"The Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer

Book discussion and reviews related to the German military.

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Sista Soldjah
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"The Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer

Post by Sista Soldjah » Fri Sep 05, 2003 2:37 am

Anyone read this one? I've just purchased it to read and was hoping to get some feedback from forum members as to what they thought of it...

...My grandfather (Opa) fought at the same front - hence my interest to learn about the experiences of the Germans...I remember him telling me how bitterly cold it was, how food was in short supply, and how men (the enemy particularly) were often found frozen to their artillary etc...He didn't speak much about anything else, but I knew his recollections were painful...I suppose he was lucky to have lived...

At any rate, a general discussion from forum members about the book would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers from Down Under
Sista Soldjah

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Post by gavmeister13 » Fri Sep 05, 2003 3:16 am

i liked the book, apparently there was a lot of controvosy over whether it was real or made up/embelleshed etc. i havent read it for ages but it made me think about how harsh life was on the ost front with the hunger, cold and constant tiredness. very harsh. what did you think about it?

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Geniesset den Krieg, der Frieden wird furchtbar sein

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Post by Sista Soldjah » Fri Sep 05, 2003 3:31 am

I've only just started reading it...obviously it was translated...the language seems to be very 'flowery' (but I thought that this may have been becuase of the translation)...I remember thinking that 'Mein Kampf' was the same (bloody awful metaphors used by the author AH)...Have only read the prologue of 'TFS'...remember thinking at the second sentence "I am much impressed, with a mixture of admiration and fear"...that this sentence is one constructed by someone who intends publication...there's a lot of imagery...rather than emotions. ..would have thought that memoir type stuff contians more 'thoughts' and 'feelings'...hey, but I'm not an expert..
...what about the authors recollections of JU-87s - "I fail to pass the Luftwaffe tests, but those few moments on board the JU-87s will stay with me as a glorious memory"..."GLORIOUS MEMORY"!!! - PLEASE!!!!...really do men (especially ones who fail the Luftwaffe tests) think like that? I'm not convinced!

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Sista Soldjah
"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake. "
--Jeannette Rankin first woman Member of Congress

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Post by jpatterson » Fri Sep 05, 2003 3:04 pm

Dear Sista,
If you are very knowledgeable on the subject of WWII in general and the Eastern Front in particular, forget everything you know while reading this book (or at least put it out of your mind). Keep in mind that the author was not a professional soldier and was practically a child when he joined. His recollections are vivid, but he does not concern himself with the details of things that many people who weren't there have committed to memory. IMHO this book will give you an excellant idea of what it was like to fight the Russians during WWII. Just keep in mind who the author was, what he became, and the perspective from which he writes.

Later
"War is delightful to those who have no experience of it"
Desiderius Erasmus

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GD and The Forgotten Soldier

Post by Doug Nash » Fri Sep 05, 2003 4:37 pm

For anyone interested in getting part of the pros and cons of the argument about the authenticity of The Forgotten Soldier, go to Michael Dorosh's excellent website below and click on the Forgotten Soldier link -

http://members.shaw.ca/grossdeutschland/

heinz kling

Sorry to say, Doug

Post by heinz kling » Mon Sep 08, 2003 6:49 am

I have read the pros and cons posted, and I still hold on to my belief that Guy Sajer is a fruad (that's my first impression when I read his book years ago, when he mentioned the wearing of the GD cuff title on the wrong sleeve).

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Doug Nash
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Sajer

Post by Doug Nash » Thu Sep 11, 2003 6:44 am

I seriously doubt that Sajer is a fraud - I've known guys in the army who fought in Vietnam who didn't know which sleeve their overseas stripes were sewn on or whether they wore their combat patch on the left or the right. Believe it or not, they are people who serve in armies who don't care a flying **** about that sort of thing. They just know they wore it somewhere. Also, many people tend to discount the importance of the state of maturity of Sajer at the time - he turned 17 years old in January 1943 and volunteered for the GD's Feld-Ers.Btl. in April, 3 months later. So he was still a juvenile at the time and he admits himself that he was very immature. How many 17-year olds today can remember what the heck they did a week ago, much less something much further in the past? When Sajer initially drafted his manuscript in the late 1950s, the war had been over at least 10 years and many of the details of what took place in the past had been forgotten or mis-remembered. Have you ever hung out at a VFW? As a kid, I hung out there a lot with my father and the stories the old vets told would raise your hair - not that they weren't true, but many of the events that took place in their younger days had acquired a certain character of their own that was still very real to them but did not correspond 100% with what actually took place. Sajer, like them was (is) a very real human being who was deeply affected by what happened and has been marked for life. Incidentally, I wrote every existing chapter of the Grossdeutschland Veterans Verband in 1996 and asked their opinion of the book -- to my surprise, they all responded (thanks to the efforts of Herr Uhlendorf) and stated that, in the opinion of their members, fully two-thirds believed that Sajer was authentic. The rest either thought he was a fake or had never heard of him. Of course, Sajer could be a fake, that's always possible, but writing a book extoling the glories of the Wehrmacht and having it published in France in 1968 was considered at the time a very risky thing to do - if nothing else, Sajer was a brave man.

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Post by Helmut » Thu Sep 11, 2003 9:34 am

Servus,
I totally agree with you, Doug. I went into the Army at 22 in 1972 and when I get together with my friends it's remarkable the different recollections we have of the same of the same event.
My father served in the German military in World War II and as far as a historical source he is not very reliable. He can vividly recall the events of "camp life" but his historical facts are questionable. He was 19 when he went in in 1941 and his first action was the invasion of the USSR. He was just a soldire in a foxhole like millions of others and wasn't privy to great earth shaking decisions made at echelons far removed from his small group. He can tell me with pretty good detail about his Company, Battalion, Regiment and even Division but not what corps they were assigned to or what Army or AG they were in. I can therefore sympathize with Sajer. We here have the benefit of checking all our details with references whereas he probably did not.[/quote]

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The Forgotten Soldier

Post by Rudi S. » Sun Sep 14, 2003 12:44 pm

Hello Doug,
well said. May I post the letter you once wrote about Sajer and his book?

http://www-cgsc.army.mil/milrev/English ... etters.htm

The Forgotten Soldier Revisited

I recently established contact with Guy Sajer, the author of the well-known autobiography The Forgotten Soldier, a military literature classic that describes the author's experiences fighting for Germany against the Soviet Union during World War II. With regard to a previous letter to the editor by Lieutenant Colonel Edwin L. Kennedy, published in your March-April 1996 issue--"Military Professionals do not Use Fiction as Fact"--I would like to set the record straight.
After 18 months of research, I was able to locate Sajer. He lives in a rural village approximately 50 miles east of Paris under his nom de plume. Although not his real last name (Guy is his real first name), Sajer is his mother's maiden name. She was born in Gotha, Germany. He enlisted in the German Wehrmacht in 1942 under a German name to avoid the ridicule he would have received had he used his real French last name. To
verify his book's authenticity, I asked Sajer a series of questions that had been raised by Kennedy in a Spring 1992 Army History article titled "The Forgotten Soldier: Fiction or Fact?"
Sajer quickly responded to my query. Although he admitted that minor details such as uniform insignia, weapons nomenclatures and other such things were not important to him, he stands by what he wrote 30 years ago. He insists that he did not set out to write the definitive history of World War II, only what he had personally experienced while fighting in the elite Grossdeutschland division on the Russian Front. He admitted that he could have erred in describing locations and chronology, but that he wrote things as he remembered them. In his letter to me, he stated that "In the darkness of a night in Russia, you could have told me that we were in China, and I would have believed you." Further details on Sajer's wartime and postwar experiences are described in an upcoming article I wrote for Army History, scheduled for publication in their Fall 1997 issue.
Kennedy's own key witness, former Grossdeutschland Division historian and reconnaissance squadron commander Major (Ret.) Helmuth Spaeter, who claimed that The Forgotten Soldier was fictional, has now changed his thinking. After reading several letters from Sajer, Spaeter admitted in a letter to me that he now believes that Sajer could have been a member of that famous division after all. Spaeter wrote about his
new-found admiration for Guy Sajer and planned to reread his own German copy of the book, titled Denn diese Tage Quall war gross: Erinnerung eines vergessenen Soldaten (These Days Were Full of Great Suffering--Memories of a Forgotten Soldier, (Munich: Verlag Fritz Molden, 1969) in order to examine it from a more unbiased point of view.
Hopefully, Sajer's efforts to clear his name will reestablish the prominence his book has earned on many a soldier's bookshelf. Readers can rest assured that when they pick up a copy of The Forgotten Soldier, they will be reading one of the best and most realistic books ever written from an infantryman's perspective, regardless of which side he fought for in World War II.
Lieutenant Colonel Douglas E. Nash, USA, US Special Operations Command, MacDill AFB, Florida

Rudi S.

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Post by Holmer » Thu Sep 25, 2003 8:49 pm

I am currently reading this book for the 3rd time. I find it a fascinating story with vivid descriptions of hardships which, every time I read it, I am glued to it till the end. Enjoy the book Sista.

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Brian H. :D
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Post by Sista Soldjah » Sun Sep 28, 2003 3:46 am

Am enjoying it guys...thank you all for your comments and thoughts - this has certainly helped my enjoyment of the book...will comment more when I am finished...

Cheers
Sista Soldjah
"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake. "
--Jeannette Rankin first woman Member of Congress

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Post by Annelie » Wed Oct 01, 2003 8:14 am

Thankyou Rudi,

Read this book in 2000 and after reading your post in this thread
I shall read it once more.

Mfg
Annelie

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The forgotten soldier

Post by Rudi S. » Wed Oct 01, 2003 7:12 pm

Hello Annelie,
nice to know that you will read this book again with an open mind. So will I, as soon as I can get another copy of the book. I owned two of them - one was given to me by a Colonel of the office of the Dept. of Defense in which I was employed. He gave it to me with the remark that my story reminded him of the the one by Guy Sajer. I loaned it to someone and it was never returned. I bought another copy and the same thing happened with that one. I am now looking for another copy to read the story again.

Guy Sajer IS NOT A FRAUD!

BTW, if I would not have had a photograph of me showing that the "Großdeutschland" cuffband is on the right sleeve, I probably would have had to guess it. Furthermore, when you sew the band on the sleeve, that sleeve as seen by you would be on the left when putting the blouse on your lap (that could have been the reason why Guy erred).

MFG,
Rudi S.

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Post by Annelie » Thu Oct 02, 2003 3:19 am

Hello Rudi,

Thankyou for your words.

I have read every book that you have recommended and enjoyed
all of them. In fact if I am not mistaken it was from your
recommendation that I book the Forgotten Soldier in the first
place.

Yes, one thing I have learned never loan out books. Like you
have found they are never returned.
I value my books and hope you shall recommend more in
the future.

Mfg
Annelie :D

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Post by Tom Houlihan » Thu Oct 02, 2003 6:45 am

If one were to look at the sign-out card in the copy of TFS in the library I frequented as a kid, you would find my card number on there several times. From when I was first allowed into the adult section, I read that book several times over the years. I now own a copy. I have always enjoyed it.

Back then, I wouldn't have known if I was reading a mistake or not. Perhaps I need to go back to it now, since my knowledge has increased (thanks, Ladies and Gents!), and see if my perspective changes!

Rudi, if there's a PX near you, especially one that serves the Navy/Marine Corps, you might find a copy there. Sajer was on the Commandant's Reading List, up until I retired a few years ago.
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