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Mark C. Yerger
- In memoriam
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“Anatomy of the SS State” by Helmut Krausnick, Hans Buchheim, Martin Broszat, and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, English edition, Walker and Company, 1968, HB, 615 pages.
If I was to make a list of five books for a person to read who had no knowledge of the SS as a whole, this volume would be on the list. This is probably one of the best researched and well written books I’ve ever read and is neither light reading or superficial. Topics include (among many) civil law and thus its relationship to the activities of the SS, activities and understanding of the HSSPF, Gestapo and SD, the best overview I know of on the camp system, the RKFDV, the Police within the SS system and the WuVHA. There is no emotion in this work compiled by postwar historians, the facts are very detailed and well explained. The reader gains more insight into the topics covered than by absorbing multiple titles elsewhere on the same topic. It’s the best way to understand, among numerous aspects, how Himmler’s bureaucracy combined the Waffen-SS with the camp system on paper, unknown to the many career military professionals who joined the SS/VT and Waffen-SS. The WuVHA chapter details the huge economic and financial base controlled by the SS, overlooked or superficially examined by most researchers and unknown to most readers. The glossary is among the best published in English and valuable in itself. Essential reading for those interested in Germany during WWII and the prewar years. Compiled by a group, one of the authors (Krausnick) has also written extensively detailed studies on the Einsatzgruppen.
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Agree with this review. I read this book recently and came away with the same sentiment as Mark did...this book is invaluable for the layman who wants to better understand how the "SS State" functioned. As the title implies, the SS was a "state within a state" and a law unto itself. It was the true revolutionary core of National Socialism, proving to be much more (in the end) revolutionary than even the SA! Most importantly, the SS revolutionized the law, which gave it almost unlimited powers. It was revolutionary in the sense that "everything became permissable" to it's jurisdiction, and in some sectors it even countermanded the Party and even Hitler himself. One can read issues of "Das Schwarze Korps" for confirmation of this. This SS "newspaper" especially criticized various Gauleitung for lack of NS zeal. The SD set-up the first "gallup" polls within the Third reich in it's "SD reports" which Goebbels studied daily and discussed in his Diaries. These reports tested public opinion in all aspects of life under the Nazi dictatorship, from new decrees to NS feature films. I especially liked the chapter on "Command and Compliance" which discusses the SS ethic of "responsibility from above down to below". The SS ideological creed of "detachment" enabled the individual to commit unspeakable violence and yet remain "pure" within one's innermost self. The chapter also illustrates how the SS linked itself to a Nietzschean concept of superhumanity. The SS man was to be a "fighter for fighting's sake" and must never give in to "weakness". He must never "comprehend the word 'impossible' ". I was surprised that one of the books studied by the SS at the Junkerschulen was a little book of aphorisms written by a French WWI soldier titled "Soldier's Maxims". These were short jottings that glorified battle and war and celebrated the warrior spirit. Surprising because they preferred this book over those written by Ernst Junger or other Freikorpsmen like Ernst von Salomon and Hans Zoberlein.
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I found this book has a major error concerning one of it's mini biographies at the concluding appendix ("Dramatis Personae")....Oswald Pohl's bio states that he was imprisoned and subsequently released (pg. 591 "sentenced to death Nuremberg Case 4, commuted to 5 years, subsequently released") - ? I think the book was published in 1968. Quite a blunder for a work of scholarship.