Get a free audiobook

At Leningrad's Gates

The Combat Memoirs of a Soldier with Army Group North
Written by: William Lubbeck
Narrated by: Jonathan Cowley
Length: 8 hrs and 47 mins
Categories: History, Military

CDN$ 14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

This is the remarkable story of a German soldier who fought throughout World War II, rising from conscript private to captain of a heavy weapons company on the Eastern Front. 

William Lubbeck, age 19, was drafted into the Wehrmacht in August 1939. As a member of the 58th Infantry Division, he received his baptism of fire during the 1940 invasion of France. The following spring his division served on the left flank of Army Group North in Operation Barbarossa. After grueling marches amidst countless Russian bodies, burnt-out vehicles, and a great number of cheering Baltic civilians, Lubbeck's unit entered the outskirts of Leningrad, making the deepest penetration of any German formation. 

The Germans suffered brutal hardships the following winter as they fought both Russian counterattacks and the brutal cold. The 58th Division was thrown back and forth across the front of Army Group North, from Novgorod to Demyansk, at one point fighting back Russian attacks on the ice of Lake Ilmen. Returning to the outskirts of Leningrad, the 58th was placed in support of the Spanish "Blue" Division. Relations between the allied formations soured at one point when the Spaniards used a Russian bath house for target practice, not realizing that Germans were relaxing inside. 

A soldier who preferred to be close to the action, Lubbeck served as forward observer for his company, dueling with Russian snipers, partisans and full-scale assaults alike. His worries were not confined to his own safety; however, as news arrived of disasters in Germany, including the destruction of Hamburg where his girlfriend served as an Army nurse. 

In September 1943, Lubbeck earned the Iron Cross First Class and was assigned to officers' training school in Dresden. By the time he returned to Russia, Army Group North was in full-scale retreat. Now commanding his former heavy weapons company, Lubbeck alternated sharp counterattacks with inexorable withdrawal, from Riga to Memel on the Baltic. In April 1945 Lubbeck's company became stalled in a traffic jam and was nearly obliterated by a Russian barrage followed by air attacks. 

In the last chaotic scramble from East Prussia, Lubbeck was able to evacuate on a newly minted German destroyer. He recounts how the ship arrived in the British zone off Denmark with all guns blazing against pursuing Russians. The following morning, May 8, 1945, he learned that the war was over. 

After his release from British captivity, Lubbeck married his sweetheart, Anneliese, and in 1949 immigrated to the United States where he raised a successful family. With the assistance of David B. Hurt, he has drawn on his wartime notes and letters, Soldatbuch, regimental history and personal memories to recount his four years of frontline experience. Containing rare firsthand accounts of both triumph and disaster, At Leningrad's Gates provides a fascinating glimpse into the reality of combat on the Eastern Front.

©2006 William Lubbeck and David Hurt (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What members say

No reviews are available
Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Daniel
  • Marietta, GA, USA
  • 2017-04-28

Interesting story

Worth a listen for insights into a regular German soldier in WWII on the Eastern front. Limited in scope so it is not cluttered with too much historical context. The narrator is a bit tiresome. Not every sentence needs to end on a dramatic inflection!

I do recommend this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Neil
  • San Francisco, CA, United States
  • 2014-05-25

Excellent Read, it Also Moves Fast

This book takes you from his recruitment through the years after the war in North America. He sites an inspiration from the diary of a Napoleonic foot soldier but Jacob Walter a short book I also recommend on audible. I have read many books on WW II, but this is detailed as it is from his own diary. What I found very compelling was his life after the war in East Germany. How the communists worked and how they persecuted his family, over and over. Lubbecks family were not Nazi's, which caused them problems during the war and they were certainly not communists. To read how families survived through all this Nazi persecution and Communist government theft, and insanity makes one appreciate life in the west today even though it is not perfect. It is a very brisk read, and I had to stop it several times to hear chapters again.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Erik
  • WICHITA, KS, United States
  • 2014-12-19

Another Great German Soldier's Memoir

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I think so. The story is very good and moves fairly quickly, but the narration is hard to listen to.

What was one of the most memorable moments of At Leningrad's Gates?

Lubbeck's recollection of life after the War.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Learn how to speak German. It drives me crazy when narrators read books about German soldiers and can't speak German. His constant mispronunciation of "Wehrmacht" (vermaaaaaaaaacht) and "Leutnant" (looot-nant) drove me absolutely crazy.

Any additional comments?

Overall, I think this is a great story. However, I was a bit uneasy when Lubbeck kept claiming he and his family weren't Nazis and had absolutely no knowledge of Nazi atrocities or even of any concentration camps. I can understand wanting to clear your name if you are truly innocent, but the repetition of these claims just didn't sit right with me...I don't know...I guess it just didn't sound sincere. Maybe that was the writing, maybe it was the narration. I wasn't there, so I can't say for certain, but I have ready many, many accounts of German soldiers and civilians. I find it hard to believe that a veteran of the entirety of the war on the East Front never once witnessed a war crime, when Lubbeck himself claims that they were fighting the barbaric (insinuating less than human) Red Army. I find it hard to believe that, living in Eastern Germany, he never even heard of a concentration camp until after the war. I've read other accounts of German families in the mid to late 1930s joking with their children that if they didn't behave, they'd be sent to a concentration camp, showing that they knew of the existence of these camps. Maybe they didn't know the extent of the horror that was going on inside, but they knew of the existence of the camps. Lubbeck knew of none.

Other than that, I think the story is well told. It went a bit quick for me, and didn't go into great detail, but it was interesting to hear the story of an artillery soldier that rose through the ranks, having served through the entirety of the War.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 2013-08-14

Kind of interesting

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, if they were interested in hearing about the German view of a typical soldier in WWII.

Would you be willing to try another book from William Lubbeck? Why or why not?

Probably not. He doesn't provide enough details for me.

Which character – as performed by Jonathan Cowley – was your favorite?

There was only one character--the guy who wrote the book.

Was At Leningrad's Gates worth the listening time?

Sort of. I listened till the end.

Any additional comments?

Not enough details. Too many "high level" observations. Like just saying "We fought Russia" instead of telling why and how.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Bobobirdiebuddy
  • 2019-05-11

Interesting story marred by terrible performance

While the story is interesting, the reading is atrocious. The reader has the most annoying cadence; his intonation patterns, the constant rising mid-sentence stress got so bad I had to quit the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Damian
  • Santa Fe
  • 2019-02-21

Not much of a war story, but…

A terrific story about a man went to war. The understated courage, discipline and devotion of a true soldier, family man and citizen... both of the United States and his Fatherland Germany… This is well worth the listen. The epilogue alone with the quotation from Theodore Roosevelt should be required reading of all new citizens and immigrants. I did have a problem with the narrator. I’m certainly no expert on the German language, but having lived in Germany for 2 1/2 years, I found his pronunciation of certain German words - particularly military terms - painfully and ludicrously British.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Pablo
  • 2018-09-07

sugarcoated nazi story

I Absolutely disliked way the author sugarcoated nazi atrocities under the words everybody else did it but me, I didn't knew anything, I haven't seen nothing, for God sake! He was stationed in Leningrad! The most bloody siege in the human history! Please don't come to me telling stories that he wasn't aware of the atrocities that his comrades committed out there!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • kevin
  • 2018-06-03

Pompous

While there are interesting parts, such as hearing from a German forward observer, and one who fought in the Battle of France, it gets old hearing him kiss the victors behinds the whole book. Every other word he wants to convince the reader how tolerant and progressive he is. His hindsight is 20/20 but he managed to convince himself his forethought was 20/20. He pays lip service to the acceptable common beliefs, then his actions tell a different story. He's always sure to let us know that at all times, he is the most upstanding and moral being to exist. He snubbed and brow beat Hitler's supporters as being "uneducated" idiots, despite being an average student from a farm in a village that sounds like Podunk. you He wears he and his family always hated the Nazis and he is the smartest person to ever exist. Then, surprise, he VOLUNTEERED to join the Wehrmacht. He swears he and his family were so politically correct, they never once fell for the propaganda or the nationalism. His actions contradict his excuses. You can really tell if Hitler would have won, he would be singing a very different tune. He's mostly concerned with what the general public deems acceptable. He was a Nazi then and now he's a liberal... Big surprise there.
In the book, he acknowledges that the Western allies were actually waging war against German civilians. at the end of the book, he says, in an attempt to please everyone, that the United States was fighting the Nazis, not the German people. That was probably the most ironic contradiction in the book.
Other than the Stockholm syndrome and the holier than thou attitude it had some nice tidbits, like how Krupp gave dud gas canister artillery shells to France for WWI reparations.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Nick H.
  • 2017-07-23

Great insight into the German Wehrmacht experience

Awesome listen. Great narrator who tells the story of a German soldier who made it from start to finish. He delves into what it was like after the war that I found very interesting. Turned out to be more American than most Americans today. enjoy the read

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • philippe jacob
  • brookline, ma USA
  • 2017-11-08

Any conscience after all these years?

Even though the testimony of these nazi soldiers is unique and precious, i am always shocked by how little understanding of their story came out years after. These guys mistreated Soviet civilians and soldiers as he admits himself, and you see him fighting until the bitter end, killing more people. I suppose he wanted to be an officer, what’s wrong with that? even for adolf Hitler... And the death camps of course he never heard of until after the war. He did not mention it but I wonder if he had German 14 or 16 years old boys to command in the last year or months of that WWII, and if that part at least bothered him, but he is just one more of these obedient gentleman who tells his own story that will not be useful for the future of humanity.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful