PROPAGANDA KOMPANIEN – Reviewed by Phil Hodges


That’s how Mark at WHO HQ felt when I finally sent him this review! It was months in the making and as Mark would hound me to get this book reviewed and tucked away almost on a weekly basis I don’t blame him. However, I had good reason. This book looked, smelled and probably tasted so good I needed a good run of at least a week to devour and caress every page. I was like a child again with a big bag of sweets. I ate my way through all the other books in the bag and yet, every time I dipped my hand in i’d touch and see this great big shiny book. It was the giant gobstopper in the Jamboree bag and I was determined to save it until last and not to spoil my dinner.

So there it sat onn the mantle piece behind the carriage clock where my Mum put it till after I’d eaten all my liver and bacon! (rather you than me – Rev Ed)

It taunted me but I had to resist. If I left the table before finishing every other book on my plate I wouldn’t be allowed out to play. Finally, like a kid on Christmas Day, I took hold of this jewel of a book, opened it and chewed each page three times and, boy, did it taste good!

The Nazis were the masters of propaganda. They would spend millions of Reichmarks on newsreels, music, radio programmes and, of course, printed matter. But who took the cameras into the war zones? Who were the men behind the lenses?  The Propagandakompanien, that’s who.

Trained photographers, cameramen and technicians , geniuses in their own right before the war, these were the men whose service in the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS bought the German people ‘back home’ face to face with Hitler’s war machine and might. The PK were as well trained and efficient as there rifle wielding comrades. They were at the forefront of every major German battlefront and some not so major. Choosing to look through a camera lens instead of a rifle sight, these men were diehards in their trades and you will discover as you read the book that they suffered just as much. Many were injured and some killed in the quest of the perfect story. Small in number and yet with a massive impact; it really was an elite unit. From the Luftwaffe cameraman to the Kriegsmarine photographer and the Heer reporter, all were chosen for their skills and professionalism.

The outstanding thing that truly hit me about this book as I glided through the pages like an overexcited child thumbing through a pop up book is of the hundred or so pictures in it I’d only ever seen a handful before. This is some going as I have shelf upon shelf of books on all manner of German subjects. Most of the pictures are unseen until now so hold your breath and hang on. From combat shots to funny incidents to poignant moments, this book has them all, backed up by an amazing text to guide you through all the way.

The work rate of the PK men; often tired and working to exhausting deadlines amazed even the hardened soldiers around them. I will never look at a copy of Signal or Der Adler in the same way again.

The book is expertly written in a style that I can honestly say is unique and has you turning the page in wonder time and time again. It is broken down into 3 main sections.

Preparation, Development and Training; the Propaganda Companies of the Wehrmacht and Campaigns through the prism of the Propaganda Companies. This features the four main campaigns of the book: Poland, Norway, France and Russia. There is an excellent glossary and the acknowledgments and sources throughout the book equally make for fantastic reading. Mr Férard leaves no stone unturned in this amazing book and his choice of photographs WILL leave you breathless. It is an absolute MUST for anyone interested in WW2 subjects whether German or Allied. It’s a wave of knowledge on uniforms and equipment and a stylish look at vehicles and life in Nazi occupied Europe. Do I love this book? Let’s just say I’d give it my last Rolo.

Reviewed by Phil Hodges for War History Online

PK War Reporters of the Third Reich
By Nicolas Ferard
Histoire et Collections
ISBN: 978 235250 336 1

Phil Hodges

Phil Hodges is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE