Zwischen Hitler, Stalin und Antonescu: Rumäniendeutsche in der Waffen-SS

TitleZwischen Hitler, Stalin und Antonescu: Rumäniendeutsche in der Waffen-SS
Publication TypePublication review
AuthorsCercel, Cristian
Author(s) of reviewed materialMilata, Paul

Title translated:
Between Hitler, Stalin and Antonescu: Romanian Germans in the Waffen-SS. Series: Studia Transylvanica, Band 34.

PublisherKöln, Weimar, Wien: Böhlau Verlag
ISSNISBN: 3412138061
Review year


Full Text

Even though the writing of the history of Romania’s German minority is strongly promoted by a number of institutes and foundations in Germany, several crucial topics have not yet been covered. Up till now, one of the most obvious gaps was represented by the lack of a comprehensive study of the enrollment of the Transylvanian Saxons and Banat Swabians in the Waffen-SS. In 1986, the historian Hans-Werner Schuster wrote his MA thesis on this topic at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. However, the dissemination of his paper has remained very limited, since it was not published subsequently. Still, for two decades, Schuster’s piece was the only study we had of this intriguing topic.

In this context, Paul Milata’s undertaking is to be more than welcomed, especially as it is a balanced and well written book that does not enter the territory of futile ideological polemic. Divided into nine chapters, Milata’s monograph provides a broad account of the history of the Romanian Germans’ enrollment in the Schutzstaffel. After an introductory chapter depicting the overall situation of the German minority in post-1918 Greater Romania, the young historian continues with a revealing chapter on the “1000-Mann-Aktion” that took place between October 1939 and June 1940. It was the first SS recruitment outside the borders of the German Reich, and provided the model for later operations of this kind. The third chapter gives an account of the years 1940-1943, thus highlighting the political and military background of the SS mass recruitment on Romanian territory in 1943. The fourth chapter can be seen as an intermezzo of sorts, since it describes other SS recruitments outside the German Reich (for example, in Northern Transylvania, at that time part of Hungary), with some pages devoted to the “Heim ins Reich” program as well.

The crux of the book is represented by the last five chapters that deal exclusively with the recruitment of the Transylvanian Saxons and Banat Swabians into the SS. Milata provides a comprehensive account of the action: from the negotiations leading to Antonescu’s agreement to Romanian citizens fighting under the flag of another country to the fate of those men who were sent to the killing fields in a war that was already almost certainly lost.

Special attention is paid to the political context in which Romanian and German authorities reached the formal agreement signed on the 12th of May, 1943. (This was after the recruitments had already started following Antonescu’s verbal agreement after a meeting with Hitler in April of the same year.) Milata also takes a thorough look at the actual implementation of this agreement within the Saxon and Swabian communities, which meant that altogether about 63 000 Romanian Germans became members of the SS.

Milata documents both the willingness of the ethnic Germans in Romania to enroll in the German army (N.B.: the inability to differentiate between the Wehrmacht and the SS was widespread among the Germans of Romania and this was played on in the text of the official agreement containing the wording “deutsche Wehrmacht-SS”), but also the simultaneous existence of compulsory measures. Almost thirty pages are dedicated to the analysis of the motivations that made the Germans of Romania enlist in the infamous Schutzstaffel. Milata discerns pragmatic (the hardships encountered by Germans in the Romanian army), ideological (fear of Bolshevism), cultural (the strength of a deeply embedded German myth among Transylvanian Saxons and Banat Swabians, their identification with the German Volk), political (the resentment against the Romanization pressures from the interwar period, but also the passive and active cooperation of the Romanian authorities) as well as social (the intra-community pressure) reasons that can be understood as causing the success of the initiative.

Milata’s account does not stop with the mere act of recruitment, but follows the fate of the actors after their enrollment: their transportation to the various divisions they were enlisted for, their contact with the Reich (for a large part of them, it was their first journey abroad), their disappointment when having to confront the situation: poverty, food shortage, their discrimination as second-class Germans. Moreover, the author also deals with the question of their military instruction. The last chapter expounds their deployment in the proper war, ending with the account of one Transylvanian Saxon company defending some of the ruins of Berlin, in May 1945.
Knowing that Milata’s study intends to fill a serious gap in the historiography of the German minority in Romania (and also in the historiography of the SS), the result should be judged as rather successful. Not only is the work well written, but it also has the additional value of being one of the very first works on a very intriguing topic. On the other hand, flaws and shortcomings will probably become more visible in the future, once other scholars will have conducted thorough research as well. Currently, this work represents a milestone on the topic, substantially advancing our knowledge and will provide the obvious starting point for people interested in reading about it.