Books I Mentioned This Week: Read with Caution (Part 2)

The Last Prussian: A Biography of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt 1875-1953 by Charles Messenger. One Star. This is hagiography, not history. The author clearly buys into the myth that von Rundstedt was an honorable gentleman who made a few mistakes and knew something about atrocities but not much. I laughed out loud when I read this passage which explains why von Rundstedt should not be held responsible for the shooting of Polish POWs by German troops under his command during the invasion of Poland as well as general atrocities committed against Polish civilians by those same German troops:

“What, however, must be understood is that the German soldiers fighting in Poland were almost all experiencing combat for the first time and, in spite of the traditional discipline of their army, they were understandably nervous.”

They were nervous? That excuses wanton atrocities, wholesale murder of Prisoners of War, rape, pillage, the violation of countless international laws and treaties? Next time give them Xanax. Discipline in the German Army was ferocious. Men were severely punished for even small infractions. Plus, few of these men were untrained reservists. Most of these units were highly trained regular German Army troops. They ran amok because their senior officers allowed it. Mr. Messenger explanation of why German troops ran riot in Poland – and why von Rundstedt should not be held accountable – belongs in a musical comedy not a serious history.

[Mentioned in A Nazi in Prussian Clothing: Herr General Feldmarschal Gerd von Rundstedt (Part 1)]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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