Book Review – Werner Kindler, Obedient unto Death (London: Frontline, 2019)

Werner Kindler’s Obedient unto Death is his memoir of service in the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LAH) during the Second World War. It was written between 1985 and 2010.[1] The memoir opens with Kindler’s birth in West Prussia, then part of Poland, in 1922. The rest of the account covers Kindler’s military service in the SS where he was for the majority of his time with the LAH seeing action in the Soviet Union, Italy and France.

Kindler saw significant combat being wounded six times.[2] He appears to have been incredibly brave, recording 84 days of ‘close combat’ in his service record. This meant being in contact with the enemy using rifles, grenades, pistols or fighting man-to-man.[3] He was one of only 630 German servicemen who were awarded the German Army’s Close Combat Clasp in Gold. This medal was given to those who had recorded 50 days of ‘close combat’ with an enemy and was an achievement when it is remembered that around 18 million men served in the German armed forces during the war.[4]

Unit insignia for 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler

However, Kindler’s memoir is a slog to read being filled with frequent lists. One reviewer said that Kindler was ‘severely lacking in literary ability’ and this is an understatement.[5] To date, I have read, 45 accounts by former German combatants who served in the Second World War, and this is, by a long stretch, the dullest.

Kindler recounts little of his own experience, thoughts or views on the war and this book, as Rafe McGregor points out, lacks descriptive content or a recognisable point of view.[6] The text reads more like a divisional history of the LAH peppered with reportage from other members of the Division such as Erhard Gührs, Jochen Peiper and Georg Preuss. Kindler notes in detail each time a day of his service is recorded as contributing to his close combat count.[7] Much of the text is also a hagiography to Kindler’s battalion commander Jochen Peiper.[8]

Kindler appeared to be proud unrepentant Nazi who largely gives the Nazi party line on the war. For example, Polish aggression meant German had to invade that country in 1939 and Germany’s war on Russia was a defensive one to preempt a Soviet invasion.[9]

He also reported that the Russians committed ‘numerous incidents experienced by the panzer grenadiers of the LAH in which the Soviet committed serious breaches of the Geneva and Hague Conventions as regards land warfare…the Russians failed to comply with those agreements in force respecting the treatment of enemy prisoners.’[10] This was true but Kindler fails to address the criminal activity and war crimes committed by the LAH during his service for which there is overwhelming evidence.[11]

A good example of this is the Malmedy massacre. On 17 December 1944, during the German Ardennes offensive, members of the LAH shot 84 U.S. Army POWs near Baugnez in Belgium. This was one of several incidents during the offensive committed from mid-December 1944 and mid-January 1945 in which a total of 362 American POWs and 111 Belgian civilians were killed.[12] Kindler believed there was no ‘no actual proof against Peiper, or anyone else’ that they had committed these crimes.[13]

I found this account not worth the effort of reading it and I gave up half way through and skimmed the remainder. The veracity of the events is dubious, Kindler’s prose is turgid and this told me very little about the experience of the German soldier in the war. There are far more informative accounts by LAH veterans such as Herbert Maeger’s Lost Honour, Betrayed Loyalty or even more rewarding, Erwin Bartmann’s Für Volk and Führer.[14]



[1] Werner Kindler, Obedient unto Death (London: Frontline, 2019), p.xi.

[2] Ibid., p.xi.

[3] Ibid., p.1.

[4] Ibid., p.x.

[5] Review by Rafe McGregor.  Accessed 14.9.21.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Kindler, Obedient, pp.34, 41, 50

[8] Ibid., pp.48, 44, 119.

[9] Ibid., pp.4, 12.

[10] Ibid., p.41.

[11] Tim Ripley, SS Steel Storm: Waffen-SS Panzer Battles on the Eastern Front 1943–1945. (Osceola, Wis/USA: MBI Publishing, 2000), p. 73; Susan Zuccotti, Holocaust Odysseys: The Jews of Saint-Martin-Vesubie and Their Flight through France and Italy (New Haven/USA: Yale University Press, 2007), p.123; Danny Parker, Fatal Crossroads: The Untold Story of the Malmédy Massacre at the Battle of the Bulge. (Cambridge, MA/USA: Da Capo, 2014), pp. 356-357; Howard Margolian, Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2010), p.14.

[12]  Malmedy massacre Investigation — Report of the Subcommittee of Committee on Armed Services. United States Senate Eighty-first Congress, first session, pursuant to S. res. 42, Investigation of Action of Army with Respect to Trial of Persons Responsible for the Massacre of American Soldiers, Battle of the Bulge, near Malmedy, Belgium, December 1944. 13 October 1949.

[13] Kindler, Obedient, pp.180-181.

[14] Herbert Maeger, Lost Honour, Betrayed Loyalty (London: Frontline, 2018); Erwin Bartmann, Für Volk and Führer: The Memoir of a Veteran of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, (Solihull, UK: Helion & Co.,2013).