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The Waffen-SS: A European History Hardcover – 22 Dec 2016
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it will be essential reading to better understand this military and political institution in all its strange and malevolent detail. (Adrian Gilbert, War Books Review)
About the Author
Jochen Böhler is a Research Associate at the Imre Kertesz Kolleg in Jena, where he teaches courses on the history of early twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe. His recent major publications include: War, Pacification, and Mass Murder, 1939: The Einsatzgruppen in Poland (2014, with Jurgen Matthäus and Klaus-Michael Mallmann) SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Baltruschat's Career 1939-1943 (2014, with Jacek Sawicki) and Legacies of Violence: Eastern Europe's First World War (2014, with Joachim von Puttkamer and W?odzimierz Borodziej). He is also currently preparing a monograph on Embattled Poland 1918-1921 for Oxford University Press. Robert Gerwarth is Professor of Modern History at University College Dublin and Director of the Centre for War Studies. He is the author of The Bismarck Myth (2005) and a biography of Reinhard Heydrich (2011). His third monograph, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End will be published in late 2016. He has also published ten edited collections, including, most recently, War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe after the Great War (2012, with John Horne) and Empires at War, 1911-1923 (2014, with Erez Manela).
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This book sets the record straight you will find no myths of glorious valiant leaders bravely fighting to save Europe you will find an accurate assessment of the facts, how these units came about, why, their value to the SS, frequently the problems which existed and the related propaganda representations.
If you are looking for a tale of a " United Nations" fight against Stalin, you will be disappointed, if you are looking for the facts you will find them.
Not a cheap book but one which redresses a balance and one which focuses on the how and why rather than a boys only picture of what WW2 should have been or has been presented.
The incorporation of recruits from beyond the borders of the German Reich came in three parts. First, were the Germanics from northern Europe - primarily Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Flanders - who the Nazis considered to be their racial cousins. Second, were the millions of Germans who had emigrated from the Fatherland to the Balkans and eastern Europe over several centuries, and it was these ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) who would provide the bulk of the manpower for Himmler’s SS legions. The last group had no German connection at all but became especially useful in making up the numbers as the war turned against Germany. They included Estonians and Latvians from the Baltic States, Walloons and French, Muslims from Bosnia and Montenegro, and, most bizarrely, Ukrainians and Russians – the very Slavs the Nazis regarded as sub-humans and had vowed to destroy. As the war drew to its apocalyptic conclusion racial and ethnic distinctions were blurred in favour of the desperate demand for manpower.
The editors have assembled an impressive and large cast of academics from Europe and the United States. They consider participation within the Waffen SS on a regional basis, and look at what motivated those who came forward of their own free will and how the initial voluntary principle was transformed through progressive levels of coercion to full conscription. The various chapters explain the differing trajectories of the national groups in recruitment, training and eventual deployment on the battlefield.
Utilising the latest research, the authors provide a nuanced account of how hundreds and thousands of men were caught up in the Nazi’s ultimately futile bid to conquer Europe. They also dismantle the many myths that have grown around this subject, not least the pernicious falsehood that the Waffen SS and its European contingents somehow acted as a bulwark against Soviet communism and in so doing became the ‘defenders of European civilization’. Given the academic nature of this book it will be of less interest to those who enjoy blood-and-thunder battlefield narratives but for those who can bear the price it will be essential reading to better understand this military and political institution in all its strange and malevolent detail.