I was thinking today about one of the most powerful works to come out of the hellstew that was Stalingrad.
The story is that as the Sixth Army pocket was being drawn in to their final positions the German high command had time to get a last plane out, with some wounded, some dispatches, and mail from the soldiers. All of which would have been utterly unremarkable.
But then, as the story goes, Scheer got involved. The high command realized that they were facing a coming period of retrenchment where their soldiers were going to be facing harder fighting, and some of it losing, in the next coming years. So they wanted to get a view of the morale of the troops. So the letters were excised of all identifying details - names, addresses, that sort of thing, and analyzed for loyalty, morale, and how much faith in the high command the letter writers had.
From what I recall, the analysts were shocked to find that the troops of the Sixth Army were largely dispirited, felt that they had no personal hope, and that they had little faith in the Reich's leadership, nor even it's eventual survival. The study was suppressed, and the letters went into archives.
After the war a historian found them, and published them.
They make some of the most harrowing reading imaginable. I don't know whether anyone has read the letter recovered from the wreck of the Kursk, but these letters evoke the same sentiments: Men who know they're going to be killed, soon, talking about it, and trying to break the news to their loved ones back home. The Wikipedia article on the book mentions that the book did a lot to separate individuals from the identity of the Nazis in the post war era. Certainly when I first encountered the book as a teen doing a report about the Battle at Stalingrad for my Russian History course, it was an eye opener.
I believe it to be a powerfully affecting book. One that illuminates human nature in some of the most trying circumstances. I think of this as one of the best books I've read about how people face adversity, easily as important to me as Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Dennisovich.
A couple years ago I discovered the internet claim that the letters from the book are fabrications. For a quick look at the sum total of the claims that I've seen, check out the user reviews here at Amazon. I have not seen any sources claiming the hoax nature of this book in any cite I'd consider reliable.
To a degree, it doesn't matter to me. If it is a hoaxed work, that doesn't mean that the fiction is valueless nor false as a view of human nature.
But I am curious whether anyone can point me towards a reliable claim of that.
Similarly, I'd love to hear/see other Domers' views of the book, too.