comments 10

Bolt Action- I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier

What is it ‘exactly’ about painting miniatures of the SS that makes me uneasy? It may seem obvious but is it? Could the fascination with the dark side of human nature be something more than mere goulishness?

The typical wargamers’ response of ‘ they were the fighting arm, and not responsible’ for the horrors rings hollow. Were the SS any worse than their World War One compatriots on the Eastern Front? Were the crimes of the SS different to our Turkish NATO allies currently executing female prisoners of war around Afrin?

Perhaps the situation is similar to watching horror films or gangster movies, we get some macabre satisfaction from following pycopathic thugs? And yet only a few in society actually act out these actions or seek to immitate them. The favourite park of my childhood , Morgan Jones’ , is named after a wartime pacifist and this always troubled me. Was Jones superior because he would conceivably sit motionless, cowering whilst his family were slaughtered around him? I think it was Jung who said that those who are not capable of cruelty are absolutely a victim to anyone who is.

Are then our anti-heroes part of ourselves part of oneself, crying out for the incorporation of the monster within? Recognising that all of us are capable of such violence is perhaps then a necessary first step. Perhaps Stalin ,  Hitler and Mao weren’t so distant from us as we might like to believe. Recognising this, allows us self-respect. How can respect yourself unless you realise that you could be dangerous, that other people too need to respect you because in Jordan Peterson’s words, ” you have teeth.” That does not mean that one must be cruel. Being able to be cruel, and not being cruel, is the superior position. Not to understand what humanity is capable of is weak and child-like. To be dangerous and under control is the real skill. I shall keep painting miniatures as a consequence…

Miniatures by Warlord Games. Philosophy, with apologies to Dr. J Peterson.


  1. I personally have no problems painting or playing SS units.

    I think the problems for most comes from the fact that the guards at concentration camps were provided by the SS, which taints them as whole (although it was a different branch of the SS). There is also the fact that SS units were responsible for a higher number of warcrimes than other units. But at the same time, there were SS units that were never associated with warcrimes. At the same time there were Wehrmacht unit, which no one seems to have problems painting or playing, that committed warcrimes as well.
    Same applies for the allies, which people have no problems playing either. The soviets were quite notorious as well. Looking at the invasion of Poland, their crimes were not just confined to retaliation to German actions. And I am sure, even the western allies were not always beyond retaliation or rape.

    In the end we have to ask ourselves, if we want a complete picture of history when playing a historical game, or just a snippet. But we have to keep one thing in mind. We are trying to turn one of the most gruesome aspects of human life (war) into an enjoyable pastime. There is no morally clean way to do that. So since we are on that slippery slope already, I would rather have a complete picture than a snippet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Roger that! Good points all. So many more questions stem from this. For instance, can you be a noble warrior in the service of an evil!? To what extent are “utopian” ideologies, by which I include both the ideologies of communism and nazism, responsible for such slaughter?
      Thanks so much for commenting- very interesting

      Liked by 1 person

      • Louen

        Hm, I’m one of those that have no problem woth others playing SS units, but have stayed clear from playig them myself. Yes, not all of them were monsters, yes there were inhumane acts commited by other branches & factions, but where I see the diffence is that the SS ideology praised genocide, etc. Something you don’t find in a Wehrmacht or Allied handbook.
        IMHO, there is no nobility or honour found in the SS.
        Undortunately, after so many years, people tend to forget or simply never learn about what happened. There are plenty of people here in the US that don’t really know what the holocaust was or when it happened. Some even deny it completely. For these, it’s all too easy to be misguided by the cool and elegant looks of the so-called German fighting elite, as which the SS is often portayed in newer publications – I know, I was one of those misguided folks once, (at like 14 years old when I was still living in Switzerland).
        The book “Die Moorsoldaten: 13 Monate Konzentrationslager” by Wolfgang Langhoff was quite the eyeopener for me and I cannot suggest it enough. The SS was a bad batch from the very beginning.

        I wish I could explain it better, but I’m lacking the eloquence that is standard on this blog 🙂

        So, in a nut shell, I don’t have a problem with anyone playing SS figures. I’ve just chosen not to myself. – Also, I can’t think of how I would justify it to my kids, if they ever asked me why I was playing the SS, after they’ve learned about the crimes the SS committed.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thoughtful as always my friend! You are in good company- I’ve come across quite a few gamers who don’t object but prefer not to play them theirselves. The closest I come to nerd rage is when , usually the younger players, turn up with Communist icons on clothing and little knowledge of the terrors that lurk behind such ideology. Thankfully, fewer gamers come in Nazi regalia but there have been a few of them too……..


    • Not at all. At least you know they are there. It’s usually months later when I re-read something that I find mine. Unless Mark Fry points them out of course!
      Great points btw!
      Keep in touch


  2. Nice work and photos, and intriguing discussion. Reflecting history is one thing, emotionally embracing evil is completely different. Many SS were evil beyond compare, as have been so many others throughout history, sadly. I think that gaming does not elevate evil SS and their ilk, but showing up at a con in an SS uniform would.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mark. One of the plusses of wargaming has been, I think, that a good set of rules exposes some myths. For example, many ss formations weren’t superlative warriors and a few drew on ethnic groups that did not fit with their ethnic criteria

      Liked by 1 person

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