When I Was Someone Else
Imagine going on a spiritual retreat and having a vision and experience that will take you to the battlefield of a dying German soldier, imagine how this journalist felt when this strong vision come into his mind and the search was on to find out just who this soldier was and the meanings behind what he experienced. Just who was Alex Herrmann and why did he enter the mind of the author. This man died in WWII during the 1941 Russian campaign. The author decided to learn more about his past and was able to find images of the battle scene and people who were alive at the time. The author used his computer skills to investigate the archives of the German military to learn about his family and any surviving relatives.
Entranced with this soldier’s life and wondering more about his past life, the author dives into more of an investigation trying to unravel the events around it is adding his own work and paranormal. You can feel the excitement within him as he shares his thoughts and at time the frustration of not knowing. The author also relates his feelings about the death of his brother and his father with unresolved feelings and learns more about the fragility of life and death. What happens is a story that takes him onto the battle fields, reading an 80-page dossier of the man’s life and leaning more about the validity of his dreams and at the same time experiencing the horrors of the Russian campaign.
Throughout the novel the author experiences many interactions with Hermann in diverse ways and explores the many phases of his life hoping to understand why he has taken up so much of his time and why he wants to uncover his secrets. The research is extension, and he explains in chapter 34 that the information he found was what he feared. Fight in front of him from the first pages of a book, the title Soldiers of Destruction the SSS deaths’ death division 1933 -1945, published by Princeton University Press. The first two chapters go into the creation of the Totenkopf division.
The novel is replete with the history and the circumstances surrounding the Russian Invasion and how the author becomes so immersed in it he begins to lose sight of himself at times. The many battles Operation Barbarossa, Valdai, The Cholmy Offensive and the order to withdraw. The date is October 18, 1941, Alexander and the other soldiers as hunched up in his hole and the weather is bitter cold. The mortars of the Russian infantry surround them and at the end of October, the nights are icy and cold. During the winter of 41-42 which is beginning, 60 percent of the German losses are due to the cold and illness. This chapter is tension filled and friendship counts heavily in a war. When the fighting stops and the end is near Sunday October 19,1941, the division receives from the army its mission or the next day. The SS-Totenkopf Division is to hold the line already won and proceed to regroup in preparation for the next battle the following day.
Chapter 46 allows the reader to experience the hand-to-hand combat along with Alexander and his men. Grenades follow one another without a break and from his dug in position and around the artillery tuns, you see nothing but craters from the explosion. It is as if the author is fighting in the battle along side these soldiers. On October 19 at 7:40 at night the division receives for headwaters morning orders for the next day. The SS-Totenkopf Division is to attack beyond the Luchenka to the east of Borok toward the north, the turn or veer toward the west and move forward in the direction of Sukhaya Niva. This is the last night of Alexander’s life.
Chapter 48 is quite compelling as we learn about the death of so many. Alexander and his company are dug in and under fire from Soviet mortars, a harassment that explodes three trunks. Sleep evades them all. When the firing stops and night has set in, the positions secured and he is on alert, the battle is described, and the end has come. Page 317 the last two lines describes it all. The author takes us through the final stopes as he himself sets out in the footsteps for the man that was jut killed. How can he relive this and how does the scene play out? He imagines his own suffering and feels it necessary to spend the night outside. Cold, wet and icy . Then when he finally lets himself be invaded by the dream of the story, the transparent of the countryside he goes back to the village to look for Nicolas who he hopes is waiting for him.
Some endings are never really endings just closings as the lifeless body on the ground was found on October 20, 1941. The author describes the image graphically describes and the void. Alexander disappears and is swallowed up. And once again he knows. The last lines on page 326 are quite disturbing yet compelling. Chapter 51 the Grave and then he states that a new life is beginning. The Epilogue brings the author full circle as he takes stock of the adventure and sees the extent to which the shadow that lived in him and haunted him since childhood was taking on a face. The man whose life he wanted to follow and does follow is not him but emanations of the same consciousness. “Healing was also becoming aware of the anger that separated me gentler from what makes up my life: my loved ones, my relationship with other, my ability to accept different words, to welcome the unexpected with joy.” “ From no on, in front of me there are life and joy. He will no longer say the words: When I Was Someone Else.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews
A riveting story and an experience he will never forget and the process of being is accomplished.