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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fighting a Hopeless Battle for the Homeland
The five star rating is conditional. If you're a researcher or a keen student who wants to know as much of the war as possible then this book is clearly five stars. On the other hand, if you're a casual reader you will probably think this book as dry and difficult and rate it lower.

For me, this book was the lucky find of the year for the coverage dovetails...
Published on 27 Jun. 2011 by Dave History Student

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3.0 out of 5 stars From its beginning to its end.
This book gives an insight into a little known Foreign Division, from being raised, trained fighting to its final days.
Published 15 months ago by Richard W.


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fighting a Hopeless Battle for the Homeland, 27 Jun. 2011
This review is from: For the Homeland: The 31st Waffen-SS Volunteer Grenadier Division in WWII (Stackpole Military History) (Paperback)
The five star rating is conditional. If you're a researcher or a keen student who wants to know as much of the war as possible then this book is clearly five stars. On the other hand, if you're a casual reader you will probably think this book as dry and difficult and rate it lower.

For me, this book was the lucky find of the year for the coverage dovetails closely with the two books currently being studied. The first book is "Last Laurels" which covers the German defense of its critical industrial and mining region in Upper Silesia. The second book is "Drama Between Budapest and Vienna" which mainly covers the fighting in the Budapest - Lake Balaton sector. The reviewed book predominantly covers two areas: the German defense south of Lake Balaton, near the Hungarian southern border and the Lower Silesia area. The other two books don't cover these areas so you will learn a lot about not only the 31st SS Division but also about Army Group South, Army Group F as well as some coverage of the actions of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts as they push the Germans westward.

The story begins in late 1944 with the SS traveling throughout Europe looking for volunteers to bolster their dwindling numbers. Hungary was especially targeted for it had a large population of Germans living there. The 31st Waffen-SS Volunteer Grenadier Division was formed from many of these volunteers. It also consisted of the remnants of the 23rd Waffen-Gebirgs Division. After a brief history of the 23rd the story jumps back to the 31st SS with a detailed Order of Battle. The division was activated in October 1944 and was on the front line by November; there was just enough time to hand out uniforms and weapons but none for training.
After describing the conditions in the area (Northwest Rumania and Southwest Hungary) of what the new division would be facing, the author begins the battle action of the 31st SS Division as it deploys along the western bank of the Danube, a little north of the Drau River. They were with the Brandenburgs, the 1st Gebj Div and Group Hanke trying to keep the 3rd UF from crossing the River. For the next five weeks, reaching into the first week of December, the author describes the failed attempt to hold the River and the subsequent retreat northward to Lake Balaton. These German units and especially the 31st SS took heavy casualties against a far superior force. There is a series of six maps that reflect this fighting. The maps are very basic but effective.
At the end of the year the 31st SS Div was pulled out of the line for refit and then redeployed in late February to Lower Silesia. For the month of March, the division defended the line north and northeast of Hirschberg and Bad Warmbunn. By April, they were defending in the Strehlin area but still losing traction but not as quickly. By May the division was near the Czech border and fighting partisans that turned on Germany after six years of loyalty to the Axis. I won't spoil the ending but it was not a happy one for the 31st SS Division. The author provides another five simple maps to cover the Lower Silesia fighting.
There were several secondary chapters following the operational history of the 31st SS Division. The most interesting was the chapter on the CO, Brigadefuhrer Gustav Lombard. A brief summary of his war record is given and his time as a POW in Siberia. He was released in 1955 to go back to his wife in Germany.

There is a photo section of Lombard, some of his officers and men. There is also an Appendix, Endnotes, a Bibliography and Index.
It appears to me Mr Pencz has done his homework and written a comprehensive story on this new, young division. He completes a competent operational history of the 31st SS Division that was defending an important but little publicized sector in the last months of the war. The author was trying to write a tribute to this forgotten Division which he did admirably but while doing so was also providing important historical data on two sectors of the Eastern Front that had been basically ignored by other historians. The author also develops the friction that occurred between AGS and AGF as well as the friction between the field commanders and Berlin. Throughout the narrative the author also weaves into the operational study, background information on the separate Regiments and Attachments of the Division and a few of its key people.
For me, this was not an easy read; I know a second reading will be necessary to really appreciate everything that was discussed. I would suggest the ideal audience for this book to be researchers and avid students of the war. Casual or new readers of the war may have difficulty maintaining an interest in juggling all the facts mentioned as well as the unfamiliar people and places that are discussed.
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3.0 out of 5 stars From its beginning to its end., 19 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: For the Homeland: The 31st Waffen-SS Volunteer Grenadier Division in WWII (Stackpole Military History) (Paperback)
This book gives an insight into a little known Foreign Division, from being raised, trained fighting to its final days.
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