Blood Red Snow - The Memoirs of a German Soldier on the Eastern Front
By Gunter K Koschorrek
Published by Frontline Books (www.frontline-books.com)
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The author was an “ordinary” German soldier who served in the hellish environment of the Eastern Front during World War 2. His memoir relates these horrific experiences and it draws the reader in so that he feels that he too is in the frontline standing next to the author. The Eastern Front was known for its barbaric conditions and ferocity. It became a butcher’s ground and the chances of survival for a German soldier were slim.
The author disobeyed orders and tried keeping a diary of events. The first attempt at the diary got lost during combat and subsequently he hid his notes inside the lining of his tunic. Historians and readers will be thankful that he did this. He passed these notes to his mother when on home leave but they were then lost for some forty years. His daughter moved to America with the author’s wife after their divorce and he lost contact with them. Thankfully his daughter decided to trace her father and after meeting him presented him with the notes he had made during the conflict.
The memoir describes his first battle experiences and the excitement that this causes. The text makes the reader’s adrenaline flow and the excellent descriptions make you feel that you are manning his heavy machinegun alongside the author. You feel the bullets flying past and the horrors of Stalingrad. A huge German army attacked Stalingrad and few survived the breakout to return to the German lines. You sense the haste of the men trying to escape the urban conflict in the streets of this famous city and to get back to the main German line across the (frozen) river.
Many of his fellow companions’ manners and characters are described. They all had different reactions to the squalor and the closeness of death. In one chapter he describes how his heavy machine gun was under the sights of a Russian sniper. The author narrowly missed death as the sniper’s bullet passed close by. When he mentioned this to his number two in the machine gun team the number two decided to have a look to see if he could see the sniper. He did not see the sniper but was “rewarded” with a fatal shot to the head. A replacement number two was found quickly and a similar experience awaited him too. Luckily this man eventually recovered from a head wound from a sniper’s bullet and the author eventually met him many months later recovering in hospital.
Just before these men were killed / wounded the author discusses the bonds of comradeship that are found in frontline troops. How they try to look after each other and how they sacrifice their lives for their comrades. As you read the book you feel that these men are also your friends and together you are suffering from these horrors. When the author relates how they died you too feel the loss of a friend.
Such is the eloquent style of the author’s writing that anyone wishing to experience the deprivations of the Russian Front is highly recommended to read this excellent first-hand account. This memoir will always rate highly amongst those for the Russian Front and the author has done historians a great service by noting his exploits on those slips of papers that went missing for 40 years.