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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Hitler´s Spanish Division

This book covers more units than the "Blue Division" of Spanish volunteers.

One of the baffling things about foreigners in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS is how the really large categories are often ignored, like the Spaniards. This is not least true if we look at articles and books produced here in Scandinavia. Hitler´s Spanish Division provides a surprisingly rich visual overview of the different units with Spanish volunteers.

To give an idea of just how popular it initially was in Spain to volunteer for service in German units on the Eastern Front we can start by just looking at the number of Spanish volunteers in the Luftwaffe, 659 men. That in itself is many more than the number of Swedes in all types of German formations 1939-1945 - there were about 200 Swedes all in all. However, the vast majority of Spaniards of course served in German Army (Heer) units, more than 46,000. Well, if one adds up these with Spains Luftwaffe volunteers and the Spaniards in the Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS and various Wehrmachtsgefolge (Wehrmacht auxiliaries) like Organisation Todt, then the total figure is around 48,000 Spanish men and women.

Hitler´s Spanish Division by Pablo Sagarra, Óscar González and Lucas Molina make clear just how large the Spanish contribution to Operation Barbarossa was. This they do in an unexpected way - not by focusing on the actions of the German 250th Infantry Division more commonly known as the Blue Division (blue = colour of Spain´s Falangist/Fascist Party) and other German units with Spaniards, but by looking at a select number of individual volunteers. The first chapter is about the three Spanish generals on the Eastern Front, the next about three of the sixteen Spanish colonels in German uniform. I bet you can guess what the third chapter is about. After the two chapters about NCOs and men follows a short but fascinating chapter about the Blue Legion, the successor of the Blue Division (the legion was more like a regiment). The remainder of the book briefly covers Spaniards in the Waffen-SS, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine etc.

The strength of the book lies in the many Eastern Front photos, studio portraits and Osprey-style colour illustrations by Ramiro Bueiro. A large number of original artifacts from volunteers are also shown in colour, mainly decorations and documents. The uniforms demonstrate that the look of the Spaniards could differ quite a lot from German regulations.

In other words, this is a book above all for readers who are into militaria and scale models. But readers more interested in studying volunteer movements, especially Falangist/Fascist volunteers, are at the same time provided with an overview of the Spanish presence on the Eastern Front, plus a rather good glimpse into how much Eastern Front veterans affected the postwar Spanish Armed Forces.

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