Monday, May 5, 2008

Valhalla's Warriors: A History of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1941-1945 by Terry Goldsworthy

Within history there are basically primary and secondary sources. This book is based around a majority of secondary sources with little new information to offer. Having said that, I must emphasis that in today's world new original primary research is a great thing to find and read through but I believe that so much has been written about the Waffen SS, and the Eastern Front in general, that it is time to take a step back and take some of that secondary research to see where it takes us. New research is always nice but gaining a new understanding and comprehension by analyzing and comparing/contrasting existing accounts is also something that needs to be done from time to time. This is what I believe the author did here and I commend him for a job well done. I can easily admit to have read quite a few books from the bibliography but there were still many books I had never heard of or wasn't familiar with and just for that this book was worth getting.

The author is quite fair to the Waffen SS; he presents both extremes to the reader and chooses to walk in the middle showing that those who believe the Waffen SS to be a criminal organization are not basing it on fiction but rather on fact. The book is short, a little over 200 pages, goes over the history of the SS, the composition of the SS, and the ideology behind it before diving into the activities of a variety of SS formations on the Eastern Front. While not all SS soldiers were ideologues hunting Jews and Commissars enough of the SS officer corps was, which in turn influenced a large number of those under them. These men were not the ‘fourth’ part of the Armed Forces but more so the political tool with which Hitler and Himmler could unleash their genocidal plans with throughout the Eastern Front.

A plethora of divisions are gone over as well as the atrocities and criminal actions they were involved in throughout the Second World War, mainly on the Eastern Front. Personally, I had always heard that the "Wiking" SS division had 'clean hands' when it came to atrocities, apparently that's not true and I have this book to thank for gaining that knowledge. A worthwhile investment of your time and money, definitely recommended.

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