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A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945 by Vasily Grossman

By Vasily Grossman

Paperback e-book. historical past. crimson military

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Only the names of towns mentioned in official bulletins revealed how rapidly the enemy was advancing. Grossman had put off urging his mother to abandon the town of Berdichev in the Ukraine. His second wife, Olga Mikhailovna Guber, convinced him that they had no room for her. Then, before Grossman realised fully what was happening, the German Sixth Army seized Berdichev on 7 July. The enemy had advanced over 350 kilometres in just over two weeks. Grossman’s failure to save his mother burdened him for the rest of his life, even after he discovered that she had refused to leave because there was nobody else to look after a niece.

Grossman and his companions returned to Moscow exhausted, their shot-up ‘Emka’ car proof of the danger that they had been in, but Ortenberg ordered them straight back to the front. That night, searching for an army headquarters, they almost drove right into the arms of the Germans. As a Jew, Grossman’s fate would have been certain. That winter of 1941, after the Germans were halted outside Moscow, Grossman covered the fighting further south on the eastern edge of the Ukraine and close to the Donbass which he knew from pre-war years.

Chief of the political department of the front, Brigade Commissar Kozlov, receives us. He tells us that the Military Council is very alarmed by the news that arrived yesterday. 4 Their commander is Guderian, author of the book Achtung! 5 We leafed through a series of the Front newspaper. ’ We sleep on the floor in the library of the ‘Komintern’ club, keeping our boots on, and using gas masks and field pouches as pillows. We have dinner at the canteen of the headquarters. It is situated in the park, in an amusing multicoloured pavilion.

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