Archive for October, 2010

Dressing up in SS uniforms: fun and educational

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The Atlantic Monthly has reported (and other media have picked up on the story) that Rich Iott, running for Congress in Ohio, is a member in good standing of a historical re-enactment group. That in itself isn’t odd–lots of people are re-enacters. What makes it unusual is that this a group dedicated to the Waffen SS: specifically the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking.

Iott naturally claims that his participation doesn’t mean he endorses Nazism. The Wiking group’s website (I’m not linking to it, but it’s easy enough to find) proclaims that the group’s members are “in no way affiliated with real, radical political organizations (i.e., KKK, Aryan Nation, American Nazi Party, etc.) and do not embrace the philosophies and actions of the original NSDAP party), and wholeheartedly condemn the atrocities which made them infamous.” Moreover, “we salute their courage and loyalty to put their lives on the line in defense of their native soil, no matter what nationality or government.”

Iott argues that this is all just a way to teach and learn about history, but the most positive spin to put on Iott and his fellow re-enactors is that they are woefully ignorant of the history to which they claim to be dedicated . It’s very nice to say that SS re-enactment involves no endorsement of Nazism, just the heroism of the individual soldier. All sordid details of German conduct of the war in the east aside, the SS was created and existed not as a military unit but a Nazi Party organization. it existed precisely to not be a part of the German military, but instead a direct instrument of Adolf Hitler. Moreover, the fiction of “defending native soil” would be more persuasive if members of the SS took an oath to defend Germany, like the imperial German army did. The SS didn’t take an oath to Germany; they took a personal oath to Adolf Hitler.

New book on the Soviet Union in World War II

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

I’m delighted to say that a book I’ve edited, entitled The Soviet Union at War 1941-1945, is about to come out from Pen & Sword Publishers in the UK. The focus of the book is not on operational history, but instead on Soviet society during the war. In that sense, it’s intended as a sequel and update of Alexander Werth’s Russia at War and, more recently, John Barber and Mark Harrison’s 1991 The Soviet Home Front The book is available for pre-orders from the publisher, as well as from
(or here for our readers in the UK)

Editing a book can be a real chore, but in this case I’ve been delighted by the quality of contributors and by how easy they’ve been to work with. I truly could not ask for a better team.

We have Richard Bidlack of Washington & Lee on public opinion and propaganda, and Nicholas Ganson of Holy Cross on food supply and living standards. Nick’s the junior member of our team, but has a new book out on the 1947 famine.

Mark Harrison, University of Warwick, takes on industry and the economy, Jean Levesque of the University of Quebec-Montreal looks at agriculture and the countryside, and Reina Pennington of Norwich University covers women. Jeremy Smith, late of the University of Birmingham and now of the Karelian Institute of the University of Eastern Finland, discusses non-Russian nationalities, and Kenneth Slepyan of Transylvania University takes the partisan movement. Finally, I have a chapter on the Red Army as an institution.

You’ll have to take my word for it, and I’m certainly a biased observer, but the quality of the chapters in uniformly high, and Pen & Sword has come through with a spectacular cover and a number of nice photographs. I’m sure you’re all looking for good holiday gifts . . .

UPDATE: US distributor for the book is Casemate Publishers, which at present has a distribution date in February 2011. It shouldn’t in fact take that long.