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Remembered Today:

Scorched Earth: The Germans on the Somme


Halder

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A very worthy companion to Jack Sheldon's masterful volume is coming out from P&S this spring (I stumbled across it searching for something else).

It's a series of essays from some first-rate German historians (and one English-language one). I picked up the original German edition a couple of years ago and wasn't disappointed.

Die Deutschen an der Somme 1914-1918

And in translation:

Scorched Earth: The Germans on the Somme

It's a must have for anyone seriously interested in studying the Somme battles.

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A very worthy companion to Jack Sheldon's masterful volume is coming out from P&S this spring (I stumbled across it searching for something else).

It's a series of essays from some first-rate German historians (and one English-language one). I picked up the original German edition a couple of years ago and wasn't disappointed.

Die Deutschen an der Somme 1914-1918

And in translation:

Scorched Earth: The Germans on the Somme

It's a must have for anyone seriously interested in studying the Somme battles.

Give us a quick summary, please.

What's the theme, and why the allusion to scorched earth?

How recent is the scholarship, and is it primary source stuff?

To my mind, Jack Sheldon's the Bible on this topic....it would be great to see how this compares.

Phil.

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Give us a quick summary, please.

What's the theme, and why the allusion to scorched earth?

How recent is the scholarship, and is it primary source stuff?

To my mind, Jack Sheldon's the Bible on this topic....it would be great to see how this compares.

Phil.

How recent is the scholarship? 2005-06.

Principally, it's less about the essays (which are mostly quite brief) than page after page of first-hand accounts - not for the most part post-war accounts but contemporary letters and diaries. Very very few, if any, have appeared in English before. There's a final chapter on the impact of the Somme on German literature (e.g. Jünger).

The scorched earth in the title actually refers to 1917 and the retreat from the Somme (Verbrannte Erde is in the German title, although it's a sub-heading, not the main title).

How does it compare to Jack's Bible? It's a companion volume. It won't usurp it, but it does sit very nicely alongside it. ^_^

Jack, I'm sure, will be able to provide a much better view of the book; I'm more of a Wehrmacht man myself.

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For its rarity value alone, the appearance of this book is to be welcomed. The essays it contains are edited by a team comprising Gerhard Hirschfeld, Gerd Krumeich and Irina Renz. All three are historians of good standing, who have also cooperated on Keiner Fuehlt sich mehr als Mensch (1999), which is a study, based largely on personal letters and accounts, of the effect on the individual of the experience of the First World War. They also jointly edited the Enzyklopaedie Erster Weltkrieg (2004). Of the three, Krumeich is best known for his work on the First World War and the period leading up to it. He is a particular expert on French aspects of the story. Hirschfeld is more associated with work on the Nazi period, genocide and collaboration.

The book has seven sections:

1. The Road to the Somme: German Warmaking 1914 - 1916

2. The German Occupation of Northern France

3. The Battle of the Somme 1916 (Essay by Hirschfeld)

4. Withdrawal and Destruction 1917

5. Return to the Somme 1918

6. German Memories of the Somme (Essay by Krumeich)

7. Museums and Places of Remembrance on the Somme

Each of these sections has a lead essay and several supplementary documents such as diary entries, letters or accounts written later. It is not a definitive history of the various battles of the Somme. Anglophone readers, used to the highly developed historiography of the Somme in English will find some of it 'Lesson 1' in terms of its content. Nevertheless the book contains much that will be new to most readers and it is also interesting as a primer to the sort of subjects and approach favoured by German historians. It is definitely worth a look.

Jack

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