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On a visit to the British National Archive in 2001, Sönke Neitzel made a remarkable discovery: reams of covertly recorded, meticulously transcribed conversations among German POWs during World War II that recently had been declassified. Neitzel would later find another collection of transcriptions, twice as extensive, in the National Archive in Washington, D.C.
These discoveries, published in book form for the first time, would provide a unique and profoundly important window into the true mentality of the soldiers in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the German navy, and the military in general—almost all of whom had insisted on their own honorable behavior during the war. Collaborating with renowned social psychologist Harald Welzer, Neitzel examines these conversations—and the casual, pitiless brutality omnipresent in them—to create a powerful narrative of wartime experience.
[Originally published as Soldaten.]
“An essential documentary record; seldom has surveillance been put to such important use.” —The Guardian
“Invaluable. . . . Historians often dream of being able to eavesdrop on history, but few can hope to obtain such spectacularly direct access as that presented in this major addition to the literature on the Second World War. . . . The transcripts of conversations between German prisoners of war, secretly recorded by the British and American intelligence services, offer a vivid and at times surprising insight into the mentality of the German military. . . . [Soldiers] presents an unprecedented source for understanding the ability to massacre.” —The Observer
“These extraordinary bugged conversations reveal through the eyes of German soldiers with stark clarity and candor the often brutal reality of the Second World War, providing remarkable insight into the mentality and behavior of the Wehrmacht.” —Sir Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler: A Biography
“The myth that Nazi-era German armed forces [were] not involved in war crimes persisted for decades after the war. Now two German researchers have destroyed it once and for all. . . . The material [Neitzel and Welzer] have uncovered in British and American archives is nothing short of sensational. . . . [Soldiers] has the potential to change our view of the war.” —Der Spiegel
“A trove of transcripts of bugged recordings providing specific, startling evidence that German soldiers in World War II were not just following orders. . . . Unique—and essential to any understanding of German mentalités in the Hitler era.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A remarkable archive of the testimony of German prisoners-of-war.” —The Telegraph
“This should be required reading for all those who believe that wars could be done cleanly.” —Martin Meier, Neues Deutschland
“A significant contribution on the mental history of the Wehrmacht. . . . The authors have written an incredibly readable book.” —Die Zeit
“An equally fascinating and shocking book about the everyday madness of the Nazi war of extermination, which once again confirms Hannah Arendt’s thesis about the ‘banality of evil’ . . . A scholarly sensation.” —Goethe Institut