If this book were required reading for our military, maybe our nation would finally swear off war. The battle of Stalingrad was horrendous. Can anyone really conceive of nearly two million casualties? What does that look like? David L. Robbins visited Stalingrad before he wrote this book. He described in an interview (last CD of the Recorded Books version) the part of city that has been preserved as a memorial to the battle. It’s the section where he set most of the action: a bleak landscape of bombed-out factories, burning tanks, utter devastation.
In Robbins’ novel, which is based on a true story, the “Ivans” wage a sniper war against their Nazi occupiers. It is a gritty, brutal contest. The Russian hunter Zaitsev, known as the Hare, is pitted against the best sniper in the German Army, Thorvald the Headmaster.
One of the most shocking incidents is in the epilogue of the book: Robbins describes the cold-blooded killing of helpless German soldiers, men dressed in rags walking on frozen feet, their bellies distended with starvation, waving white flags of surrender. They were mowed down by Russians so full of hatred they were no longer able to show compassion.
War does that to you. It turns you into something your mother would never recognize.