Panzer Operations
Erhard Raus
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Buy *Panzer Operations: The Eastern Front Memoir of General Raus, 1941-1945* online

Panzer Operations: The Eastern Front Memoir of General Raus, 1941-1945
Erhard Raus
translated by Steven H. Newton
DaCapo Press
600 pages
November 2003
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Panzer Operations is the intriguing story of the Germans' operations throughout the Baltics, Russia, Ukraine, and East Prussia during World War II, intriguing because it looks at the war through the eyes and mind of an on-site German commander who began his command during the later years of the war when he had to become an expert on defensive operations. Erhard Raus refers to numerous tactical maneuvers and specific military units, but the reader need not only be interested in military history to appreciate the book.

Readers who have a general familiarity with the Baltics/Russian geographic area can appreciate the importance of the memoirs because each segment of the book focuses on a specific campaign, beginning in the Baltics and ending in East Prussia. Raus describes the German endeavors in relation to geography and climate, and he believes that the German military was unprepared for climatic conditions so vastly different from Germany's. He also explains how sand and dunes hampered the Germans in the Baltics and how forests, mud, swamps, snow, and ice were impediments to ultimate success in Russia.

As the story of the war on the Eastern Front unfolds, Raus describes human aspects of war and explains why Germany underestimated the strength of the Russians. He acknowledges Russian strength, gives examples of how the Russians were very adept at protecting and fortifying villages, and he describes the importance of the Russian forests and their benefit to the Russians. He also includes a memorable description of a Russian ski patrol joining a German engineers' platoon march and how neither side knew it was marching with the enemy.

Raus, outspoken and an independent thinker, sometimes failed to conduct operations as others wanted, and he believed Hitler's policy of inflexible tactics in conducting the campaign was wrong. He clearly states that he believes Germany lost the war because of Hitler's inability to accept others' ideas, the climate and tenacious enemy, and the mistakes made in the battles for Moscow and Stalingrad. Raus discusses the meetings he had with Hitler to discuss strategy and how Hitler refused to consider any thoughts or recommendations other than his own. The memoirs, written after the war, include specific examples of the tank commander's conduct and thinking that probably caused Hitler to relieve Raus from his command.

Steven H. Newton's compilation and translation of this historically important work is outstanding. He has taken published and unpublished materials and compiled them into a very readable, interesting story. Whether through translation or the actual words of Raus, the discussions of death and destruction have been handled in a way not to offend. There are a few references to the horribly gory details of war, but most references to death and destruction are presented in an objective, factual manner. Beautifully descriptive scenes contribute to the book's easy reading, and the descriptions of the ferrying process across the Dnepr River and the tanks pouring across the Seret River are especially outstanding. Whether the wonderful visual references can be attributed to Newton's translation or to Raus, they are impressive and make the reading enjoyable. Panzer Operations is a good military history that provides the reader with an excellent understanding of conditions on the Eastern Front and the events leading to Germany's defeat, but it is also an interesting, enjoyable read.

© 2004 by Nancy A. McCaslin for Curled Up With a Good Book

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