is a publishing company based in Germany that has been in operation since 2002. At the moment Luftfahrtverlag-Start
produce hard backed books and paper backed magazines covering all arms of the German military in World War 2. In this review I will be taking a look at Als Panzermann in Afrika und Italien 1942 – 45 Panzer regiment 8 und schwere Panzer- Abt 508, this is the first in a series of books looking at the war through the eyes of the men who fought in it.
When my postman struggled up my path with what turned out to be a very heavy parcel, my interest was piqued to see exactly what had arrived. Inside a very well packed box I found 2 books and 2 magazines from Luftfahrtverlag-Start
, each of which was individually wrapped; in the belief that this is the usual way Luftfahrtverlag-Start
package and post their products, it tells me they like their products to arrive in the best possible condition. This book follows the military career of Hans Becker both before the start of World War 2 and during it. Hans Becker was born on the 22nd June 1915 and died on the 9th of June 1976.
Table of Contents
- The Reich Labour Service
- In the Military 1936 – 1942
- With the Panzer Regiment 8 in North Africa
- At the Military Hospital
- Action with Schwere Panzer Abt 508
This book is a duel language publication in German and English. The book consists of 248 pages and 294 pictures in both black and white and colour, there are also 13 maps to help the reader visualise the information.
This book literally looks at the military career of Hans Becker through his own eyes and in his own words. The book follows his career through his pictures and through his letters home to both his parents and later his wife Ilse, there are also inclusions from his diaries which really helps bring the war home to the reader. The letters and pictures have been made available through Hans Becker’s son Mr Eckart Becker.
I think of the first two sections of this book as background before getting to this man’s story proper. The first two areas in the book titled ‘Youth’ and ‘The Reich Labour Service’ are very short. ‘Youth’ introduces you to Hans Becker’s love of flying, where he became a glider pilot after joining the German Air Sports Association. His working career started as a dispensing chemist, with one of his first purchases being a Rolleiflex reflex camera, the use of which he became very efficient in judging from the included photographs. In 1936 Hans was called up for service and spent six months in the RAD (Reich Labor Service). While in the RAD his photography won him a prize which shows his natural ability with a camera.
Hans finished his time with the RAD in September 1936 and was promptly called up for 2 years of compulsory Military Service in October 1936. Less that year after being released from this World War 2 started with the invasion of Poland and Hans was called up and took part in actions in both Poland and France.
I have covered these early parts of the book as they are fairly short and really count as a background to the man whose eyes and words you are about to see World War 2 through. I would say from a German soldier’s point of view, but in this case I feel that would not do Hans Becker service as I should say ‘this man’s eyes and words’. I had intended to read this book over the course of a week, but instead I read it from start to finish in a single sitting. I very quickly stopped seeing this man as a soldier in World War 2 of the opposing side (in my case) and instead saw a person doing his duty as he saw it, and through this book telling his story from beyond the grave in a very human way.
The story is told through excerpts from letters to his wife written in a way most soldiers would in time of war. The sections taken from Hans diary are typical in that they are short and to the point, I particularly like that the publisher has not just used parts that talk about action, but also tell you about the heat, lack of sleep and the flies which is something I always remember my grandfather talking about while fighting in the North African campaign. The pictures are of a very high standard, being very clear and crisp for their age; I did find one picture of an anti-tank gun firing in anger that was shaky. One picture I particularly liked is a double exposure which shows an image of a panzer III with an almost ghostly image of Hans Becker overlaid in the turret of the same tank; If nothing else it is very arty.
The book takes you through the North African campaign and the Italian campaign as you follow Hans Becker through his war until being incarcerated in an Allied POW camp from May to November 1945. The pictures cover a wide choice of subject matter from the Tiger 1 through to captured trucks, and perhaps most importantly as they looked in service rather than how the powers that be wanted them to look; there are no propaganda pictures here.
One of the best books I have read covering a specific history in a way a military person would understand, and providing the ability for a none military person to experience the high and lows as well as the excitement and boredom of serving in a war zone. This book really is a joy to read due to the way it has been written and edited. As an aside the pictures in the book provide a lot of ideas for dioramas featuring as it does a lot of images covering everyday activities.