Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43 by Hans Roth, edited by Alexander Christine and Mason Kunze

I have read six books dealing with the Eastern Front in World War II. All were either memoirs written after the fact or traditionally researched works. “Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43” by Hans Roth, edited by Alexander Christine and Mason Kunze is different.

The book is the results of three diaries of Hans Roth. He was accounted as missing in action in 1944. Amazingly a buddy on leave delivered the three volumes of diaries to Roth’s relatives. They cover the years 1941, 1942 and 1943. Sadly, Hans Roth vanishes as another MIA unaccounted for casualty of war.

The diaries are incredible. They show that he viewed part of the actions as being pre-emptive (p. 27). There was a clear fear of the Russians being on German soil and killing his loved ones. We learn that the diaries include content that would have never cleared the censors plus he was glad to keep the horrors away from his dear wife.

The book is spectacular. Hans Roth provided a wonderful service for his family and future generations by recording what he witnessed and what he was ordered to do.

You can feel the fear he felt. You can sense the mixed emotions he experienced. The day to day log of his units actions with his understanding of what was going on are amazing. The detail and description he provides of the surroundings paints a remarkable portrait of the times.

Hans Roth realized that luck was a key part of survival. He makes this clear time and time again. The amount of artillery and equipment the Russians had seems to have caught the Germans by surprise. The aircraft strafing runs and Russian counterattacks in 1941 caught me by surprise. Other works reported little or none on these until 1942 and later.

Note: As I read I could feel the growing fatigue and cynicism Hans Roth had a result of the war. His love of his wife and family shows regularly in his comments. The book is an important resource for anyone interested in the Eastern Front as well as those who want a realistic look at the terrors of war. It is gripping and paints one of the clearest pictures ever of how war is horrendous.

Christine Alexander and Mason Kuntze deserve a big thank you for the editing and translation of this project.


jak-moustacheJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. He is old enough to collect Social Security if he wants, but not yet old enough for Medicare. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.


“The Devil’s General: The Life of Hyazinth Strachwitz -The Panzer Graf” by Raymond Bagdonas


Panzer GrafI enjoyed reading Raymond Bagdonas’ book “The Devil’s General: The Life of Hyazinth Strachwitz -The Panzer Graf”. If you are looking for a scholarly tome on the life of Hyazinth Strachwitz you will be disappointed. Against the backdrop of events in Germany and Europe from the early days of his education through the thirty-year period World War One, the interwar years, World War Two, and ending with his life after the war the author tells the story of Hyazinth Strachwitz and the units he served in and lead. I really liked the description of the post-First World War life of the aristocracy and their adaptability to the interwar and changes under Hitler.

While the conclusions drawn in some areas, like why he joined the SS, were general and without scholarly documentation, the author used sound logic based on available information in making these assumptions. The author takes the reader from Hyazinth Strachwitz’s early family history, education World War I, the interwar years to the invasion of Poland, to France and then Romania and Yugoslavia are just prelude to World War II on the Eastern Front.

Beginning with Operation Babarossa and continuing through the battles of Dubno, Uman, Nikolayev, Kiev, Kalach we see the leadership of Hyazinth Strachwitz in action with the Panzers. The journey continues down the road to Stalingrad, his promotion to Colonel and regimental commander in the Grossdeutschland Division. Battles at Kharkov, the plot to kill Adolph Hitler, Operations Citadel and Strachwitz and the battles of Kursk, Tukum and Germany. He surrendered to the US forces in May 1945.

We learned that Hyazinth Strachwitz was held as a prisoner June 1947. We learn his wife was run over and killed by an American truck. We see him move to Syria to work with the Syrian military, then go to Italy, and finally return to Germany in 1951 where he lived until dying of lung cancer in 1968.

While the book isn’t a scholarly treatment of Hyazinth Strachwitz, it is an important work that documents his actions and gives great insights into the use of the panzers on the eastern front.

“The Devil’s General: The Life of Hyazinth Strachwitz -The Panzer Graf” by Raymond Bagdonas. The publisher is Casemate Publishing.


jak-moustacheJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs in 2010. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

“Sacrifice On the Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943″ by Hope Hamilton

As a lifelong history buff, military history enthusiast, former US Army officer and holder of a BA degree in history, I find myself pleasantly surprised from time to  time when I encounter a book that fills a void in my historical education. “Sacrifice On The Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943″ written by Hope Hamilton and published by Casemate is one such book. The idea for the book originated when the author listened to her uncles’ reflections of his participation in World War II.

When Hitler had Germany invade Russia in June 1941, Prime Minister of Italy Mussolini declared war on Russia. He quickly sent a hastily organized Italian Expeditionary force of 62,000 men to join the Russian campaign even though Adolf Hitler discouraged such a move. Italy was unprepared militarily. Mussolini’s motivation was to join Hitler in receiving the spoils following an imagined rapid Nazi victory against Russia.”

Hope Hamilton’s book draws on personal interviews, exhaustive research and the written accounts of Italians who participated in and survived Mussolini’s tragic decision of Italian involvement. Mussolini compounded his mistake by sending even more troops the following year. The author does a good job of showing the human side of the Italian involvement on the Russian front. This is not a scholarly work on the tactics and logistics of the Italian involvement. Rather, it is the story of the people who made the terrible trek from Italy to Russia to support their German ally. The German’s had little trust of and kept the Italians minimally informed and I believe misused the Alpine troops by not maximizing the troops mountain fighting ability by their placement along the Don River.

The author does a great job of telling the soldier’s story. Her writing style focuses on the individual accounts of the soldiers. She discusses how the Alpine Corps was caught up in the German campaign capture Stalingrad in the autumn of 1942. She takes us through the Soviet offensive that followed in late November. We experience the collapse of the entire Axis front and the Alpine Corps’ withdrawal to the Don. I could have used a more background about the Stalingrad Campaign. The book does not take a strategic view of the campaign. Little attention is given to the big picture. The story is told from the Italian point of view instead of looking at it from the Axis point of view.

The book includes good notes, is well indexed, and has a great bibliography. I enjoyed the book. If you are looking for an after action report of the Italian participation or a critical analysis of the campaign this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a good overview and an understanding of what the Italian soldiers experienced then you’ll enjoy the book. I give it four stars. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library. It is a good first volume to fill a long void of an English language account of the Italian involvement on the eastern front.