Hitler's Bandit Hunters: The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe
Philip W. Blood

When first reading the nucleus work of Christopher R. Browning “Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland” I was astounded by the subject and its consequences. The these of Browning that these “ordinary men” in fact were not the evil psychopathic lowlife killers and depraved manslaughters as given in numerous depictions of the men behind the Final Solution, but that these “ordinary men” in general can behave immoral given certain general circumstances was the main effect influenced on myself as I see it.

Philip W. Blood, in his book “Hitler’s bandit Hunter – The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe” gives us an even deeper insight into the mentality of the German anti partisan operations. When the book of Browning ends with “the shock of knowledge and the lurking fear of self-recognition”, as given in one of the reviews of his book, Blood now takes us even further to the understanding what kind of ideology was behind the word “Bandenbekämpfung”, as opposed to the more common term “Partisanenbekämpfung”. “Partisanenbekämpfung” was seen as security warfare on a smaller scale, as contrasted by “Bandenbekämpfung” which was to be military security operations against banditry.

The term “Bandenbekämpfung” was not something that the Third Reich invented. The term goes way back in the Prussian military of the 19. Century and its roots lie even as far back as the Thirty Years’ War. What was instrumental in implementing such a term in the Third Reich era was the mixture of different factors as the history of militarism, ideology, self-awareness and the thought of “Lebensraum” – or living space. Thus, when the Invasion of the Soviet Union began in June 1941, the German army adopted the term “Partisanenbekämpfung” to regulate the killings of guerillas, Red Army Commissars, Jews and stragglers. When Hitler, in August 1942 directed all German state institutions to assist RFSS Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the SS and German Police, in eradication of armed resistance in the newly occupied territories of Eastern Europe and Russia, the term “Bandenbekämpfung” became the third component of the Third Reich’s three-part strategy for German national security. This meant that “Bandenbekämpfung”, alongside genocide and slave labor, constituted the means of the Third Reich’s counterinsurgency campaign against all possible foes of the Regime. The notion of “Bandenbekämpfung” made sure that insurgents were portrayed as political and racial bandits, and criminalized them to a degree even larger than enemies of the state, in fact, they were portrayed even as enemies of the race and soul of the German People. Further on, Blood shows that the postwar depictions of the former seen devious SS Police forces and the much more appraised Waffen-SS was in fact two of a kind regarding the notion of “Bandenbekämpfung”.

Philip W. Blood book “Hitler’s bandit Hunter – The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe” is not easy reading. But the theme itself deserves nothing more than a book like this. A book which with success explains and describes how the term “Bandenbekämpfung” was implemented in the SS, and with the horrific results in human loss it gave. And finally Philip W. Blood, gives scholars some advices in our post-September 11 world, namely that examining our perception of security, they might examine the military abuse and political manipulations of the “Bandenbekämpfung”.

(Reviewed by Arne Haakon Thomassen)
Thanks to the author for the review copy.

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