Soviet writer's frank World War Two notes published

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The personal notebooks of Vasily Grossman, the Soviet author best known for his World War Two masterpiece "Life and Fate," offer a harrowing and sometimes surprising insight into life along the Nazis' eastern front. Published in English in a new book by British historian Antony Beevor, the accounts include details which the Soviet censors would never have allowed the public to see.

They include Grossman's implicit criticism of the Soviets' lack of readiness for the Nazi onslaught, generals' petty preoccupation with medals and glory and the collaboration between German forces and Soviet citizens.

In his role as reporter for the Red Army's "Krasnaya Zvezda" (Red Star) newspaper, the Ukrainian Jew was a key witness to the brutal battle of Stalingrad, civilian suffering under occupation and what happened at the German concentration camps in Poland.

"It's amazing, in many ways, what he got away with," Beevor said in an interview to promote "A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945," which he edited with Russian researcher Lyubov Vinogradova.

"The other journalists didn't have their material messed around with so much, because they wrote politically correct cliches which were expected," he said.

"Obviously Grossman was treading a far more dangerous line."

Beevor, author of the best-selling "Stalingrad" history, said many of Grossman's facts were edited out of the printed articles, while his personal notes would have cost him his life had they been discovered.

"There were often references to heavy casualties (in his reports)," said Beevor. "And then later on, any reference to the suffering of Jews; that was why some of those articles were refused by Krasnaya Zvezda and had to be published elsewhere."

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