Page 6, 6th December 1963

6th December 1963
Page 6
Page 6, 6th December 1963 — the General at Mt. Cassino

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Locations: Oxford


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the General at Mt. Cassino

Neither Fear Nor Hope, by General F. von Senger and Etterlin (Macdonald. 40s.).


to prevent political permeation of the formations under his command, and to prevent action against civilians of the "wrong" race or persuasion in his territories of occupation.

He seems to imply that those who joined the anti-Hitler plot and died for their pains were nobler .than he was himself in Merely abstaining from politics, doing his duty as a soldier and humanizing his environment wherever possible. Indeed, von Senger is alone among the generals of all nations who have broken out into a rash of words since the War in that he attempts no justification of his acts or attitude, accepts his mistakes and adopts no pose of infallibility.

General von Senger was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford just before the First War, and he saw service in the trenches as an infantryman. Between the Wars he was a regular soldier and a cavalryman, and took over a motorised brigade for the attack that culminated in the downfall of France.

His account of this campaign, and of the subsequent period as chief liaison officer with the 'Franco-Italian Armistice Committee, is perhaps rather wooden — but his tale really comes to life when he tells of his experiences on the Russian front as a divisional commander attempting to relieve the encircled von Paulus at Stalingrad.

His calm. almost dispassionate recapitulation conveys the atmosphere of the War's real Horror Front with remarkable force.

Transferred to thc Mediterranean, von Seager found himself in late 1443 in command of the XlVth Panzer Corps defending Cassino. It is ironical that he. a member of the Third Order of St. Benedict. should have found himself guarding the Saint's own tomb and monastery defending the position with such valour and tenacity, moreover as to incur the multi-bomber raid that destroyed the great abbey.

General Mark Clark and Fred Majdalany (a stern critic of the American general) have both agreed that this bombing was not only a political and psychological blunder. but that it also provided the German defenders with a splendid strong point they did not possess previously.

If one is to be fair the Cassino stand represents one of the great defensive actions of the twentieth century.

The dilemma of Frido von Senger, and of many other honest German patriots in the Wehrmacht. is summed tip fn this illuminating passage: "1 felt it as a personal tragedy that the defensive success of my own Army Corps at Cassino would reduce the Allies' chances of asserting themselves at least as much as the Russians."

For the author was convinced that only an early cease-fire in the West (which meant a German capitulation) could save a part of German manhood — and even a part of Germany itself — for rebuilding into a country that might become a probationer-member of a new Europe.

And his reaction seems not to be that of the Bolshevik-hating Nazi or the conservative Prussian. but that of a cultured Christian man who detested alike what had become the National Communism of Hitler and the Red Fascism of Russia.

Incidentally, .General Mark Clark once told me that of all the Germans he had met, Frido von Senger was the one who gave him most hope for a future Germany which could take its place in a civilised society.

Ex-Eighth.Army and ex-FifthArmy men will read this book for obvious reasons. So will generals and politicians and the smooth rationalizers of our age. But young men and women should read it too, if only to understand the paradox of the soldiers who could fight so bravely and so well in defence of a cause they detested and a system they considered ruinous.

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