|J.J. FEDOROWICZ PUBLISHING|
by: Scott Espin [ ]
Historical BackgroundThe appearance of the Soviet heavy tanks such as the KV-1, KV-2 and the T-34/76 caused a bit of a panic as the Germans had nothing comparable to take on these brutes. This greatly accelerated the development of the German heavy tanks, including the Tiger I, which would greatly enhance the power of the Panzer formations. The Tigers would be organized into elite units, special heavy tank battalions, which would be utilized as army or corps level units sent in as needed during the key battles. These units participated in some of the toughest battles of the war and their names would forever be etched into history due to their often remarkable exploits; “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler” (LAH), “Das Reich”, “Totenkopf”, “Wiking” and many others. This book covers the development and history of one of the most successful of these units, “Das Reich”.
The BookMy first impression upon removing the book from the delivery package was “WOW!”. This book is of exceptional quality with a strong outer cover and sturdy binding that looks like it will be able to handle all the wear and tear it's going to get as you pour over it countless times. The paper is also of excellent quality, nice and glossy, excellent for the reproduction of the photos. The materials of the book are of much higher quality than those used in two of his other works – “Tigers in Combat I” and “Tigers in Combat II”. The book contains 410 pages, over 400 photographs, 40 maps, 8 pages of color profiles, organizational diagrams, tables and appendices.
This book focuses exclusively on “Das Reich”. The history of the "Das Reich" Tigers is divided into three main sections logically based on the transformation of this unit through its brief, but significant, three-year history. The first covers the formation and deployment of Schwere Panzer-Kompanie of SS-Panzer-Regiment 2 of SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment "Das Reich". The second covers Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102 and the third Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 502. There are a wealth of photos and original annotated maps. The text includes big picture information as well as blow-by-blow accounts of the engagements as told by the Das Reich tankers themselves. As many of you know, Wolfgang Schneider uses original sources and this book is no different.
content highlightsThe SS Panzer units were often thrown into the toughest battles just in the nick of time, and "Das Reich" was no exception. There are gripping accounts of their first major battle during the crisis at Kharkov, February of 1943. There are many photos of the Tigers during their rest and refit before Operation Citadel. There is an interesting series of photos of Heinrich Himmler getting a demonstration of the Tigers capabilities, including some captured T-34s to make the demonstration more "realistic" for the photographers. “Tiki”, a well known Das Reich Tiger, appears in several of the photos. Himmler was also given an opportunity to fire the 88mm gun. There are many photos of the demonstration which really help to put into context the one or two photos from this exercise we've seen before in other publications.
The sections regarding the deployment and operations of "Das Reich" during operation Citadel will be of particular interest. There are many photographs and maps which you'll want to pour over again and again. There is a series of photographs which in my opinion are simply breathtaking, particularly on pgs. 120 to 123. They consist of snapshot after snapshot of several Tigers moving into the battle. You can see the vast fields of grass in front of them, the movement of the Tigers into the battle, then a picture of them paused with turrets turned towards their targets. The next you see an explosion in the distance and then smoke billowing from the target in the next photo. All through the series the air is getting smokier, the visibility getting worse and worse. You can almost feel yourself going into the breach with them…. stunning!!!
The book continues on in this same fashion, often times quoting original order documents and includes many of the original maps. Blow-by-blow accounts from the members of Das Reich are heavily laden throughout the book. Best of all there are pictures, pictures, and more pictures. There is a nice section in the back with a series of very well done color profiles of 823, "Tiki", S32 and several others.
I was a bit disappointed at the small number of photos of the King Tigers used by schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 502. This isn’t surprising however as Das Reich was desperately involved in the futile struggles to try to stop the advance of the Russian juggernaut and taking photos were the last things on their minds.
conclusionAnyone interested in Tigers, the Eastern Front, and the heavy tank battalions will enjoy this book. I consider it to be the best work on “Das Reich” to date thus making it one of the crown jewels in my extensive reference library. The book lists for $90, which is a small price to pay for this outstanding, high quality book. I highly recommend this book, you will not be disappointed.