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SS Grenadiers On The Russian Front - Rare photographs from wartime archives

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  • Author:
    Bob Carruthers
    The Waffen SS, Hitlers Praetorian Guard, epitomise for many the pinnacle of professional soldiering. Until 1943 they were a strictly volunteer force and, with Himmler's influence, they received the best of arms and equipment and were better paid and fed than the Wehrmacht. Their motto was, "My Honour Is Loyalty" and they were totally committed to Hitler who, in turn, had an unfailing faith in their fighting ability. There is no doubt that in purely military terms they achieved a great deal, punching far above their weight.
    However, what is conveniently forgotten is their dire record with regard to their treatment of civilians and prisoners of war. It was the aim of the Nazis to kill,deport or enslave the peoples of Eastern Europe who they categorised as "untermenschen", and the Waffen SS were ruthless in pursuit of this policy particularly in respect of the Jews, Soviets and Poles. After the war many soldiers were deprived of their pension rights because of their wartime behaviour.

    Barbarossa was launched on 22nd June, 194, and attached to the three armies committed to the operation were six Waffen SS divisions - Totenkopf, Polizei, Nord, Das Reich, Liebstandarte and Wiking, the last comprising Scandinavian, Finnish, Estonian, Dutch, and Belgian volunteers under German officers. These six divisions were at the head of the rapid advance eastwards. Then on 1st December,1941, the advance ground to a halt at the gates of Moscow with temperatures of minus 40 F and Russian resistance finally halting the Germans. Five days later a Russian counter-attack pushed the Germans back some 40 miles. The glory days were over and by the end of 1941 the Waffen SS had suffered more than 43,000 casualties on the Eastern Front; one in four of their numbers had been killed or wounded. What is generally accepted is that without these six divisions the German Army would never have reached Moscow.

    From 1942 onward the overwhelming amount of manpower and materiel on the Russian side left no doubt as to who would be the final victor, it was simply a question of when. From 1943 to 1945 the Germans were fighting a bitter and bloody retreat in a desperate attempt to prevent the Russians reaching Germany. They failed.

    Bob Carruthers has put together an excellent collection of archive photographs of SS Grenadiers in action on the Eastern Front. Set out in chronological order, starting with the heady days of the launch of Barbarossa and ending with a powerful, yet poignant, image of defeat. In gritty black and white they are a testament to the unbelievably harsh conditions faced on the Eastern Front. Enthusiasts of this particular period will be delighted with the arms , equipment and uniform on display. However, the real story is that told by the common soldier whose image, often captured unwittingly, reveals his innermost thoughts. Humour, fatigue, tension, determination and stoic endurance are all apparent.

    What is most noticeable is the almost complete absence of the sense of defeat; in only two photographs do we see the look of a "beaten man". Maybe, I too, have fallen for the myth of the Waffen SS!

_scranbag and overopensights like this.

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  1. LeoRoverman
    I have had a look at this volume and come somewhere between @foxtrot40 and @armchair_jihad on this one.Treated as a purely photographic record it is precisely that. I tend to look at such publications with a somewhat jaundiced viewpoint which ever side publishes simply because as @armchair_jihad points out they are propoganda, winners or losers. The SS in this case are the losers because they lost. But it puts faces to this supposed superhuman warrior and one is led to believe they all must have believed in their superiority, but then isn't it always the same-we won therefore our values must be superior. The arguments will continue to rage. My own Grandfather on the German side was mortified when an SS man wanted to go out with one of his daughters. That man later died in Prague in 1944 and my grandfather was reportedly not that pissed of about the matter. He had to serve in Russia himself despite anti nazi sentiment, service being the law. Many wehrmacht troops despised the SS for giving them a bad name and yet here they are, human beings. It's a record but not much more.
  2. armchair_jihad
    This is the first time after reading book reviews on ARRSE for many years that I have felt moved to comment negatively.

    There is no doubt that in purely military terms they achieved a great deal, punching far above their weight.


    This is utter rubbish, as discussed at length in many sources including threads on ARRSE, the SS were mainly fanatical in their approach, think ISIS, great at shock and awe but not so good in actual war fighting in conflicts that you intend to win, rather than vain glorious gestures to make the newspapers and news reels look good and frighten the weak willed.

    However, what is conveniently forgotten is their dire record with regard to their treatment of civilians and prisoners of war.


    Forgotten by whom?! You? Anyone involved / informed about the conflict aka WWII? The nonces who dress up as them at the War and Peace Show?

    After the war many soldiers were deprived of their pension rights because of their wartime behaviour.


    Utter bollocks, all SS got their full pensions according to German law, on moral grounds they should have been begging on the streets, even then no doubt they would have have had hats full of coin, the German gen pop being what it actually was.

    What is most noticeable is the almost complete absence of the sense of defeat; in only two photographs do we see the look of a "beaten man".


    Nonsense, most of the source material will have been processed via the Propaganda Ministry, who in many ways were the creators of the myth that was the 'ubermench SS', Photos of Waffen SS dejected losers is defeatist and can get you killed.

    Maybe, I too, have fallen for the myth of the Waffen SS!

    Yep sure looks that way, rehashed pictures from a Dr Goebbels Strategic Communications campaign (as they are called today) maybe interesting but 5 stars?

    @meerkatz for a generally relevant pov on fanbio twats and @jimmys_best_mate for some informed vitriol.
      jimmys_best_mate likes this.