Erich von Manstein

Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler´s Most Brilliant General


One of the best accounts of the Second World War told from the German side, by one of its most brilliant generals. Around 570 pages, easy-to-read, very enjoyable and illuminating, and enormously interesting for its analysis.

It covers 3 main campaigns: the campaign of Poland, of France and the war in the East with Russia (chronologically from the fall of '39 to the spring of '44).

It reads better than any textbook on the subject; has some satisfactory maps and photos. Even though at some points it gets technical, because this is a military story, it never becomes a bore. The layman can understand this story perfectly.

This is a personal view from inside of the German Werhmacht. It's interesting to see not only the big picture of events as he presents it, but especially the plans for battle, the meetings with Hitler and his impressions of him, the portrait of his fellow soldiers, the battles from inside, the daily routines that don't come in textbooks. A book worth the price if only for these details of life. It has some humor in it too, despite all the calamities (see pages 149-150 for the description of the chateau of the manufacturer of Cointreau in France). It also has lots of interesting analyses of the war and whatifs. Insights into the characters of important political and military leaders of the time. An excellent evaluation of the geopolitics of those turbulent times available for everyone.
I had to underline many pages of this very juicy book. Now I want to read Rommel's diaries.

NB: While reading Gerhard Weinberg's 'A World at Arms', a global history of WWII, I came across this: "Once arrived at the southern front, von Manstein broke with all the other German army and air force generals and believed that it was possible to hold Stalingrad ... Concerned primarily about his reputation as a daring and always successful military commander, both at the time and after the war, he reinforced Hitler's inclination then and faked the relevant portion of his memoirs after the war."

And in the end-notes of the book he adds: "Manstein worked as hard to distort the record on this matter as on his massive involvement in the murder of Jews." Important details to know about the personage in question since he, obviously, let's us see him in another -positive- light. Which does not diminish, however, the interest of this book.