A highly decorated NCO in the SS Leibstandarte Division, the author saw action on both east and west fronts, from Poland in 1939 to the final defeat in 1945. On the basis of the evidence presented here, Werner Kindler remains an unrepentant Nazi, keen to point out the moral failings of other combatant nations while seemingly unaware of those on his side, not least the many atrocities committed by his own division. Germany is presented as a victim nation, the author even making the preposterous claim that the invasion of Russia in 1941 was a ‘preventative war’ forced on Germany.
Regardless of his political beliefs, those readers expecting an illuminating account of some of the fiercest fighting in the history of warfare will be disappointed, however. This is not an individual memoir but a collective regimental history of the 3rd Battalion of the Leibstandarte’s 2nd Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Kindler’s own authorial role is limited, confined in the main to listing every one of the 84 days that went towards gaining his close-combat badges. Some collective histories work very well – the Royal Welch Fusiliers’ The War the Infantry Knew being a case in point – but this book reads like a company magazine intended for its own employees rather than a wider readership. Far too much space is taken over with tiresome details of awards given and jobs assigned.
Not all is lost, however. For the hardcore enthusiast prepared to stay the course, there is some useful information on the tactical deployment of half-tracks, various descriptions of the tactical prowess of Joachim Peiper (the battalion’s initial commander), and a few interesting accounts of combat, notably the rescue of the 320th Infantry Division at Krassnaya Polyana during the Kharkov counter-attack and episodes from the battles of Kursk and Normandy.
Frontline Books, 206 pages, £19.99 (h/b)