When German historian Sönke Neitzel ran across a bundle of documents in Britain's National Archives in 2001, he could hardly believe his eyes: He had found transcripts of conversations between German soldiers secretly recorded while they were being held as prisoners of war during World War II. These were private conversations between soldiers who didn't know that a third party was listening to and transcribing their every word.

Their British and American captors had hoped these conversations would provide them with militarily useful information. But they learned little about weapons depots or secret weapons. Most of what the transcripts reveal is what everyday life is like for the foot soldiers in a war, as they fight, kill, and die.

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