Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army by Georg Rauch
Published: Feb 24, 2015
Austrian George Rauch was a fascinating man. He was drafted into Hitler’s army in 1944 at age seventeen, despite being one-quarter Jewish (his maternal grandmother was Jewish). He is immediately sent to the Russian or Eastern Front as a telegraphist, part of the communication department of the infantry. He manages to survive till the end of the war, despite many close shaves, only to be taken to a Russian POW camp at the end of the war. He manages to survive that and makes it home to his sister and mother. He never talks about his wartime experiences until the 1980s, while living Mexico, when he suddenly decides to write down his experiences in German to his wife, who translated the book into English. The book is told through a series of letters from Georg to his mother, with the author filling in missing parts of the story himself in-between letters.
When I first saw this book, I really wanted to read it. There are hardly any books on World War II, at least that I’ve found, on the subject of the war from the viewpoint of someone on the German side. You always hear from the Allies, so to get a book taken from the honest viewpoint a part-Jewish teenager, plus one whose parents not only disagreed with Hitler’s government but was also actively hiding Jews, is pretty intriguing. The book got a bit dense with all the battles, how the supplies were dwindling, as well as the hygiene problems of the soldiers of being without baths for long periods of time. But overall I enjoyed it. George was a very likable character. He was a smart teenager who built his own radios and a Morse code machine before he became a soldier and his ability to come up with fantastic food from scavenged materials while at the front (or near it at least) was fascinating. After returning to Austria after the war, he manages to find his family and ends up traveling the world before settling in Mexico and becoming an artist.
Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.