Will Fey's `Armor Battles of the Waffen-SS, 1943-1945' is not, as one might suspect from just the title, an analytical military history, nor is it the author's personal memoir: it is instead a varied collection of battle reports or `experiences' written by at least fourteen (including the author) Waffen-SS Panzer commander veterans. The author, who first fought in the ranks of the Wehrmacht, later served with the 102nd (redesignated 502nd) SS Tiger tank battalion as a Panzer and platoon leader. A decade after the end of the war he continued his career in the Bundeswehr. His book was originally published in German as `Panzerkampf'.
After a short overview of the Waffen-SS Panzer units the initial part of the book covers the war in Russia 1943-1944, including the battles for Charkov, Kursk and Warsaw, the second part covers the Western front 1944 (Normandy to the Ardennes) and the third part the final battles in the East in 1945. Sadly there are only two maps included (the Mortain counter-attack and Caen to the Falaise pocket 1944) so the reader will want to keep his atlas handy, especially for the Eastern front battles. A general knowledge of the main WWII campaigns comes in handy also, although sometimes a brief introduction or `setting the scene' is given. The final part of the book consists of Appendices, including an eight page summary (apparently by an American author) of the history of the Panzer complement of the 2nd SS Das Reich division. Noteworthy is that no mention is made of the massacre of French civilians by Das Reich in Oradour in June 1944; the killing of American POW's by Kampfgruppe Peiper during the Battle of the Bulge is however given attention, and vehemently refuted. The other appendices give information such as the main types of WWII battle tanks, interesting for the general reader perhaps but not for a specialist. Thirty-seven photographs are included, but no specific unit or campaign orders of battle.
The reports themselves, all of them tactical in scope, vary somewhat in length and content. A few give a rather dry synopsis of towns captured or lost, tanks destroyed and overwhelming Russian superiority in numbers. The best or most readable reports read like one was right there with the author in his Panzer, amidst the powder fumes, heat, tension, fear and quite often the elation of `a kill'. Taken as a whole this book provides the reader with an eye-opening collection of the nitty-gritty of tank combat in WWII, from the German perspective: the close-knit Panzer crew working as a team; desperately hand-cranking engines that won't respond to the start button; fixing damaged tracks under fire; sinking armor side-plates into a river to be able to ford; turrets swiveled manually when the engine (and thus the electricity supply) is switched off; Typhoon rocket attacks; the vital importance of the on-board machine guns; the vulnerability of tanks without infantry support; bedding down under the Panzer at night; the list goes on.... It is interesting to read that even when a Panzer was disabled quite often at least some of the crew escaped, albeit usually wounded. The tank types most frequently mentioned are the Panzer IV, Panther, Tiger and King Tiger. Those readers most interested in the grand finale of the war in the East are well catered for: in total more than a hundred pages are devoted to reports on the relief of Budapest, the battles for Vienna, Berlin etc.
After an initial reading this reviewer found only a few mistakes or oversights in the text: the lake in Hungary mentioned on p.232 should probably be Lake Velencze, not Balaton; the SS-Panzer Corps mentioned on p.266 should be the IIIrd (Germanic), not the IInd. Also the Tiger I engine is given various horsepower strengths at times. One other small quibble is that at times the section headings leave it unclear whether one is reading the report of the same commander, an `anonymous' part or a general overview. The translation reads well, there are no obvious awkward Anglo-German mix-ups.
In conclusion: if you are looking for a German-perspective account of tactical Panzer warfare in WWII, buy this book.