Review by Martin Koenigsberg
Just Finished my 52nd Book Review of the Year!!
When Edward Crankshaw wrote Gestapo: Instrument of Tyranny in 1956, he well understood the subject. A veteran of the British Foreign Office, Intelligence Services, and a journalist of note, he was fluent in both German and Russian, and knew both the Nazi and Soviet regimes more closely than most writers of the Cold War. The result is a Survey history of the organisation, an indictment of some of its major players, and an exploration of the cynical and casual nature of the Nazi security services. We see how the security services of the Nazi Party , essentially a group of political Gangsters with a fringe philosophy, came to control the security apparatus of first all the states of Germany, and then for a short but orgiastic atrocity explosion , in control of almost all of Continental Europe. Along the way, Crankshaw exposes and explains just some of the murderous insanity they loosed on the world, from the takeover of Germany with the fratricide of the SS organisation purging the leadership of the larger SA- and getting the German Army to stay out of their business- by any means necessary. Then as Nazism takes over more of Europe- how they ruled their occupied possessions with direct and indirect terror, stole work and workers from their empire, created the concentration camp system and then tried to end European Jewry, the LGBTQ Community, Ethnic Roma, and a myriad of other “Undesirable elements” with their “Final Solution” project. Crankshaw is there at every step- pointing out the cynical lack of principles behind this movement of “One People, One Reich, One Fuhrer” and its promise of a world based on traditional values. At all times the Gestapo wanted it both ways. It was the greatest honour to serve the Reich as part of the Security forces- and yet almost all its work was to be done in secrecy.
The Einsatzgruppen, the “Special Action” teams that travelled across Poland, Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the Baltic states, shooting Communists, Roma and Jews were given special privileges for their work- but the Officers are always concerned about their morale. All sorts of officials deny participation or profess regret after the war- but the Author shows that most of them are on the record as knowing full well they were criminals when they were doing the crimes. The roll-call of methods employed for torture throughout the European Empire and a few other passages prove conclusively that this was totally policy and not a few overzealous actors. Then as the Holocaust project develops after 1941, we see how thorough and efficient the Nazis can be at their favourite project, the murder of my family. Crankshaw never lets up – and the book is always as much indictment and exposure of cynical lies as it is a straight history. You can see that he is still angry about this festival of criminality disguised as legitimate state actions. This book can be quite graphic in describing malfeasance, and covers a lot of adult themes of all kinds, so this is best read by the Junior reader over about 13/14. For the Gamer/Modeler/Military Enthusiast, this book is an important read- without really being too useful. I suppose a few RPG -players who play espionage games might learn some of the Gestapo’s SOPs that might add complexity to a scenario or two. Not many modelers model the Gestapo, so not much help there. For the Military Enthusiast, there is a lot to understand about the security underpinning of the European Occupations- and why the Resistances were so important to the regular Europeans. However any reader of this book is going to get a really good understanding of why Fascism is such a terrible form of government for any level of society, and why we need to keep gangsters out of government. This is a good book for the inveterate WWII reader and the casual reader alike, to keep alive the knowledge of the Criminality of the Nazi Third Reich. Sure, the uniforms were cool and the Tanks, Aircraft, and Weapons they developed were intriguing, but the Nazi state was firmly based in Theft, Slavery, Torture, and Mass Murder- and sometimes you have to read about the reality behind the slick veneer.
This author picks up the proverbial rock- and then explains how the Nazi Insects beneath it scurried to their slimy tasks. #WhatAreYouReading #20thCenturyHistory #WWIIHistory #SWWHistory #WargameResearch #HolocaustHistory #Nazis #Gestapo #TheGangThatKilledMyFamily #Polizei #Terror #Occupation #Resistance #Heydrich #Himmler #SS #SOE #OSS #NKVD #ConcentrationCamps #DeathCamps #FinalSolution #WarCrimes #NuremburgTrials #Liberation #Genocide #NeverAgain