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Book Review: Siberian Prison by E.v. Enzmann

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Siberian Prison by E.v. Enzmann is a non fiction account of the author’s experience in the Austrian Army and as a Russian prisoner of war. The eyewitness account was translated, edited but mostly left intact from the original.

The book is an eyewitness account of a solider in the Austrian army who was taken as a Russian prisoner during the Brusillov offensive.

I tremendously enjoyed Siberian Prison. Being an old soldier myself I appreciated the humor, story, skill, and history being presented in the book. The story of Mr. Enzmann, a schoolteacher who became an officer in the Austrian army during World War I, is astounding. To read the colorful eyewitness account of his trials and tribulations was amazing.

Mr. Enzmann’s sarcastic sense of humor, especially to those who have been in the military, shines through the pages. For example, the Austrian army’s generous handing out medals:

“You usually received the first medal because you did not have a single one and your breast looked bare. You received the second because one seemed to be so little; you got the third because you had already two. The fourth and fifth were awarded because a man who had so many medals must be a very brave man, and one one could not go wrong in giving him another one. Hardly anyone knew why he got a medal, but everybody was sure he would never get a medal when he did something for which he deserved one.”

Mr. Enzmann goes on to say that the way for platoon leaders to get medals was to: “…play cards with the commander and let him win. Only fools tried to get medals for bravery by being brave”.

There are many things I learned from this book, but what amazed me most was the how dependent the Siberian economy was on prisoners of war. The prisoners were an integral part of the commerce by the time the war ended. Many were household members, started their own businesses, married local girls (regardless if they had families back home), and more.

The whole early prisoner of war experience, to me, was well worth reading the book.

I usually don’t like to read books such as this Siberian Prison. There are several reasons; most of the books are unprofessional, badly edited (if at all) and frankly not very interesting. I certainly understand and appreciate the need of people to put their amazing experiences down on paper for future generations, and they are usually well received among families. However, for the layman reader… not so much. I also feel bad about not liking such books — after all, someone poured out their heart and soul for the benefit of their children and grandchildren. So who am I — some schmo with a blog – to pass judgment?
I was glad that this book is an exception.

There is an appendix provided by Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann, the author’s son, which is also very interesting and helps pull the story together.

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