Saturday, 30 July 2016
D Day Through German Eyes Vol 1 and 2 - Holger Eckhertz
Author: Holger Eckhertz
Publisher: DTZ History Publications
I have made the decision to review Herr Eckhertz’s two books together as they are of the same theme and presentation. During WW2, the author’s grandfather, Dieter Eckhertz, was a military journalist for the German military publications ‘Die Wehrmacht’ and ‘Signal’. In 1944, he was tasked with writing a series of articles on the Atlantic Wall in the West and, in the process of preparing, visited many of the units stationed in that region. Following the war, in 1954, while no longer a reporter, he decided to follow up with individuals from those units he had visited in order to capture their recollections and experiences of D-Day now that the passage of time had provided some distance between the events. The results are testimonials that are still raw, disturbing, enlightening, brutally honest and at the same time deeply thought provoking. The interviews were never published until they came into the hands of Dieter’s grandson who has done an excellent job of presenting them to the modern audience.
Each interview is presented as a series of questions relating to the interviewees experience primarily on the day of 6 June; thus the narrative is more of a discussion vice a story. Additionally, a majority of the men interviewed are private soldiers, not senior officers or Non-commissioned ranks and therefore the reader begins to appreciate these ‘lower level’ responses and perspectives.
There are a number of themes which I found very interesting that came out of these interviews as the men looked back on their experiences. These included a sense that they were defending a ‘United Europe’, frustration that the Allies were distracting them from the real threat which was communism, an initial confidence in their ability to hold the line, shock at the capability of the Allies to bring armour in such large numbers across the channel and disbelief at the violence of the air and sea assault.
Additionally, the testimonies bring up a number of other extremely interesting subjects such as the Allies use of phosphorous weapons and its impact upon the defenders, the Allied ‘flame tank’, the German use of the ‘Goliath’, the use of foreign workers in the building the Western Wall, the extensive appearance of Russian and Polish soldiers fighting for the Germans and what happened to them following capture and the interaction between the German soldiers and the French population.
Perhaps the most remarkable interview was with a specialist weapons officer who discussed in detail the development of a weapon by the Germans that would be categorized today as a FAE (fuel air explosive). This weapon has enormous destructive power mainly centered upon the massive shock wave that it generates when detonated. The German system, code named Taifun (Typhoon) B, was deployed to Normandy and was to be utilized against the Allied armour concentration at St Lo but was fortunately destroyed by a random artillery barrage just before it was launched.