Book Review: Military or civilians? The curious anomaly of the German Women’s Auxiliary Services during the Second World War by Alison Morton

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

I was contacted by Ms. Morton about reading and reviewing her book: Military or civilians? The curious anomaly of the German Women’s Auxiliary Services during the Second World War and jumped at the opportunity as the subject matter of the book, German Woman serving with the Wehrmacht is one that has been virtually ignored in English scholarship as she rightly points out in her introduction and demonstrates by including the text of an email she received from the director of the Imperial War Museum in which he demonstrates total ignorance about any female auxiliaries used by the Germans in WWII.  The timing of me learning of this book could not be more fortuitous as an article about this subject recently appeared in the Journal of Military History, which peaked my interest in the topic.1

The book is adapted from Ms. Morton’s MA Thesis and you can tell this while reading it. This gives it a somewhat dry tone but that does not really take away from the work’s readability.    The book is not very long, I have the Kindle version and I would guess that it only runs to 100 or so pages printed out as a Trade Paperback.  That being said, Ms. Morton covers the topic of German Auxiliaries in WWII in some depth.  The book is organized into four thematic chapters that present a very holistic view of the participation and use of German women by the WWII Wehrmacht.

The book covers the recrutiment, organization, employment and postwar perceptions of these women and does so in a very interesting manner.  This is an excellent look at an understudied aspect of German military policy in WWII.  It cannot be argued that the German use of up to 500,000 women to free up men for Front-line service did not materially effect the length of the war at a minimum.  500,000 men is essentially the equivalent of another Field Army that women’s use as rear-area troops made available.  As the author points out in her introduction; given the historical attention paid to US and British military women in WWII it is odd in the extreme that the German use of women has been ignored.

Overall, this is an excellent study of an ignored topic.  It is also a topic that needs even more study so that a full appreciation of the effects of women’s service in the Wehrmacht can be appreciated.  This book is a strong beginning for what can and should be a fruitful area of historical scholarship.

1.  Karen Hagemann, “Mobilizing Women for War: The History, Historiography, and Memory of German Women’s War Service in the Two World Wars,” The Journal of Military History 75 #4 (October 2011): 1055-1093.