Kenneth Estes studies the 100,000 West Europeans who fought against Russia as volunteers for the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS. A retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, Estes shows tremendous knowledge of combat and writes gripping battlefield prose.
Two-thirds of the West European volunteers came from Spain and the Netherlands, yet Estes demonstrates wide range and covers Flemish, Walloon, French, Danish, and Norwegian combat units. Avoiding over-generalization, the author distinguishes carefully among the Danes and Flemings who fought competently with the SS-Wiking Division and later with Nordland, the courageous but poorly-armed Spanish, the ill-trained Dutch and French in Landstorm Nederland and SS-Charlemagne, and the Norwegians who after a first wave of enthusiasm held back altogether.
Estes pulverizes the Nazi propaganda notion of a multinational European army defending 'Western civilization' against 'Bolshevism'. He shows that West Europeans, mainly of the urban working classes, volunteered from a mix of motives -adventure-seeking, ideology, hopes of personal advantage or material gain, a desire for better food, or a wish to escape a criminal record at home. He demonstrates that the best-performing foreign legions were trained and led by German officers and formed parts of larger SS units, and also that the Wehrmacht placed little value on foreign formations until its other manpower reserves ran out in 1944-45.
This is a landmark work on a subject, which has been much written about, but rarely understood or described as perceptively as in the pages of this book.