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Reign of Hell

Chapter by chapter - Book covers - Other languages - Quotes

Introduction to Reign of Hell

Possibly not the greatest Sven Hassel book but lots of generally entertaining anecdotes, including the sight of Satan playing cards with the commandant at Sennelager!

The general theme of the book is the Warsaw Uprising but, in typical Sven fashion, we don't actually get there till the last few chapters. Then there's some very nasty descriptions of Dirlewanger and Kaminski's SS brigades.

Reign of Hell chapter by chapter:

1. The Camp At Sennelager
Explanation of penal battalions. Section waiting at a railway station and playing cards with French and British POWs. Porta has a collection of war souvenirs ready for trade with the Americans. Tiny tries to adopt a horse. Heide gets set up on a charge but Lt Löwe gets him out of trouble. Talk about the Commandant of Sennelager, Count von Gernstein and his commune with the Devil. Delivery of men for 999 battalion at Sennelager. Lots of dead among the men. Löwe gets into a dispute with their guard. The prisoners/volunteers are marched off to the prison. Tiny spots Gestapo Lutz from Paris and decides to deal with him personally. Inspection by Staff-Sergeant Hoffmann. Wolf interrupts. Lots of stories of life at Sennelager. Story of Lieutenant-Colonel Schramm, the camp executioner. Gregor, Sven and Tiny see Satan standing at von Gernstein's window! Repercussions of this. Wolf and Porta extract information about a hidden stash of black market goods from an ex-general amongst the prisoners.

2. Deserters
Dirlewanger and Berger. Regiment moves to marshland near Matoryta. Inspection by new divisional commander, and a stirring speech! Drunkenness in sergeant's mess gets out of hand. Löwe to the rescue again. Talk about WUs (Wehrmacht Unwürdig - unworthy of army service). Trenches at the front. Description of Siberian snipers and Porta's response. Russian propaganda. Offer of sanctuary for 999 battalion soldiers. Some of them plan to take up the offer and desert to the Russians. Reprisals follow.

3. The Major From The Pioneer Corps
Story of Polish civilians forced to clear mines. Back to the marshes. The local wildlife has to get used to the fighting. Russians attack across the marsh... with tanks. Close anti-tank fighting. Tiny takes a Russian prisoner and makes friends with him! Lots of fighting. Sven gets a new pair of boots from a dead Russian. Encounter with British SS unit. Tiny explains his trick of acting stupid. Long march. Mission behind the Russian lines. Old Man insists on investigating in detail (while everyone else just wants to get back to safety). Porta and Tiny do some corpse looting. Another attack is planned. Description of Pioneers. Porta's meeting with the Pioneer's Major! The Major starts ordering people to attack the Russians in a generally suicidal manner.

4. Down The Side Of The Mountain
Story of Kaminski. Preparation for another mission. This time the section has to hold a position on a mountain. They have plenty of ammunition which excites Tiny. They are led by a 'dodery old colonel' who hasn't a clue how to give orders. Old Man effectively takes over command. Comment about Heide ending up as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Russian army after the war. Attack by Mongol soldiers. Fun with the colonel and his complaints about Tiny and Heide. Tanks attack up the hill. Porta eats a couple of tins of meat and drinks a bottle of stolen sake. More anti-tank fighting and then the headlong retreat down the side of the mountain. Hiding in a Polish forest.

5. The Pole
Progress through the forest. Heide cleans himself up to the amazement of everyone who doesn't know him. Wounded private wants to surrender to the Russians. Old Man deals with him. To hide from the Russians the section buries itself under leaves and soft earth. Sven almost suffocates. Lack of food. Porta starts making up menus until the Old Man shuts him up. One of the new recruits deserts and is shot dead by the dreaded Siberians as he tries to surrender. Ladislas Mnasko, the Pole, turns up. His house is occupied by Cossacks. Section sets off to liberate it in exchange for help in crossing the river. Long wait while the Cossacks drink themselves into a stupour. Porta is anxious about their roast beef being burnt! Terrible discoveries in the house. The Pole's wife and son have been killed by the Cossacks. Revenge is taken.

6. The Way Over The River
Start of the Warsaw Uprising and Himmler's response. Ladislas the Pole takes everyone to a 'crossing place'... which turns out to be a fallen tree trunk across an abyss. The Pole and his sister cross and Tiny follows and nearly doesn't make it. Slowly, everyone crosses in all sorts of different ways and various amounts of drama. Return to German lines and encounter with children in SS uniforms, who manage to shoot Barcelona by mistake (he's only wounded). Section sets off for Warsaw taking in some anti-tank fighting along the way. Story of Tania the Russian doctor. Sven is hit in the neck by a bullet and is convinced he will be paralysed. He tries to get treatment but is accused of attempted desertion. Encounter with friendly MP (now there's a first).

7. At The Sign Of The Welcoming Goat
Himmler, Berger and Dirlewanger. Warsaw. Gregor and Porta discuss the war and the English. Streetfighting. Visit to The Sign Of The Welcoming Goat (where Porta has some sort of business deal with Piotr the Ukranian patron). They eat boiled crow and cutlet of dog. Encounter between army padre and badly disfigured captain. Various skirmishes. The padre is killed. Porta, Sven and Tiny set off to find food. Porta describes his Bouillabaisse.

8. The Brothel
More about the Warsaw Uprising. Visit to The Kaiser's Night Cap (the most elegant brothel between the Volga and the Rhine). Confrontation with the Madame. Heide has a fight with a parrot. Uule Heikkinen and half a dozen of his Finnish guerilla fighters arrive and start demanding whores. Various adventures before they succeed in their quest. Sven ends up with a girl he reckons is a spy. The brothel is bombed and everyone flees. Porta hands Madame a bundle of suspiciously new looking Roubles.

9. The Cemetery Of Wola
Story of the Polish divisions trying to relieve Warsaw. Street fighting. Description of the fighting at Wola. Civilians thrown out of their houses by Dirlewanger and Kiminski Brigade SS men. Dirlewanger and Kiminski meet and start trying to outdo each other. Civilians are killed and various acts of torture and violence described. Tiny goes and captures a Dirlewanger Unterscharführer and wants to take revenge on him. The Old Man takes control as usual. More back and forth fighting with the Poles. Mention of camouflage smoke/gas. Section is issued with 'P64' tanks. Sven's tank is hit and the crew abandon (except for Sven who has to destroy the remains). Retreat into the sewers. When they get out again the section is forced to crew an SS Tiger. Once again it is disabled and Sven has to destroy it but the mechanism fails. He eventually manages to blow up the tank in entertaining style. Tiny and Porta go scavenging and get back with half a pig in tow. They have seen Dorn from Torgau and he has seen them. Old Man warns them of the danger. Porta and Tiny disappear with the pig... and Dorn turns up with Löwe and three MPs looking for it. Löwe basically ignores Dorn.

10. The End Of The Race
End of the Uprising. Tiny gets hold of a pair of racing cats ("Food!" says Porta) and persuades the section to arrange a competition (with lots of betting money involved of course). Racing commences. Discussion of animals/pets in general! Further fighting and corpse clearing duties. Porta has a confrontation with a medical corps Colonel... who then gets himself shot. End of the Uprising.

Reign of Hell book covers

(Click links to view)
Finnish cover for Petetty Armeija (Book Studio Oy)
Swedish cover for Kommando Reichsführer Himmler
English cover for Reign Of Hell (Corgi)
French cover for Kommando Reichsfuhrer Himmler
English cover for Reign Of Hell
English cover for Reign of Hell 1979 Allison & Busby Edition
Dutch cover for Kommando Reichsfurer Himmler
Italian cover for Commando Himmler
Italian cover for Commando Himmler
Spanish cover for Comando Reichsfuhrer Himmler

Reign of Hell in other languages

Danish:Kommando Reichsführer HimmlerFrench:Kommando Reichsfuhrer Himmler
Finnish:Petetty armeijaNorwegian:Kommando Reichfuhrer Himmler
Swedish:Kommando Reichsfürer HimmlerDutch:Kommando Reichsfurer Himmler
Spanish:Comando Reichsfuhrer HimmlerRomanian:Imperiul iadului
Italian:Commando HimmlerGerman:x
Turkish:Cehennem Kralligi  

Selected quotes from Reign of Hell

Tiny is interrogated after reports that the commandant of Sennelager has been playing cards with the Devil!:

"The Lieutenant walked across to Tiny and stood thoughtfully regarding him for a moment.

'Corporal Creutzfeldt,' he said. 'Did you by any chance have anything to drink before going on duty tonight?'

'Certainly, sir.' Tiny assumed an expression of imbecilic wisdom and counted up on his fingers. 'Four bocks and a couple of glasses of kummel.'

'A couple, Corporal Creutzfeldt?'

'Well - two or three. Four or five... Say a round half dozen,' said Tiny, obligingly.

'In other words, Corporal, you were drunk?'

'No more than usual,' said Tiny, stoutly.

'Am I to infer from that remark that you are habitually drunk, when you go on duty, Corporal Creutzfeldt?'

Tiny paused gravely to consider the matter.

'Well, yes,' he said, at last. 'But not so's you'd notice it.'"

"Away to my left, Gregor was in the middle of telling Lenzing some long and garbled story of how he had once moved a grand piano from the fifth floor of a house down a spiral staircase without getting so much as a scratch on it. Somehow a brothel and a naked Swedish whore with breasts like pumpkins came into the story as well, but for the life of me I couldn't make out quite how, and neither, from the look on his face, could Lenzing."

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