From Library Journal The constant flow of information
on the SS has caused some authors to picture SS members as mindless
killers, while others have labeled them ``just soldiers.'' Further,
there has been an effort to distance the Waffen SS from the SS who
guarded the concentration camps. Williamson (Infantry Aces of the
Reich, Sterling, 1991) has produced a lavishly illustrated book
that purports to give a balanced view of the elite Nazi organization.
While he does trace its history, he is too anxious to show that,
perhaps, not all the SS was bad. As he states, when all the records
of World War II are opened, ``history may look upon some units of
the Waffen-SS less harshly.'' This is an old argument to which Williamson
adds nothing, though some of his illustrations are good. Readers
who wish in-depth information should consult at least George Stein's
The Waffen SS (1966). A marginal purchase for public libraries.-Dennis
L. Noble, Eastern Montana Coll., Billings, Mont.
Introduction, December 31, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from San Jose, CA. USA
This book is an excellent introduction to the history of the various
SS organizations, with special emphasis on the units of the Waffen-SS.
The chapter entitled "Hitler's Foreign Legions" is especially
intertesting. It contains brief histories of all of the foreign
volunteer units of the Waffen-SS, as well as other units, such as
the 5th Waffen-SS Panzer Division "Viking", which contained
large numbers of non-German volunteers. Some of these formations
were truly elite ("Viking", "Nordland", Wallonien"),
and some were useless ("Skanderbeg", which was made up
of Albanian Moslems largely from Kosovo). Those interested in the
foreign volunteer units of the Waffen-SS may want to read the following:
"European Volunteers" by Strassner, "The Last Knight
of Flanders" by Brandt, "Campaign in Russia" by Degrelle,
"Charlemagne's Legionnaires" by Landwehr, "Latvian
Legion" by Silgailis, "Galicia Division" by Logusz,
"The Patriotic Traitors" by Littlejohn.
The book includes a good selection of photographs, maps, and some
color cutaways of weapons. There are also some of the usual photos
of "brutal" SS men executing communist "partisans"
(the Geneva Convention did not give POW status to "partisans";
Stalin did not even bother to sign it until 1948!).
I did note a few errors in the picture captions. On page 197, a
photograph of a vehicle with the insignia of the "Nordland"
division is incorrectly identified in the caption as belonging to
the "Viking" division. "Viking" had an insignia
similar to "Nordland", however this photo has been correctly
captioned elsewhere (see "SS Armor" by Stern, for example).
Also, on page 195 there is a photo of three Panzer III Ausf J tanks
(built only in 1941), one of which is clearly marked with the insignia
of the 14th Panzer Division. The caption incorrectly identifies
the tanks as belonging to the Dutch "Nederland" division,
Moade (see more about me) from Florida
Williamson's history of the German SS is a very readible, very comprehensive
work on one of the world's most notorious organizations. His writing
from a neutral stand point is a breath of fresh air -- permitting
readers to draw their own conclusions on the nature of the SS and
the men (and women) who filled it's ranks. The Waffen-SS, Hitler
Youth, RHSA, SD, Gestapo, concentration camps, einsatzgruppen (death
squads), commercial enterprises, Himmler's theories on Race and
heredity ... it's all here - laid out in painstaking detail.
The book traces the SS from it's tiny beginnings in the 1920's,
its growth in the early 30's, thru to it's final days with the collapse
of Nazi Germany. Actually, Williamson goes even further back to
explain the grim mood of Germany at the close of World War I and
how this paved the way for the fledgling Nazi party. Many significant
details of how the SS interfaced and was intertwined with organizations
such as the SA, the Wehrmacht the German government (before Hitler
became the absolute ruler) and the regular police are laid out for
the reader's inspection. It's also quite illuminating to discover
how many invaded countries supplied willing volunteers to the SS.
Many fascinating facts and stories are related.
The book itself is durably bound in a hard cover with a handsome
black paper jacket. Inside are a wealth of photos and reproduced
posters - combat, personnel and civilian - complete with descriptions,
which allow one to gain a closer understanding of the units and
men that made up the Nazi party's protection and security arm.
Have an interest in pre-war and World War II Germany? If so, this
is a book you will want for your collection.
and readable, September 27, 1998
Reviewer: A reader from Chicago IL
This book is a must read for anyone interested in world war 2 and
the rise and fall of the third reich. Unlike many illustrated world
war 2 books this book is very readable. Of particular interest to
me was the chapter "Hitler's Foreign Legions" on the foreign
component that served in the SS. It may come as a surprise to many
to learn that hundreds of thousands of Dutch, Belgian, French, Norwegian,
Finnish, Danish, Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, Serbian, Swedish,
Italian, Ukraine, Albanian, Russian, Bulgarian and Bosnian nationalities
voluntered and fought for the Germans in the ranks of the waffen
SS Divisions. There was even a small contingent of British ex-POWs
a few of whom fought in the Third Reich's final cataclysm in Berlin.
Odly many of the foreign volunteers were from races distinctly non-aryan
- a massive contradiction with the racial politics of Himmler, Hitler
and the Nazis. The book outlines the beginnings of the SS through
the years of German victories and then of German defeats to the
destruction of the SS in the collapse of the Third Reich.