Right at the start the author dispels any idea that the Leibstandarte was just an 'ordinary military formation', the defence used by many of its former members and their supporters. This was a military unit that evolved directly from Hitler's personal bodyguard, and so was closely tied to the Nazi regime. It had a record of war crimes on both fronts, with the most famous coming at Wormhoudt in 1940 and during the Ardennes campaign late in 1944, in both cases involving the mass murder of prisoners of war. On the Eastern Front the division was involved in war crimes against civilians, and was probably responsible for thousands of murders.
Having established that, we can then move onto the history of the division. It traced its origins back to Hitler's original bodyguard of 1923, pre-dating the SS. The various body guard units went through a number of incarnations and name changes, with four of them coming in 1933 alone. That was when the Leibstandarte name first appeared. This was followed by a series of expansions, to an infantry regiment in 1938 and infantry division in 1941. In 1942 it became a panzer-grenadier unit, and in 1944 (at least technically) a full panzer division.
The Leibstandarte fought on almost every front where the German army was committing – the invasion of Poland, the offensive in the West in 1940, the invasion of Greece, the conflict with the Soviet Union, the battle of Normandy, the battle of the Bulge and the defence of the crumbling Reich. The regiment didn't perform especially well in Poland, but after that it did live up to expectations. The combat history of the division thus takes us into many of the major battles of the war,
We finish with a series of biographies of key figures in the unit, covering their military careers and crimes (when appropriate). All of the division's commanders are covered, as is the controversial war criminal Peiper and the highest ranking tank 'Ace', Michael Wittmann.
This is an excellent history of the Leibstandarte, clearly demonstrating the split character of the Waffen-SS, and its mix of military ability and war crimes.
1 - Foundation
2 - Organisation
3 - Blooding
4 - France
5 - The East
6 - Kursk
7 - Cherkassy
8 - Normandy
9 - Ardennes
10 - Last Throw
11 - Key Figures
Author: Rupert Butler
Year: 2015 edition of 2001 original