Tuesday, 4 April 2017

In the Line of Fire: A Soldier's Diary WWI 1914-1918 - Teofil Tobias Reiss

                In the Line of Fire is the actual diary of an Austro-Hungarian soldier who fought for the Germans in World War I. He also happens to be Jewish. The book provides a day to day account through the years of 1914-1918. The real diary is provided, in Mr. Reiss’s own hand written German, alongside the English translation, as well as personal photographs, maps and letters. This is one of the most interesting accounts of the war that I have ever read, mainly because it gives a very human perspective not only of a brutal war but from the viewpoint of the enemy. I loved reading about how the soldiers lived their everyday lives and how they survived horrid conditions and the daily chance of being shot, bombed, or gassed. The little details that this diary provides are fascinating. I was amused to read about just how many times the soldiers were rewarded with rum or some other kind of liquor. There were also a couple of other times that soldiers from opposing sides actually mixed, once even to share a building for their wounded. As the diary progresses it’s sad to see how depressed Mr. Reiss often became. He sometimes felt that no one cared or loved him. It’s easy to see how his emotions were up and down throughout the war and the general mental assault a soldier’s mind takes during combat. It makes me very appreciative for all of the freedom I have, in large part thanks to soldiers just like him. We often forget these things and it’s for this reason that I wish this book were a part of the high school curriculum as a must read for students. This book also helps the reader to remember that even though they were the enemy, these soldiers were still human beings. The diary also gives the reader a glimpse into the customs of the time. For example, Mr. Reiss thought his future bride was a bit forward when she wanted to come see him so much. I hope he never told her that he didn’t think she was particularly pretty, even though he grew to love her very much. At the end of the book is an epilogue detailing Mr. Reiss’s many accomplishments up until his death. He definitely led a very productive and full life.
                I read the digital version of this book and it formatted very well, including the pictures and maps. The cover has a picture of the author of the diary in his uniform and certainly made me take a second look at what was inside. An excellent read!