Waffen-SS: Hitler’s Army at War

Da Capo: Perseus. Jun. 2019. 512p. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780306824654. $32.50; ebk. ISBN 9780306824661. HIST
In addition to campaigns, this history of the Waffen-SS by Gilbert (Stalk and Kill: The Thrill and Danger of the Sniper Experience) focuses on the recruitment, staffing, and training of prominent units from the prewar years through the final battles of 1945. The descriptions of the various units, and their experiences, are particular insightful in exploring how Heinrich Himmler and the SS met the challenges of maintaining unit cohesion despite heavy casualties. From the Polish campaign until the siege of Berlin, Gilbert argues that Waffen-SS units were effective fighters on offense, where they also committed numerous atrocities and were among the most tenacious of Hitler’s soldiers on defense. Most of Gilbert’s primary sources are English translations of soldiers’ memoirs, and the author did not utilize new German archival material for the project. Gilbert also missed an opportunity to compare the military effectiveness of Waffen units to the regular army; as Robert Citino’s The Wehrmacht’s Last Stand reveals, many German army units proved themselves dogged in defense.
VERDICT Despite these drawbacks, this book may find a home among dedicated readers of military history.

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