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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A window into brutality
As a teenager I read virtually all Sven Hassel's novels and enjoyed them as good old war stories. But over the years my perception of things, as many of us find, changed and I recently wanted to re-read those books, so bought Legion of the Damned and went through the story once more, but with an extra 30 years of life behind me.

My recall of the sadness of it...
Published on 5 Sep 2009 by Tony Roberts

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Just a bit too pulp
The action feels disjointed - as do many of the characters, which is perhaps what the war was like. However, as a narrative it left me feeling disappointed. And the writing is weak. If you were of the generation who enjoyed fighting WW2 in the school yard, try Rainbow Rising (The Heavy Metal series) by Jack Darrington - superb.
Published 6 months ago by Gill Kirk


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A window into brutality, 5 Sep 2009
By 
Tony Roberts (Bristol, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
As a teenager I read virtually all Sven Hassel's novels and enjoyed them as good old war stories. But over the years my perception of things, as many of us find, changed and I recently wanted to re-read those books, so bought Legion of the Damned and went through the story once more, but with an extra 30 years of life behind me.

My recall of the sadness of it all was not misplaced. This story ultimately is a tragedy; not merely of the loss of many of the close friends and comrades of Sven as he struggles to retain some humanity throughout the madness of what he experienced, but also of the futility and waste of societies, human life and animals.

In many ways Legion is a two-parter. The first part concerns the processing through heartless camps designed to slaughter opponents of the fascist system, or even those unfortunate to evoke the wrath, envy or other slight, imagined or real, of those running the fascist apparatus. Hassel is a deserter who is caught and ends up in an 'extermination camp',to quote the commandant. He survives only to be put into a penal regiment, a force made up of criminals and outcasts, expendable individuals not wanted in the Nazi society.

Its almost impossible to comprehend the brutality displayed within these pages, almost a fictional scene its that alien to our ways and morals. But it happened. And as a social history it should never be forgotten lest it occurs again. Hassel's description of the treatment he and others received is not gratuitous or indifferent of prose - he witnessed and experienced it and this comes through the pages. It can only have come from the pen of someone who did.

Then the story switches to life in the penal regiment. Sven finds the comradeship of all those rejects of society warm, genuine and a saviour to his soul. Even though these men fought in the wehrmacht, I find I'm rooting for them to survive. Hated by their own political system and faced with death from an implacable enemy, Hassel and his friends battle to survive the slaughter of the Eastern Front. Their exploits are hilarious at times, frightening on other occasions. Of course, they begin to die one by one, and even when allowed home on leave, tragedy is never far away and two women he loves die - one by Nazi thugs, the other by allied air raid - and his circle of friends shrinks.

The book would appear to cover the years 1940 to 1944, and ends rather in the air. It doesn't end with the war's end, and with Hassel's own capture by the Soviets in Berlin in 1945 which happened for real. No, it ends on a train with Hassel and his commander shaking hands after a harrowing incident in 1944. I would have preferred Hassel to complete his story which would have closed the chapter on it all, yet somehow I feel slightly cheated by the ending. And in addition, the last couple of chapters appear rushed and compressed in comparison with what came before. I do know that Hassel was switched from Russian to American, British and Danish prisons in the 1950s when he wrote this story, so maybe this affected him.

Overall, a 4-star rating for a book that stands out in the series he wrote as being the most authentic and realistic. The rest would seem to be more of fictional novel type of stories and not as real as this one, which is why this stands out as the best in my opinion of the entire set Hassel wrote.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last! A re-print!, 23 Aug 2003
This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
I first read these books almost 30 years ago in secondary school, and have always enjoyed the exploits of Porta, The Old Man, Heide, The Legionnaire and Sven as they rampaged and drank across the European theatre.
Over the years my collection has shrunk to just 3 tattered volumes - TBRTD, AG and MC - from the 1978 or 1979 Corgi editions, so I was very happy to see a reprint of 4 of the best, but who on earth commissioned the cover designs??
The author's name has the 'ss' from the middle of his name as an SS collar patch superimposed over the rest of his name.
As any fule kno, the 27th Tank Regiment hated the Nazis and their SS henchmen, and I can't believe the publisher let such an elementary error through.
The book itself? A great read, probably based most on fact of all his books, showing the horrors of war and the value of comrades in arms in extremis.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book Not for the Faint Hearted, 5 May 2002
By A Customer
This is a great book, that?s definitely not for the faint hearted. Hassel once again proves that he is a master teller of WWII stories with his unique twist of telling the story from the point of view of a foreigner severing in the Werhmacht. Tiny & the rest of the gang have a great sense of humor which keeps the book light hearted even when describing some of the more gruesome aspects of war.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars food for thought., 12 Nov 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
This book tells the tale of Sven Hassel a soldier caught by the dreaded SS for desertion. He and his girlfriend Ursula are tried and sentenced to punishment camps designed for Germans where their conditions compare to concentration camps.
Sven who is witness to crimes against humanity again and again, when the years of punishisment goes by, he is tortured again by being put into a Penal battalion being retrained as a German soldier.
The book gives gory details of so many emotions from the sadness of losing his close friends or to the sometimes-humorous ordeals he goes through. With his close friends and a cat called Stalin dressed like an officer, he survives showing that war is not as glamorous as the nazi war machine spews into the peoples lives.
This book is amazing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 9 Nov 2008
By 
Ian Watson "Finkster" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
I first read this 25+ years ago. It was my introduction to Sven Hassel and I spent years searching out the old Corgi versions of his books in old bookshops and libraries.

This first book was written in the fifties after the war and contains the characters and elements of all of his subsequent books. I tried in vain to map out a chronology of events throughout his books but this book (and his others) are clearly works of fiction since the events and persons they describe often appear in different campaigns of the war at the same time.

That being said, it is hard to believe that Sven Hassel did not see some combat in WW2 since his descriptions of the Eastern Front and the camps are vivid and believable. I have read many books on the war in the East and Hassel's books still provide a vivid, shocking and at times outrageously funny depiction of the war.

There is a lot of material on the web about his writings and accusations about his political orientation, but you should reserve judgement until you have read some of his works. Regardless of the politics, this is a great read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, 14 Oct 2008
By 
H. T. Davies - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
As already mentioned this is probably the most factual of his books (together with Comrades of War and Wheels of Terror)as we follow Sven from court room to penal camp to the Eastern Front and meet most of the characters who will remain with us in the other books. I find it a bit irritating that the Old Man is called the Old 'Un in this one (like Tiny being Little John in March Batallion and Liquidate Paris) but that's just me.

There is little of the slapstick humour of later books and the tone remains fairly sombre throughout but the sheer wretchedness of the war in the East and the efforts of men to remain human in inhuman surroundings comes across well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking testimony to the brutality of war, 13 Feb 2007
By 
Colin Ellis "Bookworm" (West Sussex) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
Sven Hassel tells this story from his own experiences in this account of life as a member of a penal battalion is certainly not for the faint hearted. A brutal account of life on the 'other' side. A must read for all those interested in getting an understanding of what serving in the German Army was like. Moving, shocking and mesmerising.

I first read this book 20 years ago and have just bought a new copy to read it again such is its impact.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic!, 18 Jun 2004
By 
Melanie Bell (Glucestershire, Gloucestershire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
Legion of the damned is undoubtably the best book ive ever read. the way Hassel writes this book is graphic and unique.
Its about a doomed German platoon on the eastern front in 1943. Hassel is one of them. This book is definetly not for the squemish as it is very violent. It is so easy to pick up and read, but very hard to put back down!
I would recommend this book to anyone except for the squemish.
Its not just a typical blokes book, but it also has a lot of love and sensitivity.
Go on buy it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Legion of the Damned" by Sven Hassel, 19 Feb 2012
This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
The first in the accalimed series of semi-autobiographical accounts of Sven's experiences in the German Army during World War II. Did Sven actually do all the things the character Sven does in this book? Probably irrelevant as the story has an air of reality about it that makes it such a good read. God they had it tough in those days and the love affairs couldn't be more emotionally demanding if you were actually living them out yourself!
Sven now lives in Denmark and is a very old man. Whatever you think, he is a hero of mine who fired my imagination as a teenager...Oh my God!
If you liked this book I can also recommend "All quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque.The generation of young men who lived,fought and often died in the two World Wars are all truly heroes no matter on which side they were on!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than you might think, 26 April 2011
This review is from: Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) (Mass Market Paperback)
I read this book assuming it would be of a pretty low calibre but in the end it turned out to be much better written than expected. Good attention to detail and stands up to repeated viewing.
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Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks)
Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks) by Sven Hassel (Mass Market Paperback - 14 Aug 2003)
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