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Editorial Reviews

"An extraordinary book, which has captured the attention of all of Europe" ( New York Times)
" Legion of the Damned is an incredible picture of totalitarianism, of stupefying injustice... He is graphic, at times brilliantly so, but never brutal or bitter. He is, too, a first-rate storyteller" ( Washington Post)

Publisher's Summary

Convicted of deserting the German army, Sven Hassel is sent to a penal regiment on the Russian Front. He and his comrades are regarded as expendable, cannon fodder in the battle against the implacable Red Army. Outnumbered and outgunned, they fight their way across the frozen steppe....

This iconic anti-war novel is a testament to the atrocities suffered by the lone soldier in the fight for survival. Sven Hassel's unflinching narrative is based on his own experiences in the German Army. He began writing his first novel, Legion of the Damned, in a prisoner of war camp at the end of the Second World War. Read by Rupert Degas.

©1957 Sven Hassel (P)2014 Orion Publishing Group

What listeners say about Legion of the Damned

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Limitless suffering for the battle hardened.

For those who love a brutal,crass trench story of Ww2 without the glory and pomp. Fabulously gritty and dark.

1 person found this helpful

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good listen

love this series of books! Sven is amazing with words. good book to read and listen to

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Emotionally excellent

I have listened to this book multiple times and the heart wrenching chronicles of these soldiers are truly and excellently brought to life by Rupert Degas.

The tales and voice of Porta have made me laugh and laugh.

I would recommend this book to anyone with any interest in WW2.

Please get Rupert Degas to narrate the wrest of Sven Hassle’s English translations. This book and Wheels of terror are easily the best.

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awesome

I read his books a long time ago and they had a huge influence on me. now listening to them with the performance makes the book truly come alive.

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Graphic

This book is very graphic in details about the trails and friendship within the WW2 German 27 penal battalion

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  • Parola138
  • 08-11-2015

A great, literary war novel

There is a certain type of universal, everyman war novel that transcends nationality. While "All Quiet on the Western Front," is considered a literary war classic, I was surprised to find that I liked this book better. For anyone who has read Johnny Got His Gun, The Things they Carried, The Painted Bird or Farewell to Arms, you will find yourself stepping into similar themes. Exhaustion. Torture. Horrors of war. Comedy. Rare, odd bits of humanity. I did not expect this book to be anything better than a general war story, but its actually very well-written and much more literary than I'd expected. The author spices the story with his insights and grudges against war more overtly than in books like Farewell to Arms. After having read so many war books, I don't have high expectations towards encountering new ones. This one really took me by surprise and I loved every minute of it. On top of that, the narrator is superb. Couldn't have found someone more perfect. I will definitely read more books by this author as they come available on audible.

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  • Mark Keogh
  • 28-12-2020

Moving

First read this 40 years ago. Better than I remembered & I thought it was great then. Looking forward to rest of series.

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  • krawle
  • 08-12-2018

A classic book about the 2nd world war and life.

I read all the Sven Hassell books back in the 1980's and loved them.
This book is a commentary about life during the 2nd world War and the social order at that time, (which is still relevant today).
The war was hell for the soldiers and it is interesting see how the 2 sides worked together to circumvent the leaders and survive the conflict.
When I look at authority figures today, I compare them to the officers in this book and shake my head.
Enjoy this book as I have, and learn a few life lessons.

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  • Bonefish101
  • 12-07-2016

strayed from the novel

not bad, I grew up reading Sven Hassell, all of them. this story strays from the novel considerably. a bit too much filler and not enough action for me.

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  • John
  • 01-11-2014

A revelation.

This is a powerful account of the madness and dehumanisation of war. It is quite old fashioned, written in a very telling and sometimes passive style, but it is very moving, especially when the protagonist returns to the front after hospital. I don't care how much of it is true, the anti-war message is strong and it is not the boys own adventure I thought it would be for all those years.

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  • hfffoman
  • 21-01-2015

Either a fraud or a fantasy

What about Rupert Degas’s performance did you like?

Everything. It was a brilliant performance. Unfortunately this is the second bad book I have chosen purely for the narrator. I wish they picked him for some better books.

Any additional comments?

We have all heard that the WWII Russian front was one of the nearest things there has ever been to hell on earth and reading an autobiographical account of it promised to be both enlightening and fascinating. At first it was. The hero seemed to give an honest account, full of humble reflections, of the extraordinary suffering and extraordinary heroics in which he had become embroiled. Unfortunately it was too extraordinary. The further I read, the more incredible became the exploits of bullet-dodging Sven, his friends and their uniform-wearing, vodka-drinking cat who was happy to live in a greatcoat pocket in a tank in the middle of roaring artillery.

A bit of research shows that it was certainly not an autobiographical account. It is possible that the author fought in the war and wrote a fictional account in which some (probably a minority) of the events were real. But there is evidence that he neither fought in the war nor even wrote the book himself, but paid someone else to write it based on second hand stories he had picked up.

So shouldn't we just read it as a novel and enjoy it, like All quiet on the Western front? That seems to be a popular view since this Danish book has enjoyed its greatest success among English readers. I would guess that the English enjoy reading about a Danish German soldier who not only loathes the Nazis but constantly slates nearly everything about the German military while killing an astronomical number of Russians.

That won't do. The book is not presented as fiction. It contains many comments about his thoughts as a writer looking back on real events which strongly suggest it is autobiographical. Many reviewers seem to have been taken in by this, as I was. Once you take away the autobiographical side of it, there isn't much left. To be one of about three survivors from a 6,000 regiment is impressive in real life. In fiction it is cheap. All Quiet on the Western Front is fiction but it is not exaggerated. We learn a great deal about the war from reading it. Legion of the Damned is so exaggerated we cannot extract any truth from it. It is simply a fantasy.

I give it two stars instead of one because the anti-war message was thought-provoking, though rather simplistic. He says all generals and their political associates are corrupt, soldiers in all armies should rebel and military spending should be switched to cars and houses. Of course he was talking about the Nazis 70 years ago who have nothing in common with today's generals and leaders. However, he makes one point we should not be smug about, that many powerful men benefit from the fighting in numerous ways and at times fall prey to destructive self interest. Anyone who believes the British are immune to this should read the introduction to Pakenham's history of the Boer war, titled "Milner's War". I get the same feeling sometimes when I listen to senior military on the Today Programme insisting that the £60 billion Britain paid for the Afghanistan war was money well spent.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Lee
  • 19-08-2021

Excellent

I found this book to be superb. The story is great, but it is the narration by Rupert Degas that makes it special.

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  • Agamemnon
  • 09-08-2021

Passes the time, but it is no literary masterpiece

Although it is not a bad book, it certainly is no masterpiece. If this is the work of one of Denmark's most popular authors, then it doesn't say much for the rest of them.

The story itself is just one long amble of mostly horrific events and it feels like the WW2 this character takes part in must have went on for about 40 years. I know it is a work of fiction, based on the writers experiences (although there is a lot of controversy regarding his claims)... but the book tries to cram sooooooo much in that it feels impossible that one person could possibly have experienced that much.

The descriptive writing and dialogue is actually really good and is what kept me interested in the book, along with the brilliance of Degass' flawless narration. I really can't rate him highly enough as a narrator. He manages to give multiple different German accents that are both unique and convey every morsel of emotion with ease.

If you are into war stories then it is worth a listen... but won't blow you away.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-06-2021

Great book!

Such great detail of what happened to him! and his opinions of the world at that time.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 14-04-2020

Fantastic tale, superb narration

Absolutely gripped from start to finish. The narration was perfect, the story harrowing. Very much looking forward to the next in the series

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  • Graham Taylor
  • 01-12-2018

Afternoon reading

This book has a good story line with no glossing over of the subject it is about

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  • David
  • 05-07-2018

A tear jerker

Even though it was written a number of years ago, I found that the message about the horrors of war and man's inhumanity to man is still relevant. It is a shame not all of the books have been translated. I have read them all, but enjoy listening when I am driving. 100000 miles a year. Audible keeps me sane.

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  • TKJ
  • 13-06-2017

Gripping account of German tank regiment

Another excellent listen from Sven Hassel ....
Simply brilliant stuff for sure .....
Real life factual stories from a German perspective.
Well done .

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  • phphoto
  • 17-05-2017

Great story but let down by narrator

The narrator was not easy to understand sometimes and the volume spikes were a nuisance too.

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