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War in the Wild East


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About the Author

Ben Shepherd is Reader in History at Glasgow Caledonian University.


The epic clash on the Eastern Front in the Second World War remains arguably the largest conflict ever fought... Analyzing the official paperwork of three army security divisions responsible for the suppression of Soviet insurgents, Shepherd focuses on the conduct and motivation of the field officers, who served as the crucial links that 'converted the ideological, military, and economic imperatives of the Third Reich's war of extermination into action.' He reveals that at all levels the Wehrmacht was thoroughly indoctrinated in Nazi anti-Bolshevik, anti-Slav, and anti-Semitic ideology... But Shepherd reveals that as partisan activity intensified, many officers (mostly from western Germany, and so largely immune from the anti-Slav sentiment that pervaded eastern Germany) calculatedly acted with some restraint and even attempted to cultivate ties with Soviet civilians in order to stanch support for the guerrillas and woo deserters-even as Wehrmacht units, commanded by ideological fanatics (who tended to be from eastern Germany), continued and extended their arbitrary killing spree. Shepherd in no way exonerates the Wehrmacht. The conduct of all German officers he examines was ferocious, even criminal-though some were more brutal than pragmatic, and some more pragmatic than brutal. But in highlighting the diversity and fluidity of the Wehrmacht's response to the partisan threat, he illuminates both the mercurial nature of warfare and a particularly savage aspect of the most savage war yet waged. -- Benjamin Schwarz * The Atlantic *
This important book marks the confluence of several relatively recent historiographical trends that have influenced military history in general and accounts of Nazi Germany's war in the East particular... Shepherd demonstrates his mastery of the considerable literature in this area... Shepherd's monograph is well written, and his arguments and conclusions are sound. This book will appeal to experts as well as general readers with an interest in the Soviet-German war. -- Frank Buscher * Journal of Military History *
Ben Shepherd's excellent study of the Nazi invasion of Russia during World War II is well reasoned and carefully argued. He illuminates the complex sequence of events and ideas that led to the development of a 'culture of brutality' in the Wehrmacht. -- Dennis Showalter, Colorado College

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