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Ss-Totenkopf: The History of the 'Death's Head' Division 1940-45 Hardcover – March, 2001

3.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Motorbooks Intl; 1st American Edition edition (March 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760310157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760310151
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,072,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph Burgard on May 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As another reviewer says, this book offers absolutely nothing new about the division or the men of the division. As typical of those critical of the Waffen-SS, it mostly focuses on and over exaggerates either the political indoctrination or attrocities. Especially with the 'Totenkopf' division the constant reminder that the origin of the division was in the concentration camps and the division should be guilty by association. However, only about 1/3 of the original personnel at time of activation were from the SS-Totenkopfverbande, the organization that ran the camps.
Besides offering nothing new, there are historical inaccuracies throughout. For example, the author on page 126 uses the Soviet account of the battle of Prochorovka (part of the battle of Kursk and largest tank battle of all time) which claims that the SS Panzer Divisions have Panther tanks. None of the SS Divisions had Panther tanks at the time of the battle of Kursk and they did not get them until later in 1943 or early 1944. Moreover, on page 188 there is a table of 'Totenkopf' tank inventory for the battle of Kursk and there are no Panther tanks, only Panzer III's, IV's or Tigers. Not to mention the 'Totenkopf' division did not take part in the battle of Prochorovka, it was holding the Psel bridgehead.
The only part that the book offers that is good is at the end of the book. There are short descriptions of the weapons used by the division. The tables are good too for quick reference. The one table gives the division's war service with what corps, army, and army group it was attached to and the location for that time period.
If you want good information about the 3. SS Panzer Division 'Totenkopf,' there are definately better books out there.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is about the SS-Totenkopf Division, a WWII German front line unit originally formed from concentration camp guards. The author has done a great job of laying down the basic facts of the Totenkopf Division-its origins, battle history, commanders, equipment and atrocities. The story follows the division's exploits from the invasion of France to the Eastern Front to the final battles in Hungary. The author explores the character of the Totenkopf's founding father, Theodor Eicke, in detail. The author credits Eicke's leadership and methodology for the division's success in combat. That methodology included desensitizing the men to violence by encouraging brutality in the camps and demanding that orders be obeyed without question. Other commanders and heroes of Totenkopf are covered, but Eicke, by far is given the most thorough examination. This 'praise' of Eicke is tempered by a discussion of the atrocities committed by the division and by it's former members. The book wraps up with a chapter on weapons of the Totenkopf, where everything from small arms to tanks is briefly described. I found the book easy to read. Although the book lacks the detail that an advanced reader on the subject would demand, I would recommend it as an introductory book for anyone wanting to learn more about the SS formations
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Format: Hardcover
This book, although certainly not a work of plagiarism in any sense, can for all intents and purposes be treated as an illustrated, abbreviated and stylistically somewhat improved rendering of Charles Sydnor's divisional history "Soldiers of Destruction" (Princeton University Press, 1977), which several other reviewers have already alluded to. While the narrative is original and the bibliography lists a large number of general and popular works on World War II and the Waffen-SS (by such authors as Rupert Butler or John Keegan), some 90 % of the content (in terms of facts) comes out of Sydnor. The author has done no primary research and, as best I can tell, has consulted no German-language sources of any kind (published or otherwise). In effect, this is a work of popularization rather than original scholarship.

Now, this does not mean that the book is bad as such. For a reader seeking a light or introductory history of Division Totenkopf, this book will probably be better than Sydnor's more in-depth (but also drier) study. It presents a pleasant enough read, and as a work of military history it certainly is superior, for example, to such a basic and more "literary" account as Rupert Butler's "Curse of the Death's Head" (Arrow, 1985; reissued as "Hitler's Death's Head Division" by Cooper, 2004). At the same time, for those who have read Sydnor, there is little or nothing new here, and they should be aware of that.

On another note, I cannot agree with the reviewers who accuse Dr. Mann of "bashing" Totenkopf and the SS and recommend Sydnor instead. If anything, Sydnor does far more "bashing" (that is, discussion of indoctrination and war crimes, alleged and real) of the division than Mann. Although of course, not everyone will agree that a certain amount of such "bashing" is a bad thing to begin with.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've seen three types of books on the SSTK. The first type is the comprehensive historical study that includes only a few photos. A good example would be Charles Sydnor's "Soldiers of Destruction. The second type is the photo catalog that contains a brief summary of the division but contains many excellent photos. An example would be Charles Trang's "Totenkopf". The third type is Chris Mann's "SS-Totenkopf". Its a historical summary that hasn't the detail level of the first type but has more photos than the first type. It will have a better history but fewer photos of the second type.

In the author's introduction, he begins in the 1920s with Hitler, Rohm and others trying to initiate and grow the Nazi Party and extends the coverage to describe the key events into the 1930s until Rohm is assassinated and Hitler becomes chancellor in 1933. Himmler has a bigger role as he becomes the head of the SS. The Dachau camp opens and the camp system expands which introduces Eicke and the SS camp guards which will eventually evolve into Himmler's SS Divisions with Totenkopf a prime example. Since Eicke played such an important role, the author gives him due coverage concerning his ideology, training practices and political indoctrination. Eicke believed that if you wanted to win the war you had to be more brutal and nastier than the enemy; there was no room for morals.
The historical commentary continues with a summary of the key engagements the SSTK was in and includes Poland 1939, France 1940, the drive toward Leningrad in 1941 culminating at the Demyansk Pocket, Kharkov 1943, Kursk, Mius and Merla River campaigns, Krivoi Rog in Dec 1943, Rumania in April 1944, Grodno, Warsaw, Budapest and finally its surrender to the US 3rd Army in April 1945 and the subsequent handing off to the Soviets.
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