Book Review: Joining Hitler's Crusade: European Nations and the Invasion of the Soviet Union, 1941


by David Stahel, editor

Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xviii, 248. Illus., graphics, notes, index. $29.99 paper. ISBN: 1316649741

Volunteering to Fight Stalin

In his introduction, editor Stahel, author of a number of works on the Second World War on the Eastern Front, gives us an overview of the role of the many allied and volunteer contingents that took part in the German invasion of Russia. Although some of these contingents were quite small, taken together they constituted a substantial increase in manpower.

There follow fourteen essays, each on one of these contingents, including allied forces (Finland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Croatia), volunteer legions (Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France, Norway), and former Soviet subjects (a collective essay on volunteers from the Baltic states and another on men from the rest of the USSR). The essays omit volunteers who served in the Waffen-SS and those who served in other theatres.

Each essay addresses the reasons the various contingents took part. These varied considerably. Allied nations sent troops primarily in pursuit of their own objectives, settling old scores with Russia, currying favor with Germany with a view to their role in postwar Europe, and so forth. The motivations of the volunteers from German occupied countries were perhaps even more varied, ranging from a combination of pro-fascist/anti-communist/anti-Semitic sympathies to – in the cases of some men – help restoring their national military honor, a taste for adventure, or just to be sure of a square meal.

All of the essays are good and several very much so, dispelling myths about the composition and performance of particular contingents (e.g., Italian, Spanish).

Joining Hitler’s Crusade is a valuable addition to the literature of the Russo-German War.


Note: Joining Hitler’s Crusade is also available in paper back and several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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