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As a conscript from Alsace, Dominik Richert realised from the outset of the First World War that his family would be at or near the front line. While he saw no alternative to performing his duty, he was a reluctant soldier who was willing to stand up to authority – and to avoid risks - in order to survive. This thoughtful memoir of the conflict gives a lively picture of major events from the rare perspective of an ordinary German soldier.
In 1914 Richert was involved in fighting on the French border and was then moved to northern France where he was in combat with Indian troops. In 1915 he was sent to the East and took part in the Battle for Mount Zwinin in the Carpathians and the subsequent invasion of the western parts of the Ukraine and of eastern Poland. In 1917 he took part in the capture of Riga before returning to the Western Front in 1918, where he saw German tanks in action at the battle of Villers-Brettoneux.
No longer believing in the war, he subsequently crossed no-man's land and surrendered to the French, becoming a 'deserteur Alsacienne'. The book ends with his return home early in 1919.
This superb memoir gives a fascinating insight into the War as experienced by the Germans, and into the development of the author's attitude to it. Yes, Richert fights to survive, but he feels little respect for, or allegiance, to his own army or the society which sent him to war.
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