Insignia of the Dirlewanger Brigade
|Role||Bandenbekämpfung (security warfare; literally "gang fighting")|
|Size|| Brigade |
36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS
|Engagements||World War II|
The Dirlewanger Brigade, also known as the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger (1944), : 36. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS), was a unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II. The unit was led by Oskar Dirlewanger and was composed of criminals that expected to die fighting on the front line. Originally formed for counter-insurgency duties against the Polish resistance movement, it was used in the Bandenbekämpfung ("bandit fighting") actions in German-occupied Europe. During operations, the unit engaged in pillaging and mass murder of civilians.or the 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (German
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
The Waffen-SS was the armed wing of the Nazi Party's SS organisation. Its formations included men from Nazi Germany, along with volunteers and conscripts from both occupied and un-occupied lands.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
The unit participated in some of World War II's most notorious campaigns of terror in Belarus, where it carved out a reputation within the Waffen-SS for committing atrocities. Numerous army and SS commanders attempted to remove Dirlewanger from the SS and disband the unit, although he had patrons within the Nazi apparatus who intervened on his behalf. His unit took part in the destruction of Warsaw, and the massacre of ~100,000 of the city's population during the Warsaw Uprising; and participated in the brutal suppression of the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. Dirlewanger's formation generated fear throughout Waffen-SS organizations, including the SS-Führungshauptamt (SS Command Headquarters) and earned notoriety as the most criminal and heinous SS unit in Hitler's war machine.
Belarus, officially the Republic of Belarus, formerly known by its Russian name Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.
The destruction of Warsaw was Nazi Germany's substantially-effected razing of the city after the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. The uprising had infuriated German leaders, who decided to make an example of the city, which they had long since selected for major reconstruction as part of their planned Germanization of Central Europe.
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation, in the summer of 1944, by the Polish underground resistance, led by the Home Army, to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German forces from Poland ahead of the Soviet advance. While approaching the eastern suburbs of the city, the Red Army temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and defeat the Polish resistance and to raze the city in reprisal. The Uprising was fought for 63 days with little outside support. It was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II.
The history of the Dirlewanger Brigade is inextricably linked to the life of its commander, Oskar Dirlewanger, a known sadist, often called the most evil man in the SS.After receiving the Iron Cross first and second class while serving in the Army of Württemberg during World War I, Dirlewanger joined the Freikorps and took part in the crushing of the German Revolution of 1918–19. He joined the Nazi Party in 1923. After graduation from Citizens' University, Dirlewanger worked at a bank and a knitwear factory. He became a violent alcoholic, and in 1934 was convicted of the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl and stealing government property. The Nazi Party expelled him and later compelled him to reapply for membership. After serving a two-year jail sentence, Dirlewanger was released. Soon after, he was arrested again for sexual assault. He was interned in a concentration camp. Desperate, Dirlewanger contacted Gottlob Berger, an old Freikorps comrade who worked closely with Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. Berger secured his friend's release, after which he travelled to Spain to enlist in the Spanish Foreign Legion. He later transferred to the Condor Legion, a German unit which fought in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) for Franco's Falange Española .
Sadistic personality disorder is a personality disorder involving sadism which appeared in an appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R). The later versions of the DSM do not include it.
The Iron Cross is a former military decoration in the Kingdom of Prussia, and later in the German Empire (1871–1918) and Nazi Germany (1933–1945). It was established by King Frederick William III of Prussia in March 1813 backdated to the birthday of his late wife Queen Louise on 10 March 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars. Louise was the first person to receive this decoration (posthumously). The recommissioned Iron Cross was also awarded during the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, and World War II . The Iron Cross was normally a military decoration only, though there were instances of it being awarded to civilians for performing military functions. Two examples of this were civilian test pilots Hanna Reitsch who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class and Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for their actions as pilots during World War II.
The army of the German state of Württemberg was until 1918 known in Germany as the Württembergische Armee.
After returning to Germany in 1939, Dirlewanger joined the Allgemeine SS (General-SS) with the rank of SS- Untersturmführer . In mid-1940, following the invasion of Poland, Berger arranged for Dirlewanger to train a partisan-hunting military unit under his own control, composed of men convicted of poaching.
The Allgemeine SS was a major branch of the Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany, and it was managed by the SS Main Office (SS-Hauptamt). The Allgemeine SS was officially established in the autumn of 1934 to distinguish its members from the SS-Verfügungstruppe, which later became the Waffen-SS, and the SS-Totenkopfverbände, which were in charge of the Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps, where millions were killed.
Untersturmführer was a paramilitary rank of the German Schutzstaffel (SS) first created in July 1934. The rank can trace its origins to the older SA rank of Sturmführer which had existed since the founding of the SA in 1921. The rank of Untersturmführer was senior to Hauptscharführer and junior to the rank of Obersturmführer.
The Invasion of Poland, known in Poland as the September Campaign or the 1939 Defensive War, and in Germany as the Poland Campaign (Polenfeldzug), was an invasion of Poland by Germany that marked the beginning of World War II. The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September following the Molotov–Tōgō agreement that terminated the Soviet and Japanese Battles of Khalkhin Gol in the east on 16 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty.
On 23 March 1940 a department in the Ministry of Justice received a telephone call from Himmler's headquarters informing them that Hitler had made a decision to give "suspended sentences to so-called 'honorable poachers' and, depending on their behaviour at the front, to pardon them". A further confirmation of Hitler's order was sent specifying that the poachers should insofar as possible be Bavarian and Austrian, not be guilty of crimes involving trap setting, and were to be enrolled in marksmen's rifle corps.The men were to combine their knowledge of hunting and woodcraft similar to traditional Jäger elite riflemen with the courage and initiative of those who willingly broke the law. In late May 1940 Dirlewanger was sent to Oranienburg to take charge of 80 selected men convicted of poaching crimes who were temporarily released from their sentences. After two months training, 55 men were selected with the rest sent back to prison. On 14 June 1940, the Wilddiebkommando Oranienburg ("Oranienburg Poacher's Unit") was formed as part of the Waffen-SS. Himmler made Dirlewanger its commander. The unit was sent to Poland where it was joined by four Waffen-SS NCOs selected for their previous disciplinary records and twenty other recruits.
A Schützenverein is in a local voluntary association found in German-speaking countries revolving around shooting as a sport, often target shooting to Olympic rules or with historic weapons. Although originating as a town militia, a Schützenverein has no military aspects and in many cases often has a more social than sporting purpose.
The term woodcraft — or woodlore — denotes skills and experience in matters relating to living and thriving in the woods—such as hunting, fishing, and camping—whether on a short- or long-term basis. Traditionally, woodcraft pertains to subsistence lifestyles, with implications of hunting-gathering. In more recent times, and in developed countries, it relates more to either outdoor recreationalism or survivalism.
Oranienburg is a town in Brandenburg, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Oberhavel.
From the beginning the formation attracted criticism from both the Nazi Party and the SS for the idea that convicted criminals who were forbidden to carry arms, therefore then exempt from conscription in the Wehrmacht, could be a part of the elite SS. A solution was found where it was proclaimed that the formation was not part of the SS, but under control of the SS.As the war proceeded with a need for further manpower Germany recruited other Strafbataillons and penal military units.
The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.
Strafbataillon is the generic term for penal units created from prisoners during the Second World War in all branches of the Wehrmacht. Soldiers and civilian criminals sentenced to these units were generally poorly armed and required to undertake dangerous high-casualty missions. Strafbataillons were operated and administered by the Feldgendarmerie, the German military police.
Penal military units, including penal battalions, penal companies, etc., are military formations consisting of convicts mobilized for military service. Service in such units is considered a form of punishment or discipline in lieu of imprisonment or capital punishment.
Within a couple of years, the unit grew into a band of common criminals. In contrast to those who served in the German penal battalions for committing minor offences, the recruits sent into Dirlewanger's band were convicted of major crimes such as premeditated murder, rape, arson and burglary. Dirlewanger provided them with an opportunity to commit atrocities on such a scale that even the SS executioners complained.The historian Martin Windrow described them as a "terrifying rabble" of "cut-throats, renegades, sadistic morons, and cashiered rejects from other units". Some Nazi officials romanticized the unit, viewing the men as "pure primitive German men" who were "resisting the law".
By September 1940, the formation numbered over 300 men. Dirlewanger was appointed an SS- Obersturmführer by Himmler. With the influx of criminals, the emphasis on poachers was now lost, though many of the former poachers rose to NCO ranks to train the unit. Those convicted of other more severe crimes, including the criminally insane, joined the unit.Accordingly, the unit name was changed to Sonderkommando Dirlewanger ("Special Unit Dirlewanger"). As the unit strength grew, it was placed under the command of the SS-Totenkopfverbände (the formation responsible for the administration of the concentration camps) and redesignated as the SS-Sonderbataillon Dirlewanger. In January 1942, to rebuild its strength, the unit was authorised to recruit Russian and Ukrainian volunteers. By February 1943 the number of men in the battalion doubled to 700 (half of them Volksdeutsche ). It became a Waffen-SS unit again in late 1944.
During the organization's time in the Soviet Union, Dirlewanger burned women and children alive and let starved packs of dogs feed on them.He was known to hold large formations with the sole purpose of injecting Jews with strychnine. Transcripts of the Nuremberg Trials show Soviet prosecutors frequently questioning defendants accused of war crimes on the Eastern Front about their knowledge of the Dirlewanger Brigade.
On 1 August 1940, the Dirlewanger was assigned to guard duties in the region of Lublin (site of a Nazi-established "Jew reservation" established under the Nisko Plan) in the General Government territory of occupied Poland.According to journalist and author, Matthew Cooper, "wherever the Dirlewanger unit operated, corruption and rape formed an every-day part of life and indiscriminate slaughter, beatings and looting were rife". The General Government's Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer (HSSPF) Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger was disturbed by the unlawful behaviour of the Dirlewanger. His complaints resulted in its transfer to Belarus in February 1942.
In Belarus (named the Reichskommissariat Ostland by the Nazis), the unit came under the command of local HSSPF Erich von dem Bach. The Dirlewanger resumed so-called anti-partisan activities in this area, working in cooperation with the Kaminski Brigade, a militia of Russians under the command of Bronislav Kaminski. Dirlewanger's preferred method of operation was to gather civilians in a barn, set it on fire and shoot with machine guns anyone who tried to escape; the victims of his unit numbered about 30,000.According to the historian Timothy Snyder:
As it inflicted its first fifteen thousand mortal casualties, the Special Commando Dirlewanger lost only ninety-two men — many of them, no doubt, to friendly fire and alcoholic accidents. A ratio such as that was possible only when the victims were unarmed civilians.
In September 1942, the unit murdered 8,350 Jews in Baranovichi ghetto and then a further 389 people labeled "bandits" and 1,274 "bandit suspects".According to the historian Martin Kitchen, the unit:
committed such shocking atrocities in the Soviet Union, in the pursuit of partisans, that even an SS court was called upon to investigate.
On 17 August 1942, the expansion of the Dirlewanger to regimental size was authorized. Recruits were to come from criminals, Eastern volunteers ( Osttruppen ) and military delinquents. The second battalion was established in February 1943 when the regiment's strength reached 700 men, of whom 300 were anti-communists from Soviet territory; and the unit was redesignated as the SS-Sonderregiment Dirlewanger. In May 1943, the eligibility to volunteer for service in the regiment was extended to all criminals and as a result 500 men convicted of the most severe crimes were absorbed into the regiment. May and June saw the unit taking part in Operation Cottbus, an anti-partisan operation. In August 1943, the creation of a third battalion was authorised. With its expansion, the Dirlewanger was allowed to display rank insignia and a unique collar patch (at first crossed rifles, later crossed stick grenades). During this period, the regiment saw heavy fighting; Dirlewanger himself led many assaults.
In November 1943, the regiment was committed to front-line action with Army Group Centre in an attempt to halt the Soviet advance, and suffered extreme casualties due to ineptitude. Dirlewanger received the German Gold Cross on 5 December 1943 in recognition of his earnestness, but by 30 December 1943, the unit consisted of only 259 men. Large numbers of amnestied criminals were sent to rebuild the regiment and by late February 1944, the regiment was back up to full strength. It was decided that Eastern volunteers would no longer be admitted to the unit, as the Russians had proven to be particularly unreliable in combat. Anti-partisan operations continued until June 1944, when the Soviets launched Operation Bagration, which was aimed at the destruction of Army Group Centre. The Dirlewanger was caught up in the retreat and began falling back to Poland. The regiment sustained heavy casualties during several rearguard actions but reached Poland.
When the Armia Krajowa began the Warsaw Uprising on 1 August 1944, Dirlewanger was sent into action as part of the Kampfgruppe formation led by SS- Gruppenführer Heinz Reinefarth; once again serving alongside Bronislav Kaminski's militia (now named SS Sturmbrigade RONA ).Acting on orders that came directly from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, Kaminski's and Dirlewanger's men were given a free hand to rape, loot, torture and butcher.
In what became known as the Wola massacre, Kaminski and Dirlewanger personnel indiscriminately massacred Polish combatants along with civilian men, women and children, in the Wola District of Warsaw. Up to 40,000 civilians were murdered in Wola in less than two weeks of August, including all hospital patients and staff.Many otherwise unknown crimes committed by Dirlewanger at Wola were later revealed by Mathias Schenck, a Belgian national who was serving in the area as a German Army sapper. Regarding an incident in which 500 small children were murdered, Schenck stated:
After the door of the building was blown off we saw a daycare-full of small children, around 500; all with small hands in the air. Even Dirlewanger's own people called him a butcher; he ordered to kill them all. The shots were fired, but he requested his men to save the ammo and finish them off with rifle-butts and bayonets. Blood and brain matter flowed in streams down the stairs.[ citation needed ]
The regiment had arrived in Warsaw numbering only 865 enlisted personnel and 16 officers, but had soon received 2,500 replacements. These included 1,900 German convicts from the SS military camp at Danzig-Matzkau. However, the resistance inflicted extremely high casualties on Dirlewanger during fighting in Warsaw.During the course of the two-month urban warfare Dirlewanger lost 2,733 men. Thus, total casualties numbered 315% of the unit's initial strength. While some of the regiment's actions were criticized by von dem Bach (who after the war described them as "a herd of pigs") and the sector commander, Generalmajor Günter Rohr, Dirlewanger was recommended for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross by Reinefarth and promotion to SS-Oberführer der Reserve .
By 3 October 1944, the remaining Polish insurgents had surrendered and the depleted regiment spent the next month guarding the line along the Vistula. During this time, the regiment was upgraded to brigade status, and named SS-Sonderbrigade Dirlewanger (SS Special Brigade Dirlewanger). In early October, it was decided to upgrade the Dirlewanger again, this time to a Waffen-SS combat brigade. Accordingly, it was redesignated 2. SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger in December 1944,and had soon reached its complement of 4,000 men.
When the Slovak National Uprising began in late August 1944, the newly formed brigade was committed to action. The conduct of the brigade played a large part in putting down the rebellion, and by 30 October the uprising was put down. With the outcome of the war no longer in doubt, large numbers of communist and socialist political prisoners began applying to join the Dirlewanger in the hope of defecting to the Soviets.SS- Brigadeführer Fritz Schmedes, disgraced former commander of the 4th SS Polizei Division, was assigned to the Dirlewanger by Himmler as punishment for refusing to carry out orders. With his extensive combat experience, Schmedes became the unofficial advisor to Dirlewanger on front line combat.
In December, the brigade was sent to the front in Hungary. While several newly formed battalions made up of communist and socialist volunteers fell apart, several other battalions fought well.[ citation needed ] During a month's fighting, the brigade suffered heavy casualties and was pulled back to Slovakia to refit and reorganize.
In February 1945, orders were given to expand the brigade to a division; however, before this could begin it was sent north to the Oder-Neisse line in an attempt to halt the Soviet advance. On 14 February 1945, the brigade was redesignated as the 36. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS.With its expansion to a division of 4,000 men, the Dirlewanger had regular Army units attached to the formation: a Grenadier regiment, a Pionier brigade and a Panzerjäger battalion. Individual Sturmpionier demolition engineers had already been attached to the force during the fighting in Warsaw.
When the final Soviet offensive began on 16 April 1945, the division was pushed back to the northeast. The next day, Oskar Dirlewanger was seriously wounded in combat for the twelfth time. He was sent to the rear and Schmedes immediately assumed command; Dirlewanger would not return to the division. Desertion became more and more common; when Schmedes attempted to reorganize his division on 25 April, he found it had virtually ceased to exist. The situation was highly fluid, with men of the 73rd Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the SS lynching their commanding officer Ewald Ehlers (a former commandant of Dachau concentration camp who had been convicted of corruption). On 1 May 1945, the Soviets wiped out all that was left of the 36. Waffen-Grenadier-Division in the Halbe Pocket. The small remnant of the division that managed to escape attempted to reach the U.S. Army lines on the Elbe river. Schmedes and his staff managed to reach the Americans and surrendered on 3 May.
Only about 700 men of the division survived the war. In June 1945, Dirlewanger was captured by the Free French forces in Germany; he had died in their hands by 8 June, allegedly killed by Polish soldiers in Altshausen.In 2009, Polish authorities claimed to have identified three surviving members of Dirlewanger living in Germany and announced the intent to prosecute them.
The cross-grenades emblem of the Dirlewanger are still used by neo-Nazis.It has been used by the Aidar Battalion during the War in Donbass.
The 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne and Charlemagne Regiment are collective names used for units of French volunteers in the Wehrmacht and later Waffen-SS during World War II. An estimated 7,340 to 11,000 men served in the unit at its peak in 1944. The unit's members participated in the final days of the Battle in Berlin in the area of the Führerbunker and were among the last Axis forces to surrender.
Bronislav Vladislavovich Kaminski was a Russian anti-communist collaborationist and the commander of the S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A., an anti-partisan formation made up of people from the so-called Lokot Autonomy territory in the Nazi Germany occupied areas of Russia, which was later incorporated into the Waffen-SS as the S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A.. Older publications mistakenly give his first name as Mieczyslaw.
Oskar Paul Dirlewanger was a German military officer (SS-Oberführer) and war criminal who served as the founder and commander of the Nazi SS penal unit "Dirlewanger" during World War II. His name is closely linked to some of the worst crimes of the war. He also fought in World War I, the post-World War I conflicts, and the Spanish Civil War. He died after World War II while in Allied custody, apparently beaten to death by his guards, though lack of evidence has led to theories of him escaping.
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Azeri SS Volunteer Formations were recruited from prisoners of war, mainly from the USSR, and also from the countries annexed by Soviet Union after 1939. They were organised to fight against the Soviet Union on the side of Nazi Germany.
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S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. was a collaborationist formation composed of Soviet nationals from the territory of Lokot Autonomy during German-occupied areas of Russia during the German-Soviet War of 1939−45.
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The Aserbaidschanische Legion or Azerbaijani Legion was one of the foreign units of the Wehrmacht. It was formed in December 1941 as the Kaukasische-Mohammedanische Legion and was re-designated 1942 into two separate legions, the North Caucasian legion and the Azerbaijani legion. It was made up mainly of former Azerbaijani POW volunteers but also volunteers from other peoples in the area. It was part of the Ostlegionen. It was used to form the 162nd (Turkistan) Infanterie-Division of the Wehrmacht in 1943. Later, some of these Azerbaijanis joined the Azeri Waffen SS Volunteer Formations.
Schutzmannschaft-Brigade Siegling was a Belarusian Auxiliary Police brigade formed by Nazi Germany in July 1944 in East Prussia, from members of six local volunteer battalions of Schutzmannschaft following the Soviet Operation Bagration. The six retreating collaborationist units who joined Siegling included Bataillon 57 (ukrainische), Bataillon 60 (weißruthenische), Bataillon 61, 62, 63 (ukrainische), and Bataillon 64 (weißruthenische).
The 1st SS Infantry Brigade was a unit of the German Waffen SS formed from former concentration camp guards for service in the Soviet Union behind the main front line during the Second World War. They conducted Nazi security warfare in the rear of the advancing German troops and took part in the Holocaust. The unit also filled gaps in the front line when called upon in emergencies. In 1944, the brigade was used as the cadre in the formation of the SS Division Horst Wessel.
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A large numbers of Soviet citizens of various ethnicity collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. It is estimated that the number of Soviet collaborators with the Nazi German military was between one and two and a half million.
A large numbers of Soviet citizens of various ethnicity collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. It is estimated that the number of Soviet collaborators with the Nazi German military was between one and two and a half million.