A trove of previously unpublished, transcribed conversations among German POWs — secretly recorded by the Allies — reveals the extent of their brutality, and changes our understanding of the mindset of the German soldier during World War II.
On a visit to the British National Archives in 2001, Sönke Neitzel made a remarkable discovery: reams of meticulously transcribed conversations among German POWs that had been covertly recorded and recently declassified. Neitzel would later find another collection of transcriptions, twice as extensive, in the National Archives in Washington, DC.
These discoveries provide a unique and profoundly important window into the true mentality of the soldiers in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the German navy, and the military in general — almost all of whom insisted on their own honourable behaviour during the war.
Collaborating with renowned social psychologist Harald Welzer, Neitzel examines these conversations — and the casual, pitiless brutality omnipresent in them — from a historical and psychological perspective. In reconstructing the frameworks and situations behind these conversations, Neitzel and Welzer have created a powerful narrative of wartime experience.
'Deftly translated by Jefferson Chase, these transcripts constitute an invaluable historical document precisely because the prisoners did not know that they would become a "source". Unlike memoirs, interviews or legal records, there is no personal agenda, nor are these conversations prejudiced by the kinds of ex post facto knowledge that can distort retrospective discussions. Instead, they offer "live" commentary on how the war was unfolding from the German perspective ... insightful and largely persuasive... this book presents an unprecedented source for understanding the ability to massacre.'
Ben Hutchinson, The Guardian
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'Soldaten provides an essential documentary record; seldom has surveillance been put to such important use.'
Ian Thomson, The Guardian
'A remarkable and incontrovertible insight into the mind of the ordinary German soldier.'
These extraordinary bugged conversations reveal through the eyes of German soldiers with stark clarity and candour the often brutal reality of the Second World War, providing remarkable insight into the mentality and behavior of the Wehrmacht.
Sir Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler: A Biography