Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the Second World War.
This is kind of apt since it is the Anzac holiday weekend in Australia and blanket media coverage about all the 20th Century wars is everywhere.
But my fascination with WW2 is not inspired by stories of Australia’s struggles overseas.
Instead, I’ve been reading about the Eastern Front and how the Red Army successfully defended Russia against the Germans.
This sudden surge of interest was inspired by the excellent German television series Generation War.
Until I saw Generation War, I knew very little about the Eastern Front and the incredible battles that took place there. I now want to know more.
As is often the way, I chanced upon a book about the siege of Leningrad in the local library a few days later.
The book, by historian Michael Jones, is based upon diary entries written by German and Red Army soldiers as well as civilians. Jones fills in the blanks every now and then, but mainly leaves the narrative to those who could describe the horror and stresses of war.
What emerges is a fascinating and tragic human story.
After reading about the siege of Leningrad I then read the rest of Jones’ work. This included the battle of Stalingrad, the German retreat from Moscow and the final battle for Berlin.
It is hard to describe how I felt at the conclusion of all these books. Sadness at the loss of so many lives, anger at the stupidity of war, frustration that ordinary people are sacrificed and made to fight futile battles started by mad men and bewilderment that wars are still fought at all.
It certainly makes my view of Anzac Day this year a more sobering experience than usual.