Sound and Fury

Sound and Fury

By Peter Barth

Format: Paperback

(4 customer reviews)

Publication Date: 28 Mar 2022


Categories: History, Politics and Society, Autobiography

ISBN: 9781914471384


Despite the often-unimaginable horrors of war, bonds of family and friendship can hold us together… Peter Barth was born in Hamburg during the Second World War. Sound and Fury explores war-time memorabilia, tape-recorded conversations, photographs and letters, to uncover amazing stories about his three closest families during the war.

All three families lived close by in Hamburg. Towards the end of July 1943, the RAF bombed the city, creating an enormous firestorm and killing 45,000 people. The families survived and were scattered around Europe. His father and cousin were sent to the siege of Leningrad, both returned severely wounded. The Koschel family moved to Krakow. When the Red Army moved west, they had to flee. They came close to being caught in the RAF firestorm of Dresden.

Meanwhile, the Barths were refugees in a pretty village close to Bergen-Belsen, the horror of which only emerged when it was liberated by the Allies. Just north of there, the Cap Arcona (with Uncle Adam onboard) was anchored in the Bay of Lübeck with two other ships, after rescuing thousands of refugees and wounded soldiers. The SS took command and packed the ships with thousands of concentration camp victims. The day before the German forces surrendered, RAF planes bombed and sank them. No one knows why.

Peter Barth BSc PhD, was born in Hamburg in 1941. He and his family became refugees in Germany and after the war, moved to Brighton, England. He followed a career as a molecular biologist, studying, teaching and researching in many universities, including Southampton, Leicester, Yale, Kent and the Royal Postgraduate Medical School. His particular interest was the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. He worked in AstraZeneca until retirement. He and his wife now live in a village near Chester.  


MALCOLM VERITY (Guest Review) - 18 Jul, 2022

Peter Barth was born in Hamburg in 1941 of a British mother and German father. With his father conscripted into the German army, Peter, his older sister and his mother were fortunate to survive Operation Gomorrah, the destruction of Hamburg by the RAF in July and August 1943, which cost 40,000 lives. They lost their home and possessions and became refugees in their own land.
Alongside this story Peter has traced in detail the activities of two other families, those of his aunts. The war brought tragedy to all three families. After surviving serious injury in Russia, Peter’s father died in a bizarre accident in 1948. Aunt Else lost her son in a flying accident, and, whilst Aunt Trudel’s older son survived being shot through the lung, she lost her husband and younger son in the infamous Cap Arcona incident.
Books by survivors of Operation Gomorrah are rare indeed and Peter Barth has given us an unusual insight into life for ordinary Germans throughout the war and thereafter. We see that the great majority of German people were not Nazis. They endured the war with much the same stoicism that saw the citizens of Britain’s cities through the Blitz and showed the same generosity to strangers
Telling this complex story has entailed more than two years of work translating many of a cache of some 450 letters, which miraculously survived the war in the hands of Aunt Trudel, as well as more recent tape recordings. As a distinguished scientist with an international reputation, the writer’s tone is generally dispassionate, but there is no disguising his anger at what he sees as the wanton destruction of Dresden late in the war and the still unexplained attack on the Cap Arcona and other ships just one day before it ended.

John Henry (Guest Review) - 22 Apr, 2022

I've just finished Peter's wonderful book. What an incredible achievement - and so skilfully written! The rich humanity of the protagonists and the author shines through in every page, despite the many horrors being described. What a precious gem to hand down to the future generations. I honestly found it deeply moving.

David Selzer (Guest Review) - 11 May, 2022

Peter Barth's SOUND AND FURY is a very impressive document. The author has skilfully woven together personal, family and European history - providing both an appropriately detailed and a very readable account.

He brings his family members vividly to life - his cousin, Werner, for example, through his letters (brilliantly translated) from the Eastern Front. And his mother, Dolly, to whom the book is rightly dedicated, who was steadfast, whatever the considerable dangers and privations, in ensuring Peter and his sister were not only fed, warm and safe but were also, as far as possible, happy infants in war-torn Germany.

This is a timely book. Without polemic but just by telling the history the author shows how utterly pointless all war is, however righteous the perpetrators claim to be. In addition he ensures that, in these jingoistic times, the reader is fully aware of the UK's participation in the killing of civilians during World War II.

Christopher Fox-Walker (Guest Review) - 16 May, 2022

Sound and Fury is a moving account of three branches of one German family during World War II, recalling what they saw, heard and felt as their homes were destroyed and the families were dispersed by the ravages of war. The author was born in Hamburg in 1941. In 1943, he was sheltering in a cellar with his mother and sister as the R.A.F began their second bombing raid on Hamburg. A total of 45,000 people perished in these attacks. The family was evacuated as refugees to Oldendorf, a small village near Bergen-Belsen. His father and cousin were sent to the Siege of Leningrad: both were badly wounded. At the end of the war, their mother, who was English born, took them back to England away from the turmoil of defeated Germany. The author has used many of the war-time records of the German side of his family, recovering photographs, over 450 personal letters and recorded conversations. In the course of his research, he discovered much he did not know: A truly very intense and moving Social History and a pleasure to read.

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