The Forgotten Soldier
By Author: Guy Sajer
- ISBN-10: 1574882864
- ISBN-13: 978-1574882865
I first read The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer, over thirty years ago, and the horrific and brutal depictions of battle, suffering, and death experienced by the German soldier on the Eastern Front in World War II, still remain with me today.
While there has been controversy over the authenticity of Sajer's account, and even if Sajer was an actual soldier in the Gross Deutschland Division, there is no mistaking that the author has captured the raw psychological and physical toll that combat extracts from a human being.
There are also glimpses of beauty found here. The Russian steppe covered with flowers on a warm summer day. Sajer's romance of Paula while on leave in Berlin and the forming of friendship among fellow comrades. But the beauty is intermixed with the horror of war. Tank treads running over and crushing soldiers into bloody pulp. Men being blown to bits and crying like scared children, huddled in a trench.
There are also senses of both heroism and despair, like this memorable account of a German rear guard action at Memel during the closing days on the Eastern Front:
"A dozen dirty-gray tanks went out to meet an inexorable fate. The black crosses painted on their grey sides, the color of our misery, were scarcely visible. Inside the turrets, the Ride of the Valkyrie was coming over the short-wave radios - a fitting accompaniment to supreme sacrifice. Decrepit trucks carry field pieces and heavy machine guns followed close behind, replacing the full-track caissons of Panzergrenadiers of our prosperous days. A mass of infantry, mixed with the remnants of naval and aerial groups, ran along beside the motorized material. My group, in which, to my joy, I recognized the faces of Hals and Weiner, were clinging to the exposed chassis of an automobile which had been stripped of its skin."
The Forgotten Soldier, thanks to this extraordinary account by Guy Sajer, will never be truly forgotten. Sajer pleads for the common foot soldier and for understanding that men who fought on the losing side of a war, in the end, are simply human beings themselves, trying to make sense out of the chaos of war and to survive. A "must read" for all persons interested in World War II biographical novels.
Regards, Mike / "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week." - George S. Patton /