Tuesday, August 28

If you were to have just one book on the General SS… – i would like to introduce you to Andrea Press’ “Inside the Allgemeine SS 1925-1945”

Alright – it is time for one of those “no B.S. beating around the bush to keep you guessing before the conclusion”  type reviews – this book is a must have for any WWII Figure sculptor/ historian/ uniform lover/ collectables fan/SS buff/Tailor/ costume buyer/ porcelain fan/ family tree weirdo/ Occult fan.. And just generally anyone interested in the uniforms and equipment of the General SS…. Oh and anyone who just likes a good read on an interesting subject – get ready to be impressed…

By Ulric of England
Luxury edition
A4 Format (21x29, 7 cm)
428 pages with more than 1,800 photographs
Hardcover with jacket
Retails for 75 Euros

Sample at this link

“The most comprehensive book ever published book on the SS Military” goes the blurb, and I for one am not going to argue with this claim. Although there are many credits listed in the Bibliography at the end of this tome from many great books on which this book rests some of its inspiration – THIS is the tittle you want if you are interested in the Allgemeine SS (General SS branches) I haven’t seen anything like it in my life as a reference for this particular subject.
 Called “Inside the Allgemeine SS 1925-1945” this title by the Andrea Press branch of the Andrea Miniatures family weighs in at 400 pages, full of colour and black and white pictures, period photographs, diagrams and best of all, Informative and easy to read text that – apart from you having a basic understanding of the German military ranking system and some common German words – never left me feeling like I was out of my depth or more importantly I was never bored when reading It.

On the surface this book looks pretty impressive – though the thoughts always are there aren’t they? Can I read this on the bus? Will my friends think I am a “closet” if I have it on my table when they come over and visit? Well that really is up to others. I wouldn’t be interested in this title if it was just a celebration of Nazi memorabilia – in fact it is a study of all of the regalia, uniforms, weapons and personal effects issued to it’s men ( sometimes as a present or special gift) by the party. From the seams of the insides of jackets and clothing to the porcelain figure issued to a high ranking official, to a family chest that stored all of a soldier’s family keepsakes and claims to history. This book is a unique study on the day to day personal effects of these soldiers – and boy is it a special book!

This is one of those titles that you look at after it comes out of it’s package (nicely wrapped for safe travel - thank you) and it just makes you mouth “Wow!” that was it – and after examining inside the jacket and turning the pages of the big black bound book (with two ribbon page separators) I just kept on going “Wow” – it really is that interesting and unlike any title on this subject I have ever seen. The portraits in this book are particularly interesting. Personal shots of many soldiers must have come from many collections, the people would not be out of place walking down the street today – and this is one of the lessons of this book I suppose.
Well let us get into the book now – After a short forward and credits you have five – yes (5) pages of index – there are many topics in this book and much to get through – and we start at what you need to understand first about this organization – the Historical and general organisation and structures of the regular SS.

The very beginnings of the SS are discussed – from the nucleus of an idea to keep a small force as a bodyguard and headquarters force by Hitler – to the object to keep the rival “brownshirt” organization the SA in check, through to the separation of the unit and the purge of the SA in “the night of the long knives” this is enough to enlighten even the unknowing about this organization and it’s humble start.

There are several pictures showing the humble beginnings of the SS and the men that were responsible for it’s rise in the section that describes – with diagrams and maps – how the structure of the SS was woven together – and it gives you an idea that already – at an early stage, the scope for enlargement of the organisation and the omnipresence in the Reich that this unit would have later on.

District of influence and soldier’s collar badges are seen in photographs from collections while most of these pictures of real life items have at least one instance of a period photograph with a soldier wearing it. The units from foot to equestrian to signals and pioneer units are identifies in collar patches and lists of where these units were stationed. Ill go through movies now “collar spotting” for accuracy with much more knowledge!

The next few chapters explore the SS “religion” and lore. The broad spectrum of everyday spiritual life of the SS members – especially the higher echelons, is brought to life in many of the personal effects of these men. (And women) Things I never would have known existed – like herbal pots and the chest which these were stored in (Himmler encouraged the use of natural remedies for all of his folk) and things like the SS rune system are investigated. Things you never would have thought of before this book are there for you in excellent pictures of surviving articles of what must now be pretty hard to get hold of relics of the past.
Very interesting to me were the “SS clan chest” which housed all of the family lineage details – these were important to proving and promoting your Aryan bloodline – these could well be in your old house’s pantry now – they look so rustic and rural.

The large complex of the shrine of the SS organization, the 17th century “Wewelsburg Castle” and the “complex” which was to be built and surround it as soon as the war was finished are discussed over a few pages. Anyone interested in the plans of this organization and the scope they were willing to go too - through self-promotion and the idolisation of their own beliefs will be interested in this part. It really is fairy-tale stuff but because of that it Is all the more compelling to learn about. It really does sound like something made up for a scene in the “Indiana Jones” movies but the plans were all too real. The castle and it’s purpose built surrounding complex are explored in drawings and even some of the furniture from inside the castle, these are supported in evidence of pictures of the furniture in-situ.
There are many other facets of the SS soldier’s life investigated in this section of the book. From the ancestral heritage group “Das Ahnenerbe” which were entrusted to find details of the Aryan roots of the German people from all around the world to the unusual “Julleuchter” porcelain clay ornament, through to the more familiar  “totehkopfring” which was a special ring the adorned the finger of the most loyal of SS men. There are pictures and print evidence of all of these and a brief – and may I add never mundane or boring account of each of these things and why they were important. The chilling but fascinating this is the personal connection of these people to these objects – things like the pictures of the men wearing the rings and then the studio shots of the rings now – this really connects you to the subjects and this is the point of the book – to bring to life the everyday objects these people used and wore.
Whilst on rings the SS man ( and woman let’s not forget) wedding ceremony is discussed – from the gradual phasing out or lessening of importance of the traditional Christian wedding to the regular government regulated ceremonies through to the adopted SS style of wedding is shown her and discussed at length and in pictures. This section of the book also describes in following (but I suppose quite logical steps) of the SS funeral ceremony, to the SS “martyrs” and their special treatment at ceremonies through to the next cycle of life the “Lebensborn”  babies of the Reich. The large nurseries where these Aryan children of the future were kept together are here in many pictures and text. While you are at it you can read all about it (only the bits you were supposed to of course) in “Das Schwarze Korps” the SS newspaper – which is investigated here as well.
The security corps headed by SS Reinhard Heydrich are discussed as are the leadership schools and special officer training cadet schools, we look further into each of these with pictures of the students, the uniforms and the schools themselves. The book also investigates the Death’s head SS units like the hitler bodyguard the “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler” as well as “Deutschland” “Germania” “Der Fuhrer”  which were the main SS units before the war and particularly interesting those in to the genesis of the Waffen SS. The uniforms and importantly regalia such as arm bands of these units are shown here in immersive detail.
An expansion of the first part of the book is here – going into more depth in the special sections of the SS we touched on in the unit break ups in the earlier chapters. We have more information on the specialised SS units (the equestrian, aviation, music bands, motorised and reserve units and the sports activities group.
Lastly we have a very interesting section on which the SS Museum - planned to open to spread SS lore is discussed. The book talks about the proposed foundation and what would stock the museum. Fascinating stuff.
The book goes on – and I could go on – giving you the ins-and outs of each small chapter - but ill get on to the next section of the book, the part of the book we just went through was really the “theory” part of the book, explaining the different parts and theology of the everyday SS. Now we will examine the personal effects in part two of the book.
This section will take many fewer words to describe (phew) and the pictures I will take will not do it justice. So you have to partially take my word for it that this is the real meat here - don't get me wrong - the first part was great - but this second part steps it up a notch. Seeing these outfits and personal effects of often some very well-known individuals is really fascinating. It gives you an insight into the people behind the myth, but also into how much they believed in that myth.
This second part of the book encompasses in mainly high resolution current pictures and sometimes period photographs, a total of 268 pages of studies into the “uniforms, accoutrements and Regalia” of the Allgemeine SS. And boy this is where that “most comprehensive book ever published book on the SS Military” claim rings true. We go from one part of the uniform to another – starting at the top down and looking at every type of conceivable part of the uniform, from hats to shoes, from belts to formal jackets, from raincoats to dress pants. There really isn’t a part of clothing the SS were issued that isn’t covered in this tome. All supported again with great studio quality pictures of these items in the current day and period pictures of these (sometime the exact same item) being worn over 70 years ago and more.

The detail of the photographs of these historical items is amazing, and it is very impressive that they are all here in one place. The insides and little details are shown in quality pictures shot with plenty of light and detail. The big thing I find as a reviewer is that many pictures of uniforms to identify something are often to be found on the internet – but never in one place. This book really has them all “under one roof.”
Not just uniforms are represented in this part. Medals, uniform regalia and badges, with belt buckles, military kit like mess tins and ground sheets, bread bags, water bottles and the like are all included as are the amazing detail in personal weapons like the silver hilted swords, daggers and their hilts are here. As are the very ornate SS presentation pistols which were given to special heroic and influential people. Made by Walther, these PPK’s are amazing to behold and before I read this book I knew nothing of their existence.
There are several pages in the book given over to identification papers “ausweis”, NSDAP membership cards, also the SS magazines and “SS printings” like the “Canteen albums” which were blank photograph albums sold in the unit’s canteens. (Hence the name) There are some pretty interesting artefacts here again – one wonders where these are stored and how they were attained – you have special messages from Himmler in his own handwriting to his men and several very rare objects, again 70-80 years old – preserved and photographed like they came from a drawer in a study just yesterday.
The flags and standards of the SS are examined in the next large chapter. From the large “Blood flag” of red, white and black and the large golden German eagles on a standard which everyone can instantly identify as the Nazi Symbols – to the lesser known standards of the everyday SS.  Not only the flags but the special equipment of the flag bearers are shown here in museum condition. Indeed again you wonder these – such potent symbols of Nazism would be very scarce after – you know – losing the war and your organization being branded the most evil the world has seen. It is a testament to the authors to be able to track down this regalia - and in this often pristine condition.
The last section of this book contains something just as rare – even more so I would think. The SS “Allach porcelain” that was designed and made by some of Germany’s top artisans in a small town called Allach from 1936-45. These works of animals, soldiers, chess sets, and presentation plates, political and military figures were commissioned by the party for SS members as either a gift or as a limited edition release. Pictures of the shop from whence the art came from as well as the pieces themselves (sometimes in the packaging they came in) are really amazing to me as I had no idea they even existed until reading this book.

And that is a microcosm of why I liked this book so much. It made me aware of so much I could not have gleaned from reading several titles (indeed the bibliography in the rear is extensive)  The sheer amount of information -  424 pages – boggles the mind on just how it was all collected, collated and presented at all – let alone in such a quality offering.

This book would be interesting to many different parties – from figure painters and sculptors whom I think would get the most out of this title, to uniform makers and costume department people, to historians or just anyone interested in German or WWII history – well this book will appeal to all of them. This is ONE book you could buy in the place of a few which would be needed to cover all represented in these pages - It isn’t cheap but let’s look at the quality for a second.

The quality of this book – the black binding, the nice additions like the twin page keepers, the excellent photography and writing in this the English edition really make you feel like this is a “keeper” and a book you would have in your collection for life.

I made a “wow” when I took this book from its packaging, and continued to mouth “wow” as I walked through the pages. With a somewhat delicately subject handled with superb aplomb this boob is on-par or better than the very best books on military history I have read – and I have seen many.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to the people at Andrea Publishing for giving me the chance to read this great book. Follow this link to see the product at their store.