Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying
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Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  207 ratings  ·  46 reviews
On a visit to the British National Archive in 2001, Sonke Neitzel made a remarkable discovery: reams of meticulously transcribed conversations among German POWs that had been covertly recorded & recently declassified. Netizel would later find another collection of transcriptions, twice as extensive, in the National Archive in Washington. These were discoveries that wou...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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David Bird
This is an important book. It makes one sit a little less complacently in one's skin. It has the courage to trace a line from ordinary humanity to the ordinary German soldier to the commission of atrocities.

One is reminded throughout that it's a German academic book; infelicities of translation abound. But being reminded of its Germanness is often a good thing, because one also realizes that the authors, had they been in a different generation, would have been likely to have been combatants rat...more
Charles Weinblatt
“They seized three year-old Jewish children by the hair, held them up and shot them with a pistol. The Latvians and German soldiers were standing there, looking on. The whole thing sounds just like a fairy story. If one were to destroy all the Jews in the world simultaneously, there would not remain a single accuser” (laughing).

During World War II, a large number of German soldiers were captured and interrogated by British Intelligence agents. The authors of this book uncovered almost 800 pages...more
Bas Kreuger
Disturbing book as it shows how thin the line is between 'normal' civilised peacetime behaviour and (also normal) wartime behavior and thinking.
The best example was at the very end of the book where the attack by American soldiers in Iraq was described from an Apache attack helicopter against unarmed civilians and it was shown how their state of mind was so pre-conditioned that there was hardly any possibility for them to see those unarmed civilians as anything else than armed insurgents. The pi...more
Nov 22, 2012 Hadrian marked it as to-read
>the transcripts of conversations between German prisoners of war, secretly recorded by the British and American intelligence services, offer a vivid and at times surprising insight into the mentality of the German military.

>Between 1940 and 1945, in camps specifically set up for this purpose, the British and Americans bugged about 13,000 German and several hundred Italian soldiers of all ranks and services. The goal was to discover military secrets of potentially strategic importance. Sel...more
This is a fascinating book with an odd premise. One of the authors, in the course of research, stumbled across the little-known fact that during World War II both the British and Americans bugged their POW camps, and transcribed tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of pages of conversations between the inmates. This was done during the War for intelligence purposes, and after the conflict the transcripts were filed away in archives. This resource is a treasure trove for historians and has, and no...more
Michael Flanagan
For me this book ticked all the boxes and was a highly enjoyable read. It takes the time to explain the mind set of Werchmat soldiers and explains how the normalization of violence experienced by any front line troops occurs. A fantastic study into the world during the war and those who fought it. Through the transcripts of German POW's the author pulls apart the social and human aspects of war and soldiers and shows it in a crystal clear perspective. This book should be mandatory reading of any...more
This is the most disturbing book I have ever read, by far.

It consists of the presentation of secretly recorded conversations that occurred between German POWs while they were being held in camps during the war. What these soldiers say, then, presents more clearly than any memoir or later testimony, the way they saw things at the time as they occurred. Neitzel and Welzer, a historian and social psychologist, attempt to analyze these conversations so as to come to grips with how regular soldiers a...more
This book is based on tapes found by a German researcher made by eavesdropping German prisoners of war by the British. Some times just ad hoc discussions but often initiated by spies. The intent was to gather intelligence but the tapes give an insight into the minds of the soldier.

It starts interestingly enough and I was captivated up until maybe half-way. Unfortunately the very dry scientific style added with lots of repetition made the book rather boring to read after that so I actually quit a...more
Matthew Tree
During World War II, the British and Americans bugged the living quarters of several thousand selected German and Italian POWs who they suspected could provide interesting information for the Allied war effort. The protocols or transcripts of these conversations, only recently discovered and released, give an extraordinary insight into the mentality of the soldiers fighting on the Fascist/Nazi side. We discover, among other things, that right from the beginning of the war, German airmen saw Brit...more
I won this book as a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.

I must say it took me quite awhile to finish due to the large amounts of information and analysis. However, I will say that the book gives quite an insight to the minds of the German Nazis during World War II. It comes as no shock what most of the Germans thought of the Jews, but to actually read what some of these soldiers really felt was heart wrenching. I was surprised to read transcripts of officers in high command who followed through with...more
Erik Graff
Nov 15, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, esp. those thinking of enlistment
Recommended to Erik by: Kelly Kingdon
Shelves: psychology
This book, coauthored by an historian and a psychologist, represents an overview of secret recordings made of German POWs during WWII. It is at once a history as well as a psycho-social study of the military mentality during war. While its focus is on German soldiers, its conclusions draw upon hosts of other studies which, together, suggest there is more in common between the forces of belligerant countries than there is difference. While its focus is on combat, the German attempts at genocide a...more
Matti Karjalainen
Sönke Neitzelin ja Harald Welzerin "Sotilaat: taistelemisesta, tappamisesta ja kuolemisesta" (Gummerus, 2011) on kiinnostava tietokirja, jossa käsitellään saksalaisten ja osin myös italialaisten sotavankien näkemyksiä sotilaan elämästä toisen maailmansodan eri rintamilla.

Liittoutuneet keräsivät kirjan käsittelemän aineiston salakuuntelemalla sotavankien - niin tavallisten rivimiesten kuin korkeiden upseerienkin - käymiä keskusteluja, ja saivat näin todennäköisesti haltuunsa sellaista tietoa, jo...more
This is an extraordinary insight into the minds and experiences of German military personnel in the Second World War. Based on a heretofore untapped wealth of material recorded secretly between German prisoners of war (and indeed Italian and Japanese POWs as well - both covered briefly) conversing with each other in British and US POW camps, there is an extraordinary candidacy and immediacy that is not present in other sources; letters, diaries, interviews and memoirs inevitably present a differ...more
M.R. Dowsing
Co-written by a historian and a social psychologist, this book examines recently discovered transcripts of surreptitiously recorded conversations between German prisoners of war during WW2. The prisoners themselves are a fairly mixed bunch; some are highly astute, others incredibly stupid, some critical of the Nazi regime, others fanatical believers. For many of the prisoners, being witness to violent deaths was routine, and this is reflected in the shockingly casual way they talk about killing....more
Brent Venton
Probably a bit too heavy on social psychology (and too scholarly; cf. the Teutonically exhaustive bibliography) to find widespread appeal this is very interesting read nonetheless. The highlight is of course the transcripts of secretly recorded conversations of German POWs captured in WW2. While I have my doubts as to whether the author has not heavily edited these "unfiltered" conversations they are revealing and often chilling. While to hear normal every-day soldiers speak frankly about liquid...more
carl  theaker

Though the title of this book includes the enticing

'The Secret World War 2 transcripts of German POWs'

there are precious few of the actual transcripts included,
perhaps a dozen or two of the 365 pages.

The two German authors, one an historian the other a social
psychologist, typically take a sentence or two from a protocol
(conversation) and examine it in the reference framework (reality)
of the soldiers and explain what they think it all means in the
world of violence, war and the culture of the R...more
Die Autoren haben Abhörprotokolle aus britischen Gefängnissen ausgewertet, in denen im Zweiten Weltkrieg deutsche Soldaten gefangen gehalten wurden. Das Buch ist also sicherlich hochspannend für alle Geschichtsinteressierten. Aber auch Laien bekommen Antworten auf diese ewigen Fragen: "Wie konnten damals nur so viele mitmachen?" "Wie kann es sein, dass es keinen großen Aufstand gegen die Nazis gab?" "Wie konnte es zu den grausamen Kriegsverbrechen kommen?" usw.
Mit dem Buch habe ich mich trotzde...more
During WWII, British and American captors secretly recorded the private conversations of German POWs in the hopes of gleaning valuable intelligence. This book is a translation from the German of some of these conversations.

Revealed therein are the prisoners' attitudes towards war as well as their own personal experiences. Particularly of interest to the authors, one a historian and the other a psychologist, is the fact that contrary to what was stated at the Nuremberg trials, they were well awa...more
This is an excellent book. There is a lot of information that runs counter to a lot of what we commonly believe about the actions of the common German soldier in WWII. The sources of the information, however, are totally believable. There are also examples from more recent conflicts that indicate that German soldiers weren't all that different from soldiers from other countries, and at other times (including the present). My own experience as a soldier backs this up. American soldiers aren't ove...more
Uses candid transcripts successfully to support several arguments, central to which is that the "frame of reference" of war which makes atrocities possible (by socialisation, by creating and maintaining 'norms' of conduct, by individual dissociation) should be recognised as a more important contributor than questions of ideology in relation to WW2 war crimes. The authors' strongest point - that we accept this almost without question in relation to "unacceptable" soldier behaviour all other confl...more
I won this book as part of a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.

It took me a while to get through this book because of the large amount of information, as well as analysis behind it. The details provided by the POWs is very interested. It was a little chilling to see how nonchalantly they shared stories and memories but in the context of war, it really isn't. These were men doing their job. The analysis provided by Neitzel and Welzer is thought provoking. You can tell that the authors didn't just wan...more
What did I think? I can't rate this book because of what the book is about. This book was very difficult for me to read because of the content. This book illustrates the depravity, morbid, disgustingly repugnant, gruesome actions taken by the Germans against Jews, Russians, and civilians during WWII. The personal accounts of German soldiers chillingly describes the sadistic methods and frames of mind while murdering innocent people. Seems that to many Germans murdering Jews and others was more s...more
I read the English translation of this book, which was originally written in German. The basis of this work were previously unknown recordings of the conversations of German WWII POW’s that researcher Neitzel discovered in the British National Archive. Welzer provides a psychological perspective. It is scary how routine the business of war, fighting and killing, was for these POW’s. They looked at war as their job and for the most part believed the Nazi propaganda of German superiority. Some eve...more
Patricia L.
Nov 04, 2012 Patricia L. added it
Shelves: abandoned
I had to abandon this book after reading about 20% of it,

I read some of the German prisoners' remarks about killing sorties and decided I didn't want to read more of their philosphical views about those they killed. Their opinions seem to be a result of a culture of bigotry and bias, much of it through military and cultural brain washing. Sometimes I just cannot read about the filth and evil in this world, past or present. I wanted to try to better understand the mindsets of those murderous Naz...more
-The German soldiers were brainwashed by an extreme ideology, and the inevitable groupthink in the battlefield amplified the cruelties of the soldiers. Killing became a chore for them, living became secondary to the survival of the Reich, and dying became the most honorable thing to do.
-This book is crucial for understanding the minds of the German soldiers. All the memoirs of ex-Nazi's are often watered down for the masses. Only in the uninhibited conversations amongst the POW's can be...more
This is not an easy book to read. It is both shocking and revealing as it discusses the atrocities committed in World War II. I’ve read quite a few books, both fiction and non-fiction, about World War II and have always found it difficult to understand how human beings can treat others with such disregard for their humanity, in fact, at times, even enjoy it. By examining covert surveillance tapes of conversations between German and Italian POWs during WW II, the authors, an historian and a psych...more
Carl Hubbard
This book was full of challenging content. A psychologist's view of conversations covertly recorded between German POW's in camps in England and the US. Having read many books on war and knowing how many prisoners were killed out of hand during battles and the violence visited on unarmed civilians - it was even more depressing to read as a voyeur on a wartime conversation describing these events in detail, recalled by first and second-hand by witnesses of this brutality. Neitzel's viewpoint gave...more
This is much more a scholarly book of history, sociology, and psychology than its title or copy might have you believe. While occasionally disturbing and other timea beyond credulity, this work goes beyond just revealing what memebers of the Wermacht talked about when they thought no one was listening - it opens a door of understanding to the exerience of war and soldiering in general and to how, despite how supposedly evolved and conscious we are in modern society, such awful things have happen...more
Gabriele Goldstone
I couldn't stop reading this book. I kept thinking of my dad (and other family members) - the Luftwaffe pilots, Eastern Front soldiers, POWs. This book has helped fill in some of the blanks. Quite a lot of ground is covered. And it's a book I'm sure I'll refer to back over and over. My favorite quote is on page 337 by Willy Peter Reese: "Just like winter clothing covers up almost all of you except for your eyes, the fact of being a soldier only allowed space for tiny bits of individuality." So g...more
TK Larsen
A very disturbing, but important book - Kelley was right!!
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“In World War II, some Japanese soldiers preferred to take their own lives rather become prisoners of war. In Saipan hundreds of civilians jumped to their deaths over cliffs in order to avoid falling into American hands. Even in life-or-death situations cultural ties and duties often outweigh the instinct for survival. This is why people die in the attempt to rescue a dog from drowning, or decide to become suicide bombers.” 2 likes
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