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5. Sturm-Bataillon "Rohr" Reading List

The German Reenactor's Recommended Reading List

This is a list of related books and videos for those interested in the Imperial German Army. Although, obviously, one would have difficulty in finding and reading ALL of these books, many are still readily available. The following titles are broken into sections to allow for easier access. If you don't see all the books, but instead, see an ugly orange graphic, just hit the refresh a couple of times.

A Thought on Our Reading List...

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First, get AND read this book by Ernst Jünger,
a young combat officer on the Western Front!
This guy really HAD it!!!

The Storm of Steel: From the Diary of a...From the Diary of a German Stormtroop Officer on the Western Front by Ernst Jünger.

Ernst Junger wrote this book telling what he lived in the Great War. He describes it with full passion and impressing style, making you feel like you are being barraged in the the trenches or you are in the middle of an assault. It is interesting to know that, apart from being one of the most important German writers in this century, Junger was awarded with the last "Pour le merite," the Germany's highest medal for valour in action, given in that war. I was strongly suggested by a friend to read this book. I have not been disappointed.

German Assault Troops of WW1--his book covers the organization, tactics, weapons, equipment, orders of battle, and uniforms of official and unofficial units, from early raiding parties to formal assault battalions. Rare photos depict badges and insignia not previously known, while primary documents describing regulations and training are provided in their entirety. New information on the origin of shock tactics is presented, gleaned from German archives and not previously published in English. Specific operations on all fronts are included, along with extracts from German army manuals for shock-troop arms such as flamethrowers, mortars, machine guns, grenade launchers, assault artillery, and tanks.

German Assault Troops of the First World War: Stosstrupptaktik - The First Stormtroopers:

To many it would later seem as if the rule book of war had been torn up and thrown away. World War I is usually characterized as a static war of attrition, but by its end a new doctrine of fire and movement emerged, with the squad as the key tactical unit, marking a fundamental shift in methods of warfare. As late as March 1918, assault detachments used these tactics to destroy the British 5th Army and take 50,000 prisoners. Stephen Bull traces the development of German storm tactics in the context of trench warfare waged with new technology: vastly improved machine-guns, super-heavy artillery, flamethrowers, and gas. The legend of German stormtroops has proved powerful and enduring. They were central to Blitzkrieg, and Hitler styled them as elite soldiers—living examples of Nietzschean supermen. As demonstrated here, these tactics did not appear out of nowhere.

Sturmtruppen: WWI German Stormtroopers (1914-1918):

The first assault units (Sturmtruppen) were formed during the spring and summer of 1916, when the Sturmbataillon Rohr was organized and after General Falkenhayn, head of the OHL, gave orders for the creation of special detachments. These detachments had the mission of spreading the Stosstrupptaktik, a new tactic which decisively transformed the fighting methods of the German Army. But long before this happened, another type of troops had been created within the German infantry during the winter of 1914-1915: the Shock troops (Stosstruppen), fresh infantry groups that were never officially recognized as such and never belonged to any permanent unit, but remained active until the end of the war and contributed to improving the offensive capacity of the German infantry.

This book is a narration of the history of the shock and assault troops and covers their combat methods. Finally, it offers a comprehensive description of their uniforms, equipment, and weapons, along with a large number of illustrations and period photographs rarely seen.

Some Movies and Videos

All Quiet on the Western Front: Directed by Lewis Milestone, starring Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, Slim Summerville. Adapted by Maxwell Anderson from the novel written by Erich Maria Remarque. This is the classic movie about the German WWI soldier, with original uniforms and equipment and actors trained by real WWI German vets. One of the few irritating things about this movie is the strong 1930s-style moralizing along with Lew Ayres' heavy over-acting. The "must-have" movie for your library. Do not confuse this with the vastly inferior "John-Boy" made-for-TV version of All Quiet which is reviewed below. All Quiet on the Western Front is available from most video stores. Even better, simply wait and watch it on The Classic Movie Channel where it is occasionally shown, sometimes along with an interview of Lew Ayres.
All Quiet on the Western Front: (the so-called "John -Boy" version) Directed by Delbert Mann, starring Richard Thomas, Ernest Borgnine, with Donald Pleasence. This version of All Quiet is a heavily "Hollywood-ed" 1970's era made-for-TV movie. The script was "adapted" (I would say "ruined") by Paul Monash from the original novel written by Erich Maria Remarque. Among the truly irritating things about this "movie" is the HORRIBLE uniforms and equipment used by the actors--the Technical Advisor and Property Manager for this movie were surely not up to snuff and probably should have been shot. Saying all of this though, if you know absolutely NOTHING about WWI German uniforms, equipment and the Imperial German Army, this movie tells a good tale--just DO NOT watch it to learn anything about the Kaiser's Army in WWI.
WESTFRONT 1918; Vier von der Infanterie: Directed by G.W. Pabst, starring Fritz Kampers, Gustav Diessl, Hans Joachim Moebis, Claus Clausen. In German, with subtitles--well, poor, but amusing subtitles anyway ("Hey, that's not what Scheiße means!"). This is another "gotta-have" for your film library! Original uniforms and equipment with many of the actors having been real WWI German vets. The only bad thing about this flick is, once again, the heavy 1930s-style moralizing--much like in All Quiet.

A group of German infantrymen of the First World War live out their lives in the trenches of France. They find brief entertainment and relief in a village behind the lines, but primarily terror fills their lives as the attacks on and from the French army ebb and flow. One of the men, Karl, goes home on leave only to discover the degradation forced on his family by wartime poverty. He returns to the lines in time to face an enormous attack by French tanks.

Stosstruppe 1917: This movie was made during the 1930's and is even better than WESTFRONT 1918 or All Quiet. BUY THIS MOVIE!!!

Uneasy lies the countryside beneath the stench of war. Stosstrupp 1917 (Shock Troop 1917) is the story of the steel hurricane known as the Great War, told from the German perspective. Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) had been fiercely pacifistic, and G. W. Pabst’s Westfront 1918 (1930) no less so, but while Hans Zoberlein’s equally lavish Stosstrupp 1917 is also antiwar, it is more sympathetic to Germany’s trench-warfare ordeal.

All Quiet on the Western Front and Westfront 1918 are universally hailed as the two greatest First World War films ever produced, based as much on the astonishingly mobile cinematography of Arthur Edeson and Fritz Arno Wagner as on their masterly direction. Regrettable is the omission of Stosstrupp 1917 from this pantheon, for its cinematography by Karl Hasselmann is as uniformly dazzling. An enormous box-office hit upon its release on 20 February 1934, Stosstrupp 1917 was based on director Zoberlein’s own war memoirs, Der Glaube an Deutschland, to which Adolf Hitler contributed a foreword; was financed by the National Socialist government; and featured Wehrmacht and SA troops in its cast, which make its invisibility since 1945 more readily comprehensible. The picture has been banned in Germany since the end of the Nazi era. Prints that have circulated since then have been heavily censored and run less than 90 minutes, removing militaristic dialogue and diluting the film’s impact and painstaking realism; many of its pyrotechnics, for instance, were produced with real ammunition and explosives. The present release restores 21 minutes of missing footage. Directed by Hans Zöberlein, Franz Adam, Marian Kolb, and L. Schmid-Wildy. Starring Ludwig Schmid-Wildy, Beppo Brem, Max Zankl, Hans Possenbacher.

Special NEW updated version available from IHF here.

Standschütze Bruggler: Rarely covered subject-matter-- even in Europe--about an Austrian farmer's son who joins in the fight against Italy in the First World War. As a Kaiserjager, he fights bravely in the mountain war and eventually saves his unit from a very grim fate.

Directed by Werner Klingler; music by Herbert Windt; featuring Ludwig Kerscher, Franziska Kinz, and Rolf Pinegger. Germany, 1936, B&W, 81 minutes, German dialogue.

Be very, very aware, that the actors are Tirolean and quite often speak in that dialect. So, yes, it's in German, no subtitles--watching this movie allows you to realize just how poor your German really is. Neat scenes of the Alps and German soldiers later-on. Look for the German Army to come in and save the day. Available from IHF or Max Stiebritz.

[This might be in Region 2.... sorry, it's what we can get] Der Hauptmann von Köpenick: This is a great movie. Set in about 1910 in Prussia, after a true story ... In Prussian Germany, at the beginning of the 20th century the shoemaker Wilhelm Voigt (Heinz Rühmann) is released from prison where he spent most of his lifetime. By nature never truly a bad guy but someone who kept over water by smalltime swindling he mostly got unlucky and repeatedly went to jail. Generally of good will he spent his time there working and learning everything he could. In a military influenced society and era like this the scholary-lessons were dominated by army knowledge which one would actually call meaningless for civil life. Particularly today everybody would fear any such knowledge in the hands of civilians as a basis for terrorist-actions.Now on the edge of retirement Voigt gets his pardon and goes free, the law knows he's too old to commit serious crimes. Equipped only with the release papers of the Ministry of Justice, he tries to get back into life, eager to finish it as a decent working man. But the paper–though stamped and typed by the legal authorities–isn't accepted anywhere as a passport and isn't even meant to be swapped into one, not even at any communal registration office. And without a passport: no job! Without registered employment: no passport! A true catch-22 situation... After weeks of unregistered residence, the order to leave the country hits Voigt like a nail to the temple. Desperate about the authoritie's oppression he roams the streets and comes to a pawn-shop. He spots an abandoned captain's uniform (which in this film has had an own interesting story) in the window and puts his last money down for it. His age and the scholary lessons from prison make him appear like an experienced veteran, the uniform does a perpetuing job in the streets where no one would ever dare to question it's bearer. Soldiers of lower rank submit to the uniform and the harsh commanding voice of the shoemaker who's sharpest weapon was that he simply had nothing more to loose. The uniformed Voigt hijacks a coincidentally patrolling imperial platoon and orders them to the city-hall of Köpenick (a suburb of the capitol Berlin). Under his command they set the building under siege while Voigt intends to get a couple of minutes alone at the registration-office to issue himself a real passport. That's when the true High-Command gets aware of the incident. Heinz Rühmann – who in his prime may have been for the Germans what Tom Hanks is for Americans these days–shows the essence of his acting-nature here: a humorous, always kind-hearted, simple man with a tragic halo who is nevertheless willing to find his place in life and to do anything for that, except harming other people. „Der Hauptmann von Köpenick" is a brilliant and disarming masterpiece about the naive military-mania and the ridiculousness of blind obedience to uniforms and is generally even valuable about it these days. It also accuses the monstrous prussian bureaucracy which is also criticiseable even today and which still refuses to see the human beings behind all the documents.Ever since the original incident from 1906, in German gossip the term "Köpenickade" is used to describe masquerades mainly to cheat authorities and/or to accomplish something which is actually your right but which you can't accomplish the straight way. But it is only used in these contexts when nobody came to harm.From this fact-based theater-play by novelist Carl Zuckmayer there've been numerous screen- or TV-adaptions. You actually only need this one.

Auf Deutsch with German subtitles... Available from Max Stiebritz.

CBS series; The World at War:

The Classic CBS World War I Series
Narrated by Robert Ryan, Over 10¾ Hours.
Now Available on DVD!

The most comprehensive World War 1 documentary series ever made recalls the causes conduct, and aftermath of "The War to End All Wars". Along with the social, political, and economic fabric of the times, the roles of key figures are analyzed in depth. Produced during the Golden Age of CBS TV documentaries, this series, narrated by Robert Ryan, contains some of the highest-quality World War 1 footage known to exist.

Put together in the 1950's using original source film--mostly from old newsreels. Lots of neat stuff on the Kaiser and the German Army. This series has so much good stuff you'll flip. The only real down side to this series is its strong anti-German bias, but otherwise--if you can live with that, it's very good. Just buy it from Amazon...

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