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Review: Directive 19

Discussion in 'The Library' started by Tom phpbb3, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. Tom phpbb3

    Tom phpbb3 New Member

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    BOOK REVIEW
    Directive 19: The Memoirs of SS Sturmbannführer Rolf Otto Schiller
    by Rolf Schiller
    Transcribed by Paul K. Harker
    Publisher: Outskirts Press: Denver, Colorado (2006)
    ISBN-10: 1-59800-392-5
    ISBH-13: 978-1-59800-392-5

    When I first read of this book, I was very interested in seeing what a member of the SD, who admitted to murdering Jews and other "undesirables," had written. By the end of the book, I have to confess to being disappointed.
    The first chapters seemed very authentic. It read as if the man realized what he had done, but explained what his rationale was at the time. The discussions of how Reich law was interpreted, and applied, seemed realistic.
    The first feeling that something was wrong was when this young SS officer was supposedly assigned to the Deutschland Regiment, VII Panzer Division Kempf for the invasion of Poland. While Deutschland did in fact serve as an attachment to Panzer Division Kempf, 7. Panzer Division was not formed until after the invasion of Poland, and Kempf had nothing to do with it. Also, while it seems rather pedantic, using Roman numerals for a divisional designation is entirely wrong for the German military. Roman numerals were used for Corps. In Harker’s defense, some follow-on information he sent me explained part of the problem. When originally written, there was apparently some confusion between regiment and divisional numbers. This reflects in my comment further on about editing.
    It was Schiller's assignments during the campaign that struck me as odd. Here was a young Ustuf, with little experience, being assigned as the "Forward SS Police Chief in the Occupied Zone." In this role, he was supposed to represent the RSHA, Gestapo, Military Police, Criminal Police, Order Police, and the SS Security Police. With this role came "absolute jurisdiction to enforce all aspects of Reich law," and authorization to investigate and/or arrest any military or civilian personnel. While I could well be mistaken, this seems a rather tall order for an officer of his experience.
    The men under his command, or rather the lack thereof caused some concern as well. Schiller writes that on the eve of the invasion, Brigf. Hausser spoke to him of his assignment as SS Chief of Police and Security in the Occupied Zone. I can accept that a Brigadeführer conferenced with an Untersturmführer at such a momentous moment, if said Ustuf represented the RSHA. But for the Brigf. to hand him a roster, and tell him to conscript the twenty-six men in the regiment that had experience as Civil Servants before the war seems rather odd. This does not fit with the SS plans for the conquered territories. Units, especially the Einsatzgruppen, were already formed and standing ready to go into action as the combat troops swept forward. These units were not cobbled together literally hours before the assault.
    The period he describes in Poland seems authentic enough. The roundups and killings he talks of appear real. The feelings he talks about ring true. What doesn't seem right is that when one looks into men assigned as SS und Polizei Führer, they appear to be mostly Brigadeführer and above. One doesn't find an Unter- or Obersturmführer assigned to these posts.
    His service with Rommel and 7.Panzer Division seems somewhat suspect. In view of Rommel's known opinion of the SS, it seems rather unlikely that an SS officer would be assigned to that division's Military Police company. Two things follow from this that don't seem right. The first is that although he was supposed to be acting as Heydrich's representative, he begins the operation acting as a "traffic cop," directing the division across the border. The second issue is that although he originally said he was assigned to the MPs, he claims to have crossed the border in a machine of the 7th Motorcycle Corps. This may be a problem with translation and transcription, but this sounds like someone doesn't know what they are talking about. Also, the fact that he describes the Panzerjäger unit in a reconnaissance role sounds very wrong.
    As in Poland, the activities he discusses as an officer of the RSHA, dealing with partisans and Jews sound authentic enough. However, his transfer from 7.Panzer Division to SS Headquarters Paris seems somewhat contrived.
    Interestingly enough, although he had an important assignment in France, Schiller seems to be important enough to be called back to Berlin for a working luncheon with Himmler and Heydrich, et al. Is it mere coincidence that he then finds himself assigned to Lublin, just in time for the uprising there? Is it also coincidence that shortly after that, he is directly engaged in planning the Operation Reinhard camps, and the implementation of Zyklon B?
    The combat enroute to Mariupol strikes me as odd. It doesn't seem right that a policeman would have taken charge of a combat operation when two Waffen-SS officers were present. While I understand the responsibilities of rank, and the concept of seniority, there is also the matter of who is properly trained for the mission at hand. I cannot argue his presence in Stalingrad, as there was supposed to be SS-Polizei in the city, but my credulity is being stretched when he just happens to be assigned to such a key battle in WWII history, and is lightly wounded causing evacuation shortly before the city falls.
    I find it interesting that a mere Hauptsturmführer is able to forge a peace between the Ministry of Transportation, and the OKW/OKH. Did the RSHA have such influence that a captain is able to referee ministerial disagreements? If a captain is capable of such diplomacy, when then is he next assigned as a mere observer for an Einsatzgruppe? In truth, this attachment to the Einsatzgruppe smacks of him wanting to tell everyone's story more than anything else. I find this feeling strengthened when he keeps bouncing between Polizei/KZ duties, and assignments near the front. While it is known that quite a number of officers moved between the Camps and the Waffen-SS, they normally didn't go back and forth multiple times. It is also curious how many "notorious" figures he happens to run into during these duty assignments. Seem ingly intimate with Heydrich and Eichmann, he also manages to be associated with Göth, Globocnik, Barbie, Mengele, Höss, and other "stars" of the SS pantheon.
    It was at the end of Chapter 22 that my confidence in the book finally broke. While he may well have had orders involving him somehow with the Ardennes offensive in 1944, the meeting he describes with his new Corps Commander is just over the top. He expects the reader to believe that a Gruppenführer is going to stop a tactical briefing in order to introduce a Hstuf to the Army Commander? The attendees he mentions at this meeting again make it sound like he is trying to associate himself with SS luminaries. Dietrich, Model, von Manteuffel and Hitzfeld, all general officers or field marshals, and one colonel: Joachim Peiper, probably the most infamous colonel in the entire SS organization. And all this stops because a new captain is reporting in?
    As yet, I have not been able to double check the location of certain armored units during the opening phases of the Ardennes battles, but the author seems pretty free with his use of Tiger Is and IIs. He next has Priess, the Corps Commander, giving him specific tactical instructions, at the front. The Corps Commander assigns him Kampfgruppe VIII? This scene goes against everything one has ever learned about the German military in WWII. This just couldn't have happened the way the author puts it. Just like the meeting he describes the engagement Priess and Dietrich,found themselves in, sitting next to each other in their tanks. At the front! While meetings between higher commanders at the front happened regularly in the 19th Century, Army Commanders do not meet with Corps Commanders on the front line, in their personal tanks, and trade fire with enemy artillery units! I also found it interesting that in attacking an American sector of the front, Schiller managed to take British prisoners!
    I had other minor issues throughout the book, but they more more pedantic in nature. Most of them dealt with terminology, and things that a man in Schiller's position quite likely would not have been familiar with.* Still, had this manuscript been subjected to a decent technical read-through, many of these minor issues would have been cleared up. There are enough of them so as to taint the overall credibility of the book, though.
    I also find myself wondering how Mr. Harker went about vetting the author. Admittedly limited research has so far failed to turn up any traces of Schiller in the places and units he mentions in the book. Is this in fact his real name?
    While I was quite hopeful before I read the book, I can't in good conscience agree that it lives up to its promise. At best, the tale seems to suffer from embellishment. At worst, it is contrived. I have not figured out yet which it is.

    *Panzerjäger 101; Tactical sergeant; mixing English/German rank titles; 88s as indirect fire artillery; Curses, literal as opposed to figurative translations? (Son of Mary!); 102s vice 105s; MP42; 30mm howitzers; XII SS (HJ); Leopard tanks?
     

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