The new title from PeKo publishing is something rather unexpected. This publisher is well known for their series of photo-albums dedicated to World War Two vehicles, which is not the case with the new book. “History of the Totenkopf's Panther-Abteilung” is an attempt to recreate the history of the unit, based on archive info and memoires of survivors that served in the battalion. Let’s have a closer look on it.
The book has a hard cover with black and white cover photograph depicting Kurt Söhrmann, one of the interviewed veterans from the unit next to his panther. Dimension wise it is a bit larger than A5 format - 165×235 mm and has 180 pages total. The book features an introduction, 3 chapters, several appendixes, references and 33 black and white photographs.
First of all, the SS-ranks are given and their equivalents to British rank system. This is to ease the understanding of the text for readers. The narration in the chapters is a mix of facts known from archive sources, like official orders as well as information obtained from interviews with veterans. It is quite interesting to read the thoughts and feelings of soldiers and officers that were directly involved in the formation and action of that Panther unit.
Chapter 1 tells us about the early days of Panther-Abteilung. It all started with Hitler’s approval for a new unit in 1942 and here there is a mix of memoires of different officers and official documents. The text refers to particular dates where possible, and is as detailed as one could imagine. At various time points the command structure of the unit is listed and allocation of new tanks reported.
Chapter 2 reports on I./SS panzer-regiment 3 in 1944. The unit was reassembled and stayed in France for training and waiting for new tanks. Various tables show the unit equipment at different time points and number of personnel. As with previous chapter a lot of space is dedicated to memories of veterans. Finally, the regiment was deployed to Poland In July 1944 and participated in fierce battles with the Red Army. Here you can read about knocked out tanks, maintenance, movement orders, change of commanders and so on. Even the orders to make winter camouflage are listed on a particular day. Finally, at the end of 1944 the regiment was transferred to Hungary.
Chapter 3 focuses on I./SS panzer-regiment 3 in 1945, its participation in the defence of Hungary and it’s withdrawal. Similar to Chapter 2 almost daily reports can be found and they contain valuable information like vehicle location, losses and personnel numbers. The remaining men surrendered to the American forces and later transferred to the Soviets according to the agreement between the Allies.
Altogether the 3 chapters take around 100 pages and it is worth reading for those interested in details of the unit performance and what the veterans remember from these days. Clearly, it is of great interest to modellers if they would like to make a particular vehicle during a certain operation.
The content continues with a number of appendixes – Command positions, Knight’s Cross Recipients, MIA officers, Panther/Bergepanther issues for the unit, Lost/repair reports, Total losses and list of vehicles with vehicle numbers.
The detailed bibliography and official sources are truly remarkable and makes you understand how much work the author put into this book. This is a great body of research and I think the readers should appreciate the amount of time spent on this project and dedication. As mentioned above - a lot of information was collected during interviews with veterans either by the author or his friends.
The photographs are located on 18 pages and these include portraits of interviewed veterans or images from their private collections; a great addition to thorough text, although I wish they could be printed in a larger size (maybe in one of the future PeKo publishing books?).
I think it is an excellent example of well researched material by history enthusiast. Great research and dedication make it interesting for people interested in detailed information about that particular unit. Moreover, those that would like to read something about battlefield in Hungary during the last days of WW2 might be also interested to read it.
Highs: Thorough research, first-hand information from veterans.Lows: I wish the photographs of vehicles were printed in larger format.Verdict: Highly recommended.