THE LEGION OF THE DAMNED by Sven Hassel

THE LEGION OF THE DAMNED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The legion of the damned"" was the German penal battalion in which the author, a Dane, found himself after having spent several months in concentration camps on a charge of desertion. The narrative, made up of fragmentary experiences rather than a complete and unified series of events, speaks symbolically for the horrible and ridiculous aspects of war, which are its main concern, for Hassel and his few battalion companions are the only connecting links in a series of night- marish happenings. Described in some detail, the months in concentration camps leave one with sickening impressions of the sadism created among Nazi officialdom. It was a life of non sequiturs too; Hassel was working towards his release on a live bomb demolition squad when he was suddenly told his record was no longer valid and then unaccountably transferred to the penal battalion. Their tour of duty was in Russia, leading attacks and making up the rear guard in retreats. Their duty was not without relief either; in Vienna on leave, Hassel married Uraula who was too frightened of the future even to admit she loved him, and later learned of her death at the hands of the Nazis in Munich. Captivity and imprisonment by the Russians, escape, injury under fire and hospitalization followed for Hassel and though there is with these the growing conviction of German defeat it is not a happy and triumphant prospect but an idea of the future filtered through the wary thoughts of a man who has witnessed life at its most meaningless. For the market, another record of World War II brutality the effect of which is both softened and deepened by compassion and a narrative skill in characterizing through conversation.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus