Himmler’s Death Squad by Ian Baxter

Himmler’s Death Squad by Ian Baxter* – Einsatzgruppen in Action, 1939–1944 contains rare photographs from wartime archives. This is a photograph-based book, very much like another book by him that I reviewed recently on Concentration Camp Overseers. This book is filled with horrifying images, but it offers such a fantastic collection to better understand what happened during the ethnic cleansing. Not only Jews were murdered, but also Romani, communists, gays, and people with any disabilities.

Himmler's Death Squad by Ian Baxter

Himmler’s Einsatzgruppen were death squads and these 4 groups were sent into Eastern Europe and Soviet Russia to help with the so-called Jewish problem. The members of the groups were carefully selected. It is assumed that they were responsible for killing around 2 million people, including 1.3 million Jews.

The photographs are graphic, but this is history, this is what happened, so knowing about them is incredibly important. In one of the pictures 18 SS-men are executing 6 civilians. I looked at that picture closely because it is wasteful to use 18 people to eliminate 6. Why did they do that? The only answer is because no one of them wanted to be sure that they killed another man. It could have become too personal. In another picture the victims are with their faces to the wall, at a long distance from the executioners and the executioners are kept in pairs. Again, this is wasteful and it must be the same reason, to diminish each person’s responsibility. Did this show that they were not 100% convinced by what they had to do, maybe they felt that those Jews they were killing were not sub-humans as the propaganda suggested but in fact they were fellow beings just like them? If not, why go to all this trouble? Why did the commanders felt the need to do that? Reading about these things can create a distorted image and seeing a picture like these two shows that what really happened is in fact much more complicated, more nuanced.

This is why I highly recommend this book and why I gave it 5 stars. It’s heartbreaking to see all those victims being executed and/or humiliated. It shows men, elderly, women, children and it also shows the SS and other locally recruited men in their nice uniforms, in a very stark contrast.

Himmler’s Death Squad by Ian Baxter

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Pen & Sword Military
Year it was published: 2021
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): WWII
Pages: 136

About the author: Ian Baxter is a much-published author and photographic collector whose books draw an increasing following. Among his many previous titles in the Images of War Series are German Army on the Eastern Front – The Advance, German Army on the Eastern Front – The Retreat, The Crushing of Army Group (North) and the SS Waffen Division series including SS Leibstandarte Division, SS Totenkopf Division At War, Waffen SS of the Baltic States, Waffen SS in the Ardennes and Waffen SS at Arnhem. He lives near Chelmsford, Essex.
Website & Social Media Links: Pen and Sword

*I was sent a copy of Himmler’s Death Squad by Ian Baxter for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

4 thoughts on “Himmler’s Death Squad by Ian Baxter”

  • I agree with your comment Anca, that I don’t believe that all of the Nazi’s actually realised what was going to be expected of them and were very unprepared for the devastation they caused. There of course were plenty who more than made up for their reticence, by their zeal and the relish with which they carried out orders. There are good and bad on all sides in any conflict, don’t you think? ———————— I also agree with Kelly that it isn’t right to wipe away all evidence of a less than salubrious past. Our campaigns against statues and monuments to anyone associated with the slave trade, is a prime example. It is much better to admit our past mistakes, but publicly identify them for what they were and vow to change things in the future, although I’m not sure that humanity ever really learns from its past mistakes!! 🙂

    • It was surprising to see that the men in these death squads, who had only a task, to kill, were affected. The gas vans were introduced because it affected the men, but they kept on killing.

      It’s hard to decide how to present the past. I think it shouldn’t be hidden away, but how is presented is important too. I don’t think taking down statues is the best option, but long descriptions near them, on that man’s life and why the statue was built. Also, with slavery I see that the focus is on the owners and not of the people working for them neither on the people who used the products created by slaves. The reality is much more complex.

  • I agree that books like this are important as a reminder of the horrible things that have happened. I’ve never believed in trying to wipe away all evidence of a past that offends. (a very popular notion in the US) It amazes me that there are still those who think the holocaust (and other pogroms of ethnic cleansing) never took place. All the more reason to preserve photos and first hand accounts.
    Kelly recently posted…RIP Sweet, Sweet ConnieMy Profile

    • I am amazed too. 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, so why some doubt this happened is puzzling indeed.

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