Siege: A Novel of the Eastern Front, 1942

Siege: A Novel of the Eastern Front, 1942Russ Schneider (MA, 1986)

Doubleday, 2003
ISBN: 0345475852

In Siege: A Novel of the Eastern Front, 1942, author Russ Schneider takes us to the immediate scene of two Russian towns, Cholm and Velikiye Luki, the last holdouts for a small garrison of Germans surrounded by the vast Red Army during World War II. In Cholm, under the command of General Scherer, the garrison lasted 105 days against a besieging Russian force that outnumbered it ten to one. The Russians had tanks and artillery, while the Germans had neither, and most of the battle was fought in Arctic conditions in the winter of 1941–42. Unprepared for the savage climate, the German army at Cholm and elsewhere was nearly destroyed. The struggle for this obscure town was an epic story ranking with any of history’s more well-known accounts of desperate military stands.

Six months later, nearby Velikiye Luki was surrounded with Scherer again in overall command. This time, however, Scherer and part of his force were outside the city; he spent the next two months trying to break through to the remainder of his men trapped inside Velikiye Luki, only to be turned back time and again. In the end he was only able to listen helplessly to radio reports from the doomed men as they were gradually wiped out in a battle even more violent than the one at Cholm.

The Russo-German War has long had a peculiar fascination for students of military and world history, and the battles that form the basis of Siege have an intense dramatic quality. With his expert knowledge of the war on the Eastern Front, Russ Schneider conveys as very few other writers can the scale of combat that had no precedent in savagery and cruelty in this compelling and riveting account of the men of this fated garrison who could only hope to live to tell it themselves.