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  • By Bennett Nathaniel
    Jan 28, 2011
    War Memoirs 1914–1918 by Dr. Harry Marcuse These War Memoirs record the experiences of a psychiatrist drafted into the German Army during World War I. The original manuscript was translated from German into English and annotated by Dr. Herbert Kaufman, a retired professor of German and English literature, an author in his own right, and a winner of the BBC’s international radio play competition in 1995. Barbara Reisner, who holds a Ph.D. in French literature, and who is a granddaughter of Dr. Marcuse, organized the translated manuscript, adding photographs and an index. The high quality endnotes provide a wealth of background information and make it clear that Dr. Kaufman performed a great deal of research to present these memoirs to the public. Dr. Harry Marcuse served in various units of the German army. Judging by the number of published clinical studies and theoretical papers he wrote before, during and after the war, he was very talented. A soft spoken and sincere doctor, he... More > managed to maintain his composure and skills under the most difficult circumstances, such as being the only doctor for 5000 soldiers. The wartime conscription brought Dr. Marcuse into contact with a wide variety of people from German society, including professional musicians, a champion chess player, and numerous officers who possessed varying degrees of cowardice, courage, arrogance, and intoxication. In fact, what I find remarkable is that one sees no evidence of a breakdown during more than 4 years of warfare. When one considers that he was a psychiatrist rather than a practicing physicianbefore the commencement of hostilities, this becomes even more remarkable. As he put it: “I could cope with everything except those all-night bouts of smoking, drinking and singing.” He remained dedicated to the soldiers he treated and stayed cool without becoming callous, quite an achievement. Even at the end of the war, when desertions became rampant, he remained at his post to take care of his men and the horses until his superiors officially discharged him from service. In the midst of this disarray and despite his desire to return home, he concerned himself with the pension rights of a widow. Dr. Marcuse wrote these memoirs after the war, as evidenced by his comment on page 42 that the streets of Weimar Berlin might be more dangerous than the war. An admirable trait of these records is that the author did not use them to aggrandize himself. For example, he describes his innocent prewar attitude concerning the coming war and the Kaiser: “Faith was placed in the German Kaiser’s love of peace, his friendship with the Tsar, his family ties with England, and the fear instilled by the invincible German army.” The postwar attitude towards the Kaiser was quite different. For a student of the First World War, there are a few very interesting points these memoirs bring to light, which contrast with general conceptions of how the war was fought. For example, it is generally taught that during the beginning of the First World War the French infantry charged headlong into machine gun fire, while the ultra calculating Germans avoided such suicidal gestures of bravado. Nevertheless, we find the following entry in Dr. Marcuse’s account after a failed German advance: “So many dead and wounded, with no meaning or purpose! This is how dying for one’s fatherland looks from close up! Men and officers had set out to attack the enemy with the utmost bravura. They had gone forth with drawn swords, just as they had during maneuvers, without taking cover. They ridiculed the Russians, who were so cowardly as to hide in the trees – yes, who were even so deceitful as to shoot from the trees. Our men had advanced senselessly into machine gun fire.” Or compare this quotation from a modern day publication concerning the superiority of the highly efficient German trenches to Dr. Marcuse’s caustic comment on the same subject. The point is not that the modern conception is incorrect, rather that there were significant exceptions: “Connecting these {English} trenches were communication trenches, which allowed movement of messages, supplies, and men among the trenches. Some underground networks connected gun emplacements and bunkers with the communication trenches. German trench life was much different. They constructed elaborate and sophisticated tunnel and trench structures, sometimes with living quarters more than 50 feet below the surface. These trenches had electricity, beds, toilets and other niceties of life that contrasted sharply with the open-air trenches of the Allies.” (The Great War, PBS website) Compare with Dr. Marcuse’s observation: “To our surprise, we observed that the Russians had constructed trenches deeper than a man’s height, genuine emplacements with foxholes. We, on the other hand, had no shovels!” I would recommend these memoirs for any student of military history, particularly since most military accounts focus on the front line experience, while Dr. Marcuse served behind the lines. Dr. Reisner is currently preparing the original German version of these memoirs, which will include several hundred letters in German written by Dr. Marcuse during the course of the war. This will surely be a valuable addition to the existing published material.< Less
  • By stockwrock
    Nov 21, 2010
    Just when I thought all one could possibly learn about WWI had already been written and rewritten, this historic gem with a unique perspective via the memoirs of a Jewish-German officer surfaces. Many thanks for all the painstaking efforts of those responsible for publishing this work.
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Product Details

ISBN
9781446641156
Publisher
Barbara Reisner
Published
October 26, 2010
Language
English
Pages
182
Binding
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
Weight
0.72 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
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