Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Heaven and Hell War Diary of a German Paratrooper

Heaven and Hell
The Diary of a German Paratrooper
By Martin Poppel
Spellmount Publishers
Isbn 978 0 7524 5701 7

After building up a Fallschirmjager force for Flames of War I wanted to find out some more in depth knowledge beyond the basic war history and came across this book recently. What is interesting about this book is that it contains another point of view of many battles and places that I have read about from an overall historical description (usually an allied perspective on the action). But in this book it is the soldier’s front line point of view which can be devoid of all the facts that we now know. Like the book says it is a Diary style book so you don’t get pages of facts about backgrounds of battles and political reasons and so on. Through the course of the book Poppel finds himself in Poland, Holland, Narvik, Crete, Russia, Sicily, Southern Italy, Normandy, Western Germany and finally in captivity in England. Amazing really and, amazing he survived it all. As a German Paratrooper he certainly gets across the never give an inch of ground attitude and distaste they felt when ordered to retreat. He starts his military career as an enthusiastic Hitler Youth (as many did at that time in Germany) and eventually writes about being let down by officers above him and also the doubts that begin to nag away at him over the course of the war. It is incredible that he survived as so many of his fellow Paratroopers didn’t survive the war. “Our proud paratroop unit never recovered from the enormous losses sustained on Crete.” The book has many black and white photos but they are of average reproduction quality but good all the same. I thought the book was an excellent read and here is an example of the writing style in the book.
During the fighting in Crete…..
“We advance on both sides of the coast road, following our objectives of occupying the airfield with units of 2 Regiment and Major Kroh. But we don’t get very far. In the hills round the airfield we come under heavy fire and are forced to leave the road and move south through the vineyards in order to make our attacks. By the time we reach the first hill, twilight is falling. The place has already been evacuated by elite troops from New Zealand. We were later to discover that the New Zealanders were regarded as the best troops in the Empire, but they soon sensed the kind of German troops they were up against here.”


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