War of the Rats [NOOK Book]

Overview

For six months in 1942, Stalingrad is the center of a titanic struggle between the Russian and German armies—the bloodiest campaign in mankind's long history of warfare. The outcome is pivotal. If Hitler's forces are not stopped, Russia will fall. And with it, the world....

German soldiers call the battle Rattenkrieg, War of the Rats. The combat is horrific, as soldiers die in the smoking cellars and trenches of a ruined city. Through this ...
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War of the Rats

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Overview

For six months in 1942, Stalingrad is the center of a titanic struggle between the Russian and German armies—the bloodiest campaign in mankind's long history of warfare. The outcome is pivotal. If Hitler's forces are not stopped, Russia will fall. And with it, the world....

German soldiers call the battle Rattenkrieg, War of the Rats. The combat is horrific, as soldiers die in the smoking cellars and trenches of a ruined city. Through this twisted carnage stalk two men—one Russian, one German—each the top sniper in his respective army. These two marksmen are equally matched in both skill and tenacity. Each man has his own mission: to find his counterpart—and kill him.

But an American woman trapped in Russia complicates this extraordinary duel. Joining the Russian sniper's cadre, she soon becomes one of his most talented assassins—and perhaps his greatest weakness. Based on a true story, this is the harrowing tale of two adversaries enmeshed in their own private war—and whose fortunes will help decide the fate of the world.


From the Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
A gripping tale of two deadly snipters...Breakneck-fast.
Dispatch Richmond Times
Compelling...Deftly captures an extraordinary time and place in history.
The Denver Post
[Has] the punch of a full metal jacket.
Richard Bernstein
The literary archetype is easy to identify here....Hector versus Achilles, the manly conflict of two equally matched and equally remorseless adversaries....[A] readable, gritty adventure story, a good candidate for the thriller of the summer award....It's a good story, a creative variation on the wartime adventure genre, and it gives a compelling and graphic sense of the heroism-filled nightmare called Stalingrad. —The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in the rubble of Stalingrad during WWII, Robbins's second novel hinges on a dramatic mano a mano confrontation between a Russian sniper and his German counterpart during a pivotal stretch of the historic 1942 siege. Vasily Zaitsev is "The Hare," a hunter from the Ural Mountains with deadly skills as a chief master sergeant in the Red Army. His proficiency as a marksman attracts considerable attention from both sides, starting when his Russian bosses put him in charge of a "sniper school" to supplement the front-line soldiers. Zaitsev and his students have so much success against the Nazis that the Germans deploy a master sniper of their own, SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald aka "The Headmaster", to assassinate Zaitsev and turn the tide in the battle for Stalingrad. The beleaguered city itself becomes a character in the struggle as Zaitsev and Thorvald attempt to outmaneuver one another. Stalingrad also harbors a pair of lovers, as Zaitsev conducts a passionate affair with fellow sniper Tania Chernova, the headstrong daughter of New York-dwelling Russian immigrants. Tania joins the fight for Russia after she travels to Minsk in hopes of rescuing her grandparents, only to watch them die at the hands of the Germans. Robbins does a brilliant job of dissecting the unique mindset and steely emotions that snipers must possess and painting the battle scenes, but none of the primary characters escapes war novel clich s. The final confrontation takes a while to play out, but once Robbins Souls to Keep gets to the heart of the matter, he presents a riveting account of a battle within a battle, and the sniper motif proves an ideal vehicle to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. Agent, Marcy Posner. July Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The "rats" are Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev of the Red Army, a master sniper who is scoring heavily against the Germans at the siege of Stalingrad, and Heinz Thorvald, a German marksman assigned to assassinate Zaitsev--or else. Robbins triumphed with his debut, Souls To Keep, a light and racy tale that would hardly prepare you for this thriller, based on real events.
Richard Bernstein
The literary archetype is easy to identify here....Hector versus Achilles, the manly conflict of two equally matched and equally remorseless adversaries....[A] readable, gritty adventure story, a good candidate for the thriller of the summer award....It's a good story, a creative variation on the wartime adventure genre, and it gives a compelling and graphic sense of the heroism-filled nightmare called Stalingrad.
The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
An engrossing thriller about a deadly, yet curiously romantic, war-within-a-war. Stalingrad, 1942, where for months the fighting has been ferocious. Rattenkrieg, German soldiers have begun calling it—an ugly, snarling, house-to-house, hand-to-hand bloodletting. For a while the Germans had it mostly their way, but at last the Russians have stiffened and are holding them back. Scaring them, actually, with the intensity of their resolve, with intimations that no force on earth is going to be able to move them out of their blasted and beleaguered city. Central to this weakening of German morale are the lethal activities of one Vasily Zaitsev, a Siberian peasant turned supersniper. By himself he has accounted for more than 200 German deaths. But he's no longer by himself. His school for snipers has been an unqualified success, and he now has a killing cadre trained to hit targets at 300 yards or more. A German soldier, for instance, thinking he's safely out of range, reaches for his field rations and takes a bullet in the brain. The effect on witnesses is devastating. Back in Berlin, Hitler's generals decide that if Zaitsev is stopped, his school will be hamstrung. They assign the task to supremely confident Heinz Thorvald, their own master marksman. In short order, then, it becomes a duel—incredibly modern in one sense and downright chivalric in another, as, in effect, the rival champions ride out in front of their armies, each charged with overthrowing the other. Think Gawain and the Green Knight armed with Moisin-Nagants, the high-powered rifle of choice for both German and Russian snipers. A little long, but good: Robbins (Souls to Keep, 1998) can snatch a time and placeout of history and make it come alive.
From the Publisher
"A great novel of one of the epic battles of all time—Stalingrad."—W.E.B. Griffin

"Robbins has done his homework....A historical thriller with the punch of a full metal jacket."—The Denver Post

"A frighteningly realistic patchwork depicting the long siege that changed the course of the war. Based on a true story, the novel deftly captures an extraordinary time and place in history...[in a] vivid, authentic representation of men of unusual skill and focus in the midst of a barbarous war."—Richmond-Times Dispatch

"Immensely exciting and terribly authentic. White-knuckle tension as the two most dangerous snipers in Europe hunt each other through the hell of Stalingrad."—Frederick Forsyth, author of The Day of the Jackal and The Fist of God

"I devoured it. The reporting and writing are amazing, and the snipers' duel with its layers of subtle technique and imagined motivation is suspenseful and powerful. It's a very good portrait of one of this century's most important and terrible battles, and probably the most intense urban conflict in history."—Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down

"a good candidate for the thriller of the summer award... gives a compelling and graphic sense of the heroism-filled nightmare called Stalingrad...A readable, gritty adventure story."—The New York Times

"Breakneck-fast and laced with real-life vignettes."—USA Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307575371
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/16/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 94,805
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

David L. Robbins is also the author of Souls to Keep. A former attorney and freelance writer, he now writes full-time in Richmond, Virginia.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

Not even Napoleon has stabbed as deeply into Russia as the German army had by August of 1942.

Adolf Hitler's forces plunged one thousand miles across the vast and hostile plains of Russia to the banks of the Volga River. It was by far the deepest penetration into this Asian land of any foreign legion in history.

The German plan was simple: place Moscow under siege to tie up precious Russian defenses, then race south into the Caucasus region and conquer the strategic oil fields there. Once in control of the Caucasus, Hitler could fashion a peace on his terms and divide Russia in half, enslaving the western portion of the huge nation for his dream of Aryan world expansion and "one thousand years of Nazi rule."

Late in July of 1942, Hitler called for a temporary shift in the Schwerpunkt, or main weight, of his Russian invasion, away from the southern oil fields to drive eastward, to neutralize a potential canker on his left flank. The city of Stalingrad, an industrial center responsible for almost half of Russia's steel and tractor production, a metropolis of over 500,000 residents, lay on the banks of a crescent in the Volga. Hitler sensed an important, and easy, victory.

The legacy of that decision was written thereafter in more blood and destruction than any other battle in history. The Red forces, under strict instructions from Stalin (for whom the city, formerly Tsaritsyn, was named in 1925 in gratitude for his role in defending it from the White forces during the Russian civil war) to take "not a step backward," put up an unexpected and vicious fight.

Stalingrad's five-month trial by fire began on August 23, 1942, when the first panzer grenadiers of the German Sixth Army reached the Volga on the city's northern outskirts. The German forces were under General Friedrich Paulus. He and his Russian counterpart, General Vasily Chuikov, commander of the Red Army's Sixty-second Army, presided over a terrible battlefield. The city, subjected to intense firebombings in late August, became a smoking charnel house. Soldiers fought and died in cellars, hallways, alleys, and the massive labyrinths of the wrecked factories smoldering beside the river. For months, the fighting was house to house and hand to hand, and the front lines swayed with each new clash, the rewards of which were measured in meters at a time. German foot soldiers called the fighting Rattenkrieg: War of the Rats.

The Sixth Army kept its strength inside the city at close to a hundred thousand troops, drawing on reserves of over a million men from German, Italian, Hungarian, and Rumanian divisions positioned on the great steppe outside Stalingrad. The Red force inside the city never exceeded sixty thousand soldiers and at times was as low as twenty thousand men desperately surviving until reinforcements could be ferried across the Volga. The two armies ground against each other with an incredible will, killing and maiming soldiers in unprecedented thousands.

By mid-October the Russians had their backs literally to the river. In some places they hunkered no more than a hundred yards from the Volga cliffs. Somehow they held out until finally, on November 19, 1942, the Red Army sprang its "November surprise." The Russians executed a sudden and immense flanking action that leaped out from both the north and south to close with terrifying speed behind the Germans and their allies, encircling them with a million and a half vengeful men. Hitler called his surrounded Sixth Army "Fortress Stalingrad" and told the world these men would stay in place and fight to the death. His encircled troops, freezing, starving, bedeviled by lice, and under constant threat of Russian attack, called their position der Kessel, "the Cauldron." Of the quarter of a million soldiers surrounded on the steppe in mid-November, less than a hundred thousand were alive to surrender two and a half months later.

The city's ordeal ended on January 31, 1943, when Paulus, a starved wraith of a man with a facial tic and a dead army, walked out of the battered Univermag department store in the decimated center of the city and surrendered.

The final toll on both armies was an estimated 1,109,000 deaths, the high-water mark of human destruction in the annals of combat. The Red Army reported 750,000 killed, wounded, or missing. German casualties were 400,000 men. The Italians suffered a loss of 130,000 out of their original force of 200,000. The Hungarians saw 120,000 killed, the Rumanians 200,000. Out of a prewar population in Stalingrad numbering more than 500,000, only 1,500 civilians were alive there after the battle.

For both armies, the outcome of Stalingrad was pivotal. Never before had an entire German army disappeared in battle. The Nazi myth of invincibility was broken. The Reds now had a major victory; Russia had withstood Hitler's best punch, and returned to him a death blow. Stalingrad was as far as the Nazis got; the Germans fought a rearguard action for the remainder of the war. Two years later Red forces were celebrating in the streets of Berlin.


Into the midst of this awful carnage, played out on this pivotal stage, strode two men: Russian Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev and German SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald.

Each was reputed within his own army as its most skillful killer, a master sniper of extraordinary abilities. Both were assigned to find and destroy the other. Each knew his nemesis was looking for him in the colossal maze of ruin and death that was Stalingrad.

Three of the four principal characters in War of the Rats--Zaitsev, Thorvald, and the female sniper Tania Chernova--were actual combatants at Stalingrad. Their escapades and those of several of their comrades have been documented in a number of works of history, and this novel has been drawn from those works (see Bibliography). While Zaitsev's personal and family histories are recounted faithfully, I have presented the backgrounds of both Thorvald and Tania with some details imagined or altered for dramatic purposes. But the German sniper's and the female partisan's adventures and fates in Stalingrad have been left unchanged. The fourth character, Corporal Nikki
Mond, is a composite German soldier who lives as authentic a life in Stalingrad as could be devised for him.

The dates, troop movements, and major battle details in War of the Rats are historical fact. In addition, most of the smaller vignettes, the personal struggles and interactions, are also fact, gleaned from interviews with survivors as well as written accounts. But like any novel, here--in the smaller, private moments--creep in the notions of accuracy and legitimacy. It is, of course, impossible to describe another's thoughts and unseen acts. It is possible, however, with study and understanding, to re-create what an individual might have done and how he or she might have gone about doing it in a manner that, while fictional, remains genuine.

DLR
Richmond, Virginia

One

Nikki Mond looked out of the trench into a smeared gray dawn.

The first light of the late October sky stayed clenched in a fist of smoke and dust. Fires from the night's bombing chattered in the rubble. Burned tanks and trucks smoldered on the front line four hundred meters away, pulsing greasy oil smoke. Brick and concrete dust put a dry, chalky taste on every breath.

Nikki laid down his rifle to stretch his back and legs. He opened his canteen; he did not swallow the first dram but rinsed the dust from his mouth. He hadn't touched the canteen in the night. Thirst helped keep him awake on watch.

"Let me have some of that." Private Pfizer walked up to start the new watch. "I feel like I've been breathing dry shit all night."

Nikki handed him the canteen.

Fifty meters away, Lieutenant Hofstetter came out of the officers' bunker shaking on his gray coat. He buttoned it casually while he walked to the two soldiers. Nikki and Pfizer stiffened at his approach.

He waved them off with a yawn.

"Too early for that."

"Yes, sir," Nikki answered.

"Anything to report, Corporal?

"No, sir."

Well, the Reds never leave anything quiet for long. Let's see what we've got.

Hofstetter took Nikki's binoculars, then stepped onto a dirt riser. The officer raised his head slowly above the top of the breastwork and brought the binoculars to his eyes. Keeping his head level, he slowly surveyed the ruins of the Stalingrad Tractor Factory.

"Nothing," Hofstetter said. "Good. I think the Ivans took the night off."

Pfizer held the canteen up to the lieutenant. "Sir, have a drink on that."

Hofstetter lowered the binoculars. Turning broadside to the revetment, he raised the canteen and tilted his head back to take a long draught.

The lieutenant spasmed suddenly and threw the canteen into Pfizer's face. Water erupted from the officer's mouth, muffling a gurgled cry. His head whipped to the side; the canteen and binoculars fell from his rising hands. He tumbled.

The crack of a single, distant rifle flew past the trench. It circled over the morning like a buzzard, then was gone.

The lieutenant collapsed on Pfizer's legs. The private's face froze. He kicked the body off and scrambled to the opposite wall, ramming his back into the dirt.

Nikki snapped to his senses. He threw himself against the wall next to Pfizer, crouching low. He slid forward to lay his hand on the officer's back. There was no breath.

Nikki looked at the officer's helmet, still strapped under the chin. A red-rimmed hole gaped in front of the black eagle against a gold background, the emblem of the Third Reich. Blood leaked under the helmet to wet hair and ears, pooling on the Russian dirt. The lieutenant's left foot shivered once, quivering in the puddle spilling from the canteen.

"Fucking snipers," mumbled Pfizer. "We're half a kilometer from the front line. How can they hit us here?"

Nikki recovered his binoculars and canteen. He looked down on the lieutenant. Nikki had seen tides of death in the past two months. Death was part of the Stalingrad landscape; it was melted into the broken bricks and shattered skyline. He bore it on his back now like scars from a lashing.

Nikki put a hand under the private's arm. "Go get help moving the body."

Pfizer scrambled to his feet. Without looking back at the corpse, he bent low and hurried up the trench to bring back the punishment detail, soldiers who'd been caught drinking, fighting, or sleeping on watch and were given the duty of collecting bodies.

Nikki moved away from Hofstetter and sat. Dawn had taken hold. Green and red recognition flares lofted into and out of the sky to mark the German positions so that the Luftwaffe could avoid bombing their own men in the morning's opening sorties. Russian tracers flashed above, reaching for the screaming fighter planes.  Flames danced in the decimated buildings while the constant flares exploded, flickered, and faded.

Waiting for Pfizer to return, Nikki composed letters in his head. He wrote a lie to his father on the family dairy farm in Westphalia. He told the old man not to worry; the war in the East was nearing an end, the Russian resistance was buckling. To his older sister, a nurse in Berlin, he wrote the truth, for he knew she was seeing the broken remains of this campaign firsthand in her beds and wards. Finally he drafted a letter to himself, a twenty-year-old corporal of the Wehrmacht dug in on the Eastern Front, crouched only meters from a fresh corpse. In his own letter he could neither lie convincingly nor tell the truth completely.


Vasily Zaitsev pulled the bolt back fast.  The smoking casing made no sound when it landed on the dirt beside him.

At his elbow, big Viktor Medvedev bore down through his telescopic sight. The first shot had been Zaitsev's; if a second target appeared above the German trench, Viktor would take it.

Zaitsev counted slowly under his breath to sixty. In one minute, whether or not Viktor pulled his trigger, they would move. That was the sniper's first rule of survival: pull the trigger, then pull out. Every shot can betray your position to eyes you cannot see but which are watching everywhere on the battlefield. Never stay in one shooting cell so long that it becomes your grave.

Zaitsev was sure his bullet had hit. The canteen was the first thing he'd seen, a round shape bobbing above the trench. He'd almost fired then: at a distance of 450 meters, it was hard to tell a canteen from a man's head. He'd increased his pressure on the trigger and waited. Five seconds later the head popped right into his crosshairs. Careless, stupid, dead German.

Viktor waited now for another target to move into his sights. On occasion a bullet blowing out the back of a man's skull would make the soldier next to him grab his rifle or his binoculars and search vengefully for the Russian sniper who had killed his officer or his friend, who had laid the silent crosshairs on him and snuffed his life with a single bullet fired from somewhere in the ruins. The shocked survivor sometimes vomited up one brave and loyal act for the still-shaking corpse beside him. Zaitsev and Viktor hunted courage as well as stupidity.

A minute passed. Zaitsev nudged Viktor.

"Time, Bear."

Medvedev lowered his scope. He and Zaitsev crept backward from the pile of bricks they'd hidden behind since before sunup, only fifty meters from the front line in no-man's-land. In a shallow depression, the two pulled dirty muslin sacks from their backpacks. They slid their rifles inside the sacks and attached ropes, then slipped away into the surrounding debris without them. This close to the front line, the rifles jiggling on their backs could bring the two snipers unwanted attention.

It took them five minutes to slither thirty meters across an open boulevard, then into the shell of a building. They reeled in the sacks slowly to betray no motion in the rising light.

They sat in the building for an hour, in case a Nazi sniper had seen them enter and was waiting for them to leave. The wait would try the enemy's patience--make him wonder if he'd missed them--as well as probe his physical ability to stay focused through his crosshairs for sixty empty minutes.

Zaitsev reached into his pack for his sniper journal. He scribbled in it, then handed the worn notebook to Medvedev.

"Sign this, Viktor."

Medvedev read the record of the day's kill: 17/10/42. NE quadrant, Tractor Factory sector. German bunker. Forward observer. 450 meters. Head shot.

He signed. Spotter--Medvedev, V. A. Sgt. With a quick scrawl, Viktor sketched a pair of round ears, a snarling snout, and slitted, angry eyes. Under it he wrote "the Bear."

Master Sergeant Viktor Medvedev was a Siberian, a broad-shouldered, dark, and powerful man. His name came from medved, the word for "bear." His partner was another Siberian, Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev. Zaitsev had the round, flat face of a Mongol. Smaller than Viktor, he was wiry, yellow-haired, and quick, a scrambler. His name sprang from zayats, "hare."

Zaitsev and Medvedev were the only members of their division's sniper unit who worked directly along the front line. The other dozen shooters stayed burrowed in the rubble a few hundred meters back. Working so close to the Germans called on all their skills as hunters, testing their nerves and cunning, but it enabled the two Siberians to shoot several hundred meters deeper into the German rear. Their crosshairs found not just infantry, machine gunners, and artillery spotters, the fodder of war, but unsuspecting officers.

Viktor dug from his pack a half-full bottle of vodka. He inclined the lip toward Zaitsev. "Nice shooting, Hare." He took a swallow, then put the bottle in Zaitsev's outstretched hand. Zaitsev tipped it.

Viktor laughed. "You've got more patience than me."

Zaitsev wiped his lips. "How so?"

The Bear laughed harder. "I would have shot that fucking canteen."


SS Colonel Heinz von Krupp Thorvald faced the applause.

His students clapped, fifteen of them who'd gathered on the distance range to see their teacher, the headmaster of the SS's elite sniper school, win a bet.

Lieutenant Brechner strode forward, ten marks in his hand. He laid the money in his colonel's outstretched palm, then bowed in a theatrical burst.

Thorvald accepted the money and returned the bow. He reached out to the puffing private who'd run back from one thousand meters across the field with the paper target.

Thorvald held the target up to Brechner and stuck his index finger through the perforation in the center of the bull's-eye. He waggled the finger. "This is a worm," he said, "sticking out of a Russian's head."

The men laughed. The remarkable ability of their colonel to make such spectacularly long shots was useless as a military tactic, for at such a distance it was impossible to tell if a target deserved shooting. Nonetheless it was an impressive feat, one that Brechner at least was willing to wager ten marks to witness.

"That's just how I got them in Poland," Thorvald said, handing his Mauser Kar 98K with a 6X Zeiss scope to the private, his attendant. "Two hundred of them. Back in thirty-nine."

Part of Thorvald's teaching philosophy was that his students should aspire to be like him: confident, calm on the trigger. They need not emulate his flabbiness and bookish nature, but he desired to see intellect in their marksmanship. He wanted them to reason out their shots, replacing the body--the enemy of the sharpshooter, with all its distractions and throbbing motion--with the still, sharp focus of the mind. He desired to see them behave and shoot like Germans.

Daily, Thorvald told stories of his own exploits on the battlefield as part of their training here in Gnossen, just outside Berlin. This morning, after the early practice session and the bet by Brechner, he gathered his charges under a large oak and had coffee served. While they sipped and settled on the grass, Thorvald told this class of young, eager snipers the tale of the Polish cavalry charge.

Within forty-eight hours of Germany's invasion of Poland, begun September 1, 1939, Thorvald had been transferred as a sniper to the Fourteenth Army under General Heinz Guderian. It was Guderian and his staff who'd conceived the lightning strikes, the overwhelming blitzkrieg tactic combining waves of air and land bombardment with highly mobile tanks and armored infantry. In the opening days of the Polish invasion, Thorvald, then a captain, found himself on his first live battlefield with little to do while the German forces easily split the Poles into fragments. Above the front lines, the Luftwaffe's Ju-87 Stuka bombers perforated the enemy's lines with their low-level, screaming accuracy. Then came a flood of armored cars, motorcycles, and tanks. Next came the rumble of infantry and artillery. When weaknesses were found, the German infantry knifed through to fan out into the rear, cutting communications and surprising supply stations.

By the third morning, the Polish army had fallen into disarray. Isolated units fought hard to beat off frontal attacks in Thorvald's sector outside Krakow. Finally his assignment came from Command: his eight-man sniper squad was to creep up during lulls in the fighting and shoot into the Polish trenches and strongholds. Command wanted its snipers to drain the enemy's fighting spirit.

For four days Thorvald and his men crawled at dawn to within five hundred meters of the enemy. Thorvald collected seventy-one confirmed kills, more than the rest of his unit combined.

While the other snipers bragged at the evening meals and compared journals, Thorvald read books. The commander of his division came around and handed out tin tokens, one for each kill. These were to be redeemable at the end of the war for one hundred deutsche marks apiece, the army's equivalent of a bounty. Thorvald gave his tokens away.

During the invasion's second week, Thorvald's company encircled a large Polish force. One morning at dawn, he looked out of his shooting cell at the sound of trumpets and pounding hooves. He watched in disbelief as a brigade of Polish cavalry leaped over the parapets and galloped across the open plain. Through his scope, he gazed at the colorful mounted soldiers, their gloved hands holding pennants and lances high, trying to rally their comrades.

He lined up his first target at six hundred meters and fired. The rider fell. Before he could acquire a second mark, the booming of tanks erupted behind him, raising columns of dirt and flame on the plain. He watched through the crosshairs; in minutes the magnificent Polish cavalry charge became a scattered collage of dismembered men and horses.

"And what," he asked the assembled class at the end of this day's tale, "do you think is the moral?"

Thorvald smiled at the young men. No hands went up. They knew better than to speak during his stories, even to answer a question.

They are so ready, Thorvald thought, looking at the faces, the ease of confidence in their movements, the juice of youth in their veins; they're tugging at the reins to go off to battle to earn their own reputations, to move their crosshairs over the hearts of real men. I know how a man can kill. But I wonder how he can be so anxious to risk his life to go and do it.

"The lesson, my young, ignorant boys," he said, holding his hands out to them as if to show the breadth of his sizable wisdom, "is this: don't be a hero, on horseback or otherwise. Stay behind cover."


From the Hardcover edition.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2008

    A Breathtaking War Story

    In War of the Rats, David L. Robbins depicts the true horror and devastation that took place in the battle of Stalingrad during World War II. The Germans called the battle Rattenkrieg 'War of the Rats', and the struggle to control Stalin¿s loved city results in an estimate of 1.5 million casualties. The authenticity of the story and the way Robbins presents it allows the reader to understand how gruesome and vicious this battle was for everyone who was there. He explains the awfulness and destruction of the battle of Stalingrad through the thoughts and visions of the main characters. Robbins accurately writes about the battle in all its different locations and circumstances, and the story of real soldiers that he incorporates in the novel makes it breathtaking. The account of an esteemed Russian sniper named Vasily Zaitsev and his personal battle with German SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald makes the story thrilling and left me unable to stop reading. Thorvald was sent on a mission to take out Zaitsev, who was experiencing great success eliminating important members of the Wehrmacht and instilling fear in countless German soldiers. Zaitsev was also responsible for establishing a sniper school for the Russian army. The battle between Thorvald and Zaitsev is exciting and a real fight to the end. The in depth explanation of the weapons used by both sides explains which side had an advantage and why. Robbins makes it clear how strategy and craftiness was vital to taking out the nemesis and staying alive in the battle of Stalingrad. War of the Rats is one of the best books I have ever read. The author alternates each chapter in the personal experience of the main characters to lead up to the climax. This method makes it nearly impossible to take a break from reading because each character has a different experience that makes the reader want to get back to each character¿s story as soon as possible. I recommend this book for anybody interested in the different battles that took place during World War II. David L. Robbins clearly shows the unimaginable sacrifices people had to make for their country during World War II which is inspiring for the reader. Read it, and I promise you will remember this book for the rest of your life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Very engrossing!

    For any reader interested in the 2nd WW and especially the eastern front, this book is highly recommended. Do yourself a favor and give it a read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2011

    VERY GOOD BOOK!

    An Excellent Historical novel! Almost all of it is true, with a few dramatic details added in. Way beyond what I expected! I highly recommend this to anyone who has a keen interest in the Second World War. An excellent tale of Stalingrad.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013

    Fucking F%&*ing awesome i saw the movie as well go vasilli

    Ya boches

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2011

    Very good book

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  • Posted May 10, 2011

    Best book in a while....

    I actually shed a tear... gripping, and vivid. This will remain in my collection forever....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2005

    Excellent 'cat and mouse' story

    An excellent book describing the 'cat and mouse' game of snipers in the Battle for Stalingrad. While the details revolve about the duel between Zaitsev and von Thorvald, much of the grit in the miserable struggle between the Wehrmacht and Red Army is aptly described. Recommended for any fan of World War II fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2004

    Why can't I give it six stars?

    This was simply the best book I have ever read. I love WW2 history and know a lot about it, so this book was especially fun for me. It is virtually complete historical fact in documentary form, with lots of dialogue put in to make it a historical fiction novel. Names are all right, times and places and streets and everything. Obviously well-researched before written. This book will seriously grab you by the face and you won't put it down for a lonnng time. I'm a slow reader, but I read it in 3 or 4 sittings - read it instead of studying for exams (who needs to study for cheese courses anyway)! A book that will get a WW2 buff like me to read it in bursts of 150+ pages is sure to leave you satisfied and excited. There was only one thing that I didn't like - in a couple of cases, it left the reader to decide whether a character lives or dies - but it only brings the book from being 'a perfect read' to 'as close to perfect as I've ever read.' BUY THIS BOOK AND READ IT! AGAIN AND AGAIN!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2002

    BEST NOVEL I EVER READ

    Simply Outstanding. The two different sides the story is told is brilliant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2002

    Hard to put Down

    I found my self not wanting to stop reading. A bit of history mixed with a great story. This book opened my eyes to the horror of Stalingrad.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2001

    A great book about a nightmarish battle

    War of the Rats successfully depicts Stalingrad as it was during the Battle of Stalingrad. The characters are well thought out and true to history. I highly recomend this book to anyone who is interrested in the second world war.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2001

    a great read, a veritable time machine

    This is a powerful story, based on real events, about a time and place most Americans know about only vaguely. This book takes you there, into the ruin of Stalingrad, and brings to life both sides of the conflict. You will feel like you were there and remember it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2001

    The best book about war, ever.

    This book, with its great descriptions about both the tools of war, and the soldiers in that war, showed that David L. Robbins has done lengthy hours of research to bring one of the most realistic and best-written war books I've read. He adds this detail without making the descriptions seem robotic, and overly packed. A perfect balance between storyline and fact.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2001

    Lots of suspense and a dose of history

    It might seem odd to find yourself rooting for a Russian sniper, but you will. This book really gets inside the heads of the soldiers -- it's far more involving than the current film ENEMY AT THE GATES. I was fascinated by the battle of Stalingrad, which I had known very little about other than references in Tom Clancy's THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2001

    Rats at the Gates

    I read 'War of the Rats' last summer and loved it. The reason I'm writing this post now is because of the new book/movie, 'Enemy at the Gates' which is, obviously, the same story told by another writer. Has anyone read both and would care to compare the two books? I would have a hard time believing that 'Enemy at the Gates' could be any better!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    Truly outstanding

    This is easily one of the top, most intelligent books I have read in the last 3 years. This is an intense, psychological thriller, with incredible charachter development, heroes, a quirky villain, and snipers to boot. I can't stress it enough, a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2001

    The best book I have ever read

    As I looked at the lengthy book in front of me, I thought it would take a while to finish 'the war of the rats', and it would of if i had been able to put it down. I couldn't believe it, the style of writing was outstanding, i loved the way it was written. It was a great topic to write a book on, but i think no author could have done it better than David Robbins. His style of writing is so fresh and i was amazed by his writing abilities. This is the best book i have ever read in my life, thnak you David Robbins. I recommend this book extremely strongly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2000

    Awsome and outstanding book!

    I would suggest this book to every W.W.II book fans. it has great actoin and gets your heart going with every page you turn!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2000

    Hares and bears and RATS, oh-my!

    Stalingrad has a rodent problem. Or more of a rodent blessing in its anti-hero, 'the Hare'. Stalingrad's forcefield eminates from the business end of the russian rifle, and extends approximately 300 meters into the fascist front. Pardon my digression. This is a book of unparalled quality, I have not read a better piece of historical fiction. The character development within this novel is deep and moving. The action is fast and well-timed. The politics are diluted enough for a lamen to follow, yet true enough to please even a history fiend like myself. This book is on par with that of the history professor in high school or college whom everyone adores for making all history accessible to every single student leaving no one behind. There are no prerequisites for Robbins' course, just as the good professor does not ask that you know specific dates or obscure names and their etymology. For anyone searching to broaden their literary (and life) experience, this is a definite, you-gotta, just-pick-it-up-and-read-it! book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2000

    it can be called a historical-fiction

    I like history, especially world war II, and I think this is a great book on the account of the battle of the Stalingrad. The two main characters in the book are obviously not pragmatical, yet these two top sniper's duel successfully revealed the real psychological minds of the soldiers and generals on the both sides. It's clearly revealed in the book that Thorvald's skill had exceled Zaitsev's. Yet because of Thorvald's background, which's from a elite family, and his inexperience during battles, made him unrealistic about the cruelty of war and Stalingrad. He had the chance to kill his counterpart and go home, but he risked his life for a moment's excitement. The ending is not expected yet truly realistic. I learned that the pride leads to failure, yet the best is always full of pride, else how could one be the best? Thorvald is the best, and that's why he died, not contradicting at all.

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