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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Wednesday 18 September 2019

The interpreter - Colonel Eugen Dollmann

SS Colonel Eugen Dollmann was the Rome based interpreter who linked together the German-Italian axis during the Second World War. He was present at most of the key meetings between Hitler and Mussolini as well as many other high-level gatherings. His memoirs should, therefore, give some insight into this unequal relationship.

Sadly, the primary insight you get from these memoirs is into the personality of Dollmann himself. As Michael Salter puts it, Dollmann was a "self serving opportunist who prostituted himself to fascism'. Even more ironic, he was a closet homosexual serving a regime that sent gay men to the gas chambers in their thousands.

I had hoped his memoirs might add to my understanding of key meetings between Hitler and Mussolini, such as the Brenner Pass meeting in March 1940. Instead of the meeting itself, we get the author's observations of the participants and snippets of gossip. Mussolini's reluctance to go to war in March 1940 is summed up in this quote from the meeting. "The Duce, who had found his tongue again, pointed to the heavy snowflakes and declared that he would need snow as far south as Etna if he were ever to turn his Italians into a race of warriors."

Instead of strategic decisions, we are told that Eva Braun loved crocodile.

That's not to say that the stories he tells are not entertaining. For example, Heydrich when visiting Rome acted out his sexual fantasy of throwing gold coins around a room of naked hookers. Dollmann was a pimp as well.

A fair number of his observations are clearly written with the benefit of hindsight. He also puts himself at the centre of events, not just as a translator. In fairness, he clearly did have a wider role, but probably not quite as wide as he claimed. For example, he claimed to have a key role in organising the Italian 'M' Division, a sort of Italian Leibstandarte. Given he had no military experience this can at best have been a liaison role. Although, I hadn't realised this unit included 36 Tiger tanks. One can only imagine what the German instructors thought about this use of key assets in 1943.

There are a few gems in this book, which is at least entertaining. As the historian Dennis Showalter puts it; "His insider's perspective may be embellished, but is never tedious".

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