BOOK REVIEW – Thorolf Hillblad (Ed.), Twilight of the Gods [Account of Erik Wallin] (Mechanicsburg, PA/USA: Stackpole Books, 2009)

Erik Wallin was a Stockholm-born Swedish volunteer who fought in the Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion of the 11th SS-Panzergrenadier Division Nordland that saw action on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. Twilight of the Gods is Wallin’s account of his service with this formation from late 1944 to the end of the war. The first edition of Wallin’s narrative was published by him in German in Brenos Aries in 1947.[1]

The Nordland Division was formed in March 1943 and comprised of ‘foreign fighters’ drawn from Scandinavian countries. It saw action in Croatia, around Leningrad, the Courland Pocket and finally in the defence of Berlin in the last months of the war.

The factors that shape Wallin’s combat motivation are typical of many other accounts by SS veterans. The shared experience of combat with his comrades was important to keep him going as he said that ‘a joy and all miserly we had shared equally, and side by side gone through hell on the Eastern Front’.[2] His leaders were also motivational; his company commander was an officer who ‘one could follow all the way to hell and back’.[3] Felix Steiner, the commander of the Norland Division, was ‘‘divinely’ gifted leader’ and ‘an inspiration’.[4] Wallin also had a strong sense of duty that held him ‘in a steely grip.’[5] Finally, he is motivated by the struggle against ‘worldwide Bolshevism’ that he saw as ‘barbaric’.[6] He believed that he and his comrades were the ‘self-appointed defenders of the west’ defending against ’the demise of Occident [the West]’.[7] He certainly held Nazi ideas of European supremacy over the Slavic and far eastern Russians considering that Soviet citizens brought to work in Germany as originating from ‘filthy, stinking, lice and flea-filled mud huts’ and once in Germany as workers they ‘beg[a]n to live like human beings’.[8]

For those with an interest in descriptions of combat action and battles, Wallin’s narrative will be enjoyed. I found it heavy going, rather tedious and repeats many tropes found in other wartime accounts by SS veterans. For example, the Russians were a cruel and fanatical enemy who targeted civilians but Wallin makes no mention of German crimes against Soviet civilians, POWs or Jews.[9] The SS were worshiped by the Wehrmacht but the feeling was not mutual; the SS looked down on the army.[10]

Also, there are several omissions from Wallin’s that provoke questions. He admits to being a joining the Finnish army in 1941 but there is no mention of what he did between prior to the start of his narrative in mid-1944.[11] Added to this, he makes no mention of why he as a foreign national had opted to join the SS and fight for the Axis.






[1] Thorolf Hillblad (Ed.), Twilight of the Gods [Account of Erik Wallin] (Mechanicsburg, PA/USA: Stackpole Books, 2009), p.viii.

[2] Ibid., p.94.

[3] Ibid., p.19.

[4] Ibid., pp.48, 50..

[5] Ibid., p.19.

[6] Ibid., p.49.

[7] Ibid., p.21.

[8] Ibid., p.69.

[9] Ibid., p.21.

[10] Ibid., pp.90, 57-58.

[11] Ibid., p.98.