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Disturbing and yet compulsive
on 22 November 2007
In The Devil's Guard, author George Robert Elford has compiled the shocking testimony of an unrepentant Nazi mercenary, fighting for the French Foreign Legion in Indochina. The Devil's Guard follows SS Officer Hans Josef Wagemueller, from fighting the Russians on the eastern front at the end of World War II, through a training period with the French Foreign Legion and finally to prolonged and intense combat in the jungles of southeast Asia.
The book is in essence a confessional, though perhaps with the antagonist bearing no guilt, only a desire to reveal man's inhumanity to man, in its rawest and most unexpurgated terms. This ultimately means that the reader is confronted with chapter after chapter of how a Nazi and his platoon of fellow ideologues fought, shot, bayoneted, tortured and poisoned the Viet Minh; these scenes are depicted in their unflinching brutality in a way seldom captured by purveyors of war-memoirs, whether they be the literati of the late Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead, or Andy McNab's tale of dubious authenticity, Bravo Two Zero.
The Devil's Guard does indeed have the whiff of verisimilitude, not to mention sulphur. However, the book is an "as told to" story, whereby Wagemueller met the author in a bar in the capital city of a small, unnamed Asian country - and then dictated this testament into a microphone over the subsequent eighteen days. As such, the book is entirely uncorroborated, as far as I can determine. If it is fiction, it is an exceptional rendering. If, as this reader believes, the story is essentially true, then author George Robert Elford has succeeded in capturing a remarkable document. A book such as this is a rare artefact indeed. Bloody, uncompromising, disturbingly vicious, relentlessly compelling, The Devil's Guard is a shocking revelation, unmatched in its intensity.