Reviews & ratings
I can´t recommend it strongly enough.
Any man`s story is every man`s story
There is a lot to say in both style and substance about your book. The phasing and tempo of writing is truly noteworthy. The book read as a novel! But this is ‘old dry stuff’ and you had undertaken to have the protagonist a non flamboyant man long dead that very few really knew. Amidst ‘SS superstars’ and over published battles.
Content wise, where there was simply nothing, despite the STUNNING amount of unpublished original research you’ve personally conducted, you very skillfully edited in other author’s work properly annotated/attributed. The footnotes are spectacular. I judge books by the footnotes. I spend more time in the footnotes than the narrative. That is scholarship right there. Now for my unanticipated observations.
There is an old saying: ‘if properly written……anyman’s story is everyman’s story’. This is the authorship perspective and duty of novelists vice historians. I found myself very sympathetic to Gustav Knittel. This guy was surprisingly a very sound and solid junior officer, combat officer and battalion commander. That means more than anything from my own (laughable in comparison) perspective as a former Marine officer. He earned the best combat command legitimately as the world then turned to shit and all of the superstars vanished. Along with momentum, supplies, the ability to train his unit and everything else vanishing as well.
The burdens on this guy were incredible, endless and thankless. He was caught in a bizarre personal/professional dilemma wherein he was never to be the golden boy Meyer, he was whispered to have gone soft (by mostly a bunch of green replacements) and yet his command would never let him go……because he was too valuable and effective of a commanding officer! As the friggin roof is coming down.
I was really affected by the narrative of his later years. It was very very saddening. And very believable. A sad denouement of which many many men can relate. A denouement, which to me show him a tragic and contemplative man. Your book, to me, begs serious human issues and evoked both empathy and sympathy for Knittel. Yes it can be said he was a ‘lug’, or that he went ‘soft’ or that he was a ‘criminal’, but walk a mile in this man’s shoes. He got dealt a tough thankless hand of cards and I think, warts and all, this guy stood tall and got fucked.
Martin Bull - London
Superb Book !
The author has been researching and working on this book for many years – the result is well worth the wait. The book succeeds, not just as the life story of one SS officer, but also as a wartime history of the Aufklarungsabteilung of the Leibstandarte SS. the reader is taken through their campaigns including France 1940, the Eastern Front and Normandy.
Rather than simply a ‘unit history’ of dates and incidents, Timo Worst skilfully weaves personal accounts and memoirs into the narrative which is entirely ‘readable’. This is not one of those WW2 books which one has to work through as a sense of duty. Of course, many of us have been keenly awaiting the ‘Ardennes 44/Battle Of The Bulge’ section of the book and the result here is a triumph. Actions which are only peripherally mentioned in other histories are clearly analysed and described in detail. The recollections of Knittel’s former aide, with whom the author was fortunate enough to correspond, are especially valuable here. Of course, the terrible atrocities committed against Belgian civilians are described in unflinching detail, and the author has succeeded in an even-handed treatment of this most controversial area. The reader must ultimately decide. The whole story is held together by the thread of Knittel – in many ways enigmatic ( I was astonished at the story of his marriage ). All in all, a remarkable book. For anyone who is interested in the Waffen-SS and – especially – for any ‘Bulge’ enthusiast, I recommend it highly as an essential purchase !
+ Skilful use of in-depth research
+ Relevant photographs.
Klaus Richter - U.S.A.
An unbiased piece of heavily researched history
Timo Worst’s book “Career, crimes and trial of SS-Sturmbannführer Gustav Knittel” is one of the better world war 2 biographies I have read in a long time. It is an unbiased piece of heavily researched history, that presents all aspects of the man, both the good and the bad, without any judgement or over-emotional language.
I have read biographies before that either try to glorify the subject by downplaying the negative aspects of the person’s life, or the opposite, where they focus primarily on the negative and not much else. For example the biographies by Marcel Stein tend to focus only on the negative aspects of their lives at the expense of a more detailed history. Whereas, Newton’s Model bio, and Melvin’s Manstein bio present all aspects of the individuals in question.
The entire life of the individual is presented in a non biased fashion, where the positive and negative are detailed in proper context. They are not hagiographies but neither are they “hit pieces.” Then there are the books that are primarily focused only on the “positive” aspect of the individual’s life, such as their military career, without mention of possible war crimes and other negatives. Books primarily on certain WSS personalities, though well researched, at times tend to “gloss over” these “inconveniences.” This is unfortunate since it only lessens the true historical worth of the author’s intense labors.
Worst’s book is the perfect example of how a military biography should be written. The amount of source material, and first person accounts is amazing enough as it is. But the presentation of a definitely controversial subject in such a professional manner is even more amazing. Along with the previous books mentioned by Melvin and Newton, Danny Parker’s Peiper biography is another example of a professional piece of historiography. A good comparison between a professional unemotional book and the opposite would be comparing Parker’s book with a previous Peiper bio that was released a few years ago.
Both books contain a lot of the same material, however Parker’s book comes off as being the professional piece of history, whereas the other reads quite poorly due to its extremely opinionated and emotional language. Both Parker and Worst have been able to write non biased history, presenting all the facts as objectively as possible without the emotionalism that sometimes pervades this subject. The portions of the book that Timo has posted on this message board should show adequate proof of the style and substance of the book.
Worst details Knittel’s life from beginning to end, with great focus on his combat career as well as post war tribulations. It is a truly fascinating story of a man living in a violent time, and the consequences of actions that can never be undone. The book is not pretentious, and does not pretend to claim any form of moral authority. It simply tells a brilliantly fascinating story of a tragedy…
Methodically researched & written
An excellent book indeed, methodically researched en written. The book goes into great detail about this Waffen-SS officer, his SS armoured reconnaissance unit’s history, its battles and the unit’s infamous atrocities. Fascinating personal testimonies from those who took part are inserted into the precise historical text. Maps are included to easily follow the flow of the unit’s combat. I am particularly interested in the Ardennes Offensive in 1944 which this book covers in an in-depth way with blow by blow accounts and completes an unwritten chapter of this unit’s Ardennes campaign. I feel is a must have if interested in this battle or this SS Officer or the unit he commanded. Highly recommended.
Timo just getting warmed up
I can only imagine the research put into this book, well done Timo, looking Forward to your next !
I have yet to start reading the book, just joined my backlog of titles! This said however, on first glimpse and flick through it looks as if this is going to be a good read; I much prefer actual accounts and unit histories when reading. There are photos within that I haven’t seen before showing the authors attention to detail and well researched personal accounts which I am hoping will add the quality to the book. I will hopefully start this soon and will be better placed to provide a review then.
I just finishing reading the book, EXCELLENT ! It satisfies the un-initiated persons´curiosity but also the history experts´questions at the same time. I had more than a few blanks filled in for me inside the covers and that is getting hard to do at this point in my research. The best thing in the book were all of the personal anecdotes. I always love those the best as they bring the dates and places ´alive´for me. Well done Timo !
Gustav Knittel review
Zeer goed werk van Timo Worst wat betreft bronnenonderzoek en het samenbrengen hiervan. Een boek voor geinteresseerden in de geschiedenis van de Leibstandarte en de diverse slagen waarin deze betrokken was en in het bijzonder in de officier en man Gustav Knittel. Een zeer gespecialiseerde biografie voor de krijgskundige fijnproever.
(TRANSLATION: Very good work by Timo Worst regarding source research and bringing them together. A book for those interested in the history of the Leibstandarte and the various battles in which it was involved and in particular the officer and man Gustav Knittel. A highly specialized biography for the martial connoisseur.)
Ann Hamilton Shields, Washington DC.
A comprehensive account of a paradoxical man
Timo Worst has managed to not only document details of Knittel’s career, but also to present “the man” behind the name. Readers looking for minute information about dates, leaders, units, and military actions will find it here – extensively researched, documented, and written. And those readers looking for the human factor – the anecdotes, the loss, the nicknames, the romances – they will also find it here. Priceless candid photos nicely complement the archival photos, and provide a subtle perspective not seen in the Kriegsberichter files. In fact, the personality of the men seems through much clearer in these candids. The maps are exceptionally well done and easy to follow – all you need is google satellite and street view to follow LSSAH’s deadly swath through the war years. Quotes from the veterans are abundant and give insight to the feel of an action, both at the time and decades later. I can’t imagine a more comprehensive yet readable account of Gustav Knittel’s life and military career. Well done!
Alex Dekker, Alkmaar
Absolute aanrader, een must read.
De moordpartijen van Peiper in de Ardennen tijdens het Duitse offensief van december 1944 zijn meerdere malen beschreven, ontkent en opnieuw onderzocht. Na de oorlog werd Peiper berecht en met hem stonden zijn superieur Diettrich en zijn ondergeschikte Knittel voor een Amerikaanse rechter. Knittel werd beschuldigd van deelname aan de moorden die in opdracht van Peiper waren begaan. Knittel was daar niet bij en ontliep de doodstraf. Knittel had geluk, hij was namelijk wel betrokken geweest bij moorden op Amerikaanse krijgsgevangenen en op Belgische burgers. Timo R. Worst beschrijft in zijn boek de geschiedenis van deze Waffen-SS-officier. Knittels loopbaan, zijn ondergeschikten, zijn gevechten aan het Oostfront, in Frankrijk en België werden uitgebreid onderzocht. Het boek is een minutieus verslag van Knittels leven, zijn oorlog en zijn daden. Een uitzonderlijk boek! Een aanrader die vlot wegleest.
(TRANSLATION: Highly recommended, a must read. The massacres of Peiper in the Ardennes during the German offensive of December 1944 have been described, denied and re-examined several times. After the war, Peiper was put on trial and with him his superior Diettrich and his subordinate Knittel stood before an American judge. Knittel was charged with participating in the murders committed by Peiper. Knittel was not there and escaped the death penalty. Knittel was lucky, because he had been involved in murders of American prisoners of war and Belgian civilians. Timo R. Worst describes the history of this Waffen-SS officer in his book. Knittel’s career, his subordinates, his battles on the Eastern Front, in France and Belgium were extensively researched. The book is a meticulous account of Knittel’s life, his war and his actions. An exceptional book! A must-read that is easy to read. )
Zeer mooi uitgevoerd boek over een illuster figuur in de geschiedenis van de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Men ziet meteen dat de auteur zeer zorgvuldig opzoekwerk heeft verricht. Ik had persoonlijk moeite om het boek neer te leggen en ik ga dit werk spoedig nog een keer doornemen. Aan te raden aan hen die interesse hebben in dit aspect van de geschiedkunde.
(TRANSLATION: Recommended ! Very nicely executed book about an illustrious figure in the history of the Second World War. It is immediately apparent that the author has done very careful research. I personally had a hard time putting the book down and I’m going to go through this work again soon. Recommended to those interested in this aspect of history. )
I recieved a copy of the hardback edition direct from the publisher two weeks ago, will get around to reading it in due course having only been able to have a quick flick through it and isolated reads at sections, my impression is that it is well worth the price. Hardback is well made, nothing cheap or secondrate a good solid well made book, maps, diagrams, photographs are well reproduced clear and easy to follow. A good job well done.