Stormtrooper on the Eastern Front: Fighting with Hitler’s Latvian SS
History is the realm of the victors and the losers lose to the winner’s propaganda but I’m interested in the truth behind what really happened rather than the reassuring lies countries often tell themselves.
I have a personal connection to this history story. My grandfather was conscripted into the ranks of the German army and torn away from his 6 month child. So, I know this history well and I feel the book needs some background as it covers a very controversial part of the war.
Blosfelds does a brilliant thing by playing his part in countering the propaganda still surrounding the Baltic state SS units with this publication. They were not a part of the holocaust and were only fighting units. They fought to save their own countries from Russian and German rule and they stood very little chance but they fought on anyway. They were brave men.
On to the book.
The diary entries show the life of a soldier in his unit. This provides an insight into what went on behind the lines as well as the culture of the German army. It is a personal account and, as such, feels more dramatic than a documentary or dry history dates. The boring acts are often brushed over in favour of the more dramatic.
However, the individual it follows did not see much front line action. He was injured a lot and spent a lot of time on trains through Latvia as well as training camps. This has some historical interest as well as the front lines as it shows where training took place and names areas “behind the lines” which are often not mentioned in mainstream history.
As a whole, there is very little documentation of the Latvian SS units from within/personal accounts so this book is very valuable in its existence.
This doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed. The narrator had a very youthful and naive view of the war. He was easily influenced and seemed to be in it more for the fun and alcohol which jars with post war feeling. He did not fight for his country and looked down upon the older men who were conscripted and didn’t want to fight. Their reasons feel more honourable.
This blights his character for me and makes the read less enjoyable. It is not a fault of the narrator. He was only young and easily influenced but an older narrative could show so much more of the war from so many different viewpoints. It would allow more than the one narrator’s viewpoint to be explored as an older man would be able to see from another’s shoes.
But would I read this again or recommend it to people searching for family in Latvia or looking to find out more about the Eastern front? Despite its cost, yes.
This is a book which details the personal side of the Eastern War. It lives through procedures which can be lost or become boring in pages and pages of dry historical record. It highlights a regiment swept under the carpet or railed against after the war in a neutral, in the moment, light. I only wish there were more accounts like this, and expanding upon this, out there.
But more than anything else, this book gives me a vague idea of what my grandfather went through and why he never spoke about the war.
My rating? 4/5.