Groan…good morning bookies. Your friendly neighborhood bookseller is feeling his age today after taking all 4 of his dogs to a farm yesterday to let them run free. Of course, said bookseller had to make sure they didn’t go off chasing a random deer or something, so he wound up walking and running about as much as they did. And today he’s paying the price.
As many of you know, I recently bought a massive collection of graphic novels, which all tend to have a certain flavor to them. Sort of punk-combat. Anyway, the name Erich von Manstein would serve perfectly as the name of a hero (or villain) in such a book, wouldn’t it?’ Erich von Manstein and His Morningstar of Death’, or some such. Of course, the real Manstein was a German general during WW2, one of the best of a rather illustrious pantheon of military masters. If this sounds like I am elevating Nazis, I’m not. But I’m a WW2 historian and making evaluations is part of the gig. The Germans had the best generals of the war and that’s just how it was. And Manstein was in the top 3.
So it’s surprising that he hasn’t had a major biography, a situation that has now been rectified with Retired British General Mungo Melvins’ new “Manstein: Hitler’s Greatest General.” The reviewer shows the general ineptitude you find among such people, criticizing the book for precisely what would make it interesting, an in-depth look at Manstein’s military maneuvers. If the reviewer does not like such stuff then what qualifies him to review the book? He eats up the coverage and inferences of Manstein’s involvement in the Holocaust, however, which is de rigeur for reviewers these days. Military history of Germany now has to include something about the persecution of minorities within the Third Reich.
Frankly, that’s not why I would read a book about ‘Hitler’s Greatest General.’ I want to know what made him great. I already knew that the German generals were complicit in the Holocaust. I’ve studied the Holocaust in minute detail, and if I want to continue my research in that direction, I will. But there are far too few strictly military books being published these days, and this one appears to have missed a great opportunity to fill in that gap. So maybe I’ll get the book and read just the first half, about the military matters. Or, after reading Nagorski’s review, maybe I won’t read the book at all.