Ian Baxter is a prolific author and has an impressive collection of photographs, many previously unpublished. The book follows the familiar Images of War format with brief introductions for each chapter followed by a lot of photographs to tell the story. The German war machine attracted followers from conquered countries. This book focuses on Belgian, Danish, and Dutch volunteers drawn to the Waffen-SS and their respective major formations and battles, including the 1944 Battle of Narva (2 February -10 August 1944) that also earned the nickname “The Battle of the European SS”. These combined units fought to the end in the Kurland Pocket, with only some evacuated by sea, while others fought in the Battle for Berlin in April 1945.
So why do we need yet another book filled with photos of soldiers in German World War II gear and equipment? Ian Baxter, yet again, tells a poignant, overlooked story of the Second World War through the eyes of Belgian, Danish, and Dutch volunteers with the intriguing politics and propaganda within their respective countries (often exploiting indigenous differences within their cultures) that propelled them into the bitter Eastern Front fighting. The initial overwhelming successes of the German war machine, along with a finely tuned propaganda machine, a “European Crusade” was born out of pledges of loyalty to Germany in a conflict that was widely framed as Europe against Bolshevism.
Each of the three countries that are the focus of this book have their introductory history in how they pledged loyalty and arms to Germany, followed by the author’s amazing photographs. Ian Baxter once again proves there is a treasure trove of information and photographs yet to be discovered and learned from this colossal conflagration between ideologies.
Waffen-SS Dutch, Belgian, and Danish Volunteers is composed of an introduction, four chapters, epilogue, and two appendixes:
- Chapter One: Belgium: Flandern, Wallonien and Langemarck
- Chapter Two: The Netherlands: Nederland
- Chapter Three: Denmark: Free Corps Denmark
- Chapter Four: The Last Battles of the Europeans
- Appendix I: Insignia
- Appendix II: Order of Battle
Ian Baxter again proves his amazing ability to succinctly make complex history into an easy to understand, compact chapter. These lesser-known conquered countries’ Waffen SS volunteers fought for what they believed. The Dutch fought in Yugoslavia, then Northern Russia as the SS Volunteer Legion Netherlands, later re-designated as the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nederland. The Dutch speaking recruits from Belgium formed the SS Volunteer Legion Flanders, later becoming the SS Assault Brigade Langemarck. The French speaking volunteers from Belgium became the SS Volunteer Legion Walloon was sent to Russia and later integrated into the SS Assault Brigade Wallonia. The Danes served in the Free Corps Denmark and sent to the Eastern Front in May 1942, becoming the Division Norland, known as Regiment 24 Danemark.
I highly recommend this book for modelers and historians. While a European in a Waffen-SS uniform looks like other Europeans, it is their story, hardships and fierce fighting that makes the story compelling; it can also easily be transformed into models, vignettes, and dioramas. Of note is the series of fourteen photographs sequentially showing a Walloon PaK crew manhandling their 75mm Pak 40 from its shelter into firing position. This book is a treasure trove of inspiration for models, vignettes, and dioramas. While their cause can be questioned, especially as their homelands were conquered by Germany, there is respect there in fighting for what they believed.
Profuse thanks to Casemate and IPMS-USA for providing the review sample.