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Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1941-1945 (Paperback)

Images of War

WWII Photo Books SAS & Elite Forces

By Ian Baxter
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Images of War
Pages: 160
ISBN: 9781781591864
Published: 24th February 2014

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This book in the popular Images of War series covers the deeds of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. With extensive text and in-depth captions with many rare and unpublished photographs it is an absorbing analysis of the part they played on the Eastern Front. It reveals in detail how this elite band of men fought during the opening phase of Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, how it supported and took part in the victory at Kharkov, Demyansk and other battles in the Soviet Union. The book reveals the Waffen-SS's role at Kursk and how it was forced to withdraw in the face of overwhelming enemy superiority and were rushed from one danger zone to another to plug gaps in the front. Often these troops faced an enemy ten-times their strength and it was for this reason they were feared and respected by their enemy. Although by early May 1945, the Waffen-SS was all but destroyed, having battled across half Russia and gone on to protect the withdrawals of the rest of the German Army to the very gates of Berlin.

Front to back this book is packed with hundreds of detailed black and white photos covering the expansive roles the Waffen-SS played on the Eastern Front. Each of the photograph presented in this book give the reader an incredible up close and personal into the men and their equipment.

My Hobby Info

It’s been a while since we’ve had something from this author to look at. You will recall he is a longstanding collector of German images, whether in the form of official photographs or more commonly from the albums of ordinary soldiers. There is no question that amateur photography was a huge business in the days of the Third Reich and there is little wonder that so many interesting snaps continue to turn up. The common strap line for this Images of War series is rare photographs from wartime archives and I would say that in the case of Mr Baxter’s output this is genuinely the case. While I have seen a lot of images during the course of my professional career as a picture librarian, it isn’t possible to know everything, and, in any case, I am not a specialist on German images. I am sure dyed in the wool aficionados of Nazi era photography and the Waffen-SS in particular, may recognise some of these.

So, once again, this book crams in a huge amount of very interesting images. One or two look like typical propaganda stuff, but, in the main, the scenarios seem pretty ordinary. There are a few combat sequences and others which clearly come from individual collections or albums; but the overall effect is varied and always of a high quality. The reproduction is to a high standard. I think the thing that impacted on me most is the range of subject matter and the broad scope of the collection as a whole. We see the Waffen-SS in all weathers and groups of soldiers trying to make the best of things in often arduous conditions. I was struck by the number of images showing men wearing mosquito nets over their helmets. It’s easy to imagine just how unpleasant it was to operate in woods and wetlands, quite apart from having to fight the enemy. Quite obviously the nightmare of swarms of mosquitoes and other biting insects has fallen on invader and defender alike through all the campaigns in Russia going back beyond the reckless adventurism of Napoleon.

One plus side with this author is the meticulous nature of the image captions. This is a really impressive aspect of his books. In addition to the images we get a fairly extensive appendix showing the order of battle of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front and details on uniforms, weapons and equipment. The book would be very useful as a visual aid for living history exponents and model makers. Maybe you just collect this sort of thing and have a strong interest in the Waffen-SS. They certainly had all the sexy kit and look the bee’s knees. There is a kind of morbid attraction to them which I can appreciate without actually buying in to.

So, there you have it. A really interesting collection from this keenly priced series of books. There is a lot to like here, especially if the Eastern Front or more specifically the Waffen-SS float your boat.

War History Online

About Ian Baxter

Ian Baxter has produced a fine selection of highly illustrated books in the Images of War Series mainly covering Axis Forces in WW2. He is a dedicated collector of rare images and an expert in his field. He lives near Chelmsford, Essex.

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