A trove of previously unpublished, transcribed conversations among German POWs — secretly recorded by the Allies — reveals the extent of their brutality, and changes our understanding of the mindset of the German soldier during World War II.
On a visit to the British National Archives in 2001, Sönke Neitzel made a remarkable discovery: reams of meticulously transcribed conversations among German POWs that had been covertly recorded and recently declassified. Neitzel would later find another collection of transcriptions, twice as extensive, in the National Archives in Washington, DC.
These discoveries provide a unique and profoundly important window into the true mentality of the soldiers in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the German navy, and the military in general — almost all of whom insisted on their own honourable behaviour during the war.
Collaborating with renowned social psychologist Harald Welzer, Neitzel examines these conversations — and the casual, pitiless brutality omnipresent in them — from a historical and psychological perspective. In reconstructing the frameworks and situations behind these conversations, Neitzel and Welzer have created a powerful narrative of wartime experience.