Even before the outbreak of WWII, where his most heinous acts were carried out, he was already widely feared within the German military for being unhinged, unpredictable and dangerous. His was a war raged almost entirely against an unarmed enemy. While unleashing his feverous hatred against Communists and Jews, his choices of victim largely seemed unprejudiced — man, woman or child; like a crazed beast set loose, he would kill indiscriminately. After the failed military coup of , the Kapp Putsch, a large group of left-wing workers rose up in the Ruhr region in west Germany, forming the self-proclaimed Red Army of the Ruhr.

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He joined the Nazi Party in He became a violent alcoholic, and in was convicted of the statutory rape of a 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.

In mid, after 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. In late May 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.

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. By September , the formation numbered over men. 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, also joined the unit. A solution was found where it was proclaimed that the formation was not part of the SS, but under control of the SS. By February the number of men in the battalion doubled to half of them Volksdeutsche. Although other Strafbataillons were raised as the war proceeded and the need for further manpower grew, these penal military units were for those convicted of military offences, whereas the recruits sent to Dirlewanger Brigade 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 it even raised complaints within the brutal SS. Poland[ edit ] On 1 August , 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 German-occupied Poland. His complaints resulted in its transfer to Byelorussia in February The Dirlewanger resumed so-called anti-partisan activities in this area, working in cooperation with the Kaminski Brigade , a Russian militia under the command of Bronislav Kaminski.

A ratio such as that was possible only when the victims were unarmed civilians. Recruits were to come from criminals, Eastern volunteers Osttruppen and military delinquents. In May , the eligibility to volunteer for service in the regiment was extended to all criminals and as a result 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 , 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 , 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 in recognition of his earnestness, but by 30 December , the unit consisted of only men. Large numbers of amnestied criminals were sent to rebuild the regiment and by late February , 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 , 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. Up to 40, civilians were murdered in Wola in less than two weeks of August, including all hospital patients and staff.

Regarding an incident in which small children were murdered, Schenck stated: After the door of the building was blown off we saw a daycare-full of small children, around ; all with small hands in the air. 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. Nevertheless extremely high casualties figures were inflicted on Dirlewanger during fighting in Warsaw by the Polish resistance.

By 3 October , the remaining Polish insurgents had surrendered and the depleted regiment spent the next month guarding the line along the Vistula. 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 , [1] and had soon reached its complement of 4, men. Slovakia and Hungary[ edit ] When the Slovak National Uprising began in late August , the newly formed brigade was committed to action.

The brigade played a large part in putting down the rebellion by 30 October. 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.

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.

Germany[ edit ] In February , 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 , the brigade was redesignated as the Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS.

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 , the division was pushed back to the northeast. The next day, Oskar Dirlewanger was seriously wounded in combat for the twelfth time. He was removed from the front and 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. He had been a former commandant of Dachau concentration camp who had been convicted of corruption.

On 1 May , the Soviets wiped out all that was left of the Waffen-Grenadier-Division in the Halbe Pocket. The small remnant of the division that managed an escape attempt to reach the U. Army lines on the Elbe river. Schmedes and his staff managed to reach the Americans and surrendered on 3 May. Only about men of the division survived the war. In June , Dirlewanger was captured by the Free French forces in Germany; he had died in their custody by 8 June, allegedly killed by Polish soldiers in Altshausen.


Oskar Dirlewanger: The SS Butcher of Warsaw

During the American Civil War, Armies have long used prisoners as soldiers. During the American Civil War, captured Confederate soldiers sometimes recanted the rebellion, swore allegiance to the Union and became Galvanized Yankees. The former rebel prisoners fought and bled for the country they once shunned. The Strafbattalion performed awful missions such as clearing minefields.


Oskar Dirlewanger

Published November 27, Updated February 18, One historian called Oskar Dirlewanger "an expert in extermination and a devotee of sadism and necrophilia. As a whole, they captured, imprisoned, and tortured hundreds of millions of Jews in the name of Hitler. Individually, there were some that were more dangerous than others, including Josef Mengele , Joseph Goebbels, and Adolf Eichmann. However, there was one person who was even more sadistic than the rest, a person who somehow escaped infamy as a household name: Oskar Dirlewanger. Later, Dirlewanger was captured by the Romanian government after the Germans surrendered, but he refused to be held prisoner. Instead he defied their orders from the Romanian government and led a charge of fellow prisoners out of Romania and back to Germany. On Easter Sunday in , he was in charge of an armored train heading toward Sangerhausen, Germany which was occupied by Max Hoelz and the Communist Party of Germany militia group.


Dirlewanger Brigade

He received the Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class, having been wounded six times, and finished the war with the rank of Lieutenant in charge of a company on the Eastern Front in southern Russia and Romania. He participated in the suppression of the German Revolution of —19 with the Freikorps in multiple German cities in and After the latter was reinforced by pro-government troops during the night, the Communists withdrew from the town. During this operation, Dirlewanger was grazed on the head by a gunshot. From — he was an executive director of a textile factory owned by a Jewish family in Erfurt where he renounced active service in the SA but financially donated to the SA, possibly obtaining the money by embezzling from his company.

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