Book Review – Alfred Novonty, The Good Soldier (Bedford, Penn: Aberjona, 2003)

This book is the memoir of Austrian Alfred Novotny that covers his service in the Wehrmacht from 1942 to 1945 and subsequent time as a post-war Soviet captive. Novotny was born in Vienna on 1 April 1924. His father was a truck driver for a diary and also an active Social Democrat.[1] Before the war, Novonty started as an apprentice waiter in the famous Kahlenberg Restaurant in Viena.[2] In 1942, he was called the Reich Labour Service and saw service in France and a hastily armed detachment of was deployed in response to the British naval and commando raid at St. Nazaire, France.[3] In late 1943, Novonty was drafted into the Grossdeutschland Division and was sent to the Division’s depot at Cottbus to undergo training. In the summer of 1943, Novonty was deployed to the front and served with 2nd Company, Panzerfusilier Regiment, Grossdeutschland Division until he was captured by the Soviets in May 1945.[4] He was released in 1949.

The memoir is interesting. It gives some interesting insight into political indoctrination in the unit. Novonty recalls that his colleagues and were lectured about ‘the Jews’ and their ‘supposedly insidious, endless influence’ and that they were ‘rats’.[5] He did not believe this propaganda as his Uncle Otto was a Jew and ‘was no rat’. Novonty’s mother hid Otto from the Gestapo and helped him leave Austria.[6] They were also told about Russian soldiers in that ‘they were not educated enough to understand their predicament, and they were all “untermenschen” or sub-humans’.[7] He said that many of his colleagues treated the Nazi propaganda with ‘indifference’.[8]

Overall, this volume gives a broad view of one soldier’s service on the Eastern Front. Novonty’s recollections are rather general and he lacks specific dates but gives some interesting insight into his service. The edition is well annotated by Marc Rikmenspoel who has written useful notes that gives excellent context and background. The Good Soldier also contains 62 illustrations, including original diagrams and sketches drawn before the war and during the author’s post-war captivity. As Rikmensopel pointed out, the book works best as an introduction to the study of the German military for those lacking any background on the topic.[9]



[1] Alfred Novonty, The Good Soldier (Bedford, Penn: Aberjona, 2003), p.6.

[2] Ibid., pp.16-17.

[3] Ibid., p.29.

[4] Ibid., p.43.

[5] Ibid., p.40.

[6] Ibid., p.40.

[7] Ibid., p.39.

[8] Ibid., p.40.

[9] Posted on 27 Jul 2006, 20:59. Accessed 21 July 2020.