Book Review
Hitler's Elite
Hitler's Elite - The SS 1939-45
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


This is a review of the Osprey Publishing LTD book Hitler's Elite - The SS 1939-45, by editor Chris McNab.

** The SS is the most infamous military formation in history. From its diminutive origins in the 1920s as Hitler’s personal bodyguard, the SS rapidly grew into a sprawling organization of hundreds of thousands of men, with a field army (the Waffen-SS – Armed-SS) numbering nearly 40 divisions and huge corporate, racial and political power in the Allgemeine-SS (General-SS). The activities of the SS ranged from the heroic to the horrific: from fighting extraordinary defensive battles on the Eastern and Western Fronts, to running the concentration and extermination camp systems and providing personnel for the Einsatzgruppen murder squads across Eastern Europe. **

** Famed for their fighting qualities, fanaticism and brutality, the Waffen-SS evolved from being Hitler’s fiercely loyal personal bodyguard in the 1920s into an army which spearheaded the assault on the Soviet Union and staunchly defended the Reich in the final days of World War II. **
** Quoted from the book’s dust jacket.


Osprey Publications Ltd has released Hitler's Elite - The SS 1939-45, by editor Chris McNab, as a hardback book with 384 pages and comes with a paper dust jacket. Included with the text are black and white and color photographs, black and white and color illustrations, an informational chart, editor’s notes and detailed captions, It has a 2013 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-78200-008-4. As the title states, the book discusses the history of the Waffen SS through the years of 1939 through 1945 during World War II.


  • Introduction: Origins and Evolution of the SS
  • The Allgemeine-SS and the Nazi Police State
  • The Waffen-SS Soldier
  • Days of Victory
  • Turning Fortunes
  • Diversification and Destruction
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Glossary
  • Index


The text in the book is a compilation of information from previous Osprey Publications which is all well written and extremely detailed and given in a correct beginning to end timeframe. Chris McNab did an excellent job of collecting, compiling and combining the information taken from the numerous Osprey titles. The text goes into great detail in all areas of the book as outlined on the contents page and is well discussed down to the smallest detail. The reader should not be fooled by the brief listing of contents as the book is stocked full of details and information. As opposed to lumping the SS into one entity, McNabb has separated the different SS units and goes into great detail for each particular unit. The knowledge that can be drawn from this volume is excellent. After reading through the volume I could not think of any subject in regards to the Waffen-SS and its history that was not covered in great detail in an easy to read, nicely flowing and understandable manner. I personally feel that anyone that reads this book will find themselves well informed in all areas of the history of Germany’s Waffen-SS from its origins to the end of hostilities in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.

The Osprey Publications used in the compilation for this volume are:

  • Campaign 159 - Stalingrad 1942
  • Elite 11 – Ardennes 1944, Peiper & Skorzeny
  • Elite 157 – The German Home Front 1939-45
  • Elite 177 – German Special Forces of World War II
  • Men-at-Arms 34 – The Waffen-SS
  • Men-at-Arms 124 – German Commanders of World War II
  • Men-at-Arms 220 – The SA 1921-45, Hitler’s Stormtroopers
  • Men-at-Arms 266 – The Allgemeine-SS
  • Men-at-Arms 363 – Germany’s Eastern Front Allies (2): Baltic Forces
  • Men-at-Arms 401 – The Waffen-SS (1): 1. to 5. Divisions
  • Men-at-Arms 404 – The Waffen-SS (2): 6. to 10. Divisions
  • Men-at-Arms 415 – The Waffen-SS (3): 11. to 23. Divisions
  • Men-at-Arms 420 – The Waffen-SS (4): 24. to 38. Divisions & Volunteer Legions
  • Men-at-Arms 434 – World War II German Police Units
  • Raid 9 – Rescuing Mussolini: Gran Sasso 1943
  • Warrior 2 – Waffen-SS soldier
  • Warrior 46 – Panzer Crewman 1939-45
  • Warrior 61 – German Security and Police Soldier 1939-45
  • Warrior 93 – German Infantryman (3): Eastern front 1943-45
  • Warrior 102 – The Hitler Youth 1933-45

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.


There are a total of 143 black and white photographs and 5 color photographs featured in this volume. As with the text and other information in this fine volume, the photographs are from previous Osprey Publications and are all subject specific to the title. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light. This is typical for this period of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are several years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book and provide a visual guide for the subjects described in the book. Drawing from previously published Osprey titles dealing with the Waffen-SS Chris McNab stuck to the title of the book and chose photographs that are specific to the Waffen-SS during the World War II time frame and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter. The included photographs will prove valuable to the military vehicle, figure and diorama modelers as well as anyone interested in the Waffen-SS, World War II and the European Theater of Operations.

Some of the photographs that I found to be particularly interesting contain subjects such as:

  • Adolf Eichmann’s falsified Red Cross identity document that he used to flee to Argentina with in 1950 under the false name of Ricardo Klement
  • 1920s picture of the Strosstrupp Adolph Hitler riding in a truck in Munich
  • A liberated Russian slave laborer pointing out a particularly brutal German guard
  • Waffen-SS troops in Poland using a German 5cm leichter Granatwerfer 36 mortar
  • A Waffen-SS combat cameraman with the Leibstandarte Regiment in Russia in 1941
  • Waffen-SS troops manning a German 3.7cm Flak gun
  • Troops of the SS-Heimwehr Danzig taking cover behind an Austrian ADGZ armored car
  • Another image of the troops of the SS-Heimwehr Danzig advancing under fire sheltered by an Austrian ADGZ armored car
  • Troops of the Leibstandarte manning a half-track mounted Flak 30 anti-aircraft gun
  • Reich Division motorcycle troops using a downed Soviet aircraft as an improvised road sign by painting SS and a directional arrow on it
  • Waffen-SS trooper in a trench on the Eastern Front cleaning his Kar 98k rifle
  • SS soldiers riding in a captured US half-track
  • A Waffen-SS trooper moving along a trench under the barrel of a wrecked Russian T-34 tank
  • US armor troops guarding German POWs
  • SS forces advancing on a half-track in France
  • SS troops in a trench manning a tripod-mounted MG-34 near the Westwall in 1945
  • A soldier of the Frundsberg Panzer Division preparing 15cm rockets for a Panzerwerfer 42
  • Waffen-SS soldiers and German paratroopers advancing next to a knocked out Russian tank
  • Czech partisans with a captured SS soldier in 1945
  • Waffen-SS 10.5cm StuH self-propelled guns moving through mud and water on the Eastern Front
  • Two Waffen-SS Terek Cossacks carrying a fellow Cossack that has been wounded
  • A Waffen-SS Grenadier taking aim with his Kar 98k rifle while fighting in the hedgerows in Normandy in 1944

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself.


There are a total of 84 pages that contain color illustrations and 2 pages that contain black and white illustrations. As with the text and other information in this fine volume the illustrations are from previous Osprey Publications as well and are all very well done and nicely detailed. The majority of the images are the soldier profile type normally with three individuals shown. The captions that accompany the illustrations provide the names (if applicable) of the individuals shown, rank, military units, uniform type, weapons, various gear, locations, years and other such specific information. The military scale figure modeler will find the detailed illustrations very helpful for detailing purposes.

Some of the images that I found to be particularly interesting contain subjects such as:

  • Early National Socialist paramilitaries. Shown in this image are;
    • A Freikorps trooper in battledress with Mauser rifle, stick grenades hanging on the front of his belt and a helmet with the skull and crossbones painted on it
    • A squad leader from the Stosstrupp Adolf Hitler holding an Imperial War Flag at the ‘German Day’ rally in Bayreuth on 2 September 1923
    • A SS-Mann (man) in brown uniform circa 1925 holding a truncheon which was used against political opponents in street battles

  • The aristocratic Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross Zauche und Camminetz, the first member of the SS to win the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds. He is holding a martini glass and is wearing a black SS tuxedo which is what I found the most interesting of this image
  • Hitlerjugend soldiers in winter uniforms manning a Panzerschreck in the Ardennes in 1944
  • An Obersturmfuhrer of the Totenkopf Division in Russia during the summer of 1941 wearing a camouflage uniform and carrying a 9mm Erma MPE submachine gun
  • Operations in France. Shown in this image are;
    • A Leibstandarte soldier sitting on a knocked out French tank
    • A junior officer in the Totenkopf Division
    • An NCO from the SS-VT Standarte 2 Germania

  • SS-Totenkopf Division, 1940-43. Shown in this image are;
    • SS-Oberscharfuhrer, Feldgendarmerie, 1940. A senior NCO of the military police
    • SS-Surmbannfuhrer of the infantry, late 1941
    • SS-Sturmmann of the infantry, 1942
    • SS-Rottenfuhrer, SS-Panzergrenadier regiment 6, late 1943

  • A member of the Eastern Security Auxiliaries. This image also contains two different styles of uniforms as well as arm bands and several rank insignias
  • Kampfgruppe X at Malmedy, 21 December 1944. This image contains two different German panther tanks disguised as US M10 tank destroyers that have been painted olive drab and have had thickly ringed stars painted on the turrets and front glacis plates
  • Tank ‘204’ which was one of the six Waffen-SS Tigers which succeeded in reaching the La Gleize area during the Ardennes offensive
  • Dutch and French volunteers. Shown in this image are:
    • SS-Oberscharfhrer, SS-Pionier Kompanie 33, Berlin, April 1945
    • Grenadier, 33. Waffen Grenadier Division der SS Charlemagne, Pomerania, February 1945
    • SS-Unterscharfuhrer, Landstorm Nederland, Holland, autumn 1944

  • Handschar Division, Balklands, 1944-45. Shown in this image are;
    • Waffen-Untersturmfuhrer, autumn 1944
    • Waffen-Gebirgsjager
    • SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer

  • Sonderkommando Dirlewanger. This image shows four members of the Sonderkommando Dirlewanger being engaged by a Polish sniper during house to house fighting during the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.


There is 1 informational chart provided in this volume on Page 61. It is of:

Police Ranks. This chart, as the title states, lists the police ranks among the Waffen-SS and also lists the military equivalent of that rank where it is appropriate.


The captions are well written and are very detailed and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown and taking place in the accompanying photograph and illustration shown. The details themselves are basically miniature history lessons as they detail what is happening, or happened, in the photographs and give specific detail as to what was done afterword and by who. They cover things such as the units shown, as well as the vehicles, armor, equipment, uniforms, individuals, weapons, military units, dates, locations shown and other such pertinent information. As with the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors as I read through the captions. As I stated before, grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the captions for yourself.


This is an excellent compilation of several Osprey Publishing titles to form one well written reference and history book. It details the German Waffen- SS during the years of 1939 through to 1945 well and in depth. This volume will be of great use to the military vehicle and figure modeler as well as anyone interested in the Waffen-SS, World War II and the European Theater of Operations. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey Publishing LTD titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others.


Waffen SS in action
Norman Harms
Combat troops Number 3
Squadron/Signal Publications

Waffen-SS in action
Concord Publications Company
Gordon Rottman and Ramiro Bujeiro

Waffen SS – the asphalt soldiers
John Keegan
Weapons Book No. 16
Ballantine’s Illustrated History of World War II

SS – The Blood-Soaked Soil – The Battles of the Waffen SS
Gordon Williamson
Motorbooks International

The Third Reich
The SS
By the Editors of Time-Life Books

Into the Cauldron
Das Reich on the Eastern Front
Robert Michulec & Dmitriy Zgonnik
Concord Publications Company

Into the Cauldron
Das Reich in France 1940
Robert Michulec & Dmitriy Zgonnik
Concord Publications Company

World War 2 Combat Uniforms and Insignia
Squadron/Signal Publications, #6013
Published in 1977
Martin Windrow with color illustrations by Gerry Embleton

The Military Book Club Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of WWII
Saturn Books Ltd.
Ian V. Hogg

Guns of the Reich
Firearms of the German Forces, 1939-1945
George Markham
Arms and Armour Press

German Automatic Weapons of World War II
Live Firing Classic Military Weapons in Colour Photographs
Robert Bruce
Windrow & Greene

Great Weapons Of World War II
John Kirk
Robert Young
Introduction by Bernard E. Trainor
Walker And Company

Tanks of World War II
Duncan Crow
Exeter Books

The Great Tanks
Chris Ellis and Peter Chamberlain

German Tanks Of World War Two In Action
George Forty
Arms and Armour

An Illustrated History Of Fighting Vehicles
Armin Halle/Carlo Demand
Crescent Books

Panther in action
Bruce Culver
Illustrated by Don Greer
Squadron/Signal Publications

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Worlds Tanks and Fighting Vehicles
Christopher F. Foss
Chartwell Books, Inc.

Osprey web site Live links
Amazon web site Live links
Kindle Edition Live links
Highs: Excellent compilation of several Osprey Publishing titles Excellent subject specific photographs and illustrations
Lows: Nothing to mention
Verdict: This is an excellent reference book that details the German Waffen- SS during the years of 1939 to 1945 Greatly.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-78200-008-4
  Suggested Retail: UK £30.00 / US $40.00
  PUBLISHED: Nov 20, 2013

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


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