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Norwegian Volunteers of the Waffen SS

Geir Brenden, Tommy Natedal
During World War Two, approximately 4500 volunteers from Nazi occupied Norway, volunteered to join, and fought in, the Waffen SS. They served in theatres such as Leningrad, the Caucasus and Finland. The Norwegian Legion even included Females serving as Nurses.

Division ‘Wiking’ was however, a truly European concept, allowing those of Aryan stock in the overrun Europe to throw in their lot with the German War Machine. Large numbers did so, including 55,000 Dutch, 20,000 French and even troops from neutral states such as Sweden and Switzerland. Bizarrely, as the war progressed, Muslim units were even formed in the Balkans, providing Hitler with a further 3 divisions of much needed manpower.

SS troops served in rotation between field units, other special task groups, and concentration camps, resulting in an increasingly destructive mentality amongst those serving: indeed the Eastern Front saw savage levels of brutality, where Jus in Bello was routinely ignored in actions against Russian troops and particularly Partisans. As has been well established, Russian Political Commissars were routinely summarily executed.

Some Norwegian ‘Volunteers’ are still alive and their experiences and photo archives form the basis of Brenden and Natedal’s book. The authors are at pains to point out that they are not apologists for the actions of those Norwegians that took this course of action, rather that the work is offered as a historical record. Many Norwegian SS members were tried as war criminals post 1945, however some returned to public and private life, and for a few the ‘no questions asked’ policy of the French Foreign Legion meant further post war soldiering.

This book details the various formed units that were established with Norwegian nationals, and uses the photographs to chart the enlistment, training, front line service and disbandment.

A weighty book of the ‘Coffee Table’ variety this tome will, however, take you half as long to read as you think it will, as it is printed in both German and English languages, and consists mostly of annotated photographs. The photographs show the Norwegian SS troops in training, and resting situations at the front. There are no photographs showing precisely the sort of abuses of humanity that SS troops got up to in the Eastern Theatre.

Hefty, at around 450 pages, this book could actually be skim read in maybe an hour, because there’s not that much actually to read. It does, however, make me a little nervous. Whilst a historical record, I feel it has a ‘comradely’ feel to it, I just can’t put my finger on it. Whether modern day Nazi memorabilia enthusiasts would be inspired by it, I just don’t know. But this is probably one for the deep specialist, or Norwegians whose grandfather chose a poor career path all those years ago…

Trainer gives it 2 stars.

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