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Die Stalinorgel [PDF / EPUB] Die Stalinorgel 1942 at the Eastern Front Soldiers crouch in horrible holes in the ground mingling with corpses Tunneled beneath a radio mast German soldiers await the order to blow themselves up Russian tanks strugg at the Eastern Front Soldiers crouch in horrible holes in the ground mingling with corpses Tunneled beneath a radio mast German soldiers await the order to blow themselves up Russian tanks struggling to break through enemy lines bog down in a swamp while a German runner bearing messages from headuarters to the front scrambles desperately from shelter to shelter as he tries to avoid getting caught up in the action Through it all Russian artillery—the crude but devastatingly effective multiple rocket launcher known to the Germans as the Stalin Organ and to the Russians as Katyusha—rains death upon the struggling troopsComparable to such masterpieces of war literature as Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel and Erich Remarue's All uiet on the Western Front The Stalin Front is a harrowing almost photographic description of violence and devastation one that brings home the unforgiving reality of total war.

10 thoughts on “Die Stalinorgel

  1. says:

    Fear Without End The Stalin Front is flippantly gruesome a script I’m surprised uentin Tarantino never picked up It is a catalogue of the slaughter degradation and physical misery that soldiers suffer As the translator’s introduction says it is pure Kampfschrift ‘fighting writing’ As such there is no deviation from the one emotion that is shared by every one of its characters unremitting fearThere is of course fear of the enemy which is to be expected But there is also fear of one’s fellows fear of superiors in the first instance because that’s the principal instinct trained into a soldier but also because superiors may stop acting as superiors; fear of your peers whom you know would ultimately sacrifice your life for theirs just as you would theirs for yours; and fear of the institutions of society that have collectively agreed to put you in a position of despairing hopelessnessLedig summarises the source of these fears succinctly the fear of injustice War can be defined as the absence of justice of even the possibility of justice It is the knowledge that justice is unattainable from any source within war that generates both the fear and the innumerable ways in which soldiers have discovered to mitigate the effects of injustice from the distortion of orders to desertion It is not simply enemy bullets which kill and maim randomly and therefore unjustly The entire system of war its protocols procedures and military organisation are established explicitly to avoid judgments about the relative merits of a course of action criteria of choice or the competencies of individuals In fact there are no individuals only classes into which individuals are assigned ranks degree of fitness and function None of these categories attracts the concept of justiceLedig’s techniue for describing the universality of injustice in war is to create two opposing units one German the other Soviet which effectively surround each other isolating the other unit from the rest of their army And each of these units holds captive an enemy officer at its centre The result is a sort of corporate enclosure in which the parts also contain the whole The world outside this enclosure effectively doesn’t exist Those who think they’ve escaped from it meet the fate they probably would have within itThe last thought of the German Captain as he is shot in the back trying to rejoin his men is “Is this justice?” Of course it isn’t Neither is the non judicial execution of the Sergeant nor the madness of the Cavalry Officer nor the survival of any number of cowards and incompetents Only after the battle subsides does a vague hope reassert itself Standing by a graveside the NCO comments on the pious words of a chaplain about the inscrutable justice of God “‘I secretly hope there’s some truth in it’ ‘Yes’ said the Major ‘I’d hate to think that was just another trick’”I suppose not allowing ourselves to think it’s just another trick is what keeps us alive in or out of war Injustice is after all our greatest fear

  2. says:

    The Stalin Front also published as The Stalin Organ by Gert Ledig 1921 1999 is a novel about Russo German fighting during World War II It was first published in German in 1955 sixteen years after the author volunteered in the army The English translation by Michael Hofmann appeared only recently in 2004 The novel constitutes Ledig's graphic reminiscences of the war Its imagery brings to my mind recent war films like Saving Private Ryan by Steven Spielberg and The Thin Red Line by Terrence MalickThe novelist must have an acute memory to be able to indelibly register such brutal and cruel moments of war but what else to expect of bloody wars or else an abnormal capacity to absorb the violence The mess and chaos are sustained throughout the entire book in a visceral realistic and natural prose style Consider the opening scenes in the prologueThe Lance Corporal couldn't turn in his grave because he didn't have one Some three versts from Podrova forty versts south of Leningrad he had been caught in a salvo of rockets been thrown up in the air and with severed hands and head dangling been impaled on the skeletal branches of what once had been a tree   The NCO who was writhing on the ground with a piece of shrapnel in his belly had no idea what was keeping his machine gunner It didn't occur to him to look up He had his hands full with himselfSuch is the cinematic power of Ledig's novel that the words paint battle scenes in color albeit the gray and brown and black colors of smoking tanks muddy fields and filthy uniforms and the deep red color of blood spurting like merry fountains More than reading a shooting script or screenplay the reader seems to be watching the whole thing unfold on the big screen The sound effects are deafening; the chamber music is literally absent; the editing is sharply executed The pauses and the silences in between the hail of bullets do not give respite to the viewer Instead they provoke a heightened sense of danger The novel replicates the dread boredom over fatigue and nervous breakdown in a large modern scale warThe story follows a group of soldiers as they try to either defend their position in the front or to attack the enemy The Stalin organ refers to the automatic weapon multiple rocket launcher used by the Russian side to efficiently wipe out the Germans Ledig picks up both points of view of the Russian and German soldiers that the reader is sometimes confused which side he is reading about Eventually it dawns on us that it doesn't matter whether the story told is that of the German or the Russian side Humanity has the same face and every one is interchangeable Every man is an everyman whose life is readily extinguished by a bullet or bayonet The story is broken into short chapters that show the characters in the midst of combat and deliberating moral choices that test and define their physical and moral resilience The characters instead of being called by their names are often reduced to their ranks ie the Lance Corporal the Runner the Sergeant the Major the Captain Michael Hoffman the translator of the novel from the German mentioned in his introduction that he purposely capitalized the ranks of the characters to make them distinct from each other This stylistic choice of substituting ranks to names allows for easy recognition of the characters One can imagine the difficulty of trying to ascertain the identities of soldiers through all the chaos and wasteland This choice of the translator however may have undermined Ledig's apparent vision of the universality of men That again every man is everyone in war and each soldier the lance corporal the runner the sergeant the major the captain slides into anonymity in the face of annihilation Each may be acting according to his rank with winning the war as the primary objective but this is superseded by a pressing individual concern which is the concern of all to survive to preserve one's critically endangered life I bought this book on the strength of W G Sebald's blurb at the back of the NYRB edition The blurb is taken from Sebald's essay Air War and Literature from the book On the Natural History of Destruction Sebald's essay takes to task the postwar German writers for failing to record the destruction wrought by wars For Sebald the books of Ledig as well as that of Heinrich Böll and Peter Weiss among others are a rare exception to this apparent defect in the German letters Sebald champions the kind of novels that speak plainly and precisely and with unpretentious objectivity as opposed to novels full of aesthetic or pseudo aesthetic effects He favors the concrete and documentary style of writing over the abstract and imaginary For Sebald accounts of suffering must be commensurate to the magnitude of the human loss; these are the kind of novels worth writing about in the face of total destructionWhat particularly sets Ledig's first novel apart from other stories of modern war and conflict is its own sense of the poetic injustice of men fighting fellow men its cast iron sense of irony and its non compromised portrayal of a natural history of destruction The natural history of war in its literal sense can pertain to a respect for Nature and the idea of war as a direct assault against it This is achieved through poetic engagement with the natural world and the senseless plight of human beings in this theater One can think of the images of the flowing grass and the wildlife in The Thin Red Line but with less gratuitous intent as the images are part of or combined in the action The insects and the trees have their own cameo roles in the novel   As soon as he entered the wood he felt alone The brush the birch trunks everything was silent The log road built by Russian soldiers who had long since died of starvation or been shot swayed silently underfoot A swarm of mosuitoes danced over a dead body in the murky puddle in the clearing A beetle in shining armour dragged a blade of grass across the path A ring of scorched grass an uprooted tree and a pile of broken boughs indicated that death had been at work days previously just yesterday or even a matter of hours ago A few sunbeams managed to break through the leaves and reach the ground   Men together with their misplaced intelligence play their tragic roles in theaters of war to fight the other side to the death The war rages on while all around the very brave and noble and heroic combatants millions of other species lowly plants and animals get on with their lives Whether they are uprooted or remain rooted to the spot the trees in the forest stand at attention in their precarious positions awaiting their decimation Yet the natural world is implacable in the face of material and human loss the millions of human lives lost In The Stalin Front wars are shown as machines that reduce humanity and nature into useless objects Wars are shown for what in the first place they amount to lost causes The novel builds an argument for literature as a corrective to this dark history It asks the same uestion that the purveyors of war never get to answer sufficiently Why after the curtain falls on these theaters of the past do people today still want to engage in the same acts of destruction?Read as part of the NYRB Reading Week First posted here

  3. says:

    The Lance Corporal couldn't turn in his grave because he didn't have one Some three versts from Podrova forty versts south of Leningrad he had been caught in a salvo of rockets been thrown up in the air and with severed hands and head dangling been impaled on the skeletal branches of what once had been a treeThe NCO who was writhing on the ground with a piece of shrapnel in his belly had no idea what was keeping his machine gunner It didn't occur to him to look up He had his hands full with himselfSo begins The Stalin Front The rest of the novel is similarly evocative and grotesue but confusing This is just about the last point at which spatial relationships and the people occupying them will be crystal clear From here on it can be very hard to tell who is where doing what to whom for how long and why Most characters are only identified by their rank or job Captain Colonel Major Sergeant Runner Sentry Mix and match with foxhole trench swamp bunker hill woods The chaos of the text is the chaos of war; the soldiers are just as turned around as the reader I think if I reread it made a list of the characters and a few salient facts about them I might be able to figure out the narrative But I can't; it's just too dark Good writing and a good translation

  4. says:

    This is not a book about the Katyusha rock launcher it is a novel about the fighting in the Eastern Front graphically described The author Gert Ledig was a veteran in the war at the Eastern Front and so what he described in the novel is probably from his experience in the warWhat strikes the reader immediately is the brutality of the conditions of the battle A Russian advance bogged down the Germans on the other hand had run out of everything food water ammunition and replacements Combatants from both sides were lost some surrendered if just to get away from that constant bombardment or in the case of the Runner to avoid another run between the frontline and the Battalion H Those who were injured and could not get away were either treated or ravaged depending on the random deal of luck And then there was the absurdity of the command some of which appeared to have come out of a children's storybook pg 79 though nothing beats the attempt to carry out a court martial in the middle of raining bombardment and strafing planes pg 138The author's success in the graphic descriptions is helped much by his ability to describe using the most imaginative words and sentences Take for example A geyser of earth from a shell impact swallowed him up and spat him out again pg 9 The reader immediately imagines earth and dust shooting out of the ground and 'him' having miraculously survived emerging from the cloud of thick dust and shrapnel Examples like this are found throughout the bookThe one failing I find was the attempt at a love story which while might just have been real enough didn't sit well anywhere in the book and feels unnecessary Besides that I think this short book is a good read and one that allows readers to get a good idea of what the fighting at the Eastern Front was like Since there does not seem to be many English or translated novels set in that theatre this one is recommended for anyone who is interested

  5. says:

    Hannah Arendt wrote in her book 'Eichmann in Jerusalem' that our modern conception of evil is banality; the ubiuitousness of violence degradation and disrespect for human life is what roots humanity in evil It is Arendt's version of evil that arises in Ledig's 'Stalin Front' the mechanization of death is the most insidious and disturbing part of the storyThere is much to be said for The Stalin Front Superficially it is a war story between the Germans and the Russians told either notably or not by a German during the battle of Pedrova a hill outside of Leningrad Whether to be attributed to Hoffman's translation or the ambiguity of Ledig's own writing it is freuently difficult to discern about which side one is reading With the exception of an occasional 'tovarische' or italicized German or Russian phrase there is little allusion given to the particular 'sides' in the war The mutual hatred between the Russians and the Germans is evident to any student of history Regardless there is no politicising the war and the clash of ideologies and governments Much like Junger's 'Storm of Steel' the various political components underpinning the war are virtually ignored in lieu of the focus upon the day to day survival of those engaged in the war There are some small bits of compassion between the two sides and throughout the story it is evidenced how much the larger the battle is than each individual soldier and officer engaged in it The overwhelming bureaucracy prevents units on both the Russian and German side from making proper decisions while units remain at the mercy of their oft far removed commanding officersInherently there is an amount of violence to be expected of any book regarding war Ledig's written violence is uneuivocally one of the most severe and consuming that I have personally encountered in literature Despite the incessant barrage of brutality there are slivers of each character attempting to preserve whatever dignity he has left despite or perhaps in spite of the circumstances Hoffman's translation is clearly painstakingly completed much of the idiomatic phrases and similes are translated in closest approximation to their English counterparts Some of the writing is jilted which is either Ledig's writing or Hoffman's translating The difficulty of course is that there are no other translations of 'The Stalin Front' available at present time and one is left with Hoffman's by default Much of the prose is really uite beautiful but sporadically some remarkably stilted line or paragraph ekes its way into the workSimilar books to explore of course include other works involving generally apolitical war exploration In using the term apolitical there is the expectation that the book is itself not a political manifesto of some particular ideology or viewpoint The book's theme itself may speak a philosophical ethical or moral view though without espousing a pointedly political viewpoint As such Ernst Junger's 'Storm of Steel' Dalton Trumbo's 'Johnny Got His Gun' and of course the perennially recommended war favourite Remarue's 'All uiet on the Western Front' are written in a similar vein

  6. says:

    Ledig gives a realistic description of what it was like to participate on the Eastern front from multiple perspectives during the GermanRussian engagement In particular this work takes place at which point the two sides are locked in a stalemate I enjoyed this short novel because I felt like I was therewatching the battle in a safe place in a different time What does one take away from this? It's difficult to read any serious war fiction and take away any kind of idea that war is heroic or honorable see Dulce et Decorum by Windred Owen War is a pure debasement of what it means to be human Ledig reveals all of the chaos pain irony suffering and torture that one would expect to find Most of the characters have no names but although forgotten we know they or someone like them existed making this work real than any documentary or non fiction book on the subject

  7. says:

    Very good novel written in the 1950's about the fighting between the Germans and Russians at the Eastern front in World War 2 Excellently prtrays just how horrible and futile war really is Very powerfully written and not for the sueamish

  8. says:

    This is one of the best works of fiction I have read on the Eastern Front Told from the perspective of both Germans and Russians Soviet alike Ledig's narrative of the events taking place over the space of two days does much to convey the sheer horror and terror of war The individuals whose interwoven experiences form the basis of the novel are known simply by title the Lieutenant or the Runner etc The lack of names gives each man an almost anonymous character one of countless like him and this is reflected in their violent deaths which are described in a very matter of fact manner This book does not glorify war There are no heroes and villains merely regular unexceptional men thrown into an environment from which many will not return Drawing on his own experiences of the war Ledig has created a piece of work which excellently depicts the futility of war and one which I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject

  9. says:

    Okay this book is about as relentless and merciless as the artillery attack Feuerwalze it describes I've read it in one day and the closest thing I can think of it's All uiet on the Western Front 35 years alter on the EASTERN Front Fascinating when and where he uses the character's actual names too The Russians have names the Germans only sometimes and late in the book Not what I would have expectedI have Payback here in German and am slightly scared to read it now Some sentences are gorgeous amazing splinters rammed deep into your brain It's a book I'll re read I haven't finished grappling with it but this round it won

  10. says:

    This book was part of the War and Literature Readalong 2012 It is set in 1942 on the Eastern front and deals comprehensively with the experiences of the German and Russian soldiers Ledig is writing of his own experience albeit fictionalised in stark bleak and precise prose There are no heroes just men on both sides trying to stay alive It is a book which resonates long after you've finished reading it

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