Gift Guide


This book is a profound reexamination of the role of the German army, the Wehrmacht, in World War II. Until very recently, the standard story avowed that the ordinary German soldier in World War II was a good soldier, distinct from Hitler's rapacious SS troops, and not an accomplice to the massacres of civilians. Wolfram Wette, a preeminent German military historian, explodes the myth of a "clean" Wehrmacht with devastating clarity.

This book reveals the Wehrmacht's ...

See more details below

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$12.99 price
(Save 43%)$23.00 List Price


This book is a profound reexamination of the role of the German army, the Wehrmacht, in World War II. Until very recently, the standard story avowed that the ordinary German soldier in World War II was a good soldier, distinct from Hitler's rapacious SS troops, and not an accomplice to the massacres of civilians. Wolfram Wette, a preeminent German military historian, explodes the myth of a "clean" Wehrmacht with devastating clarity.

This book reveals the Wehrmacht's long-standing prejudices against Jews, Slavs, and Bolsheviks, beliefs that predated the prophecies of Mein Kampf and the paranoia of National Socialism. Though the sixteen-million-member German army is often portrayed as a victim of Nazi mania, we come to see that from 1941 to 1944 these soldiers were thoroughly involved in the horrific cleansing of Russia and Eastern Europe. Wette compellingly documents Germany's long-term preparation of its army for a race war deemed necessary to safeguard the country's future; World War II was merely the fulfillment of these plans, on a previously unimaginable scale.

This sober indictment of millions of German soldiers reaches beyond the Wehrmacht's complicity to examine how German academics and ordinary citizens avoided confronting this difficult truth at war's end. Wette shows how atrocities against Jews and others were concealed and sanitized, and history rewritten. Only recently has the German public undertaken a reevaluation of this respected national institution—a painful but necessary process if we are to truly comprehend how the Holocaust was carried out and how we have come to understand it.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The conventional wisdom that the German army in WWII fought a relatively clean fight, unsullied by the atrocities committed by the Nazi SS, has recently been challenged-and largely demolished. This probing study explores the rise and fall of that myth in the light of scholarship debunking it. Focusing on the Eastern Front, the author contends that the Nazi vision of a racial-ideological death struggle against Slavic hordes and their Jewish-Bolshevik commissars resonated with German officers steeped in traditional anti-Semitic and racist dogmas. Nazi propaganda also swayed millions of soldiers, inuring them to the brutality they would witness and (with a few honorable exceptions, duly noted) participate in. Wette, a historian at the University of Freiburg, notes that the Wehrmacht assisted the SS extermination program, conducted its own mass killings of civilians and castigated the Italian army for refusing to persecute Jews. He goes on to trace the postwar development, fostered by Cold War imperatives and self-serving ex-Wehrmacht generals, of a sanitized legend of Wehrmacht conduct and the controversies that finally undermined it in Germany. More restrained than Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners, Wette's hard-hitting indictment also emphasizes the broad culpability of German society for the crimes of the Third Reich. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In the history of WWII, the German army too often has been regarded as an unwilling tool of Adolf Hitler. Wette destroys that myth in his book, an indictment of the German army for its involvement in atrocities against Jews and people in eastern Europe.
— K. Eubank
San Francisco Chronicle
This is one of those modestly sized books on a large subject that succeeds in being definitive...The Wehrmacht is an important contribution to current German historiography. It seeks an answer to the question that rages in German intellectual circles: Was Nazism an aberration in German history, a sickness that came upon a formerly healthy and civilized nation, or was it a natural outgrowth of traits well-entrenched in the national psyche? It is clear from the outset which side of this controversy Professor Wolfram Wette is on, but it is equally apparent what a thoughtful, well-informed historian he is...The Wehrmacht is as filled with all manner of details--surprising as well as predictable--as it is with passion and insight. Perhaps this is what makes it such a pleasure to read, for Wette never simply asserts, he always proves. Facts, statistics, instances are plentiful, but they never simply lie there on the page; you feel the author's outrage, sometimes his incredulity, even as you trust his veracity and integrity.
— Martin Rubin
Journal of Military History
Over the last twenty years various scholars, from the pioneering work of Omer Bartov to the more recent work of Ben Shepherd and a host of American and German scholars, have demonstrated that the view of a Wehrmacht with "clean hands" is entirely mistaken. These studies have shown that "average" German soldiers were completely capable of and willing to commit the worst atrocities imaginable. This book is another contribution to that corpus. Thus far the focus has been on explaining how and why the typical Landser became capable of mass murder, but this book is not about the average soldier's descent into barbarism. It is rather a study of the path trod by the commanding officers: the field marshals, generals, and colonels who formulate policy and created an environment in which mass murder could occur. As such, this book complements earlier studies by focusing on the highest levels of the Wehrmacht. Wette demonstrates that this level of command not only knew about and approved of mass murder but, after the war, successfully created the myth that the Wehrmacht had played no role in the crimes committed during the war.
— Lee Baker
Holocaust and Genocide Studies
[Wette’s] arguments will provide a powerful corrective to the outdated view that Wehrmacht leaders were dragged unwillingly into complicity in Nazi-mandated crimes...Attacking the myth of the “clean” Wehrmacht, as Wette reminds us, has been neither easy nor particularly successful in changing popular perceptions. Only through continued research and the writing of critical histories will the complex reality emerge. Wette’s monograph constitutes a key contribution to this effort.
— Stephen G. Fritz
The Historian
Wolfram Wette has synthesized a large body of scholarly studies written by critical military historians in the past thirty years and makes them accessible to a nonspecialist audience...This book is an important contribution to the recent historical literature that reveals the much resisted and painful process by which Germans learned to deal honestly with the unmasterable past.
— Derek S. Linton
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674045118
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 6/30/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,124,605
  • File size: 479 KB

Meet the Author

Wolfram Wette is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Freiburg, Germany.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface to the English-Language Edition
by Peter Fritzsche

by Manfred Messerschmidt

List of Abbreviations

1. Perceptions of Russia, the Soviet Union, and Bolshevism as Enemies

German Perceptions of Russia in the Twentieth Century

National Socialists' Perceptions of Russia: "Jewish Bolshevism"

Perceptions of Russia among the Wehrmacht Generals

2. Anti-Semitism in the German Military

From Anti-Semitism to the Holocaust?

Germany under the Kaiser and the First World War

The Revolutionary Era of 1918-19

The Postwar Period: War Continued by Different Means

The Weimar Republic

The National Socialist Era up to 1939

3. The Wehrmacht and the Murder of Jews

Issuing Orders and Propaganda in the Wehrmacht

Some Theaters of War

Anti-Semitism as a Soldier's Duty

4. Generals and Enlisted Men

The Military Elites in the Grip of a War Ideology

Hitler and the Generals

The "Little Guy" in Uniform

Soldiers of the Wehrmacht in Light of Recent Research

The Will to Survive in the War's Final Phase

5. The Legend of the Wehrmacht's "Clean Hands"

The Birth of a Legend

The War Crimes Trials

Writing History from the Wehrmacht's Point of View

The Cold War Begins

Wehrmacht Crimes, the Justice System, and the Statute of Limitations

6. A Taboo Shatters

Historical Research

Perceptions of the Wehrmacht in the Bundeswehr

After Fifty Years a Taboo Is Broken

7. Conclusion



Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2012

    Mens bathroom

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2006

    Brutally honest analysis, Red Army's turn

    Another German has the backbone and honesty to analyze the complicity in the murder of non-combatants, this time focusing on the Wehrmacht. Focusing on source documents from the time period, the author lays out in convincing fashion the prevailing mood, orders that were given and propoganda for the Eastern Front. If you have read any of the personal account diaries of both the front line troops and German generals you might have wondered about the disingenuous leaving out of stories or accounts of the slaughter of non-combatants. The most ridiculous memoir being Erdhard Raus, who describes the Russians as brutes and has no comment on the attached Death Head Division within his own organization. Now it's time for Russian historians to show backbone and honesty regarding the Red Army's slaughter, rape, looting and forced slave labor of millions of Germans. To the best of my knowledge only western historians have exposed the level of evil and brutality carried out by the Red Army in the final push for Germany. It's time the Russians showed some character and did an analysis from within.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)