Two years ago, my sister-in-law Christine Alexander and her brother Mason Kunze published in book form the journals kept by their grandfather, a Wehrmacht infantryman who had fought on the Russian front during World War II. The hardcover version of the journals, which began just before the June 1941 German invasion and continued through mid-1943, sank without a trace,. That didn’t surprise me — small publisher, labor of love and all — but it did disappoint me because the book was compelling enough to appeal to a wide audience, even people without any particular interest in World War II. The writer wrote simply, from a grunt’s-eye view, and he wrote without flinching about what he witnessed. As the kids say, it was about as real as sh*t gets.
However, the Kindle version did better. Much better. In fact, unbeknownst to any of us until earlier today, back in mid-August the Kindle version hit No. 8 on the Wall Street Journal list of best-selling nonfiction e-books.
If you’ve got a Kindle and 10 bucks, download it. I’m not going to swear that you’ll enjoy it, but I promise you you’ll have a hard time putting it down. And when you’re done, take a minute and think about the fact that sterile terms like “pre-emptive strike” and “collateral damage” boil down, in real life, to the savagery you’ve just read about.