Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

The Holocaust: From a Survivor of Verdun.


Paul Hederer

Recommended Posts

The Holocaust: From a Survivor of Verdun. William Hermanns. 140pp. Non-fiction. Out-of-print, available used at Amazon, etc.

The recent discussion of Ernst Junger's works prompted me to add this book, what I feel is one of the best narratives from the German side, to the forum.

The book relates the experiences of Hermanns, a young German infantryman, from his joining the army until his capture by the French at Verdun.

The the book vividly relates the horrors of Verdun as seen through the eyes of a young man who joined the army with dreams of "winning a chest full of medals to impress the girl back home."

It's been some time since I've read this book, but I can still recall his descriptions of the effects of being under fire from huge caliber guns, and being trapped underground like a rat in the "M-Werk."

Well worth a read, and can be found used for between 12-20$.

Paul Hederer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would also like to order a copy. I had no luck at all finding it on Amazon. Where did you order yours from RObert?

Robbie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Robert. I have now also ordered a copy. Will look forward to everyone's views of this book.

Robbie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Paul

Thanks for this lead. It is a translation of a German war book of which I was unaware until today. It makes number 110 in my bibliographys of German language novels personal accounts and diaries published in English since 1915 by those other than "the brass".

Regards

David

Link to comment
Share on other sites

David,

I hope you (all) enjoy it. It's funny, it seems to just fallen off the face of the planet. I first read it many years ago, and then only found a copy again recently. I remember searching a few years back for a copy on-line and coming up empty handed.

I don't think it's had many print runs.

Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi all,

Just received the copy I ordered from Abebooks. From order to delivery from NY it took only 5 days. Amazing, probably faster than Royal Mail. :o

Robbie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Hello,

I'm curious if any of you have had time to finish the book, and what you thought? I just read it again this weekend, and found it as good as the first time, quite a few years back.

Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have read it, and it is worthwhile, particularly so because of the very few translations of German war books which cover Verdun. Hermanns was there in October 16 at the time of the retaking of Douaumont. It also one of the few translations in which a German soldier really expresses resentment of war and the the brass. It also lacks any literary artifce and offers a genuine description of horror, corruption and the spiritual desolation of war - particularly Verdun.

Although other writers touch on the aspect of resentment, Hermanns is unusual in expressing his views so strongly, the more so since he was a one year volunteer, and thus an officer candidate. For information he left Germany in 34, moving to the US, bexcoming a respected academic. The book was not published in the UK.

regrads

David

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi everyone, I just finished reading this book and I have to say that I think it was an excellant description of trench warfare during those four particular days in October of 1916. My only complaint would be I wish it was longer. However it is a relatively cheap purchase and I highly recommend it. The book feels almost exactly the opposite of The Storm of Steel By: Ernst Junger as Hermanns is very despondent of his circumstances. It is priceless as it is a description of the battle of Verdun from the perspective of a German private. Hope you all enjoy it. Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello,

Makes me happy to see others have enjoyed this great book. It's a bit of a "lost treasure," in my opinion, and out of print for a long time.

Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I have just finished the book today. It offers some excellent insights into the training of German soldiers as well. I also thought the influence of German propaganda before the war was an intriging facet of the book. Following on from recent discussions on attrition, it was noteworthy that Hermanns knew from newspaper clippings from his Aunt, as well as briefings, that Verdun was an attritional battle.

Hermanns seems to have driven some of his colleagues to distraction. He found it hard to participate in the fighting, opting out on several occasions. Having recently read Richard Holme's book 'Acts of War', which emphasized the importance of small group cohesion, it is not a wonder that Hermanns was regarded with suspicion and almost contempt at times. As mentioned above, quite a contrast to Ernst Junger. It seems that his background as a Rhinelander distinguished him from the Prussians. There is evidence of the racist attitudes in the German Army towards Polish and Alsatian soldiers as well.

I had hoped that there would be more details about combat operations. Hermanns was assigned to a heavy machine gun company (67th Regiment). There is a dearth of first-hand accounts about this arm. Still an interesting book.

Robert

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Robert,

Good observations. I remember when I first read the book, oh my, about 20 years ago (in the flower of my youth :D ) I felt a bit disgusted with Hermanns myself.

Looking at him now, in the light 20 years of military service myself, I can appreciate him for his value, while realizing he is the type of person who makes a poor soldier. I always remember the passage where he slowly falls behind his comrades while moving to the front, and then throws away the ammunition for his M.G. section--Hermanns was no prize as a squad member. I think his superiors were probably right on the mark in derailing his path to a commission--he had the education and the background to be an officer, but not the attitude nor the discipline.

It's interesting that you mention him as a Rheinlander. My wife is a Rheinlanderin, and she'll tell you they have a "touch of the French," which she means in the most positive of lights--in matters of culture and freedom of expression, etc. Pass from one Rhein-side to the other and the contrast is definite--we often compare Mainz to Wiesbaden, seperated by a few kilometers and "papa" Rhein.

Overall I think "The Holocaust," well worth reading for, as you mentioned, the insight into training (almost exactly what Remarque related) and for the different insight it gives into the mind of one German soldier. Hermanns balances the likes of "iron youth of the trenches," Junger who falls at the other end of the spectrum.

Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's interesting that you mention him as a Rheinlander. My wife is a Rheinlanderin, and she'll tell you they have a "touch of the French," which she means in the most positive of lights--in matters of culture and freedom of expression, etc.

Paul

This is very interesting. I can see this reflected in the Hermanns' forthright nature. Thanks for this insight.

Robert

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

I am selling a copy of this book which is in good condition with a well preserved jacket. I am moving to a smaller house and cannot fit all my books into it.

Robbie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...

Thanks for all the oppinions about this book. I hadn't heard of this one before untill now, and now I'm looking for a copy!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Robert,

Good observations. I remember when I first read the book, oh my, about 20 years ago (in the flower of my youth :D ) I felt a bit disgusted with Hermanns myself.

Looking at him now, in the light 20 years of military service myself, I can appreciate him for his value, while realizing he is the type of person who makes a poor soldier. I always remember the passage where he slowly falls behind his comrades while moving to the front, and then throws away the ammunition for his M.G. section--Hermanns was no prize as a squad member. I think his superiors were probably right on the mark in derailing his path to a commission--he had the education and the background to be an officer, but not the attitude nor the discipline.

It's interesting that you mention him as a Rheinlander. My wife is a Rheinlanderin, and she'll tell you they have a "touch of the French," which she means in the most positive of lights--in matters of culture and freedom of expression, etc. Pass from one Rhein-side to the other and the contrast is definite--we often compare Mainz to Wiesbaden, seperated by a few kilometers and "papa" Rhein.

Overall I think "The Holocaust," well worth reading for, as you mentioned, the insight into training (almost exactly what Remarque related) and for the different insight it gives into the mind of one German soldier. Hermanns balances the likes of "iron youth of the trenches," Junger who falls at the other end of the spectrum.

Paul

Well, of course, much of the Rhineland was Celtic territory not Germanic. The city name Trier comes from the Celtic Treveri.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...