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Mercedes-Benz Parade and Staff Cars of the Third Reich: An Illustrated History, by Blaine Taylor, Combined Publishing, Conshohocken, Pa., 1999, $49.95.

It is an all-too-seldom occurrence when a book on what readily may appear as a subject of somewhat limited appeal strikes a chord among groups with divergent interests. Blaine Taylor has achieved such notoriety with this lavishly illustrated and exhaustively researched work on the Mercedes-Benz automobiles that transported Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis across Germany and conquered lands during the war years.

Both students of World War II and automobile enthusiasts will find this book fascinating. Its detailed text is illustrative of Taylor’s grasp of both the history of the Nazis and one of the world’s foremost auto makers. While the three-pointed star of Mercedes-Benz is recognized worldwide, the company’s Nazi-era history has probably never before been related so thoroughly.

Gleaming black Mercedes-Benz sedans carried Hitler and his cronies to party rallies and meetings, through the streets of conquered capitals and even close to the front lines on occasion. Technically advanced and luxurious, these vehicles became a symbol of Nazi power and authority in their own right. Later in the war, the vehicles were fitted with bulletproof glass and low-visibility headlights and were sometimes armed with machine guns to ward off strafing Allied fighter aircraft.

Along with a thorough treatment of those cars used by Hitler, Taylor also describes the conspicuous Mercedes-Benz autos owned by Deputy Führer and Luftwaffe Chief Hermann Göring. The most famous of Göring’s autos included a 1931 roadster and a massive Grosser Mercedes six-seat touring car.

An accomplished photo researcher, Taylor has presented many previously unpublished images from the private albums of Göring, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun and his chief photographer Heinrich Hoffman. Through words and images, Taylor provides the reader with a lavish treatment of this fascinating subject.

Adam Headley