Wednesday, April 13, 2011

soldaten - soldiers accounts of rape, murder, and genocide

Spiegel | The public discourse about war is characterized by contempt for the bloody sides of the military profession, a contempt to which soldiers themselves conform when they are asked to describe their experiences. But there is also another view of war, one in which it is not only an endless nightmare, but also a great adventure that some soldiers later remember as the best time of their life.

In World War II, 18 million men, or more than 40 percent of the male population of the German Reich, served with Germany's military, the Wehrmacht, and the Waffen-SS. Hardly any other segment of time has been as carefully studied in academia as the six years that began with Germany's invasion of neighboring Poland in September 1939 and ended with the total capitulation of the German Reich in May 1945.

Even historians find it difficult to keep track of the literature on the deadliest conflict in human history. The monumental "Germany and the Second World War," which was completed three years ago by the Military History Research Institute in Potsdam near Berlin and is seen as the standard German work on the war, encompasses 10 volumes alone.

Every battle in this monstrous struggle for control over Europe has its fixed place in the historical narrative today, as does, of course, the horrible violence that left 60 million dead around the world, including the suffering of the civilian population, the murder of the Jews and the partisan war in the East.

Sugarcoating Reality
But how the soldiers experienced the war, how the constant presence of death and violence changed them, what they felt and feared, but also enjoyed -- all of this tends to be marginalized in historical accounts. History was long suspicious of the subjective view of the events it considers, preferring to stick to verifiable dates and facts.

But this also has to do with the incompleteness of sources. Military letters, reports by contemporary witnesses or memoirs provide a sugarcoated version of reality. The recipients of these personal accounts were the wives and families of soldiers or the broader public. Descriptions of the daily business of war, in which soldiers just happened to massacre the residents of a village or "brush" a few girls, as rape was called in the troops' jargon, had no place in these accounts.

It isn't just that the recipients' expectations stood in the way of soldiers providing truthful accounts of what had actually happened -- the time that had passed since the war also distorted the soldiers' views of their experiences. In other words, anyone who wants to obtain an accurate picture of how soldiers see a war must gain access to them and gain their trust as early as possible, so that they can speak openly without the fear of being called to account afterwards.

What already seems hardly feasible for current military operations like the war in Afghanistan is nearly impossible when it comes to an event that happened so long ago as World War II. Nevertheless, two German historians have managed to produce precisely such a documentary of perceptions of the war using live historical recordings.

In Their Own Words

The material that historian Sönke Neitzel uncovered in British and American archives is nothing short of sensational. While researching the submarine war in the Atlantic in 2001, he discovered the transcripts of covertly recorded conversations between German officers in which they talked about their wartime experiences with an unprecedented degree of openness. The deeper Neitzel dug into the archives, the more material he found. In the end, he and social psychologist Harald Welzer analyzed a total of 150,000 pages of source material. The result is a newly published book with the simple title of "Soldaten" ("Soldiers"), published by S. Fischer Verlag. The volume has the potential to change our view of the war.

The recordings, which were made using special equipment that the Allies used to secretly listen in on conversations between German prisoners of war in their cells starting in 1939, offer an inside view of World War II. In doing so, they destroy once and for the myth of a "clean" Wehrmacht.

In "Soldiers," which is subtitled "Transcripts of Fighting, Killing and Dying," the soldiers talk about their views of the enemy and their own leaders, discuss the details of combat missions and trade astonishingly detailed accounts of the atrocities they both witnessed and committed.

3 comments:

nanakwame said...

Cobb is calling for a military coup - g_d help us. The most callous of people would join the military for power and pay, especially in economic chaos, and democratic forces will have a battle, for a short time (4 to 5 years). How long did the Peron stay in office and if I recalled a military general after them?
Killer Ape is a good tag, coming out the war I knew what romantic meant and the power of indignation and repulsion, over apathy and cruelty which is bred by all bureaucracy especially the military.

Vaughn_nebeker said...

as vaughn nebeker Iwould [not] ecsapit cocain for the tecnology that put out chernobyl.
the uckrain has large oil & natreal gas account's.  trading in narcodic's not needed.
the wight house cocain had a FDC hurbasided in it . eneny one using it came down with conganiceal cabser thow the limph node's.
usely the  russan mob killed, they had no inteant in paying honnastly for the putting out chernobyl. the soldger harsness is in keeping [ the russan flip phoaper in track].
I respat your willness to ask  the question. but the book's were keep clean.
black mail over rape,genasied & muder inposable. do to I said [no] to it.
yes as a solger I had the skill's for it but I said no to it.
it was more inportent to save 58,000,000 live's at chernobyl.  than to fall to the madness of a drug dealer.  so I Said [ no] to the drug dealer. I said[ no] to muder for $500.00 & no to muder for $1,500.00 no to muder for drug of equeal value. the book's are clean.
Only the Vetrean Adminstien ecsaminer fraud ,purgery,strong arming [wants me to defraud the corut.  judge james archbuld 6th dist state of idaho  judge got the truth the first time. 
only the muder's want me decared incompadent so they can get a way  with muders of satcey balwin. susen nickinbacker 7 mr nolin hadden, in there defradind the court.

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