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Twilight of the Gods: A Swedish Waffen-SS Volunteer's Experiences with the 11th SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, Eastern Front 1944-1945

Title:Twilight of the Gods - A Swedish Waffen-SS Volunteer's Experiences with the 11th SS-Panzergrenadier Division Nordland
Writer:Wallin, E. & Hillblad, T.
Published in:2011

These days there are various books available that romanticize the Waffen-SS and the accompanying myths. The SS soldiers were so-called the best soldiers in the world and in this book the SS and Felix Steiner, an SS commander, are widely praised. The book is published in 1945 and concerns a Swedish SS volunteer, Erik "Jerka" Wallin and is edited by the Swede Thorolf Hillblad, who served as a war correspondent with the Waffen-SS unit Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler.

The book contains a lot of the standard nazipropaganda. The Red Army is an Asian horde, that plunders, drinks, and rapes its way through the country. The Americans and British bomb Germany into destruction, while they should fight together with the Third Reich against the Red Danger. In case the west front had not existed, the Germans would have won the war against communism.

The SS and Felix Steiner are deeply admired. A lot of space is devoted to how hard the Waffen-SS had to fight in impossible circumstances, how the Waffen-SS needed to save the Wehrmacht repeatedly, and how the Waffen-SS ensured that the front was stabilized again. Remarks, amongst others, as "Öthe Waffen SS, possibly the finest fighting force the world has seen since Leonidas and his Spartans at Thermopylae, the bravest of the braveÖ" are featured several times. Felix Steiner, the SS commander, is directly addressed in the book: "Felix Steiner was a great soldier, divinely gifted, leader and comrade. We will never forget you!" It gives an idea of what kind of book this is.

Based on these criteria, it would be easy to dismiss this book. However, there are a few important aspects to keep in mind. The value in the book is not in the text itself, but in how everything is justified. It provides an insight into how a Waffen-SS soldier reflects on the recent past. The book is written late 1945. It gives insight into how the SS myth was created. All well-known arguments are mentioned and all romanticized images of war are covered. The national socialist ideal is elaborately praised. Itís a European army and the Waffen-SS was the elite.

The main characters clearly see themselves as the good soldiers, that fought nobly against the most impossible odds. All excuses for the Germans losing the war are cited, such as that the Red Army could only win by sending endless quantities of soldiers to the front and by accepting enormous losses. The Tiger tanks were unbeatable and for every inch of ground the enemy suffered hundreds or thousands of losses. There is not a lot of self-reflection.

The book is relatively short and contains some photographs of the people involved. The style is direct and raw. Itís written for an audience that is familiar with the war and not for a broad audience. In the foreword the editor Thorolf Hillblad remarks that even after 50 years the book is still in circulation.

Seen in this context, the book can be interesting for researchers or people that wish to know more about how the myth around the SS came into being or how Waffen-SS soldiers saw themselves and justified their actions. When describing the combat that Wallin experienced, or how the Swedish volunteers ended up in the Waffen-SS, there are better books available. The book is full of Nazi propaganda, so be aware of what you get yourself into.

Rating: (Good)


Article by:
Samuel de Korte
Published on:
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