18 September 2012

Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing and Dying - The Secret Second World War Tapes of German POWs

In November 2001, as the world still reeled from the attack on the Twin Towers, German historian Sonke Neitzel discovered an extraordinary cache of documents from the Second World War in the British National Archives, held at Kew.

The documents were the transcripts of German prisoners of war talking among themselves in prisoner of war camps, and secretly recorded by the allies. In these apparently private conversations the soldiers talked freely and openly about their hopes and fears, their concerns and their day-to-day lives. With a banality and ease which to the modern reader can appear shocking, they also talked about the horrors of war -- about rape, death and killing.

Sonke Neitzel shared the material with renowned and bestselling psychologist Harald Wezler and they set about trying to make sense of the vast piles of documents, the hours of transcripts. The result is Soldaten, a landmark book which will change the way we look at soldiers and war, and is as relevant to our modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as it was to the soldiers of the German Army in 1945. Published to huge acclaim and controversy in Germany it was a number one bestseller there and reignited the debate about the banality of evil under the Nazi regime.

The authors will be discussing the book at Waterstones Piccadilly (London) on the 25th September 2012. See the Waterstones website for more details.

Available from:
Simon & Schuster

10 June 2012

Another Bloody Mountain: Prisoner of War and Escape in Italy 1943

Another Bloody Mountain: Prisoner of War and Escape in Italy 1943 is a son’s account of his father’s period as a POW in Italy, and subsequent escape in September 1943.

The story traces the father’s 274 mile walk in 30 days through the Apennine mountains to reach the British front line. The personal story is firmly located in the context of contemporaneous historical events. As well as telling the father’s story, the book recounts the son’s journey to visit the site of the camp, and then retrace the father’s trek through the mountains. As such it is also a travelogue, generously illustrated with 61 colour photos of both the prison camp and the beautiful scenery of the mountains in the Marche and Abruzzo regions of Italy.

Available from:
Iron City Publications

20 February 2012

For Your Tomorrow - The Forgotten Army and the 21st Century

For Your Tomorrow examines the torrid Burma campaign of World War Two, through the words of the men who fought, & the eyes of the 21st Century youngsters whose freedom they guaranteed.

This war documentary will take you on an exploration of how we value the actions of a group of now elderly men who fought for our freedom in the middle of the last century. It's a different approach to the subject of war, examining how much (or little) modern youngsters know about the incredible experiences of their grandfathers' generation.

This documentary draws on the experiences of a group of men in the torrid Burma war, but their tales serve as a microcosm of worldwide events during World War Two.

Ben, 19, is an intelligent & likeable young man. Although he knows that his great-grandfather was killed as part of the Second World War's "Forgotten Army" in Burma during 1945, he knows very little else.

Pamela, 28, is a vivacious & creative artistic director, who is putting on a play about wartime experiences in her local town. Her late grandfather fought as a Chindit in Burma, & she also knows little of his experience.

For Your Tomorrow examines the torrid Burma campaign of World War Two, through the words of the men who fought, & the eyes of the 21st Century youngsters whose freedom they guaranteed.

The defence of Burma & India against the seemingly unstoppable advance of a ferocious Japanese military was an event which helped turn the course of the Second World War, yet was, & still is, almost unrecognised by much of the free world. The Forgotten Army, as they became known, were fighting a formidable enemy, often in awful & alien tropical jungle conditions, & handicapped by undersupply. the Burma campaign united troops from the entire British Empire, and the incredible exploits of Chindits and Gurkhas became legend.

Many of the surviving men still suffer today from diseases & parasites which they picked up in the jungles & swamps of Burma nearly 70 years ago. Many survived only because they adopted a 'kill or be killed' attitude. Many did have to kill. Most lost friends & comrades.

Producer & Director Don Clark:

"I was privileged to be allowed to conduct interviews with a group of these wonderful men, including men of the Chindit Operations - the first examples of a deep penetration force - operating behind Japanese lines in jungle conditions.

I was often the very first person to whom they broke a code of silence which they had held ever since the war ended- not even their wives & loved ones had heard their tales. I recorded their testimonies, on camera, originally with the intention of merely creating some sort of archive so that future generations would know something of the story of these unknown heroes of Burma.

But it became obvious over the 6 years that I spent time, on & off, with these men, that there was an urgent need to not only preserve their individual interviews for posterity, but to ask questions about our society's knowledge of the enormity of the sacrifices they made for us & the generations still to come.

We were able to take Ben & Pamela on a journey which connects them to the generation whose bravery made their society stable & secure. Men who are now in their eighties & nineties, but who were perhaps Ben's age when they were conscripted, come alive when they talk of 'their' war, & the youngsters are stirred from their personal comfort zones. We as viewers all participate; we all learn."

For Your Tomorrow is a 68 minute documentary film, and the newly available DVD contains about an hour of bonus features, which will not be available to see either in the cinema screenings or TV broadcasts of the film.

You can watch the trailer below, and view or order the DVD from the film website.

Portsmouth's World War Two Heroes: Stories of the Fallen Men and Women

During the Second World War 2,549 service men and women from Portsmouth were killed in their various wartime occupations. Now this book uncovers their stories; stories that have never been told before: a bomb disposal petty officer awarded the George Cross; a 16-year-old paratrooper; a Battle of Britain hero; men killed in battleships, submarines, bombers and tanks throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Chapters consider each of the forces, including the Merchant Navy, NAAFI and WRNS, and also consider the theatres of war in which these men and women fell.

By using database software, an analysis of all 2,549 casualties has been possible, allowing the author to look at statistics, such as their age and where in the area they came from. Although a touching exploration of the stories of individuals and units, the extra length that author James Daly had gone to in his research has made it possible for the reader to build a picture of the effect that the Second World War had on people of Portsmouth and the community at large.

Available from:
The History Press

The German Aces Speak - World War II Through the Eyes of Four of the Luftwaffe's Most Important Commanders

Few stories epitomize the sheer drama and sacrifice of combat more perfectly than those of the fighter pilots of World War II. As romanticized as any soldier in history, the WWII fighter pilot was viewed as larger than life—dashing souls waging war amongst the clouds.

From 1939-1945, thousands of Allied fighter pilots took to the skies above Europe and North Africa with the common goal of ending Adolf Hitler's dream of European domination. In the 65+ years since the Allied victory in World War II, stories of these pilots' heroics have never been in short supply.

But what about their adversaries? What about the highly skilled German aviators who pushed the Allies to the very brink of defeat?

During World War II, the Third Reich’s fighter pilots destroyed some 70,000 enemy aircraft during the war, with approximately 45,000 destroyed on the Eastern Front. For example, JG.52 alone is credited with more than 10,000 enemy planes shot down. Of these Luftwaffe aces, 103 pilots scored more than 100 victories, while of this number, fifteen pilots scored more than 200, and with two men, Erich Hartmann and Gerhard Barkhorn, shooting down 352 and 301 aircraft, respectively.

Of all of the Luftwaffe’s fighter aces, the stories of Walter Krupinski, Adolf Galland, Eduard Neumann, and Wolfgang Falck shine particularly bright.

For the first time in any book, these four prominent and influential Luftwaffe fighter pilots reminisce candidly about their service in World War II in The German Aces Speak. Although all were decorated by the Third Reich for their exemplary performance, this is not to say they followed the Nazi Party without question—indeed, none of them were card-carrying National Socialists. Between their duty to serve their country in war and the erratic and immoral leadership of Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring, these men elected to follow their own code of honor in combat. Although true to their oaths as German warriors, in the end they felt they and their countrymen had been betrayed by Hitler and the Nazis.

Author Colin Heaton personally interviewed these air combat leaders, aces all, gathering their unique perspective on World War II and the Nazi leadership. From thrilling air battles to battles on the ground with their own commanders, these stories bring the past to life in the aces’ own words. Features forewords by historian Jon Guttman, Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, USAF (Ret.), and Luftwaffe pilot Oberleutnant Kurt Schulze.

Available from:
Zenith Press

27 January 2012

Flight of Remembrance: A World War II Memoir of Love and Survival

Against the backdrop of World War II tragedy and devastation in Latvia, Poland and Germany and three decades of European history, this true narrative provides a window into the of wartime upheaval through the lives of Rolf Dutzmann and Lilo Wassull—two people fatefully positioned “on the other side.” Written by Marina Dutzmann Kirsch, the daughter of the protagonists, the book includes a foreword by veteran author and Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University, Dr. Angelo Codevilla, who personally experienced the postwar years in Italy.

In December of 1939, swept along on a tide of dire necessity and circumstance due to the imminent Soviet takeover of his homeland, Rolf, a young Latvian aeronautical engineering student, flees with his family to Germany, a country fully under Hitler’s thrall and already engaged in a brutal war. While the account chronicles Rolf’s pursuit of his technical dream against daunting wartime odds, it is first and foremost a poignant and enduring love story that plays out against a panorama of worldwide chaos and destruction.

It is also a story of the seen and unseen forces that coalesce to keep Rolf and Lilo alive after they meet in 1940 Berlin, leading them through a chain of cataclysmic events including Rolf’s draft into the Luftwaffe and his father’s assignment as chief inspector of V-2 rocket production; the bombing of Berlin; the destruction of their homes; their numerous desperate, cross-country escapes from the bombing, the advancing Soviet troops from the east, and other Allied forces from the west; the POW camp hardships; and the deprivation of the postwar years.

For more information on the book, including photos and excerpts, visit the author's homepage.

Available from:
Kirchstone Books

Tunisian Tales - The 1st Parachute Brigade in North Africa 1942-43

Whilst many books have been written on the history of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces in the Second World War, none of them have concentrated solely on the story of the 1st Parachute Brigade in North Africa between 1942 and 1943.

'Tunisian Tales' covers the raising of the Brigade in 1941 and training in the UK before their transfer to the Mediterranean theatre of operations. It also covers the three airborne operations carried out by the Brigade there - Bone, Souk-el-Arba and Depienne/Oudna - in great detail.

The book is complemented by over 100 photos many never published before, maps (including newly-commissioned colour maps, and one used by Lieutenant Colonel Pearson when in command of the 1st Parachute Battalion) and coverage of the Airborne Medical Services in the area, besides extensive appendices.

This is Niall Cherry's third book following on from his highly successful previous titles - 'Most Unfavourable Ground' and 'Striking Back'. As in his previous works, detailed research has been carried out using official reports, war diaries and veterans' accounts. The book has the full approval of 'Airborne Assault', the Museum of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces at Duxford, and we are delighted that its curator, Jon Baker, has contributed the Foreword. 'Tunisian Tales' represents a notable contribution to new research into the history of Britain's airborne forces.

It is being published in a strictly limited edition hardback run of 1,000 copies, each signed by the author and individually numbered.

Available from:
Helion & Co Ltd

Casemate Publishing