Before Their Time: A Memoir
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Before Their Time: A Memoir

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  49 ratings  ·  12 reviews
in this memoir of his experiences as a teenage infantryman in the US Third Army during World War II, Kotlowitz brings to life the harrowing story of the massacre of his platoon in northeastern France, in which he--by playing dead--was the only one to survive. 208 pp. 15,000 print.

From the Hardcover edition.
ebook, 208 pages
Published December 15th 2010 by Anchor (first published January 28th 1997)
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M. D.  Hudson
This is not your typical “Greatest Generation” veteran’s memoir. Here is the opening paragraph:

“In 1943, I was a pre-med day student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Half the student body at Hopkins during World War II was pre-med; it was a respectable way of evading the draft. But I was a fraud on campus, and not the only one. I didn’t want to be a doctor. I had no interest in medicine, or in science of any kind. And so, even though I was a smart kid, my school marks showed m...more

This short book is a subtle narrative. It begins rather artlessly but builds as the events recollected become more horrific. The clipped rhetorical style seems perfectly appropriate to the protagonist's tale & his profound anger.

I sometimes found myself wondering about the veracity of recollected conversations & scenes. But in an important sense the veracity of the account is besides the point. I was completely persuaded that I was reading a "true" account of a man who had been broken b...more
Adam Ashton
Striking, clear and tragic. RK presents the familiar characters of a platoon from the Greatest Generation heading to war, but upends the narrative with his telling of a massacre he survived by playing dead. It's as unforgettable as the best fiction.
Some WWII memoirs concentrate exclusively on how heroic the writer was during the war, not this one. The emphasis here is a thorough look at the friendships created and then lost when Mr. Kotlowitz's fellow soldiers were killed during a poorly planned frontal assault on a German position in France. Reminded me of E. Sledge's 'With the Old Breed' for its honesty and eloquence. It must have been difficult for Kotlowitz to write this book, considering what he lived through and what happened to him...more
Keith Yocum
What an interesting take on a WWII combat memoir. Self-deprecating, honest, strange and brutal -- all at the same time. Kotlowitz is an excellent writer and puts his memory to work recounting his single combat experience in WWII that ended in a devastating experience for him and the other members of his platoon. This period and arena in WWII has gotten little attention over the years but was in fact one of the worst periods in U.S. military history. Desertions were at an all-time high and "comba...more
One of the best books about WWII soldiers' experience that I have read. Really enjoyed it.
Memoir of RK's time in the Army in WW2 after being drafted out of college. The writing is very clear and direct as it tells about fellow soldiers and officers from boot camp to France. The action is mostly drudgery and mundane until RK is the lone survivor in a fight with Germans that pretty much ends the war for him. Short, no nonsense look at what it is like to be an ordinary soldier in WW2 with no heroes--it's just kids over in some country fighting an unknown, faceless enemy, while trying to...more
Kotlowitz's work is very different from standard WWII fair--there is minimal battlefront action, but it is a very disturbing personal experience. Kotlowitz is also decent writer. He puts a lot into describing the men in his unit and their various strengths and foibles, as well as describing the training and other experiences leading up to the front. What happens at the front and afterward has a psychological impact and I find it to be haunting.
Keith Yocum
Far different take on WWII grunts in Europe. Strangely poignant, Kotlowitz's experience in combat is not heroic in the traditional sense. Far from it; he's the lone survivor of a poorly trained platoon forced to attack a larger German force. He falls a part afterwards and is not the least self-conscious about it, nor should he be. Good read and very human in its observations about men in combat.
Paul Harris
What a perfect and poignant book. Concise, humble, utterly frank and honest, all too human. Robert Kotlowitz's story of a young man sent to war is not unique. What is, though, is the sheer heart and beauty he tells his tale with. I finished this book and thought how beautifully it had been written. Very moving.
This book was about Dziadek's platoon or command (or something, i can't remember what the term is) He said it was pretty accurate on the sequence of events...of course Dziadek's stories are way better.
Leonard Romney
Ably told memoir of the author's WWII experience, brief and tragic. Highlighted for me once again the futility, frustration, ineptitude and filthiness in every way of war.
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Novelist, editor and television executive.
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