A Writer At War
Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945
Edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova
This volume of his writings, based mainly on his wartime notebooks, reveals the raw material he accumulated for his novels, as well his articles. Deemed unfit for service when the Germans invaded in 1941, Grossman became a special correspondent for Red Star, the Red Army newspaper. Remarkably, he spent three of the following four years at the front observing with a writer’s eye the most pitiless fighting ever known. Grossman witnessed almost all the major events on the Eastern Front: the appalling defeats and desperate retreats of 1941, the defence of Moscow and fighting in the Ukraine. In August 1942 he was posted to Stalingrad where he remained during four months of brutal street-fighting. He was present at the battle of Kursk, the largest tank engagement in history, and, as the Red Army advanced, he reached Berdichev where his worst fears for his mother and other relations were confirmed. A Jew himself, he undertook the faithful recording of Holocaust atrocities as their extent dawned. His supremely powerful report ‘The Hell of Treblinka’ was used in evidence at the Nuremberg tribunal.
Grossman proved to be the most ubiquitous and penetrating eye witness on the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1945. The sharpness of his observation and the humanity of his understanding provide a valuable lesson for any writer.