Death Was Our Companion
The Final Days of the Third Reich
Tony Le Tissier

The fall of Third Reich was a nightmare for the German forces. With dwindling resources, they were expected to do the impossible. Too young, too old, too underequipped, and too outnumbered, they still managed to offer some resistance, but they couldn’t change the end result. Tony Le Tissier has collected thirteen German eyewitness accounts from the final, apocalyptic months of the war. Most of the stories are from the fighting in and around Berlin, most notably the Seelow Heights and the Halbe Forest. Luftwaffe auxiliaries, an LAH veteran, conscripts in hastily assembled units, experienced soldiers and officers, even a Volkssturm battalion adjutant get to tell their stories. The latter is one of the most interesting accounts, as it describes in detail the formation of a Volkssturm unit at the Siemens plant in Berlin, how it was armed, staffed, trained and finally deployed. While the battalion couldn’t change the final outcome, the chapter gives a valuable insight in what the VS could be like when it was given time and resources to be more than the poorly armed rabble we’re used to read about. Other accounts relate stories about 18-year old soldiers thrown into combat with old French rifles and five rounds each, the desperate defence of weak positions, and appearance of the infamous, semi-mythical “Seydlitz Troops”, turncoat German PoW’s in Soviet service. The book ends with an account of the surrender negotiations by one of the officers directly involved in the proceedings.

The book is supplemented with 23 small maps that give a good idea about the tactical situation, and 28 b/w photos, mostly of the soldiers involved or the locations where they fought. As this is a collection of accounts on the individual and tactical level, it gives by no means a complete picture of what happened, but those looking for a well-written, engaging book on what it was like for the soldiers and officers caught up in the death-throes of Hitler’s empire should look no further.

(Reviewed by B. Hellqvist)

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