- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: The History Press; New Ed edition (23 Jun. 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0750940468
- ISBN-13: 978-0750940467
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,089,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The SS: A Warning from History Paperback – 23 Jun 2005
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About the Author
Dr Guido Knopp, born in 1948, rose to become editor of the Frankfurter Aligemeir Zeitung and later foreign editor of the Weit am Sonntag. Today he runs the current affairs department of ZDF, Germany's second national TV network. His books for Sutton include 'Hitler's Henchmen' (2000), 'Hitler's Holocaust' (2001), Hitler's Children, (2002), and 'Hitler's Women' (2003).
Top Customer Reviews
If you know little or nothing about the SS and want to improve your knowledge then this book might be worth dipping in to, but don't bother spending too much time on it. There are so many well written and informative books written on this subject and I would recommend all of them above this. If, like me, you know quite a bit about this subject then steer clear of this book.
Very informetive and detailed history of the SS from begining to end.
After reading the book I visited the site of the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin which now holds a permanent exhibition called Topography des Terrors. Everything falls into perspective.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
That the Waffen-SS was engaged in one of the biggest genocides in recent time in beyond doubt. Read this book and you will also have no doubts. This is a good companion to Goldsworthy's Valhalla's Warriors which examines the Waffen-SS on the Eastern front and the crime they committed.Valhalla's Warriors: A History of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1941-1945
Then the book starts to lose me as it gets into the history of the Waffen SS and post-war Germany and the attempts of Nazis to avoid punishment. In these chapters, the author(s), in addition to just telling the story, attempt to dispel two "myths". First the book attempts to discredit the fighting prowess of the Waffen-SS and second to discredit the claims of the existence of ODESSA (supposedly an international ex-Nazis group that engaged in securing the freedom of ex-Nazis). The author(s) arguments jump around and are not very convincing. As a frequent reader of histories, I was put off by the lack of proper references and the constant jumping around with quotes without giving some creditability of the statements. I think the book just tries too hard to make these points. I can understand another reviewers perception that the book is slanted propaganda.
In the end, I agree with the author(s) point in regard to the Waffen-SS. They often lacked experienced leadership resulting in poor combat tactics (experience in the field resolved this problem when causalities were not excessive) and while the original units were diehard Nazis that were determined and fanatical fighters the later explosion in recruiting efforts watered down this strength. Regardless of whether they were SS or Wehrmacht, in general, the German soldiers were able and determined fighters which is easily inferred by the respect that they gained from their allied opponents. In regard to ODESSA, I imagine it could have actually existed, but I would agree it probably didn't have the impact Simon Wiesenthal proclaimed. Again the author(s) constant assertions that ODESSA did not exist are followed with no real support, just more theories. When the book stated facts and reported actual events it succeeded. I found it interesting the Nazis sympathizer groups that are still active in the attempt of helping free war criminals or rekindle the Nazi ideals. In summary, I can recommend this to novices on the subject, but those who are more familiar with the subject should look elsewhere.
This generally works except when overbroad generalizations are made about the militarized portion of the SS, the Waffen-SS, which was minuscule until about 1942 but, man for man, is generally considered to have out-performed the regular German army in World War II, the Wehrmacht. The author (or authors, see discussion below) contend that the Waffen-SS was generally no better than the Wehrmacht but provide no evidence to support their contentions, other than broad generalizations, e.g., about numbers of injuries that establish nothing, and a comment that other portions of the German Army advanced slightly farther and faster than the Waffen-SS during the Ardennes offensive. But as one Waffen-SS commander noted even before that offensive: "The twists and turns on the path/roads we are expected to manouever our tanks and armor are so tortuous we would probably travel faster on bicycles." The author(s) go on to repeatedly decry the West's glorification of the Waffen-SS as a premier fighting force because to him (them) the mere fact that these soldiers fought under the tangential auspices of the SS means that no matter what they did or how they performed it does not deserve any praise of any kind for any reason whatsoever.
The book is broken down into six chapters. Each chapter lists two authors, the designated author of the book itself, German popular journalist Guido Knopp, and another person. No information is given on why the other person is listed as a co-author or what was their contribution.
Each chapter is also interspersed with quotations from people who were involved in the matters being discussed. Sometimes this is helpful but, for the most part, the quotations interrupt the flow of the text (and often contradict it). In addition, too many of the same people are quoted too many times, with less effect each time. For example, one Communist opponent of the early Nazis is repeatedly quoted that the Nazis were not good people and killed opponents, such as Communists. Do we need a Communist (who also killed their opponents, such as Nazis) to tell us this? Indeed, the authors quote one Communist as bragging that before the Nazis came to power when the Nazis came marching down his block he and his Communist cohorts, when they could, made sure they trapped the Nazis and they did not leave, i.e., they killed the Nazis.
An exception are quotations from the memoirs of the widow of Reinhard Heydrich (at one point the apparent no. 2 man in the SS), which are by turns perverse, bizzare, or intriguing, depending on your point of view.
The six chapters are on (1) the beginnings of the SS, (2) background on the SS's primary leader, Heinrich Himmler, (3) background on Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler's second in command until Heydrich's assassination in May 1942, (4) a review of the concentration camp system and mass deaths that resulted, (5) the (non)exploits of the Waffen-SS, and (6) a review of post-World War II activities of the SS, mainly escapes and escape routes from Germany by former SS members and/or avoidance of "victor's justice" at the hands of the Allies, former occupied countries and territories, and Israel.
The chapters suffer from overblown generalizations and sheer exaggeration to make a point as well as what appear to be misstatements.
For example, the author(s) claim membership in the SA, the forerunner or precursor of the SS, at its height was over 4 million, yet every account I have read before this numbers the SA at its height at no more than 3 million (and it is often credited at no more than 2 1/2 million). (The author(s) provide no bibliography or footnotes to support any of their claims, althoug occasionally sources are referred to in the text.)
Also, the author(s) claim Himmler did not have an especially strict father, yet a recent review by noted historian Richard Rhodes, in his work "Masters of Death," claims just the opposite, that Himmler's father was extremly strict. (Mr. Rhode's work, by the way, contains a precis' of Himmler's background and Weltanschauung that is superior in every way to the one found in this work by Mr. Knopp.)
After the war there was speculation that Mueller had been "turned" by the Soviets or had become a stooge of the U.S. The problem is that Heinrich Mueller is/was a common name in Germany. E.g., there were two different SS-Generals named Heinrich Mueller. After the war the U.S. made an intensive search for Gestapo Mueller and questioned many individuals named Heinrich Mueller, including at least one who was retained at a U.S. internment camp. But as far as anyone knows the U.S. never found Gestapo Mueller: Under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure act, the U.S. issued a report in about 2001 concluding, after an extensive review of its records (including those of the CIA and CIC (Counter-Intelligence Corps of the U.S. Army), that what happened to Gestapo Mueller after the war is still unknown with any uncertainty but the U.S. never found him, much less interrogated him or, even worse, interrogated him and released him (he was on a list of top Nazi war criminals), and that he probably died in Berlin in early May 1945.
The book does include 30 pictures. With rare exceptions they are all of good quality, although many appear to have been published elsewhere.
The book appears to have been written for popular consumption. It is written at about a high school level of reading. Serious students of the Second World War, the Third Reich, or the SS are unlikely to obtain anything of value from this book. Anything they do find cannot be substantiated for the reasons discussed above.