Reitlinger's history of the SS is thorough and authoritative- but it is also a full-scale attack upon a popular fraud and it is especially a piece of brilliant political analysis. The history traces the SS from its inception as a police guard of about 200 members of its emergence over a decade later as a force of a half million with a wide diversity of functions. The SS possessed its own divisions in the field, the ubiquitous Gestapo office, and ran the death camps. This was in addition to such projects as Germanic archaeology, the cultivation of wild rubber roots and medicinal herbs, the control of night clubs. In the end, the SS was an example of bureaucracy gone mad. The fraud Reitlinger mercilessly scotches is that the SS concealed its operations from the political and military leaders. This fraud has been assiduously propagated since the downfall of Hitler to enable Nazis to deny their knowledge of- and hence complicity in- the SS strocities. And all this- his scholarship as an historian and his demolition of the fraud- is only a small part of Reitlinger's achievement. His major effort goes into demonstrating the role of the SS at the top levels of Nazi policy and administration. In reality, the book concerns Hitler, Goering, Bormann, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Doenitz, and conflicts and pressures and manipulations and murder plots within the Party hierarchy. If the structure and activities of the SS (there is a lengthy, almost unbearable section on the death camps) are carefully expounded, the SS is seem primarily as an instrument and embodiment of the inner political and personal views of the total Nazi regime.... Reitlinger, who wrote The Final Solution, writes here in a very mixed genre- but his book is as fascinating as it is meticulous, and as perceptive as it is horrifying.