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Eyewitness to Wehrmacht Atrocities on the Eastern Front (Hardback)

A German Soldier’s Memoir of War and Captivity

Military

By Luis Raffeiner
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 25 mono
ISBN: 9781399097703
Published: 30th November 2021

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How can the truth about the devastating atrocities committed by the German army on the Eastern Front in the Second World War be reconciled with the propaganda of their heroism and their victories? And how did a simple soldier, caught up in the turmoil of a vast conflict, make sense of the actions he had taken and the ruthlessness he had seen? Luis Raffeiner’s plain and simple account of his direct experience of the Nazi war of annihilation in the Soviet Union records in graphic detail circumstances which made him a victim and perpetrator at the same time.

Raffeiner describes his family life in a remote village in the Tyrol in the 1930s, his military service in Italy, his transfer to the Wehrmacht and his training as a mechanic on assault guns, and then his march into the Soviet Union in 1941. There he experienced, as he himself says, ‘war in its brutal and cruel reality’. He was captured by the Red Army, barely survived as a prisoner of war and, many years later, he recounted his vividly remembered experiences in order to produce this insightful – and thought-provoking – book.

His recollections are dramatic, honest and concise. He shatters the myth of the clean conduct of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. He can testify to the vicious actions of his fellow soldiers, including some in which he himself was involved. His memoir is not a heroic tale – it shows how a man from an ordinary background can become acquainted with, and a participant in, the horrors of war.

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About Luis Raffeiner

Luis Raffeiner grew up in Karthaus in the South Tyrolean Schnalstal. In 1939, aged 22, after serving in the Italian army, he transferred to the Wehrmacht. As a tank mechanic in a unit of assault guns, he went to war against the Soviet Union in 1941. He was captured by the Red Army, survived being held as a prisoner of war in the Caucasus and, in 1947, returned to the Tyrol. He then worked as a master plumber at a brewery and set up his own company. Late in his life he recorded his wartime experiences which were published in German and are now available for the first time in English in this edition.


Afterword by Hannes Heer, a distinguished German historian best known for his work on the controversial Wehrmacht exhibition in the 1990s. Although some of its exhibits were criticized at the time, it showed that the German army on the Eastern Front was involved in war crimes. In 2001 the revised exhibition was relaunched with the title ‘Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation 1941-1944’.

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