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REVIEW
SS Hitlerjugend
CMOT
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Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 05:55 AM UTC
Darren Baker takes a look at SS Hitlerjugend, one of a series of books in The Waffen SS Divisional Histories Series. the book is published by Amber Books and this review sample was sent to Armorama by Casemate Publishing.

Link to Item

If you have comments or questions please post them here.

Thanks!
ironelf
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Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 04:54 PM UTC
Hi, Darren: You've provided a very detailed review. It's a real pleasure when someone takes the time to offer that amount of insight.

I wasn't clear, however, if the book discusses the war crimes committed by the HJ. There are multiple examples of them murdering prisoners in Normandy. Is that mentioned in the book? I ask because I think it's important, especially in this hobby where we focus on the weapons and vehicles, that the actual history of what took place and why isn't forgotten or white-washed.

Cheers!

Chris
CMOT
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Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 10:53 PM UTC
Both books I have looked at in this series thus far do not try to hide the war crimes committed, but they do not go into great detail either. These books tend to tell you about the units as a whole and the actions they took part in. The crimes committed by them and others tend to be covered in specific publications.

Lets be honest war crimes are a very specific part of history and would take up too much of the title if they were to be done justice.
ironelf
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Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2015 - 07:01 PM UTC
I kindly disagree. War crimes committed by a unit are absolutely a part of their history, especially a unit like the 12th SS. They are as significant as any battle. If the book was about tanks of the 12th SS I would understand not talking about murders, but as it's a history it should be there. I think our hobby skews the focus on these units because we only look at the weapons and the uniforms. I get that, but it's a bit myopic. I can understand why people not familiar with military modeling look askance at our collection of little Nazis
Giovanni1508
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Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2015 - 07:44 PM UTC

Hi Darren,

Your review is well done, accurate and detailed. I think the book is interesting and useful for both the military history enthusiast and the military modeler.

Thanks for posting
Regards
CMOT
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Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2015 - 10:09 PM UTC
Chris if this book started going into detail on war crimes committed by the specific unit it would need to assign to many pages to it for the title. We all know some of the things they did and it is touched upon, but the book would end up being all about that aspect which is not its intention.

I would add that the Allies also committed War crimes and while I do not believe they were of the same magnitude they did happen. As a single opener the British on Crete executed German Para's who were taken prisoner as they had nowhere to put them. We don't hear a lot about it though as we won and this came out in interviews with British troops who were there, the interview was done in the 1980's or 90's

I cannot think of a specific war crime committed by the Americans in WW2, but I do know of massacres of civilians by American forces in both Korea and Vietnam. I will state that I don't look down on them for that, as things happen in war for all sorts of reasons. War crimes often occur because soldiers follow orders as they understand them. I tend to think , but for the grace of god go I.
Biggles2
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Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2015 - 11:22 PM UTC
The same thing happened on D-Day. I don't know if there was an unwritten order, but many surrendering Germans were shot (by Canadian, Brits, and US forces - this is documented by Allied witnesses) during the first hours of invasion as there was nowhere to put prisoners. That might have triggered SS retaliations. "The first casualty of war is innocence"...and NOBODY was innocent!
CMOT
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Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015 - 12:26 AM UTC
Biggles I doubt there was an order, but having seen the carnage inflicted on troops hitting the beaches, many of them friends it is an understandable occurence.
Biggles2
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Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015 - 03:43 AM UTC
Well, shooting back and forth is one thing; people are bound to be killed. But lining up surrendered soldiers behind bunkers and shooting them is something else.
ironelf
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Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 06:34 PM UTC
Guys, moral relativism just doesn't work here. The SS at large and the 12th SS in particular murdered surrendered soldiers well away from the battlefield at headquarters under senior officer supervision. There is nothing equivalent in Western Allied actions. The German people at large and the SS in particular were indoctrinated to believe that they were a superior race. Much SS leadership flowed through the death camp system created by Theodor Eicke. These same men were then introduced to the Final Solution to the Jewish Question and the Slavic untermensch on the Eastern Front before being transferred into leadership roles in the 12th SS. The idea that western democracies were "just as bad" is absurd.
CMOT
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Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 01:43 AM UTC
Chris I understand what you are saying, but the SS were more than the crimes they commited. Finding information on that facet is easy, but other aspects are not so well known.
SgtRam
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Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 01:51 AM UTC

Quoted Text

Well, shooting back and forth is one thing; people are bound to be killed. But lining up surrendered soldiers behind bunkers and shooting them is something else.



Can you please provide more information on this? I have read many accounts of the D-Day landings by Canadians and have never heard of this account.

I have read many accounts where the German in the sector preferred to caught by the Canadians as the Canadian treated the POW's better.

Biggles2
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Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 08:46 PM UTC

Quoted Text



I have read many accounts where the German in the sector preferred to caught by the Canadians as the Canadian treated the POW's better.



In general, certainly, especially in the days following D-Day. But in the first hours following the landings there were no facilities or space for keeping POW's, so they were "disposed of". I understand the necessity for this, but still... I realize the SS units had a bad reputation on the Eastern Front, but so did the Soviet NKVD units. There was no Geneva Convention there! Sources from various video documentaries and interviews with vets.
Bonaparte84
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Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 11:36 PM UTC
Although this does not under any circumstance take away from the monstrosity of war crimes committed by Waffen-SS units, they (or the Germans in general) certainly were not the only ones to commit them.
Regarding D-Day for example, it is remarkable how some units never took any prisoners in the first days after the landings, as records and unit history show. This is well known in particular for paras, and while there might not have been any official "order", one can't deny some "systematic" approach there. Actually, if you go through the captions of the pictures in the review, "summary shootings" of SS-soldiers being taken prisoner are mentioned.
If you want to look into the issue, I recommend starting with wikipedia and elaborating from there.
IMHO, there is only one lesson to be taken from all of that: No matter how justified the intervention and how evil the opponent, war will always produce this kind of events on any side. War never has been and never will be clean.
As regards the 12th SS, either we agree to look at it from a military perspective and discuss its fighting force etc. (without negating any of the crimes), or stop our hobby.
The problem is not whether we focus on just the military aspects, but how much (undeserved) admiration we are willing to give to units known for their repeated crimes.
redrx7
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Posted: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 - 04:09 AM UTC
The Geneva and Hague Conventions,(the first of which date from 1864 and 1899 respectively)are quite clear about what is allowed to be done to and by "people in war",States,Armed Forces and combatants.To cloud these fundamental principles with waffle about "war is hell" so anything goes, is an extremely dangerous and misguided path to take.On the basis of these conventions and confirmed by the 1949 ratifications it is, and since the 1800's has always been,a contravention of International Law to execute unarmed soldiers or civilians(disgracefully some exceptions exist for types of sabotage,spying and treason).Any departure from the principles of International Law in this area are not the actions of civilised societies or peoples.
CMOT
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Posted: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 - 04:20 AM UTC
Alan: I never said it was right or lawful, what I did mean is that when you throw armed forces against other armed forces, the force that wins will not always treat prisoners in a way someone in a court or comfy chair demands they do.