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The SS
: Hitler's Instrument of Terror/the Full Story from Street Fighters to the Waffem-Ss

An International Encyclopedia

Author: Gordon Williamson

Hardcover - 256 pages (March 1994)
Motorbooks International
ISBN: 0879389052
Dimensions (in inches): 1.01 x 11.51 x 8.69

Table of Contents:

  • 1. The Birth of the SS
  • 2. The State's Troops
  • 3. Forged in battle
  • 4. The SS turns East
  • 5. Home service
  • 6. Hitler's Foreign Legions
  • 7. Holding the line
  • 8. Battles in the west
  • 9. Death Ride
  • 10. Weapons and equipment
  • 11. Just soldiers?
  • Appendices
  • index
  • credits
  • Total pages : 176 pages

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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.



An Excellent 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, in 1945!


Reviewer: Paul 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.

Highly recommended


Very Informative 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.





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