Darren Baker takes a look at an Images of War release from Pen and Sword titled Himmler’s Death Squad.


The following is taken from the Pen and Sword website:

The murderous activities of Himmler’s Einsatzgruppen – or death squads – rank high among the horrors of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. These hand-picked groups followed in the wake of Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht units advancing intro Eastern Europe and Soviet Russia.

Their mass murder of civilians in the occupied territories will never be accurately quantified but is likely to have exceeded two million people, including some 1.3 million of the 6,000,00 Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

The graphic and shocking photographs in this Images of War book not only show the hunt for and rounding up of civilians, communists, Jews and Romani people but the active support given to the Einsatzgruppen by SS units and Wehrmacht units. The latter strenuously denied any collusion but the photographic evidence here refutes this.


This offering from Pen and Sword as part of their “Images of War” series, is authored by Ian Baxter. This is a soft backed book with a card cover protecting 133 matt pages, plus a few blank pages for making notes. The contents of this offering is presented as follows:



Chapter 1   Murder in Poland

Chapter 2   Murder in Russia

Chapter 3   Murder in the Baltic States

Chapter 4   Last Years


Appendix I     Structure of the Reich Main Security Office

Appendix II    Einsatzgruppen Operations in Poland

Appendix III   Einsatzgruppen Task Force on the Eastern Front

Appendix IV   Number of People Killed by the Einsatzgruppen

Appendix V    German Police Battalions and Regiments, 1939-44

Appendix VI   Executions carried out by the Einsatzkommando 3

With this release being part of the Images of War series, I am sure that you will not be surprised to learn that the dedicated text is minimal but functional. It is well written and easily read, even if the contents are not easy to absorb. Every photograph within the book is also supplied with a very well written caption, which add context to the images provided.

It is rare for photographs covering aspects of WWII to shock me. However the photographic content provided here will I believe affect anyone who looks at them. The images begin by showing you the some of the people who were at the head of these groups and their actions. You then move on to the actions of those following their orders, and ends with the brutality committed against various groups for which the German nation is remembered for, rather than the actions of the military as a whole.

This book is not really one for the modeller, as I cannot think why a modeller would wish to replicate the scenes depicted. However, for those that wish to be en-darkened by the brutality of man this book brings it to the fore. Images of civilians being rounded up and shipped to various locations, are not unusual for any nation at war. However, images of people being forced to strip from the youngest child to the oldest man and woman and then executed via gunfire into trenches takes some stomaching, and I believe it was the stresses and emotions being created, being forced to commit these atrocities that resulted in the gas chambers - so that the act of mass murder could be committed behind closed doors, without the act of being responsible for pulling the trigger. The images of people executing children with a point blank shot, cannot fail to shock the viewer. But just as shocking are pits filled with naked men, women and children who have been murdered with troops going through the piles of bodies to make sure that everyone is dead. 

The photographs at the end of the book, show images of some of the Einsatzgruppen officers and men at their war trials, and I think that the aspect that will shock most is that you envisage people who committed such crimes to look evil or monstrous but they don’t - they look just like anybody else. It is perhaps that fact that makes you realise, that anybody could be conditioned to commit monstrous acts.


This offering from Pen and Sword as part of Images of War is not a book for the modeller, but looking through its contents, makes the viewer confront some of the evil acts committed in the name of a greater Germany under Hitler and the National Socialist Party. The barbarity shown will leave you under no illusion as to why WWII needed to be fought, and how different it may have been if the Axis powers had won. 



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