In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier's Memoir of the Eastern Front (Modern War Studies)
Gottlob Bidermann served in World War II between 1941 and 1945, and his memoir of those years captures his gruelling experiences with an army marching on the road to ruin. The account conveys the brutality and horrors of the Eastern Front in great detail. Wounded five times and awarded numerous decorations for valour, Bidermann saw action in the Crimea and siege of Sebastapol, participated in the vicious battles in the forests south of Leningrad, and ended the war trapped in the Courland Pocket. He shares his impressions of countless Russian POWs, seen at the outset of his service, of peasants struggling to survive the hostilities while caught between two ruthless antagonists, and of corpses littering the landscape. He recalls a Christmas gift of gingerbread from home that overcame the stench of battle, an Easter celebrated with a basket of Russian hand grenades for eggs, and his miraculous survival of machine gun fire at close range. In closing he relives the humiliation of surrender to an enemy whom the Germans had once derided and offers a sobering glimpse into life in the Soviet gulags. Bidermann's account also debunks the myth of a highly mechanized German army that rolled over weaker opponents with impunity. Despite the vast expanses of territory captured by the Germans during the early months of Operation Barbarossa, the war with Russia remained tenuous and unforgiving.