Synopses & Reviews
A Stranger to Myself: The Inhumanity of War, Russia 1941-44
is the haunting memoir of a young German soldier on the Russian front during World War II. Willy Peter Reese was only twenty years old when he found himself marching through Russia with orders to take no prisoners. Three years later he was dead. Bearing witness to--and participating in--the atrocities of war, Reese recorded his reflections in his diary, leaving behind an intelligent, touching, and illuminating perspective on life on the eastern front. He documented the carnage perpetrated by both sides, the destruction which was exacerbated by the young soldiers' hunger, frostbite, exhaustion, and their daily struggle to survive. And he wrestled with his own sins, with the realization that what he and his fellow soldiers had done to civilians and enemies alike was unforgivable, with his growing awareness of the Nazi policies toward Jews, and with his deep disillusionment with himself and his fellow men.
An international sensation, A Stranger to Myself is an unforgettable account of men at war.
"Sometimes lyrical, this memoir by a German youth who miraculously survived four tours of duty on the Russian front during WWII he died on his fifth deployment is a significant historical document. It is also a laborious and overwrought cacophony of Wagnerian proportions. Reese, who was a 20-year-old bank clerk in 1939 when he was first drafted, inhabits many different worlds, all of them conflicting. Despite Schmitz's assertion that Reese was 'no Nazi,' he was, like the vast majority of German youths of the time, deeply imbued with Nazi ideology and experienced the war as a sort of sacrament. Duty, abdication and heroism are just some of his motifs. Reese sees himself as a poet deciphering the human condition, but mostly he is just a soldier who plays his part in the atrocities often exuberantly. He laughs with the other members of his platoon at the spectacle of Russian partisans hanging by the neck 'yellow-brown ichor dribbled out of their eyes and crusted on their cheeks' and makes Russian women dance naked. Despite its long-winded homilies and repetitiveness, this stark testimony provides new insights into both the ravages of Nazi indoctrination and the bloodiest military campaign in history." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This book [is] a revelation. And--where historical witness is threatened with disappearance, or has already disappeared--an enrichment."--Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger
Reese was 20 when he found himself marching through Russia with orders to take no prisoners. Three years later he was dead. Bearing witness to--and participating in--the atrocities of World War II, he recorded his reflections in his diary, leaving behind an illuminating perspective.
About the Author
Willy Peter Reese
was a young German soldier on the Russian Front during World War II. He died at the age of twenty-three.