a portrait of a great commander but a flawed person."
Military Modelcraft International
...hefty tome giving a insight into the character of Von Manstein...One of the interesting facets to emerge from the research put into this book was how chance and luck favored the rise of Manstein and also how it affected the outcome of various operations... if you want to know about the man, this is the book you need.
In a general staff featuring many talented strategists, Manstein was one of Hitler's most exceptional. A veteran of World War I, he attained the rank of field marshal before being dismissed by Hitler in 1944 for frequently challenging Hitler's military decisions. But for all of Manstein's brilliance, Lemay (history, Univ. of Montreal) demonstrates that he was also a willing servant who carried out Hitler's most heinous orders. Manstein saw himself as merely a military officer uninvolved in any political or ideological issues. He was aware of massacres and war crimes carried out by his own men and even refused to forward complaints about such actions to his superiors. Despite Manstein's insistence that he was merely a soldier serving the state, Lemay never lets us forget that he was morally responsible for his own actions. Though informative and objective, Lemay's work will compete with Mungo Melvin's recent Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General, published in the United Kingdom and written with the cooperation of Manstein family members. VERDICT A worthwhile addition for World War II enthusiasts, but readers should consider Melvin's biography as well.—Matthew J. Wayman, Penn State Schuylkill Lib., Schuylkill Haven