Item description for Through Hell for Hitler by Henry Metelmann...
Now Available in paperback for the first time.
Here is the extraordinary story of one man's war. This book portrays the gradual awakening in the mind of a young Hitler Youth 'educated' soldier of a Panzer Division, bogged down in the bitterest fighting on the Eastern Front, to the truth of the criminal character of what he is involved in.
Having in mind that about 9 out of 10 German soldiers who died in WWII were killed in Russia, the book throws light on the largely unreported heroic sacrifices of Soviet soldiers and civilians often against seemingly hopeless odds, without which Europe might well have fallen to fascism. It deals less with grand strategies, tactics and military technicalities than with the human involvement of ordinary people, from both sides, who were caught up in that enormity of a tragedy, that epic struggle in Russia.
It throws light on the chasm which existed between officers and men in the sharply class-divided Wehrmacht with most of the top rank officers having been drawn from the old imperial aristocracy.
Promise Angels is dedicated to bringing you great books at great prices. Whether you read for entertainment, to learn, or for literacy - you will find what you want at promiseangels.com!
Reviews - What do customers think about Through Hell for Hitler?
The author is a communist Sep 7, 2007
I did some research on the author after reading this book and discovered the following:
He was a member of the British Communist Party until it was disbanded in 1991.
He is a life long socialist and continues to give interviews to far left and socialist periodicals.
He has given lectures and speeches to students and to groups like the "Stalin Society"-Who think Stalin was a great guy and a hero.
He has marched in numerous anti-capitalist, anti-American, and anti-war demonstrations.
I searched for any veterans that could verify his account or that he was even a soldier in the unit he claims to have served in.
According to his writings, the author was a petty criminal and coward. Having served in war, I cannot relate to this man. His chief attribute seems to be indifference, which to me seems worse than fanaticism. I must conclude the author then committed his alleged actions out of self interest rather than out of ideology, comradeship, or duty.
I don't believe a thing in this book and view it as a work of fiction. I surmise that the author was perhaps a rear echelon or support soldier in reality. I would give this book no stars if I could.
A Curious War Memoir by an Anti-militarist Jun 7, 2007
Henry Metelmann was interviewed in the 1970s for the BBC series "The World at War," and I was taken aback by his almost offhand reference in that interview to the Wehrmacht committing atrocities while in retreat on the Russian Front. It was known that atrocities were committed, but Metelmann's matter-of-fact statement was astonishing in that it was made at a time when very little was being said at all by rank-and-file German soldiers. I purchased this book to try to learn and to understand more about this soldier whose attitude is, perhaps, not typical.
It is important to understand that this book was written at the request of Metelmann's children approximately 40 years after the war. What might have been emphasized had Metelmann written this sooner may have been lost with the passage of time and introspection. Thus, the book is more of an internal, psychological monologue (compiled many decades after the event by an anti-militarist) than any sort of "historical" account. It should be read in that light though I agree that for the military historian the lack of detail is sometimes irritating.
Previous reviewers raise a number of valid criticisms about this book. The most glaring deficiency is the lack of any account of the period from the Spring of 1943 until 1945. Many reviewers are also put-off by Metelmann's perceived "coldness" towards dead or wounded fellow soldiers.
But not everyone can be a Eugene Sledge ("With the Old Breed"), a Charles MacDonald ("Company Commander") or a Guy Sager ("Forgotten Soldier"). There is more to military life than being part of a Band of Brothers. Just as there are all sorts of personalities in civilian life, there are all sorts in military life as well. It jars when a "war memoir," doesn't follow the expected "form," but perhaps therein is some value.
I do believe that Metelmann was a member of the 22nd Panzer Division. That he clearly has a selective memory about the war in Russia is undeniable, but perhaps there is much that Metelmann does not care to dwell on beyond giving his children a summary and a moral lesson.
For the limited purpose of seeing the war on the Eastern Front through the eyes of a common, though perhaps not typical, German soldier, this book is worth reading.
A Soldier With a Conscience Jan 21, 2007
Here's the memoir of a 19-year-old kid conscripted to fight in Hitler's brutal war in Russia. While imbued with the Nazi ethic of German racial superiority and Germany's world-conquering destiny, Henry Metelmann is a doubter and, as related in this book, turns out far different than the ideal Nazi killing machine. Traveling to join German forces in Russia, he alerts you: "After all I was not yet twenty years old, I wanted to live, not die." And as the German armies storm into the Soviet heartland (Metelmann was a tank driver and fought in the Crimean and Stalingrad campaigns with the 22nd Panzer Division), the carnage he witnesses and participates in serve to solidify his doubts as he questions why Germany is brutalizing the Russian people. The subsequent German reverses on the battlefield make him and his comrades cynical about the validity of German reasons for making war on Russia.
What sets this book apart is the author's questioning of the German soldier's mission to "fulfill their sacred duty to our Fuehrer and Fatherland" and his guilt over the part he in played in that crime. Metelmann is honest and recounts German atrocities he witnessed, such as German soldiers executing captured Russian soldiers who were Soviet commissars (Hitler's infamous "Kommissar Befehl"); the SS rounding up intellectuals in a sports stadium - most likely for execution - when the Russian city, Rostov, fell to their forces; burning down peasant huts and thus forcing the elderly, women and children out into sub-zero conditions (Hitler's scorched-earth policy) while German forces were in retreat and other incidents of wanton destruction perpetrated among the civilian population as "revenge" for the humiliating defeat at Stalingrad.
Other items of interest included his relating the innate dislike of many of the common soldiers of the pretensions of the German officer class (along with this Metelmann relates an incident of one of his comrade's "fragging" one officer who kept needlessly risking their lives on foolhardy missions). Also to be appreciated are his vivid descriptions of the vast Russian countryside in both winter and summer and his attempts at getting close to Russian peasants he comes into contact with.
After the war's end and two years as an American and British prisoner-of-war, Metelmann asks himself: "In me was a great feeling of guilt, but also anger, frustration and disappointment. How was I to come to terms with all that?"
In the end, he provides an epitaph of sorts that answers his question.
Perhaps the most uneven book I've ever read from a German Soldier Jul 18, 2006
This reviewer has read several WWII books from German Soldiers. I've read this book and can't figure out if it's real or not. I'm like some of the other reviewers and think it's sort of real. However, there is quite a bit of mis-information that you can't tell what's real and what is a lie.
Now, you'll see a picture of the author wearing a M36 Heer (Army) uniform. The German Army stopped giving them out after 1939 when they were replaced by the M40 uniform. How did he end up in Russia in 1942 in an M36? By then all the German Army had was the M40 uniform.
The Author says he drives a Panzer III. But we don't see any picures of that nor or much fighting with the tank. Instead he is assigned to a half track and spends his time pulling around a 50 mm anti-tank cannon (PAK).
The Author is abandoned in a Russian village with an Panzer III at about the time of the major fighting of Stalingrad. He ditches his uniform, lives with the Ukranians, and the tank is allowed to rust in a field. It sounds like he was told to drive a tank some place and it "just broke down". When he and the tank is found the authorities must have figured he was not worth it. By that time in the war everybody was need, even a screw off.
By the author's own words he is caught stealing from an army food supply truck. Also, when coupled with several other incidents, it becomes clear the author may have been a "barracks thief", a person of low character in any army.
I do not like this book. The author seems like a petty criminal who just happens to be in events larger than himself. It's kind of like reading the exploits of a pick-pocket on the Titanic who was lucky enough to live.
I speculate this soldier was in jail for some years over some crime. He then is set free and has to be watched closely by his superiors and fellow soldiers. That explains his dislike of officers and inability to remember anybody he served with. You can't cross reference his story with other characters.
If you're going to read any books on the individual soldier then read either "A Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer or "The Good Soldier" by Alfred Novotny. "Forgotten" goes into great detail on everything; "Good" is one of the best because it's a short and an easy-to-read book. This review likes easy.
This book is two stars. And it didn't earn them.
A Different Perspective Sep 23, 2005
As with other reviewers, I will agree that this is certainly not equivalent to the Forgotten Soldier, which is a book heads and shoulders above nearly all other German memoirs of combat on the Russian Front.
But we should take into account that the Forgotten Soldier deals largely with the GrossDeutschland Division, which was possibly the best regular army unit on either front. Henry Mettelmann served in the truly sad sack 22nd Panzer Division, which after its first tentative combat in the Crimea was pulled back by Manstein for more training. Even after its training it performed in a fairly lackluster manner and ultimately suffered casulaties equal to its inept performance. Therefore, the reader should not be too surprised at the author's lack of interest in the vehicles he drove (which I admit is maddening for any history buff). Metelmann's focus is much more on his own personal feelings of the struggle and his own effort to atone for having served the Third Reich.
I found the book very interesting and certainly in every war there are the Metelmanns. These are men who find themselves in a war to which they are pretty much indifferent. I found it shocking that after essentially abandoning a truckload of wounded comrades, he decides to take a break and roll around naked in the warm summer grass. How different from the Forgotten Soldier, where Guy Sager spends a lonely drive as his friend slowly dies from a hideous facial wound.
But hey, this is Metelmann's story and it is a fascinating one. Sure, it's more fun to follow the exploits of someone dedicated to their cause, no matter how right or wrong, but Metelmann is just not that guy. Yeah, he drank the Nazi punch and quickly spit it right back out. Some reviewers felt he was celebrating a sort of Marxist agenda. I think really, he is looking back and feeling huge regret for his part in the invasion of Russia.
In the end, I felt like Metelmann needed a way to sort out his experiences in a way that would help him atone for if nothing else...the admonishment of a Soviet woman cradling her dying 12 year old daughter. I am certain that for any of us that would be a tremendously burdensome memory. Of course they are those readers who might (as his comrades did) admonish him for not returning with the apples.
For those who seek an exaltation of war, this ain't the book. For those of us who share Metelmann's cynical view of nationalism and false patriotism that results in needless human suffering...this is the book for you.
And in the current political climate, it might just be timely.