Slaughterhouse: The Handbook of the Eastern Front
Contributor: Thomas Houlihan
Review Date: 11 Nov 2005
Without echoing what others have written, this book is one that will appeal to both the neophytes and the veterans of researching the Eastern Front. It is useful on several levels, and contains a wealth of information that in some cases is newly available in the English language!
While there is a considerable amount of information in the book, it really is presented in such a logical fashion that itís quite simple to find what is needed. For example, unlike some presentations, the unit information sections are quite logically in numerical order by hierarchy, so everything is easy to locate.
Much of the information on the German forces is in point of fact available in other milieus, both on-line and printed. However, with this book you have not only a listing, but a synopsis of every German and German-Allied unit to fight on the Russian front, from Army Group down to division. For the German-Allied units, this is probably the first time the information on Rumanian, Italian, Hungarian and Finnish forces has ever been gathered together in one place.
The section on the Soviet will be very valuable to researchers and historians. Since the end of the war, very little factual information from the Soviet side has been available. Here in this volume, you will find information that has not been readily available previously. Admittedly, some of the information is limited, but that is due to original sources, not the authors of this book. It must be remembered that in the literal Ďmeat-grinderí that was the Russian Front, many of these units didnít exist long enough to develop a pedigree. Record keeping wasnít always as efficient as historians would desire, either.
The unit organization section I believe was handled very well. Those who study the German military especially know how many incarnations there were of each major type of unit. In this volume, the basic types of divisions are displayed, with major differentiations noted as needed. A good example of this would be the diagram for the Waffen-SS Mountain Division. The basic provisions for this type of unit are shown, followed by notes for six different Waffen-SS Mountain Divisions, explaining how they differed from the norm.
In the weapons section, the publisher has presented important information comparing German and Russian weapons side by side. Disregarding factory specifications, the information here shows things like effective range, which is much more important to the soldier and the historian. By putting the information side by side, it is easy to compare capabilities of different weapons systems from the rifle all the way up to the heaviest artillery. For vehicles, the information provided is that which is pertinent to combat. Offensive capability and defensive survivability is presented.
If one were to read this book from cover to cover, one would not know all there is to know about the war in Russia. Like any encyclopedia, this book provides a considerable amount of information, without going into exquisite detail. It will provide an excellent starting point for any research, though. I would strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about combat on the Russian Front in World War II.
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Winston Churchill, 1935