Item description for AT LENINGRAD'S GATES: The Combat Memoirs of a Soldier with Army Group North by William Lubbeck & David B. Hurt...
This is the remarkable story of a German soldier who fought throughout World War II, rising from conscript private to captain of a heavy weapons company on the Eastern Front.William Lubbeck, age 19, was drafted into the Wehrmacht in August 1939. As a member of the 58th Infantry Division, he received his baptism of fire during the 1940 invasion of France. The following spring his division served on the left flank of Army Group North in Operation Barbarossa. After grueling marches admidst countless Russian bodies, burnt-out vehicles, and a great number of cheering Baltic civilians, Lubbeck's unit entered the outskirts of Leningrad, making the deepest penetration of any German formation. The Germans suffered brutal hardships the following winter as they fought both Russian counterattacks and the brutal cold. The 58th Division was thrown back and forth across the front of Army Group North, from Novgorod to Demyansk, at one point fighting back Russian attacks on the ice of Lake Ilmen. Returning to the outskirts of Leningrad, the 58th was placed in support of the Spanish "Blue" Division. Relations between the allied formations soured at one point when the Spaniards used a Russian bath house for target practice, not realizing that Germans were relaxing inside. A soldier who preferred to be close to the action, Lubbeck served as forward observer for his company, dueling with Russian snipers, partisans and full-scale assaults alike. His worries were not confined to his own safety, however, as news arrived of disasters in Germany, including the destruction of Hamburg where his girlfriend served as an Army nurse. In September 1943, Lubbeck earned the Iron Cross First Class and was assigned to officers' training school in Dresden. By the time he returned to Russia, Army Group North was in full-scale retreat. Now commanding his former heavy weapons company, Lubbeck alternated sharp counterattacks with inexorable withdrawal, from Riga to Memel on the Baltic. In April 1945 Lubbeck's company became stalled in a traffic jam and was nearly obliterated by a Russian barrage followed by air attacks. In the last chaotic scramble from East Prussia, Lubbeck was able to evacuate on a newly minted German destroyer. He recounts how the ship arrived in the British zone off Denmark with all guns blazing against pursuing Russians. The following morning, May 8, 1945, he learned that the war was over.After his release from British captivity, Lubbeck married his sweetheart, Anneliese, and in 1949 immigrated to the United States where he raised a successful family. With the assistance of David B. Hurt, he has drawn on his wartime notes and letters, Soldatbuch, regimental history and personal memories to recount his four years of frontline experience. Containing rare firsthand accounts of both triumph and disaster, At Leningrad's Gates provides a fascinating glimpse into the reality of combat on the Eastern Front. REVIEWS "...a well-wrought ground level view of daily life in hell."WWII Magazine No 3, 06/2007"... compiled with attention to details. The reader will feel as though he is alongside Lubbeck as he calls fire missions on the enemy during his three years of service."Military Trader 11/2007
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Reviews - What do customers think about AT LENINGRAD'S GATES: The Combat Memoirs of a Soldier with Army Group North?
A rewarding first hand account of the war and the years after May 13, 2008
I found this book to be a very warm recollection of terrible times. As a reader I felt I had shared in Lubbeck's experience. His story is told at a late age so it is interesting to see what memories stand out, I also followed his post war life with interest, both because Lubbeck comes out as a likeable man and because post war Germany was a troubled land in dark times, the war was over but the hardships were not.
Lubbeck served with the 58th Infantry Division in Army Group North on the Eastern Front. His is the tale of a ambitious infantry soldier that was promoted to an officer in the crucible of war. The story provides a satisfactory explanation as to why German soldiers fought in 1944 and 1945, it also tells less glamorous stories of lice and dirt and how soldiers travelling home changed trains on the border and deloused before going further. This is also a story of an infantry man, who didn't ride a Tiger and walked into Russia while the baggage train and artillery were drawn by horses and R&R was a good bath and latrine.
It is the humanity of the story and the personality of William Lubbeck that stand out in the story. There is also a love story between Lubbeck and his future wife Annelise, their relationship while he was at the front, his worries about her during the allied bombings and her uncertainty of his fate at the front.
All in all a rewarding book.
A civilian turned into a soldier and back Mar 27, 2008
This in a nice firsthand account of combat in World War II form the German perspective. It is the humanity of the story and the personality of William Lubbeck that stand out in the story, which is told at a late age. Lubbeck served with the 58th Infantry Division in the Western Campaign of 1940 and in the Army Group North on the Eastern Front. His is the tale of a ambitious infantry soldier that was promoted to an officer in the crucible of war. The story provides a satisfactory explanation as to why German soldiers fought in 1944 and 1945 as they did. It also tells less glamorous stories of lice and dirt and how soldiers travelling home changed trains on the border and deloused before going further. This is also a story of an infantry man, who didn't ride a Tiger and walked into Russia while the baggage train and artillery were drawn by horses and the only pleasure and recreation was a good bath and a latrine. There is also a love story between Lubbeck and his future wife Annelise, their relationship while he was at the front, his worries about her during the allied bombings and her uncertainty of his fate at the front. I appreciated also his detailed descriptions of life at the front and the remarkable sequence of events that enabled him to survive the last few weeks of the war. The section describing life in East Germany right after the war, including a close encounter with a Soviet patrol, was also interesting. As an aside, I was impressed by the number of personal wartime photographs included with the narrative. They're helpful in visualizing the situation within Lubbeck's unit. I have read several good memoirs of the Russian Front, but Lubbeck's stands out as truly remarkable. His account of his experiences was refreshingly candid and provided great insight into the horrors suffered on both sides of the line. I recommend this book.
Interesting War Memoir from the German Viewpoint Feb 25, 2008
The best war memoirs, such as Charles MacDonald's Company Commander, are written as soon after the events described as possible and focus on what the author personally observed. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency of late to peddle World War Two memoirs before the last of these vets pass on and we have men in their mid-80s trying to piece together events that happened over 60 years ago. William Lubbeck, a former German officer who became a US citizen in 1961, provides readers with an account of his life and wartime activities which is interesting, but rather vapid at times. Instead of an in-depth portrait of life at the front, with crisp details, one senses that the co-author was struggling to pry details out of Lubbeck and had to settle for anecdotes. Readers who are interested in the author's participation in the siege of Leningrad will learn a few things, but will be disappointed to see that despite the title, only about one quarter of the book concerns operations around that city. As German war memoirs go, this one has nothing on Ernst Junger's classic from the First World War or Guy Sajer, but it is interesting to see things from the point of view who started the war as a private and ended it as a captain. Unfortunately, much of the historical value of this book is undermined by the author's over-focus on maintaining contact with his fiancée during the war - while certainly of high interest to him personally at the time, it detracts from his front-line narrative.
The books first three chapters focus on the author's childhood on a farm in central Germany, the depression and the beginning of Nazi rule. In August 1939, the author was drafted into the Wehrmacht and he saw his first action in France in 1940. For the rest of the war, the author served on the Russian Front in the 13th Company (Heavy Weapons) of the 154th Infantry Regiment, 58th Infantry Division. Initially serving in the signal platoon, the author gradually shifted to being a forward observer in late 1941 and was sent back to Germany for officer training in December 1943. In May 1944, the author returned to his old company as its commander and fought with it across the Baltic States to the port of Memel. Unusually, the author succeeded in escaping from the advancing Red Army by German destroyer and surrendered to the British in Copenhagen. The last 50 pages of the book's 250 concern the author's post-war life in Germany, Canada and the US. There are about 20 photos in the center of the book which are quite good.
One notes reading this book that the author was possessed of the foolishness of young soldiers but that he was also quite lucky. I cringed when I read that he brought home to his family in Germany a 75-mm `dud' shell that had landed next to him (apparently, the Wehrmacht didn't teach much safety) and he liked to wander around the front-lines at night looking for `action.' Lubbeck was wounded four times during 1940-45 but each time it was a minor injury (`RTD' in modern parlance) that didn't require hospitalization. This was very lucky for a German soldier on the Eastern Front and doubly lucky not to be captured by the Soviets.
Throughout this book, the author is making a pitch for `good, patriotic Germans' who fought for their country but opposed Hitler and the Nazis. He also claims that his family was `persecuted' by the local Nazis for their political views. These claims seem dubious. Von Stauffenberg opposed Hitler, as did Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen, but the author's opposition to the Nazis doesn't appear based upon any overt act. Indeed, late in the book he admits one uncle was a Nazi official and that his fiancée had a framed picture of Hitler in her room. Instead, like most Germans, the author probably supported the Nazis (he sort of admits this in the early chapters) when they were building up Germany but became disenchanted when the war turned sour. Nowadays, it's important for German veterans to remind their American readers that they were against the regime and just `doing their job.' Unfortunately, the author never mentions that something like 1 million Soviet citizens died in Leningrad due to starvation and artillery bombardment, of which he was a part. Not one word about the magnitude of suffering inflicted upon the Soviet people. Instead, the author seems to accept the `stab in the back' theory of 1918, that the Treaty of Versailles was a terrible injustice (forgetting about Germany's equally harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk inflicted on Russia) and that the Bolsheviks were a sub-human menace that needed to be stopped before they threatened Western Europe. Opposed Hitler? It's clear that the author swallowed Nazi propaganda hook, line and sinker and has still not come to terms with what he was part of. At one part, he claims that some German soldiers `may have' committed crimes in Russia, but most of the atrocities were done by `racist fanatics.' Right. Just go look at the captured German records in the National Archives and it quickly becomes apparent that Wehrmacht troops were involved in massacres in the USSR, right alongside SS troops. Interestingly, the author never mentions any SS troops in this book, even though they were serving in this sector.
I found the last chapters on the author's successful career in the US as an engineer particularly vapid. I kept wondering when he was going to have the self-realization to ask, `did I deserve this success?' but he never does. So, poor Ira Hayes, who helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima dies in a pool of vomit in a pigsty and Audie Murphy came home as a homeless person, while a former German officer who participated in one of the most brutal sieges in history comes over here and lives the "American Dream."
Some Great Stuff but Not the Best Ever Jan 24, 2008
Easily the best WWII biography ever is The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer (even if it is partly fictionalized as some speculate). That book is the standard by which all other war biographies are measured. I found the most compelling chapters to be the defense of Memel on the Baltic coast and Sajer's subsequent evacuation to Germany.
Fans of the Forgotten Soldier will definitely want to read this book as well. Lubbeck also ends up in the defense of Memel and is finally evacuated from the Baltic coast on one of the last ships to leave before the end of the war. Lubbeck's experiences are not nearly so harrowing as Sajer's and are not described in such detail but it is very interesting to get a second perspective on that part of the war which is not widely documented.
The book is well-written (unlike most German soldier memoirs, it has an American historian as coauthor) and includes good maps. Lubbeck is very precise about dates and locations of battles. The book includes a decent number of pictures of Lubbeck himself at various points in the war. As a forward observer and artillery officer, anyone interested in those aspects of warfare will find the book interesting. Also, unlike Sajer, Lubbeck describes in detail his life before the war including the Great Depression and during the rise of Nazism. And he describes life after the war as his family was split by the division of Germany into East and West and his eventual emigration to the United States and life after the war. To the backdrop of the war is his love affair with his future wife. Regardless of all the positives, I just didn't find the storytelling that compelling. In spite of fighting in France in 1940 and in Russia from 1941 to 1945, Lubbeck spends little time on the front line (which of course is probably why he is still alive to write the book). Written over fifty years after the fact, there was a lack of detail.
I give the book three stars not because it is bad, but because my standard is high. Of the war biographies I have read, this one ranks in the middle. I am the kind of person that will read almost any war biography. This one was certainly worth the price. I put Leningrad's Gates in the second tier of war biographies behind Sajer and others like Panzer Commander.
Among the best!! Dec 31, 2007
Herr Luebecke's account reveals the average patriotic Germans account of his youth and his being drafted into the Wermacht.Outstanding read, highly recommend this book to any one looking for firsthand accounts from the German point of view