The book, as the name suggests is a study of the impact that foreign soldiers, volunteers and whole armies of countries that aligned themselves to the Nazi cause.
The book starts with a breakdown of Operation Barbarossa and the consequences that this would eventually have on the populations of all countries involved and ultimately lead to the division of Europe for nearly half a century. It was only when this division ended that the author and others were allowed to have access to previously files that were closed off to them.
The main allies of Hitler or at least those countries that fought alongside the Germans on the Eastern Front are given a chapter to themselves. Many countries fought and for a multitude of reasons. Some thought that they would have a greater say in how the Germans saw them and what would happen to their lands and people, if and when, the Germans where ultimately successful at the outcome of the war. Some, as in the Hungarians and Rumanians joined sides with the Nazis to try and have more power and influence with the Nazi’s over their hated enemies.
It is interesting that these two countries frequently fought skirmishes with each other whilst being allied to the Nazi cause and had to be kept apart when on the front!
What I did find surprising was the way in which the Germans viewed the Italian division that was sent to the east. I would have assumed that they would have not particularly have held them in great stead, however, from this book, it seems that many high level German officers held many of the Italians in high regard, even if only used for defending static lines or in anti – partisan operations.
Many countries, even though officially neutral, or beaten by Germany in the early stages of the war also supplied men, either officially through units sponsored by their governments or as volunteers who joined the German forces through ideological reasons, notably the Spanish Blue Division, who when, under pressure from the allies were forced to return to Spain, a large percentage of these men stayed behind to fight on.
The Russian forces that were used and also from the Caucasus were, in the SS`s twisted minds descended from the Aryan race and where therefore acceptable to be used as combat troops, however the numbers that were used in this fashion were negligible and these peoples families and homelands bore terrible reprisals from Stalin at the end of the war, with hundreds of thousands deported to Siberia to work in gulags etc.
All in all, I enjoyed this book, it was slightly dry in some areas, when talking about facts and figures, but it gave another view on how the Wehrmacht fought it’s ultimately futile war against the Soviets and also if the Germans had allowed their supposed allies better weapons and training and utilised some of these forces in a more effective way, the war may have lasted a lot longer, or the Germans may have succeeded in taking more of their objectives immediately after the invasion began.
Hindsight however is a marvellous thing.
One thing that did come out of the book and I do remember hearing about it was the Hungarian who after being captured in 1945 was sent to a mental asylum. He was released in 2001 after a Red Cross worker who spoke Hungarian heard him mumbling to himself.....all those years and people thought he was mad as they did not understand him!!
4 out of 5 for me.