III. Germanic SS Panzer-Korps – The History of Himmler’s Favourite SS-Panzer-Korps, 1943-1945: Volume 1: Creation-September 1944, Lennart Westberg, Petter Kjellander & Geir Brenden

III. Germanic SS Panzer-Korps – The History of Himmler’s Favourite SS-Panzer-Korps, 1943-1945: Volume 1: Creation-September 1944, Lennart Westberg, Petter Kjellander & Geir Brenden

I must admit I approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation. In the past I’ve had to reject similar looking large photograph heavy volumes on the Waffen SS which have either whitewashed, ignored or attempted to deny the war crimes committed by the unit and the heavily political nature of the entire SS. Fortunately my concerned were unwarranted. This book begins with an examination of the role of the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany, where it was always seen as an essentially political force, designed to create a cadre of dedicated Nazis to rule their post-war empire. That was of course true of every formation in the Waffen-SS, but this particular unit had extra significance to Himmler and the Nazi leadership. The first full chapter looks at the reason for the unit’s formation, and its political role as the home for Scandinavian volunteers fighting for Germany. It also compares the plan with the reality, which actually saw the unit largely filled with Germans from Transylvania after the expected flood of Scandinavian volunteers failed to materialise.

We quickly learn that the unit’s title was almost entirely inaccurate – it wasn’t a Panzer unit, it was never at corps strength, and it wasn’t ‘Germanic’ in the way that the Nazis had wanted. The attempt to recruit volunteers in occupied Denmark and Norway and in neutral Sweden failed to live up to expectations – indeed the low number of volunteers from Sweden actually appears to have angered some of the senior Nazis! However an examination of those men who did volunteer suggests that they did success in one aim – despite many former volunteers having later claimed they were motivated mainly by anti-communism, it is clear that the vast majority of them were previously members of Nazi or similar parties in their home country, and were actually motivated more by political sympathy with the Nazis. The Transylvanian Germans appear to have been rather unfortunate to end up in the Waffen-SS, moving from the Romanian army

I learnt a surprising amount about the organisation of the Waffen-SS from this book (given that I’ve read a fair amount it in the past). Two that stand out are that members of the SS often served in both the Waffen-SS as concentration guards, as part of a deliberate effort to ensure that there was only one SS. This rather eliminates the idea that Waffen-SS officers could somehow be unaware of the holocaust. Second is that as the Waffen-SS expanded and began to include an ever wider range of recruits, they were split into two – those of suitably Ayran breeding, who would be given member of the full SS after the war, and those who were considered racially inferior. They weren’t considered full members of the SS and weren’t allowed to wear the SS badge.

The three combat chapters combine a good account of the unit’s actions with a selection of photographs, all supported with detailed captions. As one would expect, the unit’s combat debut in Croatia saw it commit war crimes, often murdering anyone who fell into their hands and claimed them as partisans. The last two chapters see the unit caught up in the defensive fighting on the Leningrad and Estonian fronts. These sections are perhaps more typical combat narratives, although with some interesting material on the post-war fates of some of the SS.

Introduction: The Waffen-SS as a political phenomenon
1 – From Legions to SS-Panzergrenadier regiments: Himmler’s pan-Germanic visions for the III (germ.) SS-Panzer Korps
2 – Training and anti-partisan actions in Croatia (September 1943-December 1943)
3 – In the front-line at Oranienbaum-Leningrad and the battle for Ingria (January-February 1944)
4 – The defence of the Narva bridgehead and the battle for Dorpat and the Blue Hills (February-September 1944) until the German retreat out of Estonia

Author: Lennart Westberg, Petter Kjellander & Geir Brenden
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: Helion
Year: 2019

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