The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror
Gordon Williamson

The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror, takes the reader through the entire evolution of the SS. From the pre-war street fights in Germany, to the Waffen-SS in combat on the Eastern front, from weapons used by the SS, and much more, this book has it all.

This book has so much information that it would be almost impossible to explain each and every section, because it covers just about everything. So below is the list of chapters from the book which I will explain briefly what each chapter contains:
The Births of the SS
The State's Troops
Forged in Battle
The SS Turns East
Home Service
Hitler's Foreign Legions
Holding The Line
Battles in the West
Death Ride
Weapons and Equipment
Just Soldiers?

In the first chapter, The Birth of the SS, Mr. Williamson explains how many in Germany felt betrayed because of the unfair Treaty of Versailles imposed by the Allied nations. It goes on to explain that a large part of the German Army was demobilized and many men were with out work, so they did what they knew best and became members of the extreme rightist organization, the Freikorps. The book then explains some of the Freikoprs action in pre-war Germany and else where. This chapter has a very interesting section on the Spartacist Revolt in January 1919. Mr. Williamson then goes on to explain the birth of the SS as the Führer's body guard and the rivalry between the SS and the SA. Also covered in the chapter are 2 sections on the future Reichsfuhrer-SS (SS Leader), Heinrich Himmler and a section on SS racial guidelines.

The next chapter, The States troops, goes on to explain the years of growth of the SS, and how it became a force to be dealt within the Nazi state. Also covered in detail in this chapter is the assassination of various SA leaders, known as, "The Night of the Long Knives". The chapter then goes on to explain the birth of the SS-Verfügungstruppe, or Special Disposal Troop. This organization would be the beginning of the infamous combat organization, the Waffen-SS or armed SS. The sections on the SS-Verfugungstruppen then goes on to explain, military training, and ideological training, also it explains the role of the SS-Verfugungstruppen in Nazi Germany.
Later in chapter 2, Mr. Williamson discusses the Anschluss with Austria, and the SS's involvement in the assimilation of Austria into the German Reich. After the sections on Austria are complete it then goes on to explain the seizing of Czechoslovakia and the SS's involvement in the famous and infamous "Crystal Night".

The 3rd chapter, Forged in Combat, goes on to explain the SS-Verfugungstruppen's combat role in Poland, France and the low countries. This chapter also discusses the Heer's (German Army) attempts at trying to keep the SS a fledgling organization, by blocking recruits to the SS, etc.
This chapter also, though briefly, explains how the SS-Verfügungstruppe later became officially known as the Waffen-SS (armed SS). A brief section on the recruitment of foreign volunteers is also described.

Chapter 4, The SS Turns East, explains the Waffen-SS in Russia and the Balkans. The chapter starts out explaining what units were to be sent to the Balkans to subdue Yugoslavia, and Greece and how they were used in a combat role. This chapter also describes the Waffen-SS in Russia from January 22, 1941 all the way up to the desperate defensive fighting in 1943. Also covered briefly is a section on the some of the new SS divisions raised because of man power needs on all fronts.

The next chapter, Home Service, goes on to explain the tasks of the Allegmeine-SS (Political SS) in German proper and the occupied countries. There's a few sections on the the SS High Command, RuSHA. And some sections on the infamous organizations of the SD and Gestapo. Also covered in this chapter is some what of a biography on SS-Gruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich.

Later in chapter 5, after the various SS political organizations are explained and examined the book discusses the July 1944 bomb plot in some depth.
After all is said and done about the administrative workings of the SS, the book goes on to explain the the infamous, Einsatzgruppen organization and various other treacheries that were committed against the Jews. Then comes another interesting section on the Gestapo and the Kriminal Polizei.
Later in the chapter, slave labor, etc. is discussed as is the SS's various economical investments and companies. SS ideology is discussed a bit more, as is Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) ideology. The Concentration camp system is also discussed in some depth, as is the Totenkopfverbande.

The next chapter of the book, Hitler's Foreign Legions, goes on to explain how and why foreigners were used in SS service. The chapter also examines the evolution of foreign SS units, from legions all the way to full blown SS divisions.

After this, the reader gets information on each and every 'main' SS formation, like the 5th SS Panzer division, the 18th SS division, and much more. It should be noted that although Mr. Williamson does cover some 'obscure' SS combat organizations, like the BFC, etc. he does neglect to have sections on various other 'obscure' Waffen-SS units.

The next chapter, Holding The Line, continues where chapter 4 left off and explains the grim situation on the Eastern Front which the Waffen-SS faced. And discusses in depth some of the battles fought by the armed SS.

Chapter 8, Battles In The West, covers the Waffen-SS's military exploits in Western Europe during the Normandy invasion, and the Ardennes Offensive. A brief section on Waffen-SS units serving in Italy is also in the book.
Battles In The West, also goes on to explain the success of Panzer commander, Ernst Barkmann. Kampfgruppe Peiper is also discussed in some depth.

Death Ride, chapter 9, goes on to explain the collapse of the the German war machine on all fronts, and the Waffen-SS's role in those last fighting days. Operation 'Spring Awakening', the evacuation of Prague and various other battles and operations are covered in this last chapter about the Waffen-SS in combat. This chapter concludes with information on the Red Army's drive on Berlin, and with the destruction of the Reich.

Chapter 10, Weapons and Equipment, briefly gives the reader an explanation of most of the weapons pressed into SS service. Although, this chapter lacks depth, it does discuss the basics. Also in this chapter, artillery, anti-tank weapons, tanks, and armored cars are also briefly discussed. I only have one problem with this chapter, it doesn't discuss the equipment of the SS, as it said in the title. No where in this chapter is there information on the Infantry pack, the Zeltbahn or any type of equipment used by the Waffen-SS, or Allegmeine-SS.

Chapter 11, the last chapter of the book, titled, Just Soldiers? discusses various crimes committed against the so called 'sub humans'. Various atrocities committed by the Gestapo, and even the Waffen-SS are covered in this last chapter. This chapter also has some pictures that are not for the faint of heart. Last but not least, the end of this chapter discusses the judgment of the whole SS organization at the Nuremberg Trials, and Mr. Williamson gives you his opinion on the 'legacy' of the SS.

Some quick notes: The Appendices in this book contains lost of useful information and should be looked over.

Also, a warning, to all. Mr. Gordon Williamson, although a great writer, has been known to mix up the facts, or just to put something down that just didn't occur. This book is for the 'beginning' students of history, it gives you a brief over view of the SS organization. But the book contains many tiny errors here and there.

One more quick note for everyone, the book has lots of information for the beginner, but it also has tons of marvelous photographs for even the oldest researcher of military history.

(Reviewed by Chad Crompton)

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