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Oskar Dirlewanger (September 26, 1895 Würzburg - June 7, 1945 Altshausen) was a World War II officer with the Schutzstaffel (SS). He commanded the infamous SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger unit made out of amnestied Germans convicted of major crimes.
After the end of war he joined different Freikorps and fought in the Ruhr district, in Saxonia and in June 1921 in Upper Silesia. Between his militant employment he studied at the university in Frankfurt/Main away and in the year 1922 he attained a PhD in Political Science. He joined the NSDAP in 1923, but was eventually expelled. He rejoined years later, receiving Party #1,098,716. His eventual SS # was 357,267.
He held various jobs, which included working as a bank employee and teacher. In 1934 he was convicted of, among other things, the rape of a thirteen-year old BDM girl and molesting other underage girls, and he was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Dirlewanger then lost his job, his doctor title and all military honors. After transfer from the prison Ludwigsburg he was sent to the Welzheim concentration camp, which he was able to leave after intervention of his friend and later SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Gottlob Berger.
He served in the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 and he was wounded three times. This helped redeem his reputation and with help of the Nazi party his Doctor title was restored by the University of Frankfurt/Main.
World War II
At the beginning of the Second World War Dirlewanger volunteered for the Waffen SS and received the rank of Obersturmfuehrer.
The idea for a military unit made up of convicted criminals was apparently because Heinrich Himmler thought that convicted criminals (starting with poachers) could be reformed and used as second line units on the Eastern Front against the partisans. However a lack of poachers meant that the division soon began accepting other criminals including Russians and Ukrainians recruited in the field, and members of the Wehrmacht convicted of felony offenses and eventually all German convicts.
The battalion was assigned to anti-partisan duties first in occupied Poland (general government). In February, 1942, it was reassigned for anti-partisan duties in Belorussia. Dirlewanger was known to lead his soldiers into combat personally which was unusual for someone of his rank; he was wounded many times in combat. Dirlewanger received the clasp to his Iron Cross II on May 24, 1942, and that to his Iron Cross I on September 16, 1942 and received the German Cross in Gold on December 5, 1943 in recognition of his regiment's successes during this time.
Dirlewanger's primary patron in the SS hierarchy was SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Gottlob Berger, the head of the SS-Hauptamt. Berger provided Himmler with a massive political boost by numerically increasing the Waffen-SS through administrative means. Following an order signed by Berger in 1940, every active SS member would wear the same uniform and carry the same paybook as the professional SS soldiers. The blurring of the line between the camp guards and the Gestapo and the front-line soldiers pushed Himmler toward his ultimate goal - sole commander of Germany's armed forces. Given Berger's contribution to Himmler's ambitions, it is possible that Himmler allowed Berger a free hand. Both Berger and Himmler were enthusiastic about the incorporation into the Waffen-SS of the Kaminski Brigade, a unit made up of Soviet turncoats. Bronislaw Kaminski was executed by Germany for his performance in Warsaw in 1944; Dirlewanger was protected only by Berger.
Dirlewanger's unit was employed in the fight against partisans in the occupied Soviet Union where they gained a reputation for extreme brutality, including mass murder of civilians, rape and other excesses. Even children were often the victims. Occasionally Dirlewanger's promoter and friend Gottlob Berger participated, and traveled from Berlin to visit him. Later, Dirlewanger's unit was used in the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, where they committed much worse atrocities, for which they were never punished by the Nazi authorities.
Dirlewanger received his final promotion, to SS-Oberfuehrer der Reserve, on August 15th 1944 and for his actions in the Warsaw uprising he was awarded the Knights Cross on September 30, 1944.
On June 1st, 1945, French occupation forces used Polish soldiers in their service to forcibly bring him to the Altshausen jail. Dirlewanger was beaten and tortured over the next several days. He died from injuries inflicted by the Polish guards on June 7 1945. This information was suppressed at the time, and many bogus sightings of him were made around the world, even though the French recorded that Dirlewanger was buried on June 19 1945, leaving little doubt that he was dead.
Other rumors surfaced years later to suggest that he had escaped, including one story of Dirlewanger serving in the French Foreign Legion, and later defecting to Egypt to accept a commission in Gamal Abdel Nasser's army. These were proven false when a French court arranged the exhumation of his corpse to confirm his identity in November 1960.
MacLean, French L. - The Cruel Hunters: SS-Sonder-Kommando Dirlewanger Hitler's Most Notorious Anti-Partisan Unit
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