12 November 2018

Alarmstart East - The German Fighter Pilot's Experience on the Eastern Front 1941-1945

Patrick Eriksson has been an associate member of the German Fighter Pilot Veteran's Association since 1974. This membership gave him the opportunity to record the experiences of members of the Luftwaffe first-hand, before it was too late. This volume, the second in the Alarmstart series, provides detailed coverage of the experience of Luftwaffe fighter pilots on the Eastern Front from 1941-45 in their own words.

The campaign in the East is broken down into sections (detailed below), which contain accounts of personal experiences, including opinions of Russian pilots, planes and tactics. The list of German veterans whose experiences are recounted stretches over three pages, and includes men who served in many different Jagdgeschwader. The extensive notes on each chapter, and the six pages of bibliography, websites and archive references are evidence of the research that has gone into this book. 

The author assumes a degree of knowledge of the Luftwaffe and their structure, and the lengthy chapter on the Victory Claims Debate might not be to everyone's interest, however if you have a passion for finding out more on the Luftwaffe experience on the Eastern Front - this book should definitely be worth considering. It also has some unique additional information which added another aspect to the coverage, such as details of the ships damaged by the Russian airforce in Libau harbour, during the evacuation of Kurland in December 1944.

Table of contents:
  • Training to be a Fighter Pilot
  • Character of the Russian War
  • Air War on an Epic Scale - Statistics
  • Operation Barbarossa and the Russian Winter Offensive (22 June 1941 - February 1942)
  • 1942: New Offensives by the Wehrmacht; Stalingrad
  • 1943: Year of Decision, the Tide Turns; Kuban and Kursk
  • Endless Retreats; the Bagration Debacle (January - August 1944)
  • Late 1944 - 1945: The End of the Campaign in the East
  • The Startkladde of 7/JG 51: Understanding German Fighter Tactics and High Claims in the East
  • The Victory Claims Debate
  • Conclusions 
Available from:
Amberley Publishing

10 November 2018

Panzers in the Defence of Festung Posen 1945

Panzers in Defence of Poznan 1945 by Maciej Karalus and Jarosław Jerzak is the first book published in English to describe the bitter battle for Festung Poznań in 1945. That Polish city, occupied by the Nazis since almost the very beginning of the Second World War in 1939, was declared a fortress (Festung) on January 20 1945, and for the whole month it saw heavy fighting between Wehrmacht and Waffen SS troops and the Red Army advancing directly towards Berlin.

Among the garrison of the fortress a special part was played by a small heavy Panzer unit which possessed just 1 Tiger tank, 2 Panthers, 1 Panzer IV and a handful of Sturmgeschütze. Despite the difficulty and sparsity of sources, the authors were able to acquire an impressive wealth of information and memoirs, as well as rich iconography.

Before Poland was able to regain her full political autonomy in 1990, the fighting in Poznań was described only by Zbigniew Szumowski and Stanisław Okęcki. These, however, were poor compilations, only marginally touching upon the participation of German Wehrmacht. These authors looked upon this subject through the lenses of Soviet documentations and historiographical propaganda of their times. Sadly, they could not or would not make use of the documents in German archives. Their cardinal mistake was to overestimate the strength of the forces at play (especially on the German side), and the glorification of the Soviet victory, foregoing an honest analysis of the losses of human life as well as equipment on both sides.

This is the first book in English that allows the reader to follow the street fighting in Poznań through the eyes of the Wehrmacht soldiers, documenting the story of the German armoured forces engaged in the battles for the city.

This is a well produced book,  with some interesting images (mostly after the battle photos) and includes footnotes and useful appendixes. The first hand accounts from German participants (including civilians) are of note, and are one of the highlights. But this is really a book for those with a specific interest in the battles of 1945 on the Eastern Front. The authors have thoroughly researched the actions of this battle, but this also limits the scope of the book to this specific action - which is perfect if you already understand the bigger picture, but rather restricted if you do not. The other slight shortcoming is the translation. The German accounts in particular suffer from translation from German to Polish, then to English and as a result are sometimes stilted and literal in the language used. But despite these small points, it is good to see books like this being made available to an English speaking audience and I hope to see more in the future.

Available from:
Casemate Publishing

6 November 2018

Hitler's American Friends - The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States

Americans who remember World War II reminisce about how it brought the country together. The less popular truth behind this warm nostalgia: until the attack on Pearl Harbor, America was deeply, dangerously divided.

Bradley W. Hart's Hitler's American Friends exposes the homegrown antagonists who sought to protect and promote Hitler, leave Europeans (and especially European Jews) to fend for themselves, and elevate the Nazi regime.

Some of these friends were Americans of German heritage who joined the Bund, whose leadership dreamed of installing a stateside Führer. Some were as bizarre and hair-raising as the Silver Shirt Legion, run by an eccentric who claimed that Hitler fulfilled a religious prophesy. Some were Midwestern Catholics like Father Charles Coughlin, an early right-wing radio star who broadcast anti-Semitic tirades. They were even members of Congress who used their franking privilege―sending mail at cost to American taxpayers―to distribute German propaganda. And celebrity pilot Charles Lindbergh ended up speaking for them all at the America First Committee. Hitler's American Friends is a powerful look at how the forces of evil manipulate ordinary people, how we stepped back from the ledge, and the disturbing ease with which we could return to it.

Each chapter covers a different group in detail, and provides a thorough introduction to the surprisingly numerous groups who support fascism and the rise of Hitler. Anyone with an interest in the World War II period and the rise of fascism should find this a fascinating read, as the author explains the politics, ambition and nefarious activities of these groups in an easily digestible way.

Table of contents:
  • The Bund
  • The Silver Legion and the Chief
  • The Religious Right
  • The Senators
  • The Businessmen
  • The Students
  • America First!
  • The Spies

Available from:
St Martin's Press