Thursday, January 6, 2022

HISTORY: How the Nazis Emptied Prisons and Gave Violent Criminals Important Positions; Psychopaths, Rapists and Murderers Used to Wage War on Innocent People

Source: Daily Mail

Published: February 5, 2018

By: Chris Pleasance

  • One battalion, the 36th Waffen SS Grenadier Division, was known as the 'worst of the worst' and was made up of hardened criminals, psychopaths, rapists and murderers led by child molester Oskar Dirlewanger
  • The unit was used to terrorise civilians and was so notorious other SS commanders tried to have it shut down
  • Dirlewanger's men perpetrated campaigns of rape and mass murder including the execution of 500 children

They were Hitler's equivalent of the Dirty Dozen and known as the 'worst of the worst' - an entire SS division made up entirely of psychopaths, murderers and rapists and led by a child molester.

The 36th Waffen SS Grenadier Division, commanded by Oskar Dirlewanger, was initially created to wage war against resistance fighters in Poland, but soon became a weapon of terror used indiscriminately against civilians and armed combatants alike.

Over the course of the war the unit was implicated in campaigns of rape, mass murder and poisonings including injecting Jews with strychnine and watching as they died in agony.

The first men invited to join the 36th were convicted poachers on the grounds that they could use their skills as woodsmen to track down guerrilla fighters in their countryside hideaways.

Each man was offered a pardon for his crimes should he survive the dangerous tasks he was to undertake, which in Hitler's Germany also meant earning their citizenship back. 55 men signed up for the job.

Members of the 36th Waffen SS Grenadier Division execute Soviet partisans, date unknown. The 36th were a German penal battalion, made up of criminals sent on virtual suicide missions in order to win back their citizenship and being sent to a work camp. But this division were known as the worst of the worst, made up entirely of psychopaths, murderers and rapists and used to wage a campaign of terror against anyone who dared defy the Nazis

Members of the 36th fighting to suppress the Warsaw uprising. The division was initially created to fight against the Polish resistance, but were effectively turned loose on the civilian population wherever they served, allowed to perpetrate war crimes as they pleased. Throughout the war they were implicated in campaign of rape and mass killings against civilians that saw other SS commanders try, and fail, to have the unit disbanded

The division was created on the orders of Heinrich Himmler (left), and led by Oskar Dirlewanger (right), a devoted Nazi who was awarded Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class for his actions during the First World War. He was subsequently convicted of the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl and sexual assault against another, but used his connections to the Nazi party to secure release before being appointed as head of the 36th

But the missions were so dangerous, and Dirlewanger so given to executing his men for infractions, that he quickly ran out of recruits. It was then that the offer was opened up to all manner of criminals.

While offenders were typically banned from wielding firearms in the army, they were welcomed by Dirlewanger who amassed a band of several hundred murderers, rapists and those deemed criminally insane.

In one of their most infamous exploits, his men were asked to put down the Warsaw Uprising. What followed was the Wola Massacre, in which 40,000 civilians in that district were slaughtered in two weeks.

Dirlewanger's men went after everyone, including all hospital patients and staff, and even butchered 500 children found hiding in one building. A soldier serving in the area later said Dirlewanger that ordered his troops to conserve ammunition by finished the youngsters off with rifle butts and bayonets. 

The 36th did not emerge from the uprising unscathed, however. It went into Warsaw with just over 800 men, and lost 2,700 during the fighting including reinforcements, a casualty rate of 315 per cent.

Dirlewanger did survive, however, and was recommended for an Iron Cross for his efforts. The 'heroics' of the men also saw their then-regiment upgraded to a division for the first time, and reinforce to a strength of 4,000.

But as the war dragged on and defeat became more of a possibility, desertion became more and more common and the division began to fall apart.

On 1 May 1945, the Soviets all-but wiped the divison out in the Halbe Pocket. Fritz Schmedes, who was then in command after Dirlewanger was wounded in an earlier battle, marched the remaining 700 men to the US Army, where they surrendered on May 3.

SS troops watch as houses burn during the Warsaw Uprising. Alongside a notorious Russian militia led by Bronislav Kaminski, Dirlewanger's men were charged with putting down the uprising. While the perpetrated atrocities against civilians, they also suffered heavy losses themselves. During this one conflict alone, Dirlewanger lost 2,733 men of an initial unit strength of just 865 men - a 315% casualty rate

SS troops watch houses burn during the Warsaw Uprising. Dirlewanger's actions during the conflict saw him nominated for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, and saw the 36th upgraded from a regiment to a division and then an SS combat brigade. It was then reinforced to its full combat strength of 4,000 men

Not all German penal divisons were as notorious as the 36th, however. The 999th Light Afrika Division (pictured) was another unit in which criminals could attempt to win back their freedom. They largely fought in Tunisia and Greece, though hundreds of men deserted over to the enemy, having been convicted of political crimes and disobeying the Nazi regime

The 500th Infantry Battalion was another made up of criminals, largely conscripts who had broken military rules. In order to avoid prison camps and to win back their rights as civilians, they volunteered to join the unit that was often sent on suicide missions. Members of the unit were forced at gunpoint to clear a minefield by walking over it. But if they survived their time here, then their crimes would be forgotten

Who are the Dirty Dozen? Murderers led on a mission to assassinate Nazi officers in 1967 war film starring Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson

The Dirty Dozen is an Oscar-winning film about a gang of 12 convicted murderers and a rebellious US Army major who must lead them on a mission to assassinate Nazi officers during the Second World War.

Lee Marvin plays Major Reisman, an upstart with a history of getting things done who is ordered to interview military prisoners with death sentences or long terms for a secret mission.

Their objective will be to parachute behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day in order to kill as many German officers as possible and cause chaos behind the enemy lines.

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