"The Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer

Book discussion and reviews related to the German military.

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Postby Tom Houlihan » Sat Apr 29, 2006 5:45 am

Well, reenactors have to deal with "stitch-Nazis," who critique every little detail of uniforms and gear, with all the knowledge they've gained from books. Why shouldn't veterans have to deal with "print-Nazis," who know all the proper terms, orders, and dates? A real Gefreiter would of course have known where he was at all times, wouldn't he? :roll:

Alright, I'll turn off the sarcasm.
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Postby Laurent Daniel » Sat Apr 29, 2006 6:01 am

Tom wrote:Alright, I'll turn off the sarcasm.

No, no, please, keep it on, I enjoy your bright analysis of that thread.
:D
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Postby Christian » Sat Apr 29, 2006 6:45 am

Laurent Daniel wrote:The CDVFFE, the French "Cercle" of the descendants and next-of-kin of the French Volunteers, considers Guy Sager as honest and not frauding. As one of their aims is to prevent fraud and abuses of the saga of the Volunteers, I tend to trust them. Recently checking with them about another author that I was suspecting of being "inventing things", their clear cut reply confirming that yes, this guy is a "gugusse" (French slang for clown), strengthen, IMHO, their opinion about Guy Sajer.

That book generated in France the same sort of polemics that we have here. The author started by reacting and providing proofs and evidences and then, disgusted, took another stand.


Laurent,

1. The issue is not whether Guy Mouminoux served on the Ostfront or not. Personally, and I discussed this on a few opportunities with Doug Nash, I concur with Doug that Mouminoux most likely was a Wehrmacht soldier. The fact that the Cercle des Descendants des Veterans Francais du Front de l'Est considers him as one of their own is of little value in respect to the issue of veracity of Mouminoux's account about serving in GD.

2. I was most surprised by your comment that this book generated as much polemics in France as it has here in the US. So far I have found little or nothing on French websites supporting such a statement and I am therefore wondering whether you could elaborate further?
You also state that the author provided evidence/records of his military service which of course is news to a lot of us on Feldgrau. Can you clarify what was provided and maybe post copies for Feldgrau forum members?

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Last edited by Christian on Sat Apr 29, 2006 7:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Laurent Daniel » Sat Apr 29, 2006 6:54 am

Christian wrote:The fact that the Cercle des Descendants des Veterans Francais du Front de l'Est considers him as one of their own is of little value in respect to the issue of veracity of Mouminoux's account about serving in GD.

Up to you.
I posted my little information, feel free to disregard or distrust them.
However, it's a very well established fact at Feldgrau that the veterans testimonies are peanuts when compared to the armchair generals opinions and extended academical knowledge.
Rudi S. already told us here that he was genuine, the French Veterans told me that he was genuine, but all that is bullshit.
You know much better than them.
Obviously.
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Postby Christian » Sat Apr 29, 2006 7:04 am

I posted my little information, feel free to disregard or distrust them, I don't wish to enter in this endless polemical thread.


I always welcome information but I distrust people who make empty claims and when challenged can't back them up or ignore the question altogether. Nice try. :D

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Postby Laurent Daniel » Sat Apr 29, 2006 7:11 am

Christian wrote:I distrust people who make empty claims and when challenged can't back them up or ignore the question altogether

Insulting me now.
Always improving.
Do you speak French?
I don't fell like taking the pain of translating for Armchair Generals, but I can post few links.
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Postby Laurent Daniel » Sat Apr 29, 2006 7:21 am

Christian wrote:or ignore the question altogether

It seems to me that you blatantly ignored the assesments of miscellaneous veterans. They have no value to you?
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Postby john123 » Wed May 03, 2006 7:42 am

Doug Nash made a good effort and contacted Sajer a few years ago but unfortunately I do not believe that he was able to secure any records, copies of official papers, pictures, etc. Ultimately Sajer is the only person who can really put this issue to rest and he has obviously no intention in doing so. Given all the great veteran accounts available today, I personally choose not to waste my time on an author who can't even come up with a clear cut answer about his date of birth.


You know, sometimes people get to a point in their lives that they just don't care anymore - whether that be not caring what people think, or caring about their self-image.

I was recently inspired to re-read this book and just finished. The whole time I was reading I had this controversy in the back of my mind. I have one broad comment to make:

There are vast amounts of important insights made by "Sajer" throughout the book, not just "which arm the cuff title was on", that was just one of a great many details. For instance, he gives some very important dates and descriptions of events at Memel, and the whole area around Danzig, all of these can be either verified or proven totally wrong.

He said that he was evacuated from Hel on March 28 or the 29, 1945 by a white ship called the Pretoria. He described this ship as being once a luxury liner but now had the look of being pressed into service. Well, interestingly, one website described the Pretoria was a "white ship" that was, before the war, a luxury liner that ran from Hamburg to South Africa. At the start of the war it was purchased by the kreigsmarine to be a transport ship. This website even says that during March to May of 1945 it was used to evacuate refugees from cities along the Baltic coast.
See the ship called "GUNUNG DJATI" at http://www.merchantnavyofficers.com/hadj.html
Has any of the armchair critics taken the time to research the Pretoria's logs (the ship survived the war) to see if it was in Hel on that date?

Well, I would not consider myself fluent in German but I am nearly certain this website says the Pretoria was in Hel at the end of march. http://www.vorfahrenforschung.de/flucht ... danzig.htm

Posted here for posterity:
Kloevermarken, den 10.3.1946

Hier schreibt Frau Minna Anders, Danzig-Neufahrwasser, Hedwigskirchstr. 8:

Nach dem schweren Angriff am Sonntag, dem 25. März 1945, verließen wir das brennende Neufahrwasser um 7 Uhr abends. Mein Sohn Heinz und Schwiegertochter Wally, geb. Kramer, kamen mit. Mein Mann Peter Anders kam nicht mit, denn er wollte mir nachkommen. Wir waren bald ums Leben gekommen, denn ein Volltreffer nach dem anderen gingen bei uns nieder. Der Luftschutzkeller hielt, aber wir waren bald erstickt. Bevor wir unseren Weg antraten, gingen wir noch auf die Suche nach meiner Tochter, Frau Paula Wahl, geb. Anders, Tochter und Schwiegersohn im Hause „Leuchtturm“, Olivaerstr. 46. Aber trostlos, wir kamen gar nicht durch, denn es brannte von der Sasperstr. Durch bis zur Olivaerstr. Ich habe meine Tochter bis heute nicht gefunden. So ging denn unser Weg über Weichselmünde. In Heubude machten wir kurze Rast bei Bekannten und ließen unser Gepäck dort, weil wir so erschöpft waren. Wir haben auch nichts mehr davon gesehen. Wir dachten, es am Montagmorgen noch zu holen, aber das Haus wurde auch getroffen. In Westlich-Neufähr bei meinen Verwandten um 1 Uhr nachts angelangt. Aber hier war auch die Hölle los. Mein Sohn und die Schwiegertochter mit drei Kindern fuhren am Dienstag mit der Wehrmacht nach Schiewenhorst, wo er gleich geschnappt wurde. Ich verblieb bis Karfreitag, dann ging es zur See mit Familie Schneider, und wir fuhren mit einer großen Fähre nach Hela. Um 9 Uhr morgens am 30. März langten wir an. Dann wurden wir auf das Lazarettschiff „Pretoria“ verladen. Am 1. April fuhren wir dann nach Dänemark. Neben uns fuhr das Schiff „Deutschland“. Aber zweimal Schwimmwesten anlegen, immer in Todesgefahr. Am 2. April glücklich angekommen. Verblieben 8 Tage auf dem Schiff bei guter Verpflegung. Dann fuhren wir mit Autobussen nach Lager 81, von dort am 20. April nach Lager 87 in Getoften und am 28. Dezember nach Kloevermarken, Baracke 11, Zimmer 6. Meinen Sohn habe ich vor kurzem in Wesermünde gefunden und seine Frau Wally befindet sich in Helrug.


Another example, "Sajer" says that in a town called "Gotenhafen" he was part of a scratch battalion. He decribed a very wide street that led directly down to the port. I consulted Google Earth and saw that indeed, this city, now called Gdynia, Poland had a very large and wide main street running straight down to the ports.

Another example, around Memel he describes some "cliffs" over the beaches a few miles north of Memel, these cliffs had some bunkers facing the ocean. Well, Google Earth certainly picked up the cliffs on these beaches, things I doubt any map would have shown, which show he had first hand knowledge of the terrain. Have any of the critics proven or disproven the existince of the bunkers?

Critics have pointed out that there was no "sajer" in the lists of the GD. But has anyone looked for any of the other MANY names he mentions in the books? Where do the records indicate these people were? Where they all in the same units as Sajer decribes?

There are many other examples, it is almost trite to say, that if someone was serious, they could indeed prove this book as substantially true or a phony. So far, everything points to it being true as far as I am concerned. If someone wants to make claims against Sajer's book, it is not enough to cite a few suspected and not proven *SEEMINLY* inconsistent and irrelevent points to discredit the whole book as a phony. These people need to do some real work, there is certainly enough information to prove it one way or another. I mean really, it is not hard to cast doubt at all, it is in fact very easy - there are people now who are casting doubt that 9/11 even happend! So until then, the real phonies are the people who want to tear apart sajers account just because the intricacies of war and some finer details of a mans memory doesn't correspond to a few bits of raw data they got from Barnes and Noble.

Sorry if I seem sarcastic. ;)

As a side note, I must have missed this the first time I read the book: He describes taking part in an attempt to reach Konigsberg from Memel. I think he said they had 30 tanks and were getting ready to start the assualt. He said that shortwave radios of the tanks were playing "flight of the valkyrie". I can only imagine the scene from "Apocolypse Now" with the helecopters playing this music. Perhaps this book inspired this for the movie?
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Postby panzerschreck1 » Wed May 03, 2006 12:43 pm

First Klasse arbeit! for the work on the Pretoria.

Considering the attack from the Memel pocket, that must had been around
december 44'' Note: GD was evacuated from Memel in november 44
(but it seem very likely that not all of its units were shipped out of there
with the main body of GD..)
Around that time only the 95th and 58th I.D. defended memel, so if there
was any attack it should had been mentioned in the 58/95 I.D. battle accounts.

You also had an other unit on the small strip of land that connects Memel
and Konigsberg the Z.b.v. 607 (which i know nothing about)

Btw: that scratch units build up the defenses of Zoppot early march 45
not in Gotenhafen, the other attack mentioned was in Brossel near Gotenhafen, Zoppot....

That's it for now...
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Memel - a few points here and there

Postby Doug Nash » Wed May 03, 2006 5:09 pm

According to Helmuth Spaeter, the last element of GD to be evacuated from Memel, 2nd Battalion, Pz.Gren.Rgt. "GD" left aboard the ship Wolta on 4 December 1944 and reached the port of Pillau near Koenigsberg without incident.
As far as the date discrepancy, Sajer told me by that point, he had lost track of exact dates, since by then he and his comrades had sunk into such a state of stupor that it no longer even mattered what date it was. November in the Baltic is pretty darned cold, so it might have felt like January to him.
There was a Sajer reported to be on the rolls of 5th Kompanie, Pz.Gren.Rgt. "GD", according to a veteran of the unit, Feldwebel Hans Schaffmeister Berckholtz.
Most of the names in his book were deliberately changed. For example, his friend Hals' real name was Stefan Walls, who settled in Connecticut USA after the war and sold insurance before he retired in the '80s.
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Postby john123 » Thu May 04, 2006 7:37 am

Most of the names in his book were deliberately changed. For example, his friend Hals' real name was Stefan Walls, who settled in Connecticut USA after the war and sold insurance before he retired in the '80s.


Thanks for that bit of information! As I mentioned, I recently read the book again and it ended with Sajer being separated from his friend "Hals" - it never said what happened to him - I was wondering if he ever saw him again.


Do you know if Stefan Walls ever been contacted about this book?
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Postby M.H. » Thu May 04, 2006 10:14 am

I wondered the same...and feared the worst, so...THANK YOU! :D
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Postby Christian » Thu May 04, 2006 10:17 am

Most of the names in his book were deliberately changed. For example, his friend Hals' real name was Stefan Walls, who settled in Connecticut USA after the war and sold insurance before he retired in the '80s.


Why do you think did he change the names in his book? Most memoirs I have read so far refer to individuals by their real name. Did Mouminoux actually volunteer the name Stefan Walls or was it confirmed otherwise? It would indeed be interesting to speak with this individual as he could probably provide some valuable insight and shed some light on this controversial book.

Cheers,

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Postby Laurent Daniel » Thu May 04, 2006 9:12 pm

Hi Christian,
Christian wrote:Why do you think did he change the names in his book?

Because after the war the veterans were often considered as criminals with no real digging into their real activities.
All the books of Jean Mabire, for example, are using "pseudos", not real names. Same for the recent book of Forbes.
Some descendants of "exposed and well known" veterans changed their family name (The name Mayol de Luppe disappeared, but he had a family!)
It is not easy, even today, to be the grandson of a "nazi traitor" etc...
At least in Europe.
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Postby panzerschreck1 » Fri May 05, 2006 9:37 am

John 123, where did you see those alledged cliffs in Memel(Klaipeda)??
I can;t see them, only shorelines than forrest areas but no cliffs, the whole area is relatively flat!!!

The before mentioned unit south of Memel (on the landstrip) was the
Georgian Nachschub Kompanie....(Z.b.V 607..
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