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The European Volunteer Movement in World War II
By Richard Landwehr
Source: Integral Traditions

They called themselves the “assault generation” and they had largely been born in the years during and after World War I. Coming from every nation of Europe, they had risen up against the twin hydra of communism and rampant capitalism and banded together under one flag for a common cause. Fully a million of them joined the German Army in World War II, nearly half of them with the Waffen-SS. And it was in the Waffen-SS, the elite fighting force of Germany, where the idea of a united, anti-communist Europe became fully developed.

It was also in the Waffen-SS where a new society emerged from among the “front fighters” of thirty different nations. It was a society that had been forged in the sacrifice, sweat and blood of the battlefield and that propagated the concept of “one new race,” the European race, where language and national differences counted for little, and the culture of each nation was taken for granted as a common heritage. Many countries sent more volunteers into the Waffen-SS than they could raise for their own national armies, so something truly phenomenal was taking place.

The Waffen-SS itself was something unique. It had begun as a small-scale personal bodyguard for Adolf Hitler, but had gradually expanded into a full-scale military force under the guidance of a number of disgruntled former army officers who saw the Waffen-SS as a chance to break out from the conservative mold that the German Army had become mired in. The Waffen-SS was designed from the start to be a highly mobile assault force whose soldiers were well versed in the art of handling modern, close-combat weapons. The training regimen therefore resembled that given to special commandos in other countries, but it pre-dated U.S. and British commando training by nearly a decade.

The soldiers of the Waffen-SS were also the first to implement the camouflage battle dress that was to later become so common around the world. But in one field, that of internal personnel organization, the Waffen-SS has yet to be imitated, much less surpassed. The Waffen-SS was probably the most “democratic” armed force in modern times. Rigid formality and class structure between officers and other ranks was strictly forbidden. An officer maintained his position only because he had proven himself a better soldier than his men, not because of any rank in society, family connections or superior academic education. In sports, one of the vital cogs in the Waffen-SS training programs, officers and their men competed as equals in an atmosphere that encouraged team work and mutual respect. Non-German volunteers of whatever nationality were not regarded as inferiors; they were judged on their ability and performance as soldiers.

The idea to actively recruit foreign nationals into the Waffen-SS came shortly after the outcome of the Polish Campaign of 1939, when SS units were being formed and expanded and it was noticed that a great many men (usually of German extraction) from foreign countries were volunteering for service. The fact that Waffen-SS recruitment among Germans was restricted by the Wehrmacht, made these “out country” volunteers all the more desirable. Since Western Europe contained many sympathizers and admirers of Germany and its National Socialist movement, the SS decided to create three new regiments (“Nordland,” “Westland” and “Nordwest”) for Dutch, Flemish, Danish and Norwegian volunteers in the spring of 1940. There was, at this time, little in the way of a cohesive, Pan-European ideal to follow, but thousands of recruits turned up anyway, primarily out of disgust for the performance of their respective socialist/pacifist governments.

For many there was additional incentive. In Belgium, Holland and France, scores of populist and right-wing political figures had been arrested, incarcerated, beaten and outright murdered. The most famous single incident occurred in Abbeville, France in May 1940, when French police lined up 22 leading Belgian right-wing leaders and executed them in a public park shortly before the arrival of the Germans. It was certainly a “war crime” — one of the first in fact to be committed and documented in World War II — but try to find this event recorded in any standard text book! The establishment historians have shied away from any discussion of this event. Following this massacre, many of the followers of the victims flocked to join the new volunteer regiments of the Waffen-SS.

The war with the Soviet Union, commencing in June 1941, brought a new direction to the effort to attract European volunteers in what can be called “The Legionary Movement.”

The Legionary Movement

The “Legionary Movement” was an attempt to attract qualified military personnel from various countries who otherwise would not have considered engagement with the German Armed Forces, by appealing to their national pride and anti-communist convictions. The Waffen-SS undertook the task of forming Legions from “Germanic” countries, while the Wehrmacht, or German Army proper, was given responsibility over Latin and Slavic Legions. The national Legions proved to be a success, but for a number of reasons — primarily “cost efficiency,” redundancy with Waffen-SS elements and size factor — were not worth perpetuating in the same format. The primary West European Legions were as follows:

Volunteer Legion Norwegen: This was an 1,150 man reinforced battalion that served with distinction on the Leningrad Front and around Lake Ilmen. It later served as the nucleus of the 23rd SS Regiment “Norge.” On the home front it was supported by numerous political figures and celebrities including the famous opera singer Kirsten Flagstad and Nobel-Prize winning author, Knut Hamsun. Hamsun was an honorary member of the Legion and actually wore a Legion uniform. His son served with the Legion and the Waffen-SS and was decorated with the Iron Cross, second class.

Volunteer Legion Flandern: This was initially a 900 man battalion later increased to 1,116 men that served around Lake Ilmen under the 2nd SS Brigade and at times with the 4th SS Police Division and the Spanish “Blue” Division. It conducted itself splendidly, obtaining favorable mention in the Wehrmacht war bulletin among other honors. Its supreme moment came in March 1943 when it recovered a lost regimental frontline sector from the Soviets in a bold attack and held onto the regained positions for a week against all odds. By the end of the engagement the “Legion Flandern” had been reduced to a net strength of 45 men! Equal numbers of Flemings served with the 5th SS Division “Wiking” and the Volunteer Regiment “Nordwest.” Eventually these contingents were merged with new recruits to form the Storm Brigade “Langemarck.”

Volunteer Legion Niederlande: The was a 2,600 man regiment and component of the 2nd SS Brigade on the Leningrad front. “Niederlande” swiftly obtained a reputation for valor and achievement. In June 1942, Legionnaires succeeded in capturing the commander of the 11th Soviet Army and 3,500 of his soldiers. One enlisted man, Sturmann Gerardus Mooyman became the first West European volunteer to receive the Knight’s Cross decoration after singlehandedly destroying 14 Soviet tanks in one day in February 1943. The Legion later formed the basis for the “Nederland” Brigade and division.

Freikorps Danmark: This was an 1,164 man reinforced battalion that served with considerable distinction in the Demyansk Pocket alongside the 3rd SS Division “Totenkopf.” For a time it was led by the swashbuckling Christian Frederick von Schalburg, a Ukrainian-Danish count who met a soldier’s death in the frontlines. The “Freikorps” was authorized and fully supported by the government of Denmark. After the war, however, members of the “Freikorps Danmark” were prosecuted as “traitors” with the Danish government evading responsibility by saying that the volunteers should have known that the government was merely “acting under duress” when it established the “Freikorps” and signed the Anti-Comintern pact. Later the “Freikorps” formed the nucleus of the 24th SS Regiment “Danmark.”

Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS: This was a 1,000 man unit that served as a component part of the “Nordland” Regiment of the SS “Wiking” Division. Its greatest moment came in October 1942, when the Finns were able to seize Hill 711 near Malgobek in the south Caucausus in a daring frontal assault. Other Berman units had repeatedly tried to do the same thing but had failed. The Finns served in the Waffen-SS at the discretion of their government, which in June 1943 thought it would be more discreet to transfer the Battalion from the Waffen-SS to the Finnish Army.

The principal Wehrmacht Legions were the following:

The French Volunteer Legion Against Communism: It served as the 638th Regiment with the 7th German Infantry Division, participated in the drive on Moscow and fought well whenever it was deployed. It was largely transferred to the Waffen-SS in 1944.

Legion Wallonie: This was organized as a mountain-infantry battalion. It was formed by the SS from the French-speaking Belgians (Walloons) and was taken over by the Wehrmacht in late 1941 so as not to offend the “Germanic” Flemings already serving in the Waffen-SS. It fought exceptionally well in the campaign through the Caucasus Mountains alongside the SS Division “Wiking.” It contained many former Belgian Army Officers and the famous political leader Leon Degrelle, who exhibited a flare for death-defying heroics. It was finally re-transferred back into the Waffen-SS in June 1943 at Degrelle’s request and was reformed as an assault brigade.

Croatian Legion: This was a regiment that fought on the southern region of the eastern front with considerable valor and was completely annihilated in Stalingrad. It was later replaced by three full-scale divisions.

Spanish Legion: This was the independent 250th Infantry Division of the “Spanish Blue” Division that fought with incredible heroism on the Lake Ilmen Front. After it was withdrawn from the eastern front in August 1943 by Franco, survivors carried on in a Spanish SS Legion that fought until the end of the war.

Per Sorensen: Portrait of a Legionary

The 27 year old Danish Army Lieutenant Per Sorensen (formerly Adjutant of the Viborg Battalion) was the ideal model of what the Germans were looking for when they launched the Legionary Movement. On 1 July 1941, Sorensen volunteered for service with the “Freikorps Danmark” motivated by anti-communist feelings and a vague sort of National Socialist attitude. In the autumn months he attended the Waffen-SS Officer School at Bad Toelz and in the spring of 1942, rejoined the “Freikorps” as commander of the 1st Company.

During the summer months he led his company in the tough back-and-forth fighting that raged in the relief corridor to the Demyansk Pocket. After several engagements, the 1st Company had been reduced from over 200 men to only 40. They had to hold a long stretch of front against strong communist forces. On the afternoon of 16 July 1942, Sorensen telephoned “Freikorp’s” HQ to state that he did not know whether or not his troops could survive another strong attack, but that they would maintain their position no matter what. That night a Red Army infantry battalion attacked with tank support. The communists were soon in the 1st Company’s trenches. From sundown to midnight hand-to-hand fighting raged for possession of the positions. Then suddenly it was all over with the Russians either dead or driven out. Thanks to Sorensen’s leadership, the 1st Company held its ground.

In the years to come, whether in White Russia or Estonia, Latvia or Pomerania, the troops under Sorensen’s command would always meet their duty. Before every action, the tall, slender Dane would make a personal reconnaissance of the terrain and during the battle he was always positioned in the hottest spots with a machine-gun strewn about his neck.

To his soldiers, Sorensen had the uncanny habit of attracting the enemy. They passed around the phrase: “Wherever Sorensen is — the Russians will come!” And they usually were right. For his endless solicitude and patience, he received the nickname “På Sorensen” from his men. Time and time again, Sorensen provided the special qualities so vital in a leader. In January 1944, he took over an entrapped battalion near Vitino in northern Russia and literally led it to safety by remaining at the fore of their formation on a journey through thick, snow-shrouded forests.

After commanding battalions and battle-groups, Sorensen received command of the 24th SS Regiment “Danmark” just to the east of Berlin in April 1945. Finally, the Regiment was reduced to trying to defend a street-car station in the heart of Berlin. While climbing a telephone pole to try and survey the terrain, Sturmbannführer (Major) Sorensen was picked off by an enemy sniper. On the next day, in the midst of the desperate, last battle for the German capitol, Sorensen was given a military funeral in the Ploetzensee cemetery by Germans and Danes from the “Nordland” Division.

With shells detonating all around, the body of Sorensen was taken to the cemetery in an armored troop carrier. Over the open grave, Sturmscharführer (Sgt.) Hermann gave a brief eulogy:

We are standing here by the graveside to take our last departure from a courageous Danish comrade, the foremost officer and leader of the Regiment “Danmark”: Per Sorensen! I must, even in this hour, give the thanks of my people for you and your many Danish comrades who have stood so loyally beside us. I would like to express from my heart: may you find peace at last in our bleeding city!

As Hermann spoke, the coffin (constructed from ammunition crates by “Nordland” engineers) was lowered into the grave. Two of the Danish officers attending struggled to contain their emotions. Hermann led a last salute and the eight man honor guard fired three salvos over the grave. A woman flak helper tossed flowers into the grave, and each of the Danish and German soldiers attending passed by throwing in a handful of earth. As the great city shook under rumbling artillery fire and great clouds of smoke obscured the sky, the haunting strains of “I had a Comrade” echoed over Sorensen’s grave as the funeral reached its conclusion. The tragic symbolism was complete and fitting: in the very heart of Europe, on its last battlefield, a prototypical representative of the European Volunteer Movement had met his end.

The European Movement takes Shape

In 1943, the European Volunteer Movement which had been individually developing in the Legions and the Waffen-SS was finally amalgamated and consecrated within the ranks of the Waffen-SS. The spiritual citadel of the movement now became the SS Officers’ School at Bad Toelz in Bavaria, which in 1943 established its first “class” (or “inspection”) exclusively for West European Volunteers. Previously the volunteers had received no specialized treatment but were treated like Germans. Now all of that changed and a sense of European unity with respect for all nationalities and cultures was openly fostered. Within the next two years, SS-JS Toelz would produce more than 1,000 highly motivated European officers from 12 different countries exclusive of Germany.

Bad Toelz was considered the premier officers’ training school in World War II and in addition to a thorough training program that featured live ammunition in most field exercises, it offered well-rounded athletic, cultural and educational opportunities. The great opera, musical and theatrical troops of central Europe made frequent visits while the athletic facilities were unsurpassed in Europe. Twelve different coaches, each one either an Olympic or world class champion in his field, supervised a vast sports program that even included golf and tennis. In the academic arena, freedom of speech was not only permitted but encouraged and the writings of such disparate souls as Marx, Hitler, Jefferson and Churchill were openly discussed and debated.

What Bad Toelz produced was literally a “Renaissance man” who was also a top-notch military officer. In early 1945, the staff and students were mobilized into the newly authorized 38th SS Division “Nibelungen,” and one of the great ironies of the war took place: a mostly German division was officered by non-German Europeans (the officer cadets) instead of the other way around. Once in action against the Americans in southern Bavaria, the Scandinavians, Lowlanders and Frenchmen found themselves opposing an enemy whom they thought could only have existed on the Eastern Front. Like all of the Waffen-SS units to serve in the west in 1945, “Nibelungen” was soon victimized by numerous “war crimes.” Entire companies and battalions were bludgeoned and shot to death after going into U.S. captivity. To date this grisly story has only been revealed in bits and pieces and has, naturally enough, been largely suppressed by the Allied side. However, it is interesting to note that some former members of the Waffen-SS consider it likely that more of their comrades were killed in American captivity than on the battlefield itself!

1944-45: A European Army at War

The year 1944 opened with the Flemish SS Storm Brigade “Langemarck” fighting a savage retrograde action near Zhitomir in southern Ukraine. Simultaneously the Scandinavian “Nordland” Division and Dutch “Nederland” Brigade were desperately trying to stem a massive Red Army offensive in the Leningrad sector, and the European “Wiking” Division and Belgian Brigade “Wallonien” were going into the “sack” west of Cherkassy. The breakout from the Cherkassy Pocket on the southern Eastern Front was a true epic of heroism: a sacrificial struggle that bound troops of different nationalities firmly together. In the post-war years the survivors have held annual remembrance gatherings so that to this day “Cherkassy” remains a living symbol of the European Volunteer Movement.

The spring of 1944 saw the three Baltic SS Divisions fighting with steadfast courage on the eastern boundaries of their countries. In Lithuania, the nucleus for a new SS Division began taking shape under the guidance of former Lithuanian Army generals, but the country was overrun by the communists before the project could be brought to fruition. Against the Anzio beachhead in Italy, the first combat ready Italian SS battalion grimly held its ground against all American breakout attempts. All over Europe, manpower was being voluntarily mobilized into the Waffen-SS to participate in what many people saw as the forthcoming, decisive struggle for the freedom of the continent.

The summer of 1944 saw the “battle of the European SS” on the Narva Front in Estonia. Here, nationals from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Flanders, Holland and Estonia shared the trenches and fought shoulder-to-shoulder to repel the Bolsheviks from “Orphanage Hill” and “Grenadier Hill.” Leon Degrelle personally led a battalion from his “Wallonien” Division in a brilliant defensive action near Tartu on the west shore of Lake Peipus. Near Brody in Ukraine, the 14th Ukrainian SS Division fought a life-or-death battle to escape Soviet encirclement; only about one-fourth of the Division survived the action, but they had acquitted themselves well.

As the year went on, more and more foreign volunteer divisions were formed. This meant that flexible leadership was needed to handle the different cultural distinctions and surprisingly, the Waffen-SS was equal to the task. Although organized religion was kept separate from the Waffen-SS, volunteers from devout Catholic, Moslem, Greek Catholic and Orthodox countries were given total freedom to practice their religions with their own clergy. For morale purposes, ethnic cultural activities were actively encouraged. It was quite a contrast to the way some minority groups were treated in the Allied armies at the time.

Some of the foreign SS divisions composed of Russian and Moslem volunteers had to be disbanded, since the time and personnel needed to develop these units were lacking. By the autumn of 1944 the Waffen-SS European volunteer tally sheet contained the following elements: 2 Dutch brigades, 2 Belgian brigades, 1 French brigade and 1 Italian brigade, (all being transformed into divisions), 2 Croat Moslem divisions, 1 Albanian Moslem division, 2 Hungarian divisions with 2 more in the works that never panned out, 2 Scandinavian/German divisions, 2 Latvian divisions, 1 Estonian division, 2 Russian divisions (both of which would later be transferred to the Vlasov Liberation Army), 1 Ukrainian division, 1 Italian/German division, 1 Hungarian/German division, 1 Balkan/German division, 1 Serbian division, numerous ethnic brigades from the Soviet Union, and small detachments of Spaniards, Britons, Greeks, Romanians, Bulgarians, Arabs and Indians. The foreign SS units were all suitably supplied with national badges, insignia and unit distinctions. And while there were many volunteers from such neutral countries as Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland they could not be openly designated as Irish, Swedish or Swiss such so as not to offend their respective governments.

On the Eastern Front, the war raged with unending intensity. In White Russia, part of the French SS Storm Brigade fighting with the 18th Hungarian/German SS Division “Horst Wessel,” sacrificed itself completely in hard defensive action, losing two-thirds of its personnel in the process. In Estonia, a regiment of Estonian soldiers who had been serving in the Finnish Army returned home to fight for their country. They were reformed into a battalion of the 20th Estonian SS Division and in desperate combat on the Latvian frontier, were virtually annihilated. With grim determination the Latvian 15th and 19th SS Divisions fought the communists for every square foot of their homeland, while in the Carpathian Mountains, the Ukrainian Volunteer Division was reassembled.

In Slovenia and Hungary, the brave Moslems of the 13th SS Division “Handschar” performed well against both Tito’s partisans and the Red Army, but in France the 30th White Russian SS Division had virtually collapsed while in action against the Americans and French Maquis. These soldiers had only wished to fight the communists and saw no point in what their activities in the west.

This was not the case with regard to both the 29th Italian SS Division and the 34th Dutch SS Division “Landstorm Nederland.” The Italian SS troops fought both the Americans and the rear area communist partisans, and they distinguished themselves as perhaps the best troops that Italy produced during the war. “Landstorm Nederland” first battled the British at Arnhem as part of a hurriedly organized self-defense brigade, but during the winter of 1944-45 it was enlarged into a full-scale 12,000 man infantry division. In the spring of 1945, the almost exclusively Dutch “LN” SS Division frustrated the British and Canadians as they tried with little success to advance into northwest Holland. None of the Allies could figure out why so many Dutchmen chose to join the “Landstorm” Division, so to avoid embarrassment, the story of this unit has been largely suppressed ever since. For the Dutch volunteers, there was no motivational problem. The Allies had joined with the Bolsheviks against not only their homeland but what they perceived to be European civilization altogether. Like their fellow countrymen on the Eastern Front, the men of “Landstorm Nederland” fought with dedicated resolve.

The Belgian and French SS Divisions were brought up to strength in the fall of 1944 from among the many refugees that had fled to Germany plus veterans of the war with Russia. In Holland, volunteers flocked to the Waffen-SS recruiting offices like never before and not because they had to. It didn’t take a clairvoyant to see that Germany was virtually finished, but still the European volunteers rushed to join the battle.

The establishment historians have never been able to understand this phenomenon, perhaps because it involved an concept alien to most of them: conscience. There was a great desire for many people, who had until this point sat out the war, to finally be “true to themselves”; to make the ultimate sacrifice out of loyalty to their beliefs, their homelands and their fellow countrymen who had already done so much. This was Europe’s moment of crisis and many young men made the decision to leap into the crucible. It was a manifestation of spiritual honesty.

The Waffen-SS also managed to generate a certain natural magnetism. Littlejohn, in his book The Patriotic Traitors (p123), described the pull of the Waffen-SS as follows: “The Runic Flag evoked a heroic pagan spirit, a swaggering defiant attitude to life equally contemptuous of bourgeois timidity and of communist anarchy.” The far-sighted Leon Degrelle, who had almost obtained political power in prewar Belgium also saw a powerful attraction and purpose in the Waffen-SS. In his words: “True elites are formed at the front … the young leaders are born there … the emblem of the SS shows Europe where political and social truth is to be found … We are preparing the political cadres of the post-war world in the Great Seminary of the Front Line.” A good many volunteers agreed with him.

The end of 1944 saw Leon Degrelle’s 28th SS Division “Wallonien” moving into that part of Belgium that had been retaken in the Ardennes offensive, where it received a hearty welcome and new recruits! But the curtain was rising on the last act on the Eastern Front, and in the weeks ahead most of the European volunteer forces would be in action there. In Kurland, Western Latvia, three SS divisions — 11th “Nordland,” 23rd “Nederland” and 19th Latvian-were caught up in an unequal life-or-death struggle in January 1945. A few extracts from the history of the 49th Dutch SS Regiment, “De Ruyter,” gave the sense of the action: (From the series of articles titled “Soldiers of Europe: The 3rd SS Panzer Korps” in Siegrunen Magazine)

After a surging, back-and-forth struggle, the southern bastion of Ozoli Hill fell irretrievably to the Russians. The over-powered First Co./SS Rgt. “De Ruyter” fell back to the west. Untersturmführer Schluifelder, the commander, was badly wounded and shot himself rather than fall into enemy hands.

The Red Army infantry was storming forward. Guided entirely by radio reports, Obersturmführer Behler directed the heavy weapons fire of his Dutch gunners at the center of the enemy onslaught. But by mid-day, Behler’s positions were entirely surrounded by the enemy. In bloody, close combat, Obersturmführer Behler and a few of his men managed to break out to the west.

In the same battle area, Danish Obersturmführer Johannes Hellmer’s company from Second Battalion/”De Ruyter,” was fighting for its life … Using his own initiative, Kanonier Jenschke, a private, led a small battle group to a successful breakout. Jenschke’s rank insignia had been obscured by his camouflage jacket so the men that he had been ordering about were unaware that they outranked him!

During these two days of heavy fighting all of the companies in the main battle line were fully extended. There was nothing to fall back on … only 7 men could be spared to defend the whole town of Kaleti … This, the defensive struggle of SS Division “Nederland,” was the most heroic battle that I have ever lived through. Everyone stayed in position to the finish. The attack came right up to the barrels of our artillery pieces. The firing pits were the main battle line. But although we were weakened and dispersed, we had acquitted ourselves with honor. (This extract from the war diary of Untersturmführer Horstmann.)

By the end of the fighting, the SS Regiment “De Ruyter,” with a nominal strength of 2,000 men, had been reduced to 80 combatants! The Regiment was rebuilt on the run and thrown into action again on the Pomeranian Front less than two weeks later. For the first time “De Ruyter” received a Third Battalion, this being composed of Dutch and German war reporters whose jobs had become rather superfluous given recent military reversals.

Remaining in Latvia was the 19th Latvian SS Division, which time and again had proven itself the mainstay of bitter defensive fighting and had received several mentions in the Wehrmacht war bulletins. The Latvian volunteers received more decorations than any other non-German group in the Waffen-SS, including the award of 13 Knight’s Crosses; a clear indication of their contributions on the battlefield. In Poland and Silesia, the Hungarian and Estonian SS Divisions were temporarily able to stop the enemy onslaught, even though the commander of the 26th SS Division, “Hungaria,” Oberführer Zoltan von Pisky had been killed in action at Jarotschin.

As the Eastern Front was slowly expanded westward, bits and pieces of the 27th Flemish SS Division “Langemarck” were rushed to the Oder River line from various training camps. Here they served alongside their co-national rivals, the Walloons, in a spirit of unparalleled comradeship. First Battalion of the 66th SS Regiment/Division “Langemarck” picked up the nickname “leaping tiger” for the way its soldiers threw themselves into battle. But even more amazing was the fact that the battalion was composed mostly of teenagers from the Flemish Hitler Youth who had volunteered for service in the Waffen-SS after their country had been overrun by the Allies. If there was one drawback to service in this battalion it was that the regimental quartermaster stubbornly saw that the young troopers received a special ration of Schokolade and Bonbons instead of the schnapps and cigarettes passed out to the older soldiers!

With a deep sense of historical irony, the Eastern Front slowly bent and folded itself around the German capitol city of Berlin, throwing a vast portion of the foreign volunteers into the battle for the city. Regiments of the 15th Latvian SS Division, battered beyond belief, had naively decided to throw in their lot with the western allies against the communists (which proved to be an unfortunate decision for many of the officers who were forcibly repatriated to the death camps), and made a complete circuit of Berlin traveling in no-man’s land all the time, until they saw a chance to make it to the American lines. The Division’s reconnaissance battalion went out a little too far on a scout mission and wound up being impressed into the defense of the city.

To the north of Berlin, 500 survivors of the 33rd French SS Division “Charlemagne” which had been decimated in the defense of Pomerania, actually volunteered to go to the defense of the German capital, even though the Divisional commander had absolved them from any further service obligations. In the week of the epic battle that followed, these Frenchmen constituted the core of defense in the city center, displaying courage and fortitude on a scale seldom seen. When the fighting was over, only a few dozen would still be alive and four of their survivors would be decorated with Knight’s Cross. One could call their mission a “beau geste,” but the French soldiers saw it as a moral obligation — another abstract concept the establishment scholars choke on. The following is a description of these soldiers from the artilce, “Defeat in the Ruins: France’s Last Battle for Europe,” by Gustav Juergens (Siegrunen, June 1980):

By this time, the warriors of the “Charlemagne” Division didn’t even look like human beings any more. Their eyes were burning and their faces skull-like and covered in dirt and mortar dust. Supplies only came in negligible amounts, the most telling being the lack of water. The young SS men moved like robots through the hell of Berlin. The future was the farthest thing from anyone’s mind. The only motivating idea that burned in their consciousness and kept them from collapsing was their flaming desire to come to grips with the Bolsheviks! They had to throw hand grenades, destroy tanks, and hold out against the Reds. That was their only reason for living and for dying.

The SS Divisions “Wallonien,” “Nederland” and “Nordland,” after spearheading the last successful offensive on the Vistula sector to relieve the trapped garrisons at Arneswalde, had been driven inexorably westward. “Nederland” was split into two segments, one being trapped and destroyed in the Halbe Pocket to the south of Berlin and the other retreating to the north of Berlin. Much of the “Nordland” Division, including the staff elements, wound up in Berlin itself.

At Prenzlau, due north of Berlin, the Flemish “Langemarck” Division led by the “leaping tigers” of its Hitler Youth battalion, made the last relief attack against the communist encirclement on 25 April 1945. In violent, savage fighting “Langmarck” was burnt to a cinder along with the “Wallonien” Division and parts of “Charlemagne” and “Nordland”; the survivors were forced to fall back towards the Elbe River. In Silesia, the 20th Estonian SS Division was surrounded and forced to surrender to the Soviets; beginning what for most, would be a long, final journey toward the Gulags. On the Austrian frontier, the Ukrainian, Moslem and Cossack SS formations fought with skill and valor before retreating to the west. Most of the Moslems and Cossacks would later be forcibly repatriated to their deaths at the hands of the Yugoslav and Soviet communists; the Ukrainians escaped this realholocaust” by posing as pre-war Polish citizens.

Going with the Cossacks of 15th SS Army Corps to the Gulags, was their beloved commander, Gen. Lt. Helmuth von Pannwitz, the first foreign national ever to be freely elected Ataman of the Cossack tribes. He chose to share the fate of his men although he could have gone into comparatively comfortable Allied internment. In 1947, von Pannwitz, along with the Cossack leaders of the 15th SS Corps, was hanged in Moscow as a “war criminal”; the Cossack soldiers and about one-half million others of their nationality were physically exterminated with the assistance of the United States and Great Britain.

In Italy, after putting up a brave fight, the 29th Italian SS Division surrendered either to the Americans or to the Red partisans and almost to a single man, the Italian SS men were put to death. Between 20,000-30,000 of these volunteers were therefore killed outright in captivity. In Yugoslavia another great nightmare unfolded. 10,000 Moslem volunteers from the 13th SS Division “Handschar” were exterminated in a mass execution and their bodies stuffed in an abandoned mine shaft. Many of the soldiers of the 7th SS Mountain Division “Prinz Eugen,” recruited from Yugoslav Germans, met a similar fate. In Kurland, Latvia, where a small German Army Group had courageously held out against vastly superior enemy forces until the end of the war, 14,000 members of the 19th Latvian SS Division marched into captivity and oblivion. They were never heard from again.

In Berlin, members of the Spanish SS Legion attempted to break out of the city wearing pilfered Red Army uniforms; none made it. Those caught by the communists were shot as spies and those intercepted by the Germans were shot as turncoats. When General Krebs went to surrender the Berlin garrison early on the morning of 1 May 1945, he took with him the Latvian Waffen-Obersturmführer (1st Lt.) Nielands as an interpreter. After performing his duty, Nielands returned to the command of his 80 man company from the 15th SS Recce Battalion. For the Latvians there would be no surrender — they asked for no quarter from the Soviets and they gave none themselves. In the ruins of the Air Ministry building the Latvian SS troops made their last stand. In hand-to-hand combat they fought to the death.

A few of the volunteers trapped in Berlin actually escaped. The Danish Obersturmführer Birkedahl-Hansen, suffering from jaundice, led some men from Regiment “Danmark” successfully out of the city through Spandau to the northwest. They made their way to the seaport of WarnemiInde and took a row boat back to Denmark, thus escaping a long trek to Siberia.

The end of the war saw most of the European volunteers frantically trying to make it to the western Allied lines. Surrender, though, only marked the beginning of their problems. The “democratic” governments of the “liberated” countries were determined to exact a terrible vengeance. In each country some of the more prominent volunteers were run through quick “judicial” proceedings and executed, with the others being stripped of their civil rights and sentenced to prison terms of varying lengths. Those that wound up in Soviet hands were either: 1) extradited to their home countries for criminal proceedings or 2) simply shipped to forced labor camps with the Germans. Those that survived up to a decade or so of this treatment were eventually sent home.

The final tally sheet for the European Volunteer Movement ran roughly as follows: (Waffen-SS only)

Western Europe: 162,000 volunteers, ranging from about 55,000 in Holland to 80,000 from Liechtenstein. Out of this total about 50,000 were killed or missing in action. Included in this figure would be 16,000 Dutchmen and 11,500 Belgians.

Baltic States and Soviet Nationalities: About 250,000 soldiers. Casualties and post-war losses through forced repatriation and execution were enormous.

Balkan and Slavic: About 100,000. Considerable losses. Ethnic Germans not from Germany: About 300,000.

Germans from the Reich: 400,000. For the Germans and ethnic Germans, losses in killed and missing were about one-third.

In some countries like Holland, the “volunteer” problem was so great that censorship was imposed and in most cases remains in place to this day. The Dutch were particularly brutal in treating their military “collaborators”; incarcerating many for long terms in concentration camps that followed the German models faithfully. Many volunteers in the Netherlands subsequently rose to prominence in the political and business fields, but because of their “background” remained vulnerable to a form of blackmail that has seen some of them (including parliamentary leaders) sent into distant oblivion.

Treatment of returning volunteers was equally harsh in other countries. Belgium executed many both legally and illegally while keeping a majority of their “military collaborators” locked up in concentration camps run in the German style. In France, some of the more prominent officers were executed, while the rank-and-file of the “Charlemagne” Division was given the option of serving time in Indo-China with the Foreign Legion. Joining them were numerous Hungarian and German SS men who had wound up in French captivity.

Norway locked up its volunteers in stone fortresses and kept them on near starvation rations for between 4 and 8 years. The Norwegian volunteers had sealed their fate when they had offended a “hanging judge” who had offered them modified clemency for admissions of guilt. The judge was spat upon and pelted with rubbish by the incarcerated soldiers so he threw the book at them. Denmark, which produced a multitude of volunteers (nearly 15,000 including the crown of the Danish officer corps), was relatively lenient to most of their soldiers — only the more prominent ones had to suffer for long. One ex-commander of the “Freikorps Danmark” was executed (a decision officially condemned by the Danish Parliament 30 years later), and the Danish Major-General Kryssing, who had commanded a multi-national ad hoc division on the Eastern Front, was kept in prison 5 years and deprived of his civil rights.

When the volunteers were mentioned at all after the war, it was always in a very derogatory manner; they were usually referred to as criminals and mercenaries. The Dutch went so far as to hire a psychiatrist to buttress this theory. He interviewed 400 volunteers and later propounded the thesis that these men had not served out of any moral commitment but had “sold their souls” for material inducements and adventure. This has been pretty much the establishment line ever since, although it is never mentioned that those interviewed (constituting one-half of one percent of the total number of Danish military collaborators), were quite willing to say anything to secure release from their brutal internment.

If one looks at the rigorous screening process that the Germans applied to their foreign volunteers, the myth of their being “criminals” and “mercenaries” is rather thoroughly exploded. The basic criteria for acceptance in the Waffen-SS revolved around the applicant’s physical fitness, mental attitude and past record. Anyone with a criminal record was officially rejected, although some managed to pass the screening process deceptively. Utilizing these standards, the Waffen-SS accepted only 3,000 recruits out of about 12,000 who flooded the recruiting offices of the original Dutch Legion. And out of this 3,000 another 400 would be culled out during training for either harboring a criminal past or an incompatible political attitude. Similarly we can look at the Ukranian volunteers and see that out of 81,999 initial applicants only 29,124 were finally accepted after screening!

If there is any judgment that can be made from this it is that the men who got into the Waffen-SS usually represented the best human material that their respective countries had to offer. There is no way to categorize them individually since they came from all different classes and backgrounds sharing only one common denominator: a love of their country and continent.

It is more than fair to say that the European volunteers left a mark on the battlefields of the Eastern Front far out of proportion to their actual numbers, and this paper would not be complete if it did not include a sampling of their achievements.

In the Linden Hills east of the Oder River, Obersturmführer Capelle’s company of Walloon volunteers was in its death struggle. Enemy tanks were swarming all over — many had been knocked out but all of the Panzerfäuste were now exhausted. At this point, Capelle radioed to “Wallonien” Division headquarters that he was going to try and breakout and link-up with the Division. But escape for the company was no longer possible. Walloon volunteers were crushed to death by tanks running over their foxholes. The badly wounded fired their weapons until their last breath.

Finally all that was left was the company command post. In a heroic stand, the Belgian SS men fought it out until the end. The severely wounded were humanely put out of their misery. The survivors fought on with rifle butts and service revolvers. Incredibly, the command post resisted for the whole day. As it was finally overwhelmed in the early evening, Obersturmführer Capelle went down firing his pistol. Two wounded Walloons reached the German lines during the night to tell of this last battle.

On the next day, 27 February 1945, a supplement to the daily Wehrmacht war bulletin was read over the German radio: “In Pomerania a battle-group from the SS Volunteers Grenadier Division ‘Wallonien’ under the leadership of SS-Obersturmführer Capelle was deployed for flank for flank protection. Displaying exemplary steadfastness and fanatical battle spirit, it was destroyed (in action).” Capelle was recommended for the posthumous award of the Knight’s Cross, but documentation for the decoration was lost in the chaos of the war’s end.

* * *

On the morning of 26 January 1944 a Soviet tank force broke into the town of Gubanizy. The Dutch volunteer Caspar Sporck drove his self-propelled gun right into their midst and began shooting them up right and left, eventually claiming 11 kills. Later, during the last hours of the German retreat to the Narva bridgehead on 31 January 1944, Sporck stayed back alone with his armored vehicle and patrolled far to the east of the main battle lines, seeking out enemy tanks and vehicles and providing protection for stragglers. At dusk, with the enemy close behind, Sporck’s assault gun was the last vehicle to cross into the German lines. For his initiative and valor, Casper Sporck was later awarded the Knight’s Cross.

* * *

On 12 June 1944 at the “Sunshine” outpost to the southeast of the Narva bridgehead, the Danish NCO Egon Christophersen literally saved the main front, when with a small assault troop he counterattacked German trenches that had been seized by the Russians and regained them in hand-to-hand combat. Christophersen and his men then defended the positions against all attackers, enabling the broken German lines to re-consolidate and maintain position. Christophersen was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

* * *

At the Vepskula bridgehead on the wast bank of the Narva River in February 1944, the bedraggled German forces were unable to eliminate a dangerous Soviet inroad. Fresh Estonian assault troops were brought in. For a time they, too, were pinned down. Then the young Estonian Sergeant Haralt Nugiseks led a leap-frog attack that broke through the communist lines. In vicious close combat the enemy trenches were cleared all the way to the river’s edge. Nugiseks was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

* * *

In August 1943 on the Wolchov Front, the Latvian Sergeant Zanis Butkus led a storm troop into the enemy lines and proceeded to capture a string of communist bunkers without loss. He returned to the German lines with many prisoners and much booty. Butkus was given an officer’s commission on the spot. Later, after taking part in 59 close combat engagements, Butkus was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

* * *

In July 1944, on the north side of “Orphanage Hill” on the Narva Front, the Flemish NCO Remi Schyrnen singlehandedly knocked out more than a dozen enemy tanks while wounded and cut off from his unit. In a 48 hour period he turned back — all by himself — several Soviet tank attacks that would have encircled the Flemish and Estonian volunteer battalions fighting nearby. He even scored a lucky “double kill” when one shot from his anti-tank gun penetrated through two tanks advancing side-by-side. Incredibly, in January 1944, Schyrnen had pulled off a similar feat to save the “Langemarck” Brigade near Zhitomir. Schyrnen was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

* * *

Strong Soviet tank forces were attacking along the road south of Dorpat in eastern Estonia in August 1944 with the intention of severing the entire Estonian Front. The only things blocking their way were three anti-tank guns from the “Wallonien” Division under the direct command of the Walloon Lieutenant Leon Gillis. Gillis positioned his guns directly in the road and flung back attack after attack. In furious fighting that raged all day, the anti-tank guns were destroyed and most of the Walloons wounded. The whole front hinged on Gillis’ next move. He chose to attack. The Walloon volunteers knocked out three more tanks with hand grenades and drove back the rest. The enemy was unable to advance. Leon Gillis was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

* * *

In February 1945, the communists were closing in on the military training camp at Neuhammer in Silesia. The Hungarian Captain, Georg Hermandy in command of the emergency battalion of the 26th SS Division “Hungaria” led his unit in a valiant counterattack to prevent a breakthrough. Even after being badly wounded, Hermandy insisted upon staying in the front lines and directed a successful defensive battle that saved the Neuhammer sector. After the fighting, the Wehrmacht Colonel in charge of the area visited the Hungarian SS positions, took off his own Knight’s Cross and draped it around the neck of Hermandy. Waffenhaupsturmführer George Hermandy was subsequently killed on 23 March 1945 leading his men in yet another counterattack.

* * *

The last bridgehead on the east bank of the Oder River in March 1945 was held by the 1st Battalion/SS Regiment Division “Wallonien,” led by the Walloon Major Henri Derriks. Derriks, or “Der Boss,” as he was known to his men, deployed his two tanks and his companies of infantrymen with cool decisiveness, enabling the last German soldiers and refugees to make their way to safety. Finally, with the communists closing in from three sides, Derriks calmly pulled back his forces step-by-step and got them safely across the river, destroying the last bridge behind them. It was nothing new for “Der Boss,” as he had earlier commanded the last group of “Wallonien” soldiers to fight their way out of the Cherkassy encirclement in south Ukraine. Later, Derriks led the last assault of the “Wallonien” Division on the Eastern Front. Among his many decorations for bravery, Sturmbannführer Henri Derricks received the German Cross in Gold.

* * *

And there were many, many more European heroes, most of whom would not have their deeds recorded at all, but would instead find a final resting place in an unmarked grave somewhere in the “East.” We cannot begin to do justice to them in this paper, but we can, hopefully, lift part of the veil that has hidden their exploits for so long a time.

The Reckoning

We are now at the point where it can be asked, what does this discussion of the European Volunteer Movement prove? I think that it has at least validated the following statement by Beadle and Hartmann in their book, The Waffen-SS: Its Divisional Insignia: (p4)

By 1945, the Waffen-SS had proved by its combat success that European people could exist together, as long as they recognized and accepted the national differences between one another. It had been in the Waffen-SS that, for the first time, Dutch had been commanded by Germans and Germans by Belgians. It was this idealism, dearly bought on the roads of Russia and later in the gulags, that forged an outstanding spirit of comradeship and combatant ability among all members, regardless of nationality or rank.

Beadle and Hartmann also made one other trenchant statement that I hope is born out in this essay: (p4)

The greatest triumph of the Waffen-SS though, was not on the field of battle. It was in its policy of recruiting non-German volunteers, not as hired mercenaries, but as co-fighters for a European ideal.

After generations of slander, vilification and falsehood concerning the European volunteers, the first rays of light are beginning to shine through. Slowly, but surely, their story is being told. As for the soldiers themselves, many are of the belief that they were ahead of their time, both militarily and philosophically, and that their legacy is yet to be fulfilled.

For myself, perhaps the most incisive observation was made by the former Waffen-SS Colonel Jochen Peiper in a letter to his comrades while he was being held in American confinement under sentence of death: “Don’t forget that it was in the ranks of the SS that the first European died … ”

Bibliography

Beadle, C. and Hartmann, T., The Waffen-SS, Its Divisional Insignia, Key Publications, 1971.
Bender, R. and Taylor, H.P., Uniforms, Organization and History of the Waffen-SS, Bender Publishing, 4 Volumes, 1969-75.
Buss, P. and Mollo, A., Hitler’s Germanic Legions, Macdonalds and Janes, 1978.
Cerff, Karl, Die Waffen-SS im Wehrmachtbericht, Munin Verlag, 1971.
Degrelle, Leon, Die verlorene Legion, Verlag K.W. Schuetz, new printing, 1972.
De la Maziere, Christian, The Captive Dreamer, Saturday Review Press,1974.
Haaest, Erik, Frontsvin, Frostknuder, Forraedere, Bogans Forlag, 3 Volumes, 1975.
Hausser, Paul, Soldaten wie andere auch, Munin Verlag, 1966.
Hausser, Paul, Waffen-SS im Einsatz, Verlag K.W. Schuetz, 9th printing, 1976.
Heike, Wolf-Dietrich, Sie wollten die Freiheit, Podzun Verlag, new printing, 1978.
Historia #32: L’Internationale SS, Paris, 1973.
Huxley-Blythe, Peter, The East Came West, Caxton Press, 2nd printing, 1968.
Kern, Erich, The Dance of Death, Collins, 1951.
Littlejohn, David, The Patriotic Traitors, Doubleday, 1972.
Littlejohn, David, Foreign Legions of the Third Reich Volume One, Bender Publishing, 1979.
Landemar, Henri, Les Waffen-SS, Balliard, 1972.
Mabire, Jean, Berlin im Todeskampf 1945, Verlag K.W. Schuetz, 1977.
Reider, Frederic, La Waffen-SS, Pensee Moderne, 1975.
Schneider, Jost W., Their Honor Was Loyalty, Bender Publishing, 1978.
Stein, George, The Waffen-SS: Hitler’s Elite Guard at War, Cornell University Press, 1966.
Steiner, Felix, Die Armee der Geächteten, Verlag K.W. Schuetz, 4th printing, 1971.
Steiner, Felix, Die Freiwilligen, Verlag K.W. Schuetz, 5th printing 1973.
Strassner, Peter, Europäische Freiwillige: Die 5. Panzer-Division Wiking, Munin-Verlag, 1968.
Taylor, H.P., Germanische SS, 1940-45, Historical Research Unit/ Uniforms of the SS series, 1969.
Tieke, Wilhelm, Das Finnische Freiwilligen Bataillon der Waffen-SS, Munin-Verlag, 1979.
Tieke, Wilhelm, Im Luftransport an Brennpunkte der Ostfront, Munin-Verlag, 1971.
Tieke, Wilhelm, Tragödie um die Treue, Munin-Verlag, 3rd printing, 1978.
Wenn alle Brueder schweigen, Munin-Verlag, 1973 & 1975 editions.

Periodicals

Berkenkruis, Birch Cross/Belgium: Publication of the Flemish Waffen-SS veterans association. Various issues.
Der Freiwillige, Munin-Verlag: Monthly magazine of the Waffen-SS veteran’s self-help association. 1965 to date.
Siegrunen: The Waffen-SS in Historical Perspective, Glendale, Oregon, all issues, 1976 to date.
Siegrunen Bulletin, Glendale, Oregon, all issues 1979 to date.
Siegrunen Anthology 1, Glendale, Oregon, Spring 1979.

Other Material

Documents, letters, maps, photos, and records in the author’s archives.
Verordnungsblatt der Waffen-SS 1941-45. Various issues.

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Adolf Hitler’s Armed Forces: A Triumph for Diversity?
Veronica Clark
September 3, 2009
Source: Archives, Inconvenient History

Triumph of diversity: This is precisely what characterized the German Armed Forces of World War II by the year 1945. While this may be difficult for many historians to accept, it is nevertheless an accurate summation of what happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Even though the Germans initiated their war with a racist doctrine in mind, one that sought to create a “New Order” for Europe, with Germany at the center and German elites at the top of the European political and racial hierarchy (a German version of the so-called “White man’s burden,” so to speak), the Germans nevertheless had to scrap this racial doctrine for one that promoted internationalism and tolerated multicultural and interethnic cooperation and intimate relations. Many Nazis were deeply affected by the non-Germans with whom they fought and worked. For example, Fritz Freitag ended up throwing Nazi doctrine to the wind, and instead focused on building a Ukrainian liberation army.

In a telephone interview with German World War II survivor “G” (his identity is being protected), I was informed for the first time that foreigners who were working under “forced labor” contracts in Germany were essentially as free as Germans themselves. The forced labor characterization, according to G, was misleading. Foreigners were paid for their work and allowed to bring their families to live in Germany with them. They enjoyed leisure activities while ethnic Germans were slaughtered by the tens-of-thousands on the Eastern Front. Theory and reality in the Third Reich differed in fundamental ways, and unless we speak directly with those who lived in Europe at the time, we will never come to know what really happened between Germans and non-Germans in their day-to-day lives. This study tries to answer this unknown as best as possible, because it has been ignored or overlooked for too long.

Let me quickly begin with a few words about terminology. When I use the Nazi terms Mischlinge, Volljude, and Halbjude, my intent is not racist. I use these terms only because they were used by the Nazis, so please do not mistake the Nazi terminology for my own. Secondly, I use the term mulatto in the historical sense. This term is not intended to be racist in this context, but is merely more convenient and historically accurate to use given the subject matter. I have tried very hard to be completely objective toward the Third Reich and its leadership, and have also given much thought to context as I have proceeded in my analysis of the history and historiography. I ask that those historians who have a subjective approach to Hitler and the Third Reich please refrain from judging my intent or bias until they have read my entire book, Black Nazis! A Study of Racial Ambivalence in Nazi Germany’s Military Establishment from which this article is excerpted. There is a reason why I have presented my case as such, so hopefully fellow historians will come away from this “war and society” study with a deeper understanding of:

* Racial dynamics in all Western societies before and since World War II;
* Axis history in general;
* Allied war criminality;
* Non-German Wehrmacht and SS service (especially volunteerism);
* Adolf Hitler’s racial views.
* Racial changes that occurred within the official Nazi ethos (Weltanschauung) as a result of the war;
* The unpredictable treatment of Jews, blacks, and mixed-race people in Nazi Germany.

When I use the term “racial ambivalence,” I use it in the literal sense: that many Nazis were literally “of two minds” about race and ethnicity. History relating to the National Socialist era is generally rife with emotion and bias and this subjectivity prevents all historians from seeing what really happened in the Third Reich and why. Few historians have asked why so many ethnic minorities and foreigners supported the NS (National Socialist) military apparatus. Likewise, few have asked how so many mulattoes, Africans, and Jews survived the war in spite of the atrocities that were committed against these ethnic groups. This study focuses on those who survived the Nazi regime and why, not on those who died for any number of reasons.

The Waffen SS was largely composed of non-Germanic volunteers. Most historians continue to neglect the motivations of these men and women who fought for Hitler as opposed to the Allies. I felt that this was historically unacceptable given that every side feels that it alone is justified. Historians have generally described this interracial phenomenon as “inexplicable” when there is more than sufficient evidence to the contrary. Not only was Hitler ambivalent about his racial and ethnic views, but so too were many prominent Nazis, such as Franz Wimmer-Lamquet and Alfred Rosenberg. I have always maintained that unless the penchant for tolerance and acceptance of the “other” is present, no tolerance or acceptance of the “other” will occur in a genuine way. Many Nazis became great friends with non-Germans. Hitler and Himmler both went out of their way to accommodate their Arab-Semitic volunteers. Hitler met with the Grand Mufti, but failed to meet with the “Aryan” leader of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt. From this example, we may conclude that Hitler was willing to contradict his own Weltanschauung in order to achieve what he needed to achieve politically and militarily. Interestingly, this general attitude of ambivalence was not limited to the military sphere. It extended into the realm of Third Reich society both before and during the war.

One excellent study on the SS, entitled Hitler’s Foreign Divisions (edited by Chris Bishop), offered the following explanation for the international character of the SS. Few people realize just how international were the German forces of World War II. It is estimated that nearly two million foreign nationals served under the Swastika. Although towards the end of the war many were transferred to the SS, large numbers served with the Army, particularly on the Eastern Front. The most committed of the foreign volunteers found a home in the SS, until parts of it were more like a German equivalent of the French Foreign Legion than the elite of the German race.

Although the SS did not welcome non-German volunteers until midway through the conflict in Russia, the idea of recruiting such men dated back to before the war. In his quest for a pan-Germanic Europe, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had decreed in 1938 that non-Germans of suitable ‘Nordic’ origin could enlist in the Allgemeine SS [emphasis added].1

One finds it nearly impossible to disagree with this general assessment of the character of the Waffen SS. One of the more striking features of Bishop’s analysis is his conclusion as to the character of the future German elite as Himmler envisioned it. Bishop’s conclusion is nearly identical to my own in that we both agree that the future German elite was not to be strictly race-based, but rather, based on a combination of “physiognomy, mental and physical tests, character, and spirit.” Bishop rightly concluded that Himmler envisioned an “aristocratic” class that would combine “charismatic authority with bureaucratic discipline.” This, then, would typify “a new human type— warrior, administrator, scholar and leader, all in one—whose messianic mission was to repopulate Europe.”2 The absurd “Superman” notion was a result of Allied propaganda taking hold of and exploiting some of the more radical ideas put forth not by Hitler, but by Friedrich Nietzsche, of whom Hitler had expressed little admiration. In private, Hitler promoted a nearly identical vision to that of Himmler—with regard to a future German core leadership—to Otto Wagener, an early SA leader and one of Hitler’s first economic advisors. However, in contrast to Himmler, Hitler tended to emphasize character, honor, and merit over biology, at that time and later on in 1944.

Hitler was consistently a merit man, and this tended to crop up in many racial conversations he had with his various subordinates and officials. Hitler displayed a marked ambivalence, in the literal sense of being ‘of two minds,’ when it came to race and ethnic heritage—he was always willing to make racial exceptions to his own ideology. He had told Wagener at one point that “retainers” (non-Germans) were as common as “heroes” (racial Germans) in early German society. The context and tone of this particular conversation and others, as far as can be deduced from the English translation, suggests that Hitler remained open to the idea of some degree of tolerance for foreign blood within the German folk-body (Volkskörper). Even when he seemed adamantly against Jewish blood infusion, he continued to make exceptions. The military and organizational performance and dedication of various ethnic minorities, such as Erhard Milch and Bernhard Rogge (both Jewish), and foreigners, such as the Grand Mufti (Arab) and Ante Pavelic (Croatian), certainly affected Hitler’s thinking on the issue of race. He had even expressed admiration for many of his foreign allies, including the Grand Mufti and the Cossacks. By Lawrence Dennis’ own account, Hitler sat down and spoke with him one-on-one. Dennis was half-black.3 Hitler also spoke with African American Dr. S.J. Wright in 1932, which I discuss in more detail in my book.

As many of us know, Winifred Wagner and others, like Heinrich Hoffmann, convinced Hitler on more than one occasion to treat certain Jews with kindness. Thousands were granted his personal “German” clemency (Deutschblütigkeitserklärung). The fact that Jews could become “German blooded” was an unprecedented display of ethnic tolerance for the time period in question. The US did not even do this for blacks or Jews at that time. Blacks and Jews were not accepted as “WASPs” until the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and even then their position remained precarious.

No historian has done a more thorough job examining this Nazi-Jewish phenomenon than Bryan Mark Rigg. However, Rigg, like so many others, has failed to adequately answer why Hitler granted Jewish people clemency in the first place. While he affirms, and correctly so, that Hitler made exceptions to his own ideology for the sake of military expediency, he does not sufficiently explain why Hitler granted Milch or other Jews clemency before the war. Nor does he adequately explain why clemency was granted in 1944 and 1945—a time by which Hitler knew he was losing the war. Furthermore, his argument does not go far enough in explaining why Hitler exempted Jews and Gypsies (Zigeuner) from service in 1944 and 1945, by which time Germany needed every able-bodied man it could summon. Hitler did not allow Russian collaborator Andrei Vlasov independence until 1945. If he was so desperate for manpower, then why did he hold Vlasov’s Russian volunteers back until it was too late?

These are questions that Antonio J. Muñoz, Vladimir Baumgarten, and Peter Huxley-Blythe have answered more adequately and in more depth. However, not even these historians have questioned whether the Russians were reliable enough o use in a demanding way on the Eastern Front. They all seem to agree that had Hitler and the Nazis been more racially accepting earlier on, they would have won the war. But this is purely speculative. For all we know these foreigners could have caused the Germans to lose the war sooner than they did for any number of reasons—i.e., poor morale, indiscipline, etc. The Dirlewanger and Kaminski brigades were predominantly foreign, and included many Gypsies and Slavs, but their performance was so poor and their war crimes so atrocious that the Germans had to disband them. Many of the “Asiatic” men in the Niedermayer Division did not perform well under pressure. All of this was reported to Hitler, so more than likely the poor performance of most Russians factored into his decision to use the Russians under Vlasov politically as opposed to militarily. The fact that Hitler did not aim to liberate Russians also played a part in his decision not to use Vlasov’s men earlier, but his attitude changed rather markedly by the end of the war. The stenographic record portrays a Hitler who understood that the most he could hope for was to stall the Russian advance, and nothing more than that. He hoped that the Americans, French, and British would “come to their senses,” helping him and his men halt and repel the Bolsheviks, which is ultimately what happened during the subsequent Cold War.

The important thing to realize is that had the Nazis been as racist as most historians have argued, then they could not possibly have garnered the immeasurable level of support that they did. Even after Stalingrad; Spaniards, Slavs, Franks, and tens of- thousands of other non-Germans continued to fight for the Nazis on a volunteer basis. Frenchmen and Arab volunteers gave their lives in the final fight for the capital of Berlin in 1945. Hitler continued to allow thousands of Jewish men to serve, and many did so with incredible tenacity and valor. One has to call into question whether all of these Jewish men and other non-Germans were really as opposed to the Nazi regime as they have claimed after the fact. Their tenacity and determination suggests otherwise in many cases. The Jewish soldiers Bernhard Rogge, Helmuth Wilberg, Erhard Milch, and Ernst Prager come to mind. Hans Hauck, a half-black man, wanted to join the Wehrmacht in order to prove that he was as “German” as a white German. He elected to remain in Soviet captivity even though he was given a chance to leave with his comrades. He did so to prove that he was German. Such behavior seems unimaginable given what we have been told about Nazi treatment of blacks and mixed-race individuals in Third Reich society. The truth is that relations were far more fluid, dynamic, and complicated than many historians have led us to believe. Hauck had even been promoted to private first class.

This was the main reason I wrote my master’s thesis on this particular subject. When I first saw the books about all of these foreigners and ethnic minorities in Nazi service I was dumbstruck. Historians should not be comfortable with the fact that even many formally educated people (I was an undergraduate at the time) had or have no idea that some two million foreigners and ethnic minorities fought for the Axis. I examined their motives and thoughts as well as the thoughts and motives of Hitler and other Nazis in order to explain this phenomenon. This was why I examined POWs, forced laborers, conscripts, and volunteers: in order to get a clearer picture as to what these men and women went through and what they thought about all of it. This is a largely ignored aspect of the Axis and World War II in general. I figured it was time to break new ground.

Upon seeing part of Hitler’s Platterhof speech of May 26, 1944 in John Lukacs’ excellent biographyThe Hitler of History, I decided to purchase the speech from the Institut für Zeitgeschichte and translate it into English myself (with assistance). Up to this point, no historian has translated this entire speech, which is rather remarkable in and of itself. It is a revealing speech, included in full in this second edition of Racial Ambivalence, and one in which Hitler admits rather openly as to having been wrong about race and Volk. While Hitler’s outlook remained “Völkisch-Nationalist,” he patently admitted that the strength of the German people as a whole was the result of its many different racial nuclei. He accepted that the German Volk was a “mixed-race” Volk, but resolved to nurture the Nordic race nucleus more than the others, since he believed this particular nucleus was the most qualified when it came to leadership and organizational capability. Thus, while Hitler’s thinking was still quite racially inclined, he seemed to have understood that individual Germans were more important in certain respects, due to their Nordic proclivities, than the German Volk as a whole (which he felt had to be led by the more capable Nordic types). In this speech Hitler emphasized merit and achievement above all else. This leads me to conclude that he associated Nordic race attributes with merit and achievement, and we can see here that this belief was a partial retraction from the official racial line of NS itself; because any individual with a Nordic bloodline could harbor the biological proclivity for leadership and organizational talent, regardless of whether he was “pure German.”

In this respect, Hitler was more accepting of non-German people than was, say, General Heinz Guderian. (On at least one occasion, Guderian requested “racially pure” divisions as per the stenographic record of Hitler’s military conferences). If a half-Jewish soldier exhibited leadership and organizational talent, then that Jewish individual received Hitler’s personal clemency. If we wished to speculate, as too many historians do, then we could say that, given this speech and Hitler’s change in outlook, had Hitler won the war he would have been more racially accepting, since some of his best leaders and most resolved soldiers were mixed-race or foreign-blooded (i.e., Admiral Bernhard Rogge, Field Marshal Erhard Milch, and Léon Degrelle of the SS Wallonie Division). The two Sabac el Cher sons, Herbert and Horst, both mulattoes, were also presumably exempted by Hitler and allowed to serve in the Wehrmacht (one even served in the Stahlhelm in 1935).

Hitler ridiculed Himmler’s and others’ “primitive biologism” rather early on. This indicates, as I have argued, that Hitler was more racially open-minded, and earlier on, than previously thought. The Otto Wagener memoirs are filled with Hitler’s ambivalent statements on race and ethnicity. Likewise, Hitler’s “table talks” are contradictory in many ways. Since Hitler seemed to have consistently said contradictory things, we may conclude that he was consistently ‘of two minds’ about certain touchy issues, including race. In my view, this is a more cogent explanation of his personal acceptance of so many Jewish and foreign soldiers within German ranks.

I might add at this juncture that Rigg also provided an irrational explanation as to Hitler’s “Aryanization” of Christ. If one examines what Hitler actually said about Christ early on, one sees that he really did believe that Christ was non-Jewish. This is obvious in the Wagener memoirs and Bormann records (Hitler’s Table-Talk, 1941-1944). Hitler was not alone in this belief either. Many German theologians who were not Nazis or Hitler supporters also believed that Jesus Christ was non-Jewish. No historian to my knowledge has done a better job of exploring and analyzing this German phenomenon than Richard Steigmann-Gall. His study has offered a rational explanation for the “Aryanization” of Christ by so many Germans and Nazis, and one would do well to read what he has written. Unfortunately, Rigg fell short in this respect, though his research on Jewish soldier motivations and thoughts remains unparalleled.

Getting back to the main point here, I offer the following assessment. While there was certainly racial discrimination in Nazi Germany, there was also racial discrimination in America, Britain, France, Poland, Russia, Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Italy. In fact, Gerald Horne (author of Race War!) said that the British, in spite of their propaganda to the contrary, regularly and secretly discriminated against black soldiers. Blacks were not promoted simply because they were black. According to Horne, the British literally used conscripted Indian soldiers as cannon fodder on numerous occasions during the fighting in China. White British blood was apparently too precious to be spilled fighting against Chinese, who the British despised, abused, wantonly murdered, and degraded regularly. As I already mentioned, Sabac el Cher’s two sons, both of whom were ‘mulatto’, served in Hitler’s Wehrmacht, as did Mandenga Ngando (in 1940),4a Cameroonian-German. Article VII of the First Supplementary Decree made this possible. Numerous blacks served during the Battle for Moscow, and at least one fell there. According to Rigg’s latest book (2009), Lives of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers, some 2,000 full Jews, 60,000 half-Jews and 90,000 quarter-Jews served in Hitler’s Wehrmacht and SS. This may even be an underestimate of the true figures. We just do not know.

At least two million non-German foreigners and ethnic minorities served in Hitler’s armed forces at one point or another. Without foreign and non-German help, the Germans never would have had their Western defenses prepared in time for the Allied invasion. Let us think about two things here. Hitler’s Wehrmacht-Waffen SS combination was the most culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse military force in Western history. In spite of this fact, we are all supposed to believe he was a hyper-racist (my own term) like some other Nazis.

What do I mean by hyper-racist? Well, just as some individuals in capitalist societies gravitate to the top and become hyper-capitalists (i.e., billionaire CEOs), even though they may not believe in the capitalist system of government per se, the same may be said of many powerful and prosperous individuals in ethnostates and their societies. Numerous Nazis were not adamant “racists,” and those particular Nazis (including Hitler) tended to fall by the wayside as far as political power was concerned. The hyper-racists, like hyper-capitalists, tended to be extremely ambitious and power-hungry individuals. Some may not have even been all that racist, but played the role in order to advance politically and personally. Himmler may well have been one of these hyper-racists, since he was so excited about (and accommodating of) Arab-Semites, Slavic Eastern volunteers, and Gypsies so early on. His demonstrated racial tolerance causes one to ask whether he was really as racist as he made himself out to be. Antonio Muñoz’ findings as well as photographic evidence featured in Borsarello and Palinckx’s Wehrmacht and SS indicate that he was open to recruiting Senegalese and Afro-British POWs to serve Germany in some capacity as well (not necessarily in combat). Thus, just as Richard Steigmann-Gall exposed Bormann’s hyper-anti-Christianity in his book The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, many historians have similarly exposed Himmler’s hyper-racism—perhaps inadvertently.

Hitler himself seems to have faded as far as power politics was concerned. Bormann and Himmler, along with the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst, usurped most of his actual power and he served as an ideological and moral inspiration for the German people and SS officers more than an actual power player within the Party or SS in those final two years of the war—though he maintained the final say in most military and political justice matters. Hitler retained the loyalty of the lower echelons of the Wehrmacht, SS, SA, and officer corps until the very end of his life, but he had lost a great deal of influence when it came to the higher ranks of the Wehrmacht and other elite cliques. As many already know, Himmler and Göring both betrayed Hitler in the end.

I ask those historians who still believe that Hitler and the Nazis were “white supremacists”: how do you account for the incredible degree of non-German and ethnic minority (i.e., 150,000 Jews and Jewish Mischlinge) collaboration during World War II? Again, some two million non-Germans helped the Nazis. If Munoz’ figures are to be believed, then nearly 1.5 million of these volunteers and conscripts were Russians. Let me compare this to a similar modern example by asking whether Zionist Jews, as members of a present-day ethnostate, can honestly boast of such high levels of foreign and ethnic minority collaboration and volunteerism? How about the less recent white South Africans of former Rhodesia? Hundreds-of-thousands of Nazi collaborators were volunteers. How many Palestinians, Persians, Jordanians, or Syrians have volunteered to fight for the IDF and the modern Israeli ethnostate? Some have, of course, but not nearly two million. Foreigners and non-Germans even volunteered for Schuma (security police), SS, and Gestapo service during the Third Reich. Can Israel’s Mossad boast the same? These are comparative questions we must ask ourselves and analyze, without emotion, in order to understand what really happened in Nazi Germany and why. We also have to admit that the Nazis were not nearly as racist as historians have claimed. This is an especially important admission when we consider the historical context.

Roosevelt opposed anti-lynching laws against African Americans for the sake of political expediency. In an incredible admission to Walter White, head of the NAACP, he said, “If I come out for the anti-lynching bill now, they will block every bill I ask Congress to pass to keep America from collapsing. I just can’t take that risk.” Furthermore, according to the New World Encyclopedia, “After 1942, when Roosevelt was made aware of the Nazi extermination of the Jews by Rabbi Stephen Wise, the Polish envoy Jan Karski and others, he refused to allow any systematic attempt to rescue European Jewish refugees and bring them to the US.”5 To this day the US public is mostly unaware of these incredible examples of Roosevelt’s racism and arrogance.

Some blacks were literally incinerated to death by hostile white mobs eager to unleash their aggression against an easy target.6 While many Africans and Afro-Germans were discriminated against in Nazi Germany, the Nazi government never advocated or endorsed lynching of blacks in the Nazi state, nor was racism against Africans institutionalized. In fact, World War II survivor Friedrich Berg unequivocally stated that German children greatly admired Jesse Owens and looked up to him in spite of his race.7 This was relayed to Mr. Berg by a man who lived in Nazi Germany at the time. Indeed, there is no reason to doubt the veracity of this man’s claim; Germans cheered Owens and repeatedly chanted his name – “Jess-ah O-vens, Jess-ah O-vens” – at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Owens himself told the press that he was not forced to sit at the back of German buses, nor was he disallowed to stay at the nicest hotels. Mr. Berg’s acquaintance also mentioned that Owens could have walked into any bar in Germany and been treated as well as a German patron. Contrast this with the fact that in Britain and the US, even prominent blacks were often forced to stand in buses and were never allowed to stay in classy areas designated for “whites only”. African American journalist and author Roi Ottley recounted many of the everyday horrors of British and US treatment of blacks in his book No Green Pastures. It should come as little surprise that Ottley reported that British boys lit Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “frizzly hair” on fire “to see if it would burn.”8 Such crass racism amongst the youth of Britain at the time is largely neglected by today’s historians, mainly because it does not fit today’s whitewashed image of the Allies. Perhaps this is one reason why few historians have mentioned that Cameroonian Louis Brody wrestled for the German Circus Crown throughout the Nazi years, and was the most famous Afro-German actor from the 1920s through 1940s.9

Even fewer historians realize that Martin Bormann issued a circular to all Gauleiters (regional leaders) in March 1936 calling for employment protection of Africans and Afro-Germans living and working in Germany. This order flew in the face of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.10 We may presume that Hitler had something to do with this protective measure, as it remains doubtful that Bormann himself was that concerned with the welfare of blacks. Joachim von Lang has argued that Bormann did everything in his personal power to keep Jewish letters of appeal and clemency applications as well as disturbing war information from Hitler. One need not guess how this man’s actions may have adversely affected Afro-Germans and other blacks living and working in Germany, especially in light of Hitler’s severely declining health and political activeness in the latter half of the war.

To conclude, true racists do not suddenly discard their “master race” doctrine simply because of military setbacks. White South Africans and Israelis refused to discard their racial supremacist doctrines in spite of antagonistic world opinion and military setbacks. Israel has yet to allow Palestinians into its highest levels of government. Likewise, the US has yet to allocate top-level military and governmental command to non-whites. Whether or not any of these modern states qualify as truly racist is up to historians and politicians to decide. But they must do it without the hysteria normally associated with such controversial historical and comparative inquiries. If historians cannot get past the hysteria so typical of Third Reich historiography, then how are they going to explain phenomena like the Jüdische Ordnungsdienst (Jewish Order Police), which assisted the Germans with policing the main ghettos of Poland? An estimated 2,500 Jewish men served in Warsaw and half that number in the Lodz ghetto during the Nazi occupation.11

Having said all this, one fact remains: the Nazis were not true racists unless all other ethnostates at that time (and since) were also truly racist. Harry Truman, not Adolf Hitler, said the following: “I think one man is as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a nigger or a Chinaman. Uncle Will…says that the Lord made a white man out of dust, a nigger from mud, then threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman.” Had Hitler said this, historians certainly would have used it as evidence of his uncompromising racism. And yet, even though no such statements ever came out of Hitler’s mouth, not even with regard to Jews in private, historians have still consistently argued that he was an uncompromising racist, while conveniently ignoring the blatant and sometimes grossly inhuman racism of both Allied and non-German Axis leaders. The British conducted “bizarre tests of racial purity,” but only Berlin’s ‘racial purity’ tests were subjected to international scrutiny and attack.12 Gerald Horne relayed that “[e]ven as the Empire seemed on the verge of being overrun by predatory Japanese troops, London was unwilling to accept offers of aid by people not of ‘pure European descent’— particularly for posts beyond simple soldiering. He went on to say, “This applied to ‘Dartmouth Cadetships and direct entry cadetships’ where the ‘practice of the interview committee’ was to ‘reject boys who evidently have a colour stain’.”13 The British deliberately left racial references like this out of official memoranda just in case these memoranda ended up in anti-British hands. To cite another example: Croatians were hardly tolerant of Serbs during World War II, and yet we never read about this in most history books. Is it because Croats and Serbs do not deserve our historical inquiry? Are they somehow ‘less human’ or ‘less important’ than other ethnic groups of the era?

Hitler’s true racism, as I prefer to say, is an ahistorical construct. Historians decided who was racist and who was not on the basis of who won World War II. However, historians cannot have it both ways: Either all Western leaders are portrayed for the racists they were or none of them are portrayed as such—that is, in the historical sense. We do not get to pick and choose our racists. If we do so, then we need to research ever further back in history and condemn Emperor Hadrian as a genocidal anti-Semite, Napoleon as an anti-black racist and genocidal maniac (in light of his actions against Roma and blacks), and the Romans as racist against Greeks.

I will add at this point that the Germans never had a “master race” doctrine to begin with. Herrenvolk does not mean “master race.” That definition was the result of a combination of Allied misunderstanding of the German Führerprinzip and anti-German war propaganda. It meant ‘elite leadership corps’, and that was strictly in reference to continental Europe, not the world. Hitler did not have world aims, but European ones. Further, the German terms folk (Volk) and race (Rasse) were not synonymous. Herrenvolk (“Volk of leaders”) was not akin to Herrenrasse, and as a matter of fact, the Nazis never used the term Herrenrasse (“race of leaders”). Indeed, Hitler himself differentiated the two German terms at Platterhof. He said, “Volk und Rasse ist nicht dasselbe.” (“Folk and race are not the same.”) It appears that historians influenced by wartime Allied propaganda, and not the Nazis themselves, invented this term and its subsequent racist connotation. This explains why so many Western Allied leaders were shocked to see Russians fighting for Nazis on the Western Front, Indo-Chinese in the Ostlegionen (Eastern legions), and why historians have been loath to describe such Nazi racial dynamics even unto the present day.

Gerald Horne described Japanese racial ideology as “sufficiently flexible to allow for…special appeal […].”14 This description applies to Nazi racial ideology as well. Antonio J. Muñoz went so far as to call into question the rationality of the Spanish volunteers after Franco’s official withdrawal. In so doing, he has failed to explain that the Axis did not see itself as particularly racist, nor did it see itself as unjustified in its war, aims, or conduct. Countless Spaniards loathed Communism and proved quite willing to help Germany in her fight against that political philosophy. As such, they were “true believers” in continued European independence from Russia. The majority of Axis soldiers, including those who were conscripted by the Nazis, were anti-Communist or anti-Bolshevik. Still others, like the French, were anti-British. They were “racists” in their own right, many of them. The Croats were exterminating ethnic minorities long before the Germans occupied Croatia helping it to achieve independence. Vichy French loyalists continued to defy British and American efforts to “liberate” France into 1943:

The final phase of this war within a war was the invasion of North Africa, where Vichy forces numbered 100,000. Despite a twin assault by US, British and Free French forces on Morocco and Algeria, Vichy garrisons, but especially ships and submarines, proved more determined in their resistance than expected. A French squadron was sunk by the US off the coast of Morocco, with 500 French sailors killed and 1,000 wounded.15

Numerous Frenchmen resisted the Allies until the very end of the war, whereupon they fought and died in the streets of the German capital.

The point of addressing these little known facts is to encourage historians to stop looking at the Third Reich and Axis in such rigid formulae, and instead, to examine it with dynamism and transformation in mind. The war affected Nazis deeply. Many of them had caste off their racism as a result of the camaraderie they developed with their fellow non-German equals and subordinates. As White Russian exile Grigori von Lambsdorff confirmed, most non-Germans saw themselves as equals, not as racial inferiors. This calls into question just how the Nazis treated their non-German comrades in- arms in spite of official propaganda. If Lambsdorff and others saw themselves as equals, then Nazi racial degradation was either non-existent or far less pervasive than historians have claimed it was.

I will end by referencing a news article that examined the increasing number of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the US Armed Forces (to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan).16 In spite of America’s official commitment to non-racism and ethnic and social equality, it is knowingly and willingly recruiting racists, and thus tolerating racism, within the military sphere. The exigencies of war have caused this US phenomenon just as exigencies of war caused the Nazis to renege on their official racial doctrine. What tends to happen as a result of developments like these is general and growing acceptance of those who are the newly tolerated (those who used to be shunned), and not vice versa. The normally shunned individuals who are newly tolerated tend to swing the balance of power into their favor, because the exigencies of war naturally favor those who are now “needed” in light of the declining general situation. In light of this assessment, we can honestly argue that the Nazis became less racist at a faster rate than did the Allies, because they were forced to speed up the process of interracial integration and cooperation due to the exigencies of war. War became, to use Tina Campt’s phrase, a positive “vehicle of change” in the Third Reich. The Nazis never racially segregated their troops. Blacks, Slavs, Asians, and Arabs fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Germans.

Now, if we examine the US today, we see that the racists in the armed forces will be the ones to gain the upper hand, since they are needed. The balance of power has swung in their favor due to the exigencies of war. This may well result in the racialization of the US Armed Forces, which remains under supreme white command in spite of America’s official doctrine of non-racism and equality for all, and we may well see that America becomes more racist and doctrinally supremacist than was Nazi Germany. America’s war is proving to be a negative “vehicle of change” in this respect. My point with this comparison is to demonstrate that we must not examine history or modern developments in a static way any longer, because just as the Nazis changed, so too shall we.

Notes:

1. Hitler’s Foreign Divisions: Foreign Volunteers in the Waffen-SS 1940-1945, ed. Chris Bishop (London, UK: Amber Books, 2005), 8-9.
2. Ibid., 10.
3. Gerald Horne, The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2006), xv.
4. Marianne Bechhaus-Gerst, Treu bis in den Tod: Von Deutsch-Afrika nach Sachsenhausen—Ein Lebengeschichte (Berlin, DE: Ch. Links Verlag, 2007), 154.
5. New World Encyclopedia, “Roosevelt, Franklin Delano,”http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Franklin_Delano_Roosevelt(accessed August 29, 2009).
6. Friedrich Berg, interview by author, August 27, 2009.
7. Ibid.
8. Roi Ottley, 27.
9. Bechhaus-Gerst, 76.
10. Ibid.
11. David Littlejohn, Foreign Legions of the Third Reich Vol. 4: Poland, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Free India, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Russia (San Jose, CA: R. James Bender Publishing, 1987), 27.
12. Gerald Horne, Race War! White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire(New York, NY: New York University Press, 2004), 237.
13. Ibid., 236.
14. Ibid., 147.
15. Christopher Silvester, “England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy, 1940-1942,” The Telegraph on the Web, September 1, 2009,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/6121052/Englands-Last-War-Against-France- Fighting-Vichy-1940-1942.html (accessed September 3, 2009).
16. Matt Kennard, “Neo-Nazis are in the Army Now,” Salon on the Web, June 15, 2009,http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/06/15/neo_nazis_army/index.html (accessed July 1, 2009).

The above article in slightly different form is the preface to Veronica Clark’s book, Black Nazis! A Study of Racial Ambivalence in Nazi Germany’s Military Establishment

Veronica Clark, M.A.
July 1, 2009
Revised September 3, 2009

Black Nazis! Preface Copyright © 2009. Veronica Clark. All Rights Reserved.

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Florence Rost Van Tonningen

Excerpted from: For Holland and for Europe:
The Life and Death of Dr. M.M. Host van Tonningen
By Florence S. Rost van Tonningen

Capture and Murder

M.M. Rost van Tonningen and I were married on December 21, 1940. ReichsFührer-SS Heinrich Himmler was our best man. Our matrimonial vow echoed the SS oath: “Our Honor is Loyalty.”

Before the end came for the German Reich, my husband and I were given the chance to escape to Brazil. He refused, determined to see things through to the end and ready to take responsibility for his acts. Finally granted his wish, he took up arms as a member of the Dutch Waffen SS.

Although my husband had let me decide for myself whether I should flee with our two children to South America, naturally I declined. With the birth of my third child imminent, I made a perilous escape from advancing Polish troops across lands which the Germans had largely flooded to hinder the Allies’ progress. A German ship then brought me to the island of Terschelling, in West Frisia, far from the front.

There, in a small room, unaided and alone, I brought my third child into the world, hale and hardy. My husband was never to learn of the birth of this son.

Soon the people of the village knew, however. My child’s arrival was entered into the local register of births and, following the local custom, the town crier, after blowing on his great horn, proclaimed that the new-born child was the son of Rost van Tonningen. At virtually the same time the islanders learned of the official announcement of their country’s liberation by the Allies, and the streets blossomed with little Dutch flags.

My husband was well known; his name adorned every Dutch bank note.

The frenzied crowds, discovering that the wife of a notorious “collaborator” was in their midst, dragged my children and me from our room and would surely have lynched us in their wild hysteria had not the ship’s doctor of the German vessel which brought me to the island happened by in his car just then. Driving into the crowd, he pulled us into the car and drove off at high-speed.

Since the Kriegsmarine had capitulated, there was no chance of escaping on the ship which had brought me to Terschelling; like the rest of the German warships in the harbor, it was under embargo. Even my brave rescuer believed there was no hope for me; he offered me a poison capsule.

There was, however, one German vessel at anchor there which hadn’t been seized, for it wasn’t a warship. I begged the captain to help my children and me escape. Without wasting any words he weighed anchor and we sailed off into the North Sea, negotiating dangerous minefields until we reached Cuxhafen, at the mouth of the Elbe. I was eager to reach Germany because I believed, following the death of Adolf Hitler on April 30, that the Allies might finally cease hostilities against the Reich and march, together with the remaining Waffen SS formations, against the Red Army.

Himmler had transmitted just such a proposal, through Count Bernadotte, to the British and Americans, and my husband, close to the Reichsführer’s circle, had gotten wind of it. Like my children, I was half-dead from hunger and fatigue, but I still hoped that I would meet my husband somewhere in Germany. That was not to be, however. As I was to learn later, M.M. Rost van Tonningen died brutally at the hands of his captors.

Shortly after arriving at Cuxhaven, where my children and I were admitted to the hospital, I learned that I was about to be arrested and extradited by the British. With the help of a nurse I escaped and, fleeing by foot with my children along country roads, made my way to Goslar in the Harz, where I was reunited with my family. After a few days, however, I was arrested by the British and returned to the Netherlands. It was only after returning that I learned something more of my husband’s fate.

At first I was kept prisoner in the subterranean dungeons of Ft. Honswijk, where I endured terrible treatment from the embittered and vengeful so-called Dutch “democrats.” After my release, I was able to locate and regain custody of my three sons, but of all our property had been confiscated.

My Fight for the Truth

I was then forced to make a living for my family and myself, which was not an easy thing for the widow of a prominent National-Socialist in postwar Holland. Before the war I had studied biology under the great ethologist Konrad Lorenz, and my studies had brought me to China and the Dutch East Indies. Like other “collaborators,” however, I was barred from work in my field of expertise.

At first I tried to support my sons by painting lampshades. No sooner than my persecutors learned of this had the rumor spread that the lampshades were made of human skin — the same lie that was spread about Ilse Koch. Needless to say, I had to give up that enterprise. Thereafter I started an electrical equipment business. Trained as a biologist, I made myself into a businesswoman and technical expert. Beginning with 100 florins, over the course of 34 years I built up my business to a successful factory employing 25 men.

Since my release from prison I have worked tirelessly to establish the truth about my husband’s death, of which I learned in my captivity. Due to the refusal of the allegedly “humane” and “democratic” regime which the Allies restored in the Netherlands, however, I have so far been able to uncover very little.

In April 1945, it is known that M.M. Rost van Tonningen was captured by Canadian troops during the Allied invasion of the Netheriands. At first he was held, together with other Dutch SS officers, at a concentration camp in Elst. Following a visit by Prince Bernhard, consort of Queen Wilhelmina, my husband was transferred to Utrecht and then, on May 24, to a jail in Scheveningen, near The Hague. Thirteen days later he was murdered by his captors in Scheveningen.

I never received official notice of my husband’s death, which authorities later claimed was a suicide. They have never produced any evidence whatsoever to support this claim: the records pertaining to my husband have been sealed until the year 2069.

I was presented, however, with a bill from the municipal sanitation service of The Hague, for on June 6, 1945, the day of my husband’s death, his remains were transferred, first from the prison to a hospital and then to a cemetery, in a garbage truck. This bill was given to me by a policeman named Gross, who carried a dossier with gruesome details of my husband’s mistreatment.

When I visited the hospital to which my husband had been taken, the physician-in-charge was badly rattled when he learned who I was. When I asked him about my husband’s death, he stammered, “No, no, Mrs. Rost van Tonningen, I can’t talk about it.” Then he took off his white coat and led me out of the hospital, where he hailed a taxi and directed me to the Witte-Brug Cemetery.

When I arrived there, it was the same story. The director was frightened, for he had been told to say nothing regarding my husband. He simply pointed to a row of portfolios, labeled “Secret,” on a shelf, and told me that one of them told the story of my husband’s death, of which he could say nothing more. Then he showed me the grave, a mass-grave set aside for paupers, into which my husband’s body, without coffin, had been tossed.

Although I tried for years to obtain permission to reinter my husband in our family plot, I was unsuccessful. My request was taken under consideration by the Council of State, which procrastinated for some time before informing me that the grave had been “cleared.”

In 1950, which had been proclaimed a Holy Year by Pope Pius XII, I visited the Pope in Rome. He was aware of the mistreatment and murder of my husband, and he promised to assist me. Upon my return to Holland, I visited the papal nuncio in order to obtain a document concerning my husband’s death. I was unsuccessful in this endeavor, however, since the Minister of Justice, a Catholic who was cooperating with the nuncio, was suddenly transferred to the West Indies, where he had been appointed governor. His successor, who was Jewish, was not receptive to my case. My attempts to present my case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague were similarly frustrated.

When I reached seventy years of age, I fell ill, and required two operations. My sons were not interested in taking over the running of my factory, and during my convalescence some of my enemies — allegedly former members of the resistance — were able through various tricks, to gain possession of my business.

During the past five years I have received over one hundred bomb threats, and my windows have been smashed numerous times. My brake cables have been cut. For my opponents, everything is allowed.

The press has stepped up its campaign against me as well. Since my husband had been a member of the Dutch parliament, I am entitled by law to a small pension. In 198,4 a Dutch magazine discovered this, and the professional “anti-Nazis” succeeded in pressuring parliament to hold a hearing on whether my pension should be cancelled. Thus far, they have been unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, I have become something of a judicial “muscle-meter,” called “the Black Widow,” on whom litigants and lawyers can test their strength.

After my periodical, Manuscripten, had published a picture of an unknown woman in the costume of a fisherman’s wife, I was astounded to receive a letter from a lawyer demanding 50,000 florins for his client, an actress. Since we had (quite unawares) used her picture without obtaining permission, I was eventually forced to pay her 2,500 florins, as well as assume the costs of the lawsuit, an additional 10,000 florins.

My home has been twice searched by police looking for allegedly anti-Jewish literature. On their first search, the police found a brochure which questioned the factuality of the Holocaust. The court determined that to challenge the established Holocaust narrative was anti-Jewish, and I received a three-month suspended sentence. The second search resulted in the police confiscating Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Hoffman’s Great Holocaust Trial. My trial for possession of these books will begin on March 9, 1989 [Mrs. Rost van Tonningen was subsequently convicted of possessing these forbidden books, each available from the Institute for Historical Review].

I hope that I have been able to communicate successfully to an American audience something of my husband’s life and the ideals for which we both struggled. My husband refused to abdicate his responsibilities or abandon his people. He stayed and fought honorably, only to be butchered. Why? I believe not merely because Rost van Tonningen was a Dutch National Socialist, but because he knew too much about those of his countrymen who cooperated with the Germans in the beginning, then went over to the Allies as so-called Dutch patriots, “heroes of the resistance,” and the like. Had my husband stood trial, his defense might have proved embarrassing for many Dutchmen in high places.

In my life, I have experienced many high points, as well as low points. I have tried to be equal to each situation, always attempting to live in accordance with the spiritual basis of life, the mission that is given each of us to carry out on the earthly plane. The life of each of us is merely a thread in the larger fabric or plan.

I still count our meetings with Adolf Hitler among the highlights in my life. For us, he was a leader who dedicated, and sacrificed, himself for his people — one who eminently fulfilled his life’s mission. He united his countrymen, of all classes and stations, from the aristocracy to the farmers and laborers, as had no man before him. His soldiers fought heroically to the last, particularly so with the men of the Waffen SS. And these fighters were not only Germans, but volunteers from across Europe. Just as my beloved brother, who died in combat in the ranks of the SS, and my husband, I think of Adolf Hitler as the first European.

I shall close with the words of Rudolf Hess, the martyr who surely earned, but was never awarded, the Nobel Prize for Peace. After being sentenced to life-imprisonment at Nuremberg, despite his daring solo-flight for peace, he told the court:

“If I were standing once again at the beginning, I would act again as I acted, even though I knew at the end I would burn at the stake. No matter what people may do, one day I shall stand before the judgment seat of the Eternal. I will justify myself to Him, and I know that He will absolve me.”

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The History of the Waffen SS

You are about to hear Leon Degrelle, who before the Second World War was Europe’s youngest political leader and the founder of the Rexist Party of Belgium.

During that cataclysmic confrontation he was one of the greatest heroes on the Eastern Front.

Of Leon Degrelle Hitler said: “If I should have a son I would like him to be like Leon.”

As a statesman and a soldier he has known very closely Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, Franco, Laval, Marshal Petain and all the European leaders during the enormous ideological and military clash that was World War Two. Alone among them, he has survived, remaining the number one witness of that historical period.

The life of Leon Degrelle began in 1906 in Bouillon, a small town in the Belgian Ardennes. His family was of French origin.

He studied at the University of Louvain, where he acquired a doctorate in law. He was -and is -also interested in other academic disciplines, such as political science, art, archeology and Tomistic philosophy.

As a student his natural gift of leadership became apparent. By the time he reached twenty he had already published five books and operated his own weekly newspaper. Out of his deep Christian conviction he joined Belgium’s Catholic Action Movement and became one of its leaders.

But his passion has always been people.

He wanted to win the crowds, particularly the Marxist ones. He wanted them to share his ideals of social and spiritual change for society. He wanted to lift people up; to forge for them a stable, efficient and responsible state, a state backed by the good sense of people and for the sole benefit of the people.

He addressed more than 2,000 meetings, always controversial. His, books and newspaper were read everywhere because they always dealt with the real issues. Although not yet twenty-five, people listened to him avidly.

In a few short years he had won over a large part of the population. On the twenty-fourth of May 1936 his Rexist Party won against the established parties a smashing electoral victory: Thirty-four house and senate seats.

The Europe of 1936 was still split into little countries, jealous of their pasts and closed to any contact with their neighbors.

Leon Degrelle saw further. In his student days he had traveled across Latin America, the United States and Canada. He had visited North Africa, the Middle East and of course all of the European countries. He felt that Europe had a unique destiny and must unite.

Mussolini invited him to Rome. Churchill saw him in London and Hitler received him in Berlin.

Putting his political life on the line, he made desperate efforts to stop the railroading of Europe into another war. But old rivalries, petty hatreds and suspicion between the French and the German, were cleverly exploited. The established parties and the Communist Party worked on the same side: for war. For the Kremlin it was a unique opportunity to communize Europe after it had been bled white.

Thus, war started. First in Poland, then in Western Europe in 1940. This was to become the Second World War in 1941.

Soon the flag of the Swastika flew from the North Pole to the shores of Greece to the border of Spain.

But the European civil war between England and Germany continued. And the rulers of Communism got ready to move in and pick up the pieces.

But Hitler beat them to it and invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. For Europe it was to be heads or tails; Hitlers wins or Stalin wins.

It was then that from every country in Europe thousands of young men made up their minds that the destiny of their native country was at stake. They would volunteer their lives to fight communism and create a united Europe.

In all, they would grow to be more than 600,000 non-German Europeans fighting on the Eastern Front. They would bring scores of divisions to the Waffen SS.

The Waffen SS were ideological and military shock troops of Europe. The Germans, numbering 400,000, were actually in the minority.

The one million-strong Waffen SS represented the first truly European army to ever exist.

After the war each unit of this army was to provide their people with a political structure free of the petty nationalism of the past. All the SS fought the same struggle. All shared the same world view. All became comrades in arms.

The most important political and military phenomenon of World War Two is also the least known: the phenomenon of the Waffen SS.

Leon Degrelle is one of the most famous Waffen SS soldiers. After joining as a private he earned all stripes from corporal to general for exceptional bravery in combat. He engaged in seventy-five hand-to-hand combat actions. He was wounded on numerous occasions. He was the recipient of the highest honors: The Ritterkreuz, the Oak-Leaves, the Gold German Cross and numerous other decorations for outstanding valor under enemy fire. One of the last to fight on the Eastern Front, Leon Degrelle escaped unconditional surrender by flying some 1500 miles across Europe toward Spain. He managed to survive constant fire all along the way and crash landed on the beach of San Sebastian in Spain, critically wounded.

Against all odds he survived. Slowly he managed to re-build a new life in exile for himself and his family.

For Degrelle philosophy and politics cannot exist without historical knowledge. For him beauty enhances people and people cannot improve their lives without it.

This philosophy is reflected in everything he does. In his Spanish home art blends gracefully with history.

The work of Leon Degrelle has always been epic and poetic. As he walks in the environment of his home one feels the greatness of Rome with its marbles, its bronzes, its translucent glass; one feels the elegant Arabian architecture, the gravity of the Gothic form and the sumptuousness of Renaissance and Baroque art. One feels the glory of his flags.

In this atmosphere of beauty and greatness, the last and most important living witness of World War Two awaits you, Ladies and Gentlemen: General Leon Degrelle.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am asked to talk to you about the great unknown of World War Two: the Waffen SS.

It is somewhat amazing that the organization which was both political and military and which during World War Two united more than one million fighting volunteers, should still be officially ignored.

Why?

Why is it that the official record still virtually ignores this extraordinary army of volunteers? An army which was at the vortex of the most gigantic struggle, affecting the entire world.

The answer may well be found in the fact that the most striking feature of the Waffen SS was that it was composed of volunteers from some thirty different countries.

What cause gathered them and why did they volunteer their lives?

Was it a German phenomenon?

At the beginning, yes.

Initially, the Waffen SS amounted to less than two hundred members. It grew consistently until 1940 when it evolved into a second phase: the Germanic Waffen SS. In addition to Germans from Germany, northwestern Europeans and descendants of Germans from all across Europe enlisted.

Then, in 1941 during the great clash with the Soviet Union, rose the European Waffen SS. Young men from the most distant countries fought together on the Russian front.

No one knew anything about the Waffen SS for most of the years preceding the war. The Germans themselves took some time to recognize the distinctiveness of the Waffen SS.

Hitler rose to the chancellorship democratically, winning at the ballot box. He ran electoral campaigns like any other politician. He addressed meetings, advertised on billboards, his message attracted capacity audiences. More and more people liked what he had to say and more and more people voted members of his party into congress. Hitler did not come to power by force but was duly elected by the people and duly installed as Chancellor by the President of Germany, General von Hindenburg. His government was legitimate and democratic. In fact, only two of his followers were included in the Cabinet.

Later he succeeded always through the electoral process in increasing his majority. When some elections gave him up to 90% of the vote, Hitler earned every vote on his own merit.

During his campaigns Hitler faced formidable enemies: the power establishment who had no qualms whatsoever in tampering with the electoral process. He had to face the Weimar establishment and its well-financed left-wing and liberal parties and highly organized bloc of six million Communist Party members. Only the most fearless and relentless struggle to convince people to vote for him, enabled Hitler to obtain a democratic majority.

In those days the Waffen SS was not even a factor. There was, of course, the SA with some three million men. They were rank and file members of the National Socialist Workers Party but certainly not an army.

Their main function was to protect party candidates from Communist violence. And the violence was murderous indeed: more than five hundred National Socialists were murdered by the communists. Thousands were grievously injured.

The SA was a volunteer, non-government organization and as soon as Hitler rose to power he could no longer avail himself of its help.

He had to work within the system he was elected to serve.

He came in a state of disadvantage. He had to contend with an entrenched bureaucracy appointed by the old regime. In fact, when the war started in 1939, 70% of German bureaucrats had been appointed by the old regime and did not belong to Hitler’s party. Hitler could not count on the support of the Church hierarchy. Both big business and the Communist Party were totally hostile to his programs. On top of all this, extreme poverty existed and six million workers were unemployed. No country in Europe had ever known so many people to be out of work.

So here is a man quite isolated. The three million SA party members are not in the government. They vote and help win the elections but they cannot supplant the entrenched bureaucracy in the government posts. The SA also was unable to exert influence on the army, because the top brass, fearful of competition, was hostile to the SA.

This hostility reached such a point that Hitler was faced with a wrenching dilemma. What to do with the millions of followers who helped him to power? He could not abandon them.

The army was a highly organized power structure. Although only numbering 100,000 as dictated by the Treaty of Versailles it exerted great influence in the affairs of state. The President of Germany was Field Marshal von Hindenburg. The army was a privileged caste. Almost all the officers belonged to the upper classes of society.

It was impossible for Hitler to take on the powerful army frontally. Hitler was elected democratically and he could not do what Stalin did: to have firing squads execute the entire military establishment. Stalin killed thirty thousand high ranking officers. That was Stalin’s way to make room for his own trusted commissars.

Such drastic methods could not occur in Germany and unlike Stalin, Hitler was surrounded by international enemies.

His election had provoked international rage. He had gone to the voters directly without the intermediary of the establishment parties. His party platform included an appeal for racial purity in Germany as well as a return of power to the people. Such tenets so infuriated world Jewry that in 1933 it officially declared war on Germany.

Contrary to what one is told Hitler had limited power and was quite alone. How this man ever survived these early years defy comprehension. Only the fact that Hitler was an exceptional genius explains his survival against all odds. Abroad and at home Hitler had to bend over backwards just to demonstrate his good will.

But despite all his efforts Hitler was gradually being driven into a corner. The feud between the SA and the army was coming to a head. His old comrade, Ernst Roehm, Chief of the SA wanted to follow Stalin’s example and physically eliminate the army brass. The showdown resulted in the death of Roehm, either by suicide or murder, and many of his assistants, with the army picking up the pieces and putting the SA back in its place.

At this time the only SS to be found in Germany were in Chancellor Hitler’s personal guard: one hundred eighty men in all. They were young men of exceptional qualities but without any political role. Their duties consisted of guarding the Chancellory and presenting arms to visiting dignitaries.

It was from this miniscule group of 180 men that a few years later would spring an army of a million soldiers. An army of unprecedented valor extending its call throughout Europe.

After Hitler was compelled to acknowledge the superiority of the army he realized that the brass would never support his revolutionary social programs. It was an army of aristocrats.

Hitler was a man of the people, a man who succeeded in wiping out unemployment, a feat unsurpassed to this day. Within two years he gave work to six million Germans and got rid of rampant poverty. In five years the German worker doubled his income without inflation. Hundreds of thousands of beautiful homes were built for workers at a minimal cost. Each home had a garden to grow flowers and vegetables. All the factories were provided with sport fields, swimming pools and attractive and decent workshops.

For the first time paid vacations were created. The communists and capitalists had never offered paid vacations; this was Hitler’s creation. He organized the famous “strength through joy” programs which meant that workers could, at affordable prices, board passenger ships and visit any part of the world.

All these social improvements did not please the establishment. Big business tycoons and international bankers were worried. But Hitler stood up to them. Business can make profits but only if people are paid decently and are allowed to live and work in dignity. People, not profits, come first.

This was only one of Hitler’s reforms. He initiated hundreds of others. He literally rebuilt Germany. In a few years more than five thousand miles of freeways were built. For the worker the affordable Volkswagen was created. Any worker could get this car on a payment of five marks a week. It was unprecedented in Europe. Thanks to the freeways the worker for the first time could visit any part of Germany whenever they liked. The same programs applied to the farmers and middle class.

Hitler realized that if his social reforms were to proceed free of sabotage he needed a powerful lever, a lever that commanded respect.

Hitler still did not confront the army but skillfully started to build up the SS. He desperately needed the SS because above all Hitler was a political man; to him war was the last resort. His aim was to convince people, to obtain their loyalty, particularly the younger generation. He knew that the establishment-minded brass would oppose him at every turn.

And he was right. Through the high ranking officers the establishment plotted the overthrow of the democratically elected Hitler government. Known as the Munich Plot, the conspirators were detected in time. That was in 1938.

On 20 July 1944, Hitler almost lost his life when aristocratic officers planted a time bomb underneath his desk.

In order not to alert the army Hitler enlarged the SS into a force responsible for law and order. There was of course a German police force but there again Hitler was unsure of their loyalty. The 150,000 police were appointed by the Weimar regime. Hitler needed the SS not only to detect plots but mostly to protect his reforms. As his initial Leibstandarte unit of 180 grew, other regiments were found such as the Deutschland and the Germania.

The army brass did everything to prevent SS recruitment. Hitler bypassed the obstacles by having the interior minister and not the war ministry do the recruiting.

The army countered by discouraging the recruitment of men between the ages of 18 and 45. On the ground of national defense, privates were ordered to serve four years, non-commissioned officers twelve and officers twenty-five years.

Such orders, it was thought, would stop SS recruitment dead in its tracks. The reverse happened. Thousands of young men rushed to apply, despite the lengthy service, more than could be accepted.

The young felt the SS was the only armed force which represented their own ideas.

The new formations of young SS captivated public imagination. Clad in smart black uniforms the SS attracted more and more young men.

It took two years from 1933 to 1935 and a constant battle of wits with the army to raise a force of 8,000 SS.

At the time the name Waffen SS did not even exist. It was not until 1940, after the French campaign, that the SS will be officially named “Waffen SS.” In 1935 they were called just SS. However, 8,000 SS did not go far in a country of 80 million people. And Hitler had yet to devise another way to get around the army. He created the Totenkopf guard corps. They were really SS in disguise but their official function was to guard the concentration camps.

What were these concentration camps?

They were just work camps where intractable communists were put to work. They were well treated because it was thought they would be converted sooner or later to patriotism. There were two concentration camps with a total of three thousand men. Three thousand out of a total of six million card-carrying members of the Communist Party. That represents one per two thousand. Right until the war there were fewer than ten thousand inmates.

So the Totenkopf ploy produced four regiments. At the right moment they will join the SS. The Totenkopf kept a low profile through an elaborate system of recruiting reserves in order to keep its strength inconspicuous.

At the beginning of the war the Totenkopf numbered 40,000 men. They will be sent to 163 separate units. Meanwhile the initial Leibstandarte regiment reached 2800 and a fourth regiment was formed in Vienna at the time of the Anschluss.

The young men who joined the SS were trained like no other army in the world. Military and academic instruction were intensive, but it was the physical training that was the most rigorous. They practice sports with excellence. Each of them would have performed with distinction at the Olympic games. The extraordinary physical endurance of the SS on the Russian front, which so amazed the world, was due to this intensive training.

There was also the ideological training. They were taught why they were fighting, what kind of Germany was being resurrected before their very eyes. They were shown how Germany was being morally united through class reconciliation and physically united through the return of the lost German homelands. They were made aware of their kinship with all the other Germans living in foreign lands, in Poland, Russia, the Sudentenland and other parts of Europe. They were taught that all Germans represented an ethnic unity.

Young SS were educated in two military academies, one in Bad Toelz the other in Braunschweig. These academies were totally different from the grim barracks of the past. Combining aesthetics with the latest technology they were located in the middle of hundreds of acres of beautiful country.

Hitler was opposed to any war, particularly in Western Europe. He did not even conceive that the SS could participate in such a war. Above all the SS was a political force. Hitler regarded Western countries as individual cultures which could be federated but certainly not conquered. He felt a conflict within the West would be a no-win civil war.

Hitler’s conception of Europe then was far ahead of his neighbors. The mentality of 1914-1918, when small countries fought other small countries over bits of real estate, still prevailed in the Europe of 1939. Not so in the case of the Soviet Union where internationalism replaced nationalism. The communists never aimed at serving the interests of Russia. Communism does not limit itself to acquire chunks of territories but aims at total world domination.

This is a dramatically new factor. This policy of world conquest is still being carried out today whether in Vietnam, Afganistan, Africa or Poland. At the time it was an entirely new concept. Alone among all the leaders of the world Hitler saw this concept as an equal threat to all nations.

Hitler recalled vividly the havoc the communists unleashed in Germany at the end of World War One. Particularly in Berlin and Bavaria the Communists under foreign orders organized a state within a state and almost took over. For Hitler, everything pointed East. The threat was Communism.

Apart from his lack of interest in subjugating Western Europe, Hitler was well aware he could not wage war on two fronts.

At this point instead of letting Hitler fight Communism the Allies made the fateful decision to attack Hitler.

The so-called Western Democracies allied themselves with the Soviet Union for the purpose of encircling and destroying the democratic government of Germany.

The Treaty of Versailles had already amputated Germany from all sides. It was designed to keep Germany in a state of permanent economic collapse and military impotence. The Allies had ratified a string of treaties with Belgium, the newly created Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland and Rumania to pressure Germany from all sides.

Now in the summer of 1939 the governments of Britain and France were secretly negotiating a full military alliance with the Soviet Union. The talks were held in Moscow and the minutes were signed by Marshal Zhukov.

I have these minutes in my possession. They are stupefying. One can read a report guaranteeing Britain and France of Soviet participation against Germany. Upon ratification the Soviet Union was to provide the Anglo-French forces with the Soviet support of 5500 combat planes immediately plus the back up of the entire Soviet air force. Between 9,000 to 10,000 tanks would also be made available. In return, the Soviet Union demanded the Baltic states and free access to Poland. The plan called for an early joint attack.

Germany was still minimally armed at that stage. The French negotiators realized that the 10,000 Soviet tanks would soon destroy the 2000 German tanks but did not see that they would be unlikely. to Stop at the French border. Likewise the British government was quite prepared to let the Soviets take over Europe.

Facing total encirclement Hitler decided once more to make his own peace with one or the other side of the Soviet-British partnership.

He turned to the British and French governments and requested formal peace talks. His quest for peace was answered by an outpouring of insults and denunciations. The international press went on an orgy of hate against Hitler unprecedented in history. It is mind-boggling to re-read these newspapers today.

When Hitler made similar peace overtures to Moscow he was surprised to find the Soviets eager to sign a peace treaty with Germany. In fact, Stalin did not sign a peace treaty for the purpose of peace. He signed to let Europe destroy itself in a war of attrition while giving him the time he needed to build up his military strength.

Stalin’s real intent is revealed in the minutes of the Soviet High Command, also in my possession. Stalin states his intent to come into the war the moment Hitler and the Western powers have annihilated each other. Stalin had great interest in marking time and letting others fight first. I have read his military plans and I have seen how they were achieved. By 1941 Stalin’s ten thousand tanks had increased to 17,999, the next year they would have been 32,000, ten times more than Germany’s. The air force would also have been 10 to 1 in Stalin’s favor.

The very week Stalin signed the peace treaty with Hitler he gave orders to build 96 air fields on the Western Soviet border, 180 were planned for the following year. His strategy was constant: “The more the Western powers fight it out the weaker they will be. The longer I wait the stronger I get.” It was under these appalling circumstances that World War Two started. A war which was offered to the Soviets on a silver platter.

Aware of Stalin’s preparations Hitler knew he would have to face communism sooner rather than later. And to fight communism he had to rely on totally loyal men, men who would fight for an ideology against another ideology. It had always been Hitler’s policy to oppose the ideology of class war with an ideology of class cooperation.

Hitler had observed that Marxist class war had not brought prosperity to the Russian people. Russian workers were poorly clothed, as they are now, badly housed, badly fed. Goods are always in short supply and to this day, housing in Moscow is as nightmarish as it was before the war. For Hitler the failure of class war made class cooperation the only just alternative. To make it work Hitler saw to it that one class would not be allowed to abuse the other.

It is a fact that the newly rich classes emerging from the industrial revolution had enormously abused their privileges and it was for this reason that the National Socialists were socialists.

National Socialism was a popular movement in the truest sense. The great majority of National Socialists were blue collars. 70% of the Hitler Youth were children of blue collar workers. Hitler won the elections because the great mass of workers were solidly behind him. One often wonders why six million communists who had voted against Hitler, turned their back on Communism after Hitler had been elected in 1933. There is only one reason: they witnessed and experienced the benefits of class cooperation. Some say they were forced to change; it is not true. Like other loyal Germans they fought four years on the Russian Front with distinction.

The workers never abandoned Hitler, but the upper classes did. Hitler spelled out his formula of class cooperation as the answer to communism with these words: “Class cooperation means that capitalists will never again treat the workers as mere economic components. Money is but one part of our economic life, the workers are more than machines to whom one throws a pay packet every week. The real wealth of Germany is its workers.”

Hitler replaced gold with work as the foundation of his economy. National Socialism was the exact opposite of Communism. Extraordinary achievements, followed Hitler’s election.

We always hear about Hitler and the camps, Hitler and the Jews, but we never hear about his immense social work. If so much hatred was generated against Hitler by the international bankers and the servile press it was because of his social work. It is obvious that a genuine popular movement like National Socialism was going to collide with the selfish interest of high finance. Hitler made clear that the control of money did not convey the right of rapacious exploitation of an entire country because there are also people living in the country, millions of them, and these people have the right to live with dignity and without want. What Hitler said and practiced had won over the German youth. It was this social revolution that the SS felt compelled to spread throughout Germany and defend with their lives if need be.

The 1939 war in Western Europe defied all reason. It was a civil war among those who should have been united. It was a monstrous stupidity.

The young SS were trained to lead the new National Socialist revolution. In five or ten years they were to replace all those who had been put in office by the former regime.

But at the beginning of the war it was not possible for these young men to stay home. Like the other young men in the country they had to defend their country and they had to defend it better than the others.

The war turned the SS from a home political force to a national army fighting abroad and then to a supranational army.

We are now at the beginning of the war in Poland with its far reaching consequences. Could the war have been avoided? Emphatically yes! Even after it had moved into Poland.

The Danzig conflict was inconsequential. The Treaty of Versailles had separated the German city of Danzig from Germany and given it to Poland against the wish of its citizens.

This action was so outrageous that it had been condemned all over the world. A large section of Germany was sliced through the middle. To go from Western Prussia to Eastern Prussia one had to travel in a sealed train through Polish territory. The citizens of Danzig had voted 99% to have their city returned to Germany. Their right of self-determination had been consistently ignored.

However, the war in Poland started for reasons other than Danzig’s self-determination or even Poland’s.

Poland just a few months before had attacked Czechoslovakia at the same time Hitler had returned the Sudetenland to Germany. The Poles were ready to work with Hitler. If Poland turned against Germany it is because the British government did everything in its power to poison German-Polish relations.

Why?

Much has to do with a longstanding inferiority complex British rulers have felt towards Europe. This complex has manifested itself in the British Establishment’s obsession in keeping Europe weak through wars and dissension.

At the time the British Empire controlled 500 million human beings outside of Europe but somehow it was more preoccupied with its traditional hobby: sowing dissension in Europe. This policy of never allowing the emergence of a strong European country has been the British Establishment’s modus operandi for centuries.

Whether it was Charles the Fifth of Spain, Louis the Fourteenth or Napoleon of France or William the Second of Germany, the British Establishment never tolerated any unifying power in Europe. Germany never wanted to meddle in British affairs. However, the British Establishment always made it a point to meddle in European affairs, particularly in Central Europe and the Balkans.

Hitler’s entry into Prague brought the British running to the fray. Prague and Bohemia had been part of Germany for centuries and always within the German sphere of influence. British meddling in this area was totally unjustified.

For Germany the Prague regime represented a grave threat. Benes, Stalin’s servile Czech satrap, had been ordered by his Kremlin masters to open his borders to the Communist armies at a moment’s notice. Prague was to be the Soviet springboard to Germany.

For Hitler, Prague was a watchtower to central Europe and an advance post to delay a Soviet invasion. There were also Prague’s historical economic links with Germany. Germany has always had economic links with Central Europe. Rumania, the Balkans, Bulgaria, Hungary and Yugoslavia have had longstanding complimentary economies with Germany which have functioned to this day.

Hitler’s European economic policy was based on common sense and realism. And it was Hitler’s emerging Central European Common Market rather than concern for Czech freedom that the British Establishment could not tolerate.

Yet English people felt great admiration for Hitler. I remember when Lloyd George addressed the German press outside Hitler’s home, where he had just been a guest. He stated: “You can thank God you have such a wonderful man as your leader!” Lloyd George, the enemy of Germany during World War One, said that!

King Edward the Eighth of England who had just abdicated and was now the Duke of Windsor also came to see Hitler at his Berchtesgaden home, accompanied by his wife, who incidentally had been used to force his abdication. Whey they returned the Duke sent a wire to Hitler. It read: “What a wonderful day we have spent with your Excellency. Unforgettable!” The Duke reflected what many English people knew, remarking on: “how well off the German workers were.” The Duke was telling the truth. The German worker earned twice as much, without inflation, as he did before Hitler and consequently his standard of living was high.

Even Churchill, the most fanatic German-hater of them all, had in 1938, a year before the war, sent a letter to Hitler in which he wrote: “If ever Great Britain was plunged into a disaster comparable to the one that afflicted Germany in 1918 I would ask God that He should send us a man with the strength and the character of your Excellency.”

The London Times reported this extraordinary statement.

Friend or foe, all acknowledge that Hitler was a man of exceptional genius. His achievements were the envy of the world. In five short years he rebuilt a bankrupt nation burdened with millions of unemployed into the strongest economic power in Europe. It was so strong that the small country that was Germany was able to withstand a war against the whole world for six years.

Churchill acknowledged that no one in the world could match such a feat. He stated just before the war: “there is no doubt we can work out a peace formula with Hitler.” But Churchill received other instructions. The Establishment, fearful that Hitler’s successes in Germany could spread to other countries, was determined to destroy him. It created hatred against Germany across Europe by stirring old grievances. It also exploited the envy some Europeans felt toward Germany.

The Germans’ high birth rate had made Germany the most populous country in Western Europe. In science and technology Germany was ahead of both France and Britain. Hitler had built Germany into an economic powerhouse. That was Hitler’s crime and the British Establishment opted to destroy Hitler and Germany by any means.

The British manipulated the Polish government against Germany. The Poles themselves were more than willing to live in peace with the Germans. Instead, the unfortunate Poles were railroaded into war by the British. One must not forget that one and a half million Germans lived in Poland at the time, at great benefit to the Polish economy. Apart from economic ties with Germany, the Poles saw a chance that with Germany’s help they would be able to recover their Polish territories from the Soviet Union, territories they had tried to recover in vain since 1919.

In January 1939 Hitler had proposed to Beck, the Polish leader, a compromise to solve the Danzig issue: The Danziger’s vote to return to Germany would be honored and Poland would continue to have free port access and facilities, guaranteed by treaty.

The prevailing notion of the day that every country must have a sea port really does not make sense. Switzerland, Hungary and other countries with no sea ports manage quite well. Hitler’s proposals were based on the principles of self-determination and reciprocity. Even Churchill admitted that such a solution could dispose of the Danzig problem. This admission, however, did not prevent him to sent an ultimatum to Germany: withdrawal from Poland or war. The world has recently seen what happened when Israel invaded Lebanon. Heavily populated cities like Tyre and Sidon were destroyed and so was West Beirut. Everybody called for Israel’s withdrawal but no one declared war on Israel when it refused to budge.

With a little patience a peaceful solution would have been found Danzig. Instead, the international press unleashed a massive campaign of outright lies and distortions against Hitler. His proposals were willfully misrepresented by a relentless press onslaught.

Of all the crimes of World War Two, one never hears about the wholesale massacres that occurred in Poland just before the war. I have detailed reports in my files documenting the mass slaughter of defenseless Germans in Poland.

Thousands of German men, women and children were massacred in the most horrendous fashion by Press-enraged mobs. The photographs of these massacres are too sickening to look at! Hitler decided to halt the slaughter and he rushed to the rescue.

The Polish campaign showed Hitler to be a military genius. History had already started to recognize this most startling of Hitler’s characteristics: his rare military genius. All the successful military campaigns of the Third Reich were thought out and directed by Hitler personally, not the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hitler inspired a number of generals who became his most able executives in later campaigns.

In regard to the Polish campaign the General Staff had planned an offensive along the Baltic coastline in order to take Danzig, a plan logistically doomed to failure. Instead, Hitler invented the Blitzkrieg or lightning war and in no time captured Warsaw. The Waffen SS appeared on the Polish Front and its performance amazed the world.

The second campaign in France was also swift and humane. The British-French forces had rushed to Holland and Belgium to check the German advance, but they were outwitted and outflanked in Sedan. It was all over in a matter of days.

The story goes that Hitler had nothing to do with this operation; that it was all the work of General von Manstein. That is entirely false. Marshall von Manstein had indeed conceived the idea but when he submitted it to the joint Chiefs of Staff he was reprimanded, demoted and retired to Dresden. The General Staff had not brought this particular incident to Hitler’s attention. On his own, Hitler ran a campaign along the same lines and routed the British-French forces. It was not until March 1940 that von Manstein came into contact with Hitler.

Hitler also planned the Balkan and Russian campaigns. On the rare occasions where Hitler allowed the General Staff to have their way, such as in Kursk, the battle was lost.

In the 1939 Polish campaign Hitler did not rely on military textbook theories devised fifty years ago, as advocated by the General Staff, but on his own plan of swift, pincer-like encirclement. In eight days the Polish war was won and over in spite of the fact that Poland is as large as France.

The eight day campaign saw three SS regiments in action: The Leibstandarte, the Deutschland and the Germania. There was also an SS motorbike battalion, a corps of engineers and a transmission unit. In all it was a comprehensive but small force of 25,000 men.

Sepp Dietriech and his Leibstandarte alone had, after bolting out of Silesia, split Poland in half within days. With less than 3,000 men he had defeated a Polish force of 15,000 and taken 10,000 prisoners. Such victories were not achieved without loss.

It is hard to imagine that from a total of one million SS, 352,000 were killed in action with 50,000 more missing. It is a grim figure! Four hundred thousand of the finest young men in Europe! Without hesitation they sacrificed themselves for their beliefs. They knew they had to give an example. They were the first on the front line as a way to defend their country and their ideals.

In victory or defeat the Waffen SS always sought to be the best representatives of their people.

The SS was a democratic expression of power: people gathering of their own free will.

The consent of the ballot box is not only this; there is consent of the heart and the mind of men. In action, the Waffen SS made a plebiscite: that the German people should be proud of them, should give them their respect and their love. Such high motivation made the volunteers of the Waffen SS the best fighters in the world.

The SS had proved themselves in action. They were not empty talking politicians, but they gave their lives, the first to go and fight in an extraordinary spurt of comradeship. This comradeship was one of the most distinctive characteristics of the SS: the SS leader was the comrade of the others.

It was on the front lines that the results of the SS physical training could really be noticed. An SS officer had the same rigorous training as the soldiers. Those officers and privates competed in the same sports events, and only the best man won, regardless of rank. This created a real brotherhood which literally energized the entire Waffen SS. Only the teamwork of free men, bonded by a higher ideal could unite Europe. Look at the Common Market of today. It is a failure. There is no unifying ideal. Everything is based on haggling over the price of tomatoes, steel, coal, or booze. Fruitful unions are based on something a little higher than that.

The relationship of equality and mutual respect between soldiers and officers was always present. Half of all division commanders were killed in action. Half! There is not an army in the world where this happened. The SS officer always led his troops to battle. I was engaged in seventy-five hand-to-hand combats because as an SS officer I had to be the first to meet the enemy. SS soldiers were not sent to slaughter by behind-the-line officers, they followed their officers with passionate loyalty. Every SS commander knew and taught all his men, and often received unexpected answers.

After breaking out of Tcherkassy’s siege I talked with all my soldiers one-by-one, there were thousands at the time. For two weeks every day from dawn to dusk, I asked them questions, and heard their replies. Sometimes it happens that some soldiers who brag a little, receive medals, while others – heroes — who keep quiet, miss out. I talked to all of them because I wanted to know first-hand what happened, and what they had done. To be just I had to know the truth.

It was on this occasion that two of my soldiers suddenly pulled their identity cards from the Belgian Resistance Movement. They had been sent to kill me. At the front line, it is very simple to shoot someone in the back. But the extraordinary SS team spirit had won them over. SS officers could expect loyalty of their men by their example.

The life expectancy of an SS officer at the front was three months. In Estonia I received ten new young officers from Bad Toelz academy one Monday; by Thursday, one was left and he was wounded.

In the conventional armies, officers talked at the men, from superior to inferior, and seldom as brothers in combat and brothers in ideology.

Thus, by 1939, the Waffen SS had earned general admiration and respect. This gave Hitler the opportunity to call for an increase in their numbers. Instead of regiments, there would be three divisions.

Again, the Army brass laid down draconian recruiting conditions: SS could only join for not less than four years of combat duty. The brass felt no one would take such a risk. Again, they guessed wrong. In the month of February 1940 alone, 49,000 joined the SS. From 25,000 in September 1939 there would be 150,000 in May 1940.

Thus, from 180 to 8,000 to 25,000 to 150,000 and eventually one million men, all this against all odds.

Hitler had no interest whatever in getting involved with the war in France, a war forced on him.

The 150,000 SS had to serve under the Army, and they were given the most dangerous and difficult missions. Despite the fact that they were provided with inferior hand-arms and equipment. They had no tanks. In 1940 the Leibstandarte was provided with a few scouting tanks. The SS were given wheels and that’s all. But with trucks, motorbikes and varied limited means they were able to perform amazing feats.

The Leibstandarte and Der Führer regiments were sent to Holland under the Leadership of Sepp Dietrich. They had to cross Dutch waterways. The Luftwaffe had dropped parachutists to hold the bridges 120 miles deep in Dutch territory, and it was vital for the SS to reach these bridges with the greatest speed.

The Leibstandarte would realize an unprecedented feat in ten days: to advance 120 miles in one day. It was unheard of at the time, and the world was staggered. At that rate German troops would reach Spain in one week. In one day the SS had crossed all the Dutch canals on. flimsy rubber rafts-. Here again, SS losses were heavy. But, thanks to their heroism and speed, the German Army reached Rotterdam in three days. The parachutists all risked being wiped out had the SS not accomplished their lightning-thrust.

In Belgium, the SS regiment Der Führer faced head on the French Army, which after falling in the Sedan trap, had rushed toward Breda, Holland. There, one would see for the first time a small motivated army route a large national army. It took one SS regiment and a number of German troops to throw the whole French Army off balance and drive it back from Breda to Antwerp, Belgium and Northern France.

The Leibstandarte and Der Führer regiments jointly advanced on the large Zealand Islands, between the Escaut and Rhine rivers. In a few days they would be under control.

In no time the Leibstandarte had then crossed Belgium and Northern France. The second major battle of SS regiments occurs in concert with the Army tank division. The SS, still with their tanks, are under the command of General Rommel and General Guderian. They spearhead a thrust toward the North Sea.

Sepp Dietrich and his troops have now crossed the French canals, but are pinned down by the enemy in a mud field, and just manage to avoid extermination. But despite the loss of many soldiers, officers and one battalion commander, all killed in action, the Germans reach Dunkirk.

Hitler is very proud of them.

The following week, Hitler deploys them along the Somme River, from which they will pour out across France. There again, the SS will prove itself to be the best fighting force in the world. Sepp Dietrich and the 2nd Division of the SS, Totenkopf, advance so far so fast they they even lose contact with the rest of the Army for three days.

They found themselves in Lyon, France, a city they had to leave after the French-German peace treaty.

Sepp Dietrich and a handful of SS on trucks had achieved the impossible.

Der Führer SS division spearheaded the Maginot Line breakthrough. Everyone had said the Line was impenetrable. The war in France was over. Hitler had the three SS divisions march through Paris. Berlin honored the heroes also. But the Army was so jealous that it would not cite a single SS for valor or bravery. It was Hitler himself who in front of the German congress solemnly paid tribute to the heroism of the SS. It was on this occasion that Hitler officially recognized the name of the Waffen SS.

But it was more than just a name-change. The Waffen SS became Germanic, as volunteers were accepted from all Germanic countries. The SS had found out by themselves that the people of Western Europe were closely related to them: the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Flemish — all belonged to the same Germanic family. These Germanic people were themselves very much impressed by the SS, and so, by the way, were the French.

The people of Western Europe had marvelled at this extraordinary German force with a style unlike any others: if two SS scouts would reach town ahead of everybody else, on motorbikes, before presenting themselves to the local authorities they would first clean themselves up so as to be of impeccable appearance. The people could not help but be impressed.

The admiration felt by young Europeans of Germanic stock for the SS was very natural. Thousands of young men from Norway, Denmark, Flanders, and Holland were awed with surprise and admiration. They felt irresistably drawn to the SS. It was not Europe, but their own Germanic race that so deeply stirred their souls. They identified with the victorious Germans. To them, Hitler was the most exceptional man ever seen. Hitler understood them, and had the remarkable idea to open the doors of the SS to them. It was quite risky. No one had ever thought of this before. Prior to Hitler, German imperialism consisted only of peddling goods to other countries, without any thought of creating an ideology called “community” — a common ideal with its neighbors.

Suddenly, instead of peddling and haggling, here was a man who offered a glorious ideal: an enthralling social justice, for which they all had yearned in vain, for years. A broad New Order, instead of the formless cosmopolitanism of the pre-war so-called “democracies.” The response to Hitler’s offer was overwhelming. Legions from Norway, Denmark, Holland, and Flanders were formed. Thousands of young men now wore the SS uniform. Hitler created specifically for them the famous Viking division. One destined to become one of the most formidable divisions of the Waffen SS.

The Army was still doing everything to stop men from joining the SS in Germany, and acted as though the SS did not exist. Against this background of obstructionism at home, it was normal and understandable that the SS would welcome men from outside Germany.

The Germans living abroad provided a rich source of volunteers. As there are millions of German-Americans, there are millions of Germans in all parts of Europe-in Hungary, in Rumania, in Russia. There was even a Soviet Republic of the Volga Germans. These were the descendants of Germans who had emigrated two centuries before. Other Europeans, like the French Huguenots, who went to Prussia, also shared this type of emigration with the Germans. So, Europe was dotted with German settlements. The victories of the Third Reich had made them proud of belonging to the German family. Hitler welcomed them home. He saw them, first, as a source of elite SS men, and also as an important factor in unifying all Germans ideologically.

Here again, the enthusiastic response was amazing. 300,000 volunteers of German ancestory would join, from all over Europe. 54,000 from Rumania alone. In the context of that era, these were remarkable figures. There were numerous problems to overcome. For instance, most of the Germanic volunteers no longer spoke German. Their families had settled in foreign lands for 200 years or so. In Spain, for instance, I can see the children of my legionaries being assimilated with the Spaniards — and their grandchildren no longer speak French. The Germans follow the same pattern. When the German volunteers first arrived at the SS, they spoke many different languages, had different ways and different needs.

How to find officers who could speak all these languages? How to coordinate such a disparate lot? The mastery of these problems was the miracle of the Waffen SS assimilation program. This homecoming of the separated “tribes” was seen by the Waffen SS as the foundation for real European unity. The 300,000 Germanic volunteers were welcomed by the SS as brothers, and they reciprocated by being as dedicated, loyal and heroic as the German SS.

Within the year, everything had changed for the Waffen SS The barracks were full, the academies were full. The strictest admission standards and requirements equally applied for the Germanic volunteers. They had to be the best in every way, both physically and mentally. They had to be the best of the Germanic race.

German racialism has been deliberately distorted. It never was an anti-“other race” racialism. It was a pro-German racialism. It was concerned with making the German race strong and healthy in every way. Hitler was not interested in having millions of degenerates, if it was in his power not to have them. Today one finds rampant alcohol and drug addiction everywhere. Hitler cared that the German families be healthy, cared that they raise healthy children for the renewal of a healthy nation. German racialism meant re-discovering the creative values of their own race, re-discovering their culture. It was a search for excellence, a noble idea. National Socialist racialism was not against the other races, it was for its own race. It aimed at defending and improving its race, and wished that all other races did the same for themselves.

That was demonstrated when the Waffen SS enlarged its ranks to include 60,000 Islamic SS. The Waffen SS respected their way of fife, their customs, and their religious beliefs. Each Islamic SS battalion had an imam, each company had a mullah. It was our common wish that their qualities found their highest expression. This was our racialism. I was present when each of my Islamic comrades received a personal gift from Hitler during the new year. It was a pendant with a small Koran. Hitler was honoring them with this small symbolic gift. He was honoring them with what was the most important aspect of their lives and their history. National Socialist racialism was loyal to the German race and totally respected all other races.

At this point, one hears: “What about the anti-Jewish racism?” One can answer: “What about Jewish anti-Gentilism?”

It has been the misfortune of the Jewish race that never could they get on with any other race. It is an unusual historical fact and phenomenon. When one studies the history-and I say this without any passion- of the Jewish people, their evolution across the centuries, one observes that always, at all times, and at all places, they were hated. They were hated in ancient Egypt, they were hated in ancient Greece, they were hated in Roman times to such a degree that 3,000 of them were deported to Sardine. It was the first Jewish deportation. They were hated in Spain, in France, in England (they were banned from England for centuries), and in Germany. The conscientious Jewish author Lazare wrote a very interesting book on Anti-Semitism, where he asked himself: “We Jews should ask ourselves a question: why are we always hated everywhere? It is not because of our persecutors, all of different times and places. It is because there is something within us that is very unlikeable.” What is unlikeable is that the Jews have always wanted to live as a privileged class divinely-chosen and beyond scrutiny. This attitude has made them unlikeable everywhere. The Jewish race is therefore a unique case. Hitler had no intention of destroying it. He wanted the Jews to find their own identity in their own environment, but not to the detriment of others. The fight-if we can call it that-of National Socialism against the Jews was purely limited to one objective: that the Jews leave Germany in peace. It was planned to give them a country of their own, outside Germany. Madagascar was contemplated, but the plans were dropped when the United States entered the war. In the meanwhile, Hitler thought of letting the Jews five in their own traditional ghettos. They would have their own organizations, they would run their own affairs and live the way they wanted to live. They had their own police, their own tramways, their own flag, their own factories which, incidentally, were built by the German government. As far as other races were concerned, they were all welcomed in Germany as guests, but not as privileged occupants.

In one year the Waffen SS had gathered a large number of Germanic people from Northern Europe and hundreds of thousands of Germans from outside Germany, the Volksdeutsche, or Germanic SS. It was then that the conflict between Communism and National Socialism burst into the open. The conflict had always existed. In Mein Kampf, Hitler had clearly set out his objective: “to eliminate the world threat of Communism,” and incidentally claim some land in Eastern Europe! This eastward expansionism created much outrage: How could the Germans claim land in Russia? To this one can answer: How could the Americans claim Indian land from the Atlantic to the Pacific? How could France claim Southern Flanders and Rousillon from Spain? And what of Britain, and what of so many other countries who have claimed, conquered and settled in other territories? Somehow at the time.it was all right for all these countries to settle foreign lands but it was not for Germany. Personally, I have always vigorously defended the Russians, and I finally did succeed in convincing Hitler that Germans had to live with Russians as partners not as conquerors. Before achieving this partnership, there was first the matter of wiping out Communism. During the Soviet-German Pact, Hitler was trying to gain time but the Soviets were intensifying their acts of aggression from Estonia to Bukovina. I now read extracts from Soviet documents. They are most revealing. Let’s read from Marshal Voroshilov himself:

We now have the time to prepare ourselves to be the executioner of the capitalist world while it is agonizing. We must, however, be cautious. The Germans must not have any inkling that we are preparing to stab them in the back while they are busy fighting the French. Otherwise, they could change their general plan, and attack us.

In the same record, Marshal Choponitov wrote: “The coexistence between Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union is only temporary. We will not make it last very long.” Marshal Timoshenko, for his part, did not want to be so hasty: “Let us not forget that our war material from our Siberian factories will not be delivered until Fall.” This was written at the beginning of 1941, and the material was only to be delivered in the Fall. The war industry Commisariat Report stated: We will not be in full production until 1942. Marshal Zhukov made this extraordinary admission: “Hitler is in a hurry to invade us; he has good reasons for it.”

Indeed, Hitler had good reasons to invade Russia in a hurry because he realized he would be wiped out if he did not. Zhukov added: “We need a few more months to rectify many of our defects before the end of 1941. We need 18 months to complete the modernization of our forces.”

The orders are quite precise. At the fourth session of the Supreme Soviet in 1939, it is decreed that Army officers will serve three years and the soldiers will serve four years, and the Navy personnel, five years. All these decisions were made less than a month after the Soviets signed the peace treaty with Germany.

Thus the Soviets, pledged to peace, were frantically preparing for war. More than 2,500 new concrete fortifications were built between 1939 and 1940. 160 divisions were made combat-ready. 60 tank divisions were on full alert. The Germans only had 10 panzer tank divisions. In 1941, the Soviets had 17,000 tanks, and by 1942 they had 32,000. They had 92,578 pieces of artillery. And their 17,545 combat planes in 1940 outnumbered the German air force.

It is easy to understand that with such war preparations going on, Hitler was left with only one option: Invade the Soviet Union immediately, or face annihilation.

Hitler’s Russian campaign was the “last chance” campaign. Hitler did not go into Russia with any great optimism. He told me later on: “When I entered Russia, I was like a man facing a shut door. I knew I had to crash through it, but without knowing what was behind it.” Hitler was right. He knew the Soviets were strong, but above all he knew they were going to be a lot stronger. 1941 was the only time Hitler had some respite. The British had not succeeded yet in expanding the war. Hitler, who never wanted the war with Britain, still tried for peace. He invited me to spend a week at his home. He wanted to discuss the whole situation and hear what I had to say about it. He spoke very simply and clearly. The atmosphere was informal and relaxed. He made you feel at home because he really enjoyed being hospitable. He buttered pieces of toast in a leisurely fashion, and passed them around, and although he did not drink he went to get a bottle of champagne after each meal because he knew I enjoyed a glass at the end of it. All without fuss and with genuine friendliness. It was part of his genius that he was also a man of simple ways without the slightest affection and a man of great humility. We talked about England. I asked him bluntly: “Why on earth didn’t you finish the British off in Dunkirk? Everyone knew you could have wiped them out.” He answered: “Yes, I withheld my troops and let the British escape back to England. The humiliation of such a defeat would have made it difficult to try for peace with them afterwards.”

At the same time, Hitler told me he did not want to dispel the Soviet belief that he was going to invade England. He mentioned that he even had small Anglo-German dictionaries distributed to his troops in Poland. The Soviet spies there duly reported to the Kremlin that Germany’s presence in Poland was a bluff and that they were about to leave for the British Isles.

On 22 June 1941, it was Russia and not England that Germany invaded. The initial victories were swift but costly. I lived the epic struggle of the Russian Front. It was a tragic epic; it was also martyrdom. The endless thousands of miles of the Russian steppes were overwhelming. We had to reach the Caucasus by foot, always under extreme conditions. In the summer we often walked knee-deep in mud, and in winter there were below-zero freezing temperatures. But for a matter of a few days Hitler would have won the war in Russia in 1941. Before the battle of Moscow, Hitler had succeeded in defeating the Soviet Army, and taking considerable numbers of prisoners.

General Guderian’s tank division, which had all by itself encircled more than a million Soviet troops near Kiev, had reached Moscow right up to the city’s tramway lines. It was then that suddenly an unbelievable freeze happened: 40, 42, 50 degrees celsius below zero! This meant that not only were men freezing, but the equipment was also freezing, on the spot. No tanks could move. Yesterday’s mud had frozen to a solid block of ice, half a meter high, icing up the tank treads.

In 24 hours all of our tactical options had been reversed. It was at that time that masses of Siberian troops brought back from the Russian Far East were thrown against the Germans. These few fateful days of ice that made the difference between victory and defeat, Hitler owed to the Italian campaign in Greece during the fall of 1940.

Mussolini was envious of Hitler’s successes. It was a deep and silent jealousy. I was a friend of Mussolini, I knew him well. He was a remarkable man, but Europe was not of great concern to him. He did not like to be a spectator, watching Hitler winning everywhere. He felt compelled to do something himself, fast. Impulsively, he launched a senseless offensive against Greece.

His troops were immediately defeated. But it gave the British the excuse to invade Greece, which up till now had been uninvolved in the war. From Greece the British could bomb the Rumanian oil wells, which were vital to Germany’s war effort. Greece could also be used to cut off the German troops on their way to Russia. Hitler was forced to quash the threat preemptively. He had to waste five weeks in the Balkans. His victories there were an incredible logistical achievement, but they delayed the start of the Russian campaign for five critical weeks.

If Hitler had been able to start the campaign in time, as it was planned, he would have entered Moscow five weeks before, in the sun of early fall, when the earth was still dry. The war would have been over, and the Soviet Union would have been a thing of the past. The combination of the sudden freeze and the arrival of fresh Siberian troops spread panic among some of the old Army generals. They wanted to retreat to 200 miles from Moscow. It is hard to imagine such inane strategy! The freeze affected Russia equally, from West to East, and to retreat 200 miles in the open steppes would only make things worse. I was commanding my troops in the Ukraine at the time and it was 42 degrees centigrade below zero.

Such a retreat meant abandoning all the heavy artillery, including assault tanks and panzers that were stuck in the ice. It also meant exposing half a million men to heavy Soviet sniping. In fact, it meant condemning them to certain death. One need only recall Napoleon’s retreat in October. He reached the Berzina River in November, and by December 6th all the French troops had left Russia. It was cold enough, but it was not a winter campaign.

Can you just imagine in 1941 half a million Germans fighting howling snowstorms, cut off from supplies, attacked from all sides by tens of thousands of Cossaks? I have faced charging Cossaks, and only the utmost superior firepower will stop them. In order to counter such an insane retreat, Hitler had to fire more than 30 generals within a few days.

It was then that he called on the Waffen SS to fill in the gap and boost morale. Immediately the SS held fast on the Moscow front. Right through the war the Waffen SS never retreated. They would rather die than retreat. One cannot forget the figures. During the 1941 winter, the Waffen SS lost 43,000 men in front of Moscow. The regiment Der Führer fought almost literally to the last man. Only 35 men survived out of the entire regiment. The Der Führer men stood fast and no Soviet troops got through. They had to try to bypass the SS in the snow. This is how famous Russian General Vlasov was captured by the Totenkopf SS division. Without their heroism, Germany would have been annihilated by December 1941.

Hitler would never forget it: he gauged the willpower that the Waffen SS had displayed in front of Moscow. They had shown character and guts. And that is what Hitler admired most of all: guts. For him, it was not enough to have intelligent or clever associates. These people can often fall to pieces, as we will see during the following winter at the battle of Stalingrad with General Paulus.

Hitler knew that only sheer energy and guts, the refusal to surrender, the will to hang tough against all odds, would win the war.

The blizzards of the Russian steppes had shown how the best army in the world, the German Army, with thousands of highly trained officers and millions of highly disciplined men, was just not enough. Hitler realized they would be beaten, that something else was needed, and that only the unshakable faith in a high ideal could overcome the situation. The Waffen SS had this ideal, and Hitler used them from now on at full capacity.

From all parts of Europe volunteers rushed to help their German brothers. It was then that was born the third great Waffen SS. First there was the German, then the Germanic, and now there was the European Waffen SS. 125,000 would then volunteer to save Western Culture and Civilization. The volunteers joined with full knowledge that the SS incurred the highest death tolls. More than 250,000 out of one million would die in action. For them, the Waffen SS was, despite all the deaths, the birth of Europe. Napoleon said in St. Helena: “There will be no Europe until a leader arises.”

The young European volunteers have observed two things: first, that Hitler was the only leader who was capable of building Europe and secondly that Hitler, and Hitler alone could defeat the world threat of Communism.

For the European SS the Europe of petty jealousies, jingoism, border disputes, economic rivalries was of no interest. it was too petty and demeaning; that Europe was no longer valid for them. At the same time the European SS, as much as they admired Hitler and the German people, did not want to become Germans. They were men of their own people and Europe was the gathering of the various people of Europe. European unity was to be achieved through harmony, not domination of one over the others.

I discussed these issues at length with both Hitler and Himmler. Hitler like all men of genius had outgrown the national stage. Napoleon was first a Corsican, then a Frenchman, then a European and then a singularly universal man. Likewise Hitler had been an Austrian, then a German, then a greater German, then Germanic, then he had seen and grasped the magnitude of building Europe.

After the defeat of Communism the Waffen SS had a solemn duty to gather all their efforts and strength to build a united Europe, and there was no question that non-German Europe should be dominated by Germany.

Before joining the Waffen SS we had known very difficult conflicts. We had gone to the Eastern front first as adjunct units to the German army but during the battle of Stalingrad we had seen that Europe was critically endangered. Great common effort was imperative. One night I had an 8 hour debate with Hitler and Himmler on the status of non-German Europeans within the new Europe.

For the present we expected to be treated as equals fighting for a common cause. Hitler understood fully and from then on we had our own flag, our own officers, our own language, our own religion. We had total equal status.

I was the first one to have Catholic padres in the Waffen SS. Later padres of all demoninations were available to all those who wanted them. The Islamic SS division had their own mullahs and the French even had a bishop! We were satisfied that with Hitler, Europeans would be federated as equals. We felt that the best way to deserve our place as equals was in this critical hour to defend Europe equally well as our German comrades.

What mattered above all for Hitler was courage. He created a new chivalry. Those who earn the order of the Ritterkreuz, meaning the cross of the knights, were indeed the new knights. They earned this nobility of courage. Each of our units going home after the war would be the force that would protect the peoples’ rights in our respective countries. All the SS understood that European unity meant the whole of Europe, even Russia.

There had been a great lack of knowledge among many Germans regarding the Russians. Many believed that the Russians were all Communists while in fact, Russian representation in the Communist hierarchy was less than insignificant. They also believed that the Russians were diametrically opposite from the Europeans. Yet they have similar familial structures, they have an old civilization, deep religious faith and traditions which are not unlike those of other European countries.

The European SS saw the new Europe in the form of three great components; central Europe as the power house of Europe, western Europe as the cultural heart of Europe and eastern Europe as the potential of Europe. Thus the Europe the SS envisioned was alive and real. Its six hundred million inhabitants would live from the North Sea to Vladivostok. It was in this span of 8,000 miles that Europe could achieve its destiny. A space for young people to start new lives. This Europe would be the beacon of the world. A remarkable racial ensemble. An ancient civilization, a spirtitual force and the most advanced technological and scientific complex. The SS prepared for the high destiny of Europe.

Compare these aims, these ideals with the “Allies.” The Roosevelts, the Churchills sold Europe out in Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam. They cravenly capitulated to the Soviets. They delivered half of the European continent to Communist slavery. They let the rest of Europe disintegrate morally, without any ideal to sustain it. The SS knew what they wanted: the Europe of ideals was salvation for all.

This faith in higher ideals inspired four hundred thousand German SS, three hundred thousand Volksdeutsche or Germanic SS and three hundred thousand other European SS. Volunteers all, one million builders of Europe.

The ranks of the SS grew proportionately with the growth of the war in Russia. The nearer Germany was to defeat the more volunteers arrived at the front. This was phenomenal; eight days before the final defeat I saw hundreds of young men join the SS on the front. Right to the end they knew they had to do the impossible to stop the enemy.

So from the one hundred and eighty-men strong Leibstandarte in 1933 to the SS regiments before 1939, to the three regiments in Poland, to the three divisions in France, to the six divisions at the beginning of the Russian war, to the 38 divisions in 1944, the Waffen SS reached 50 divisions in 1945. The more SS died, the more others rushed to replace them. They had faith and stood firm to the extreme limit, The exact reverse happened in January 1943 at Stalingrad. The defeat there was decided by a man without courage. He was not capable of facing danger with determination, of saying unequivocally: I will not surrender, I will stand fast until I win. He was morally and physically gutless and he lost.

A year later the SS Viking and the SS Wallonia divisions were encircled in the same way at Cherkassy. With the disaster of Stalingrad fresh in the minds of our soldiers they could have been subject to demoralization. On top of it I was laid down with a deep sidewound and 102 degree temperature. As general in command of the SS Wallonia forces I knew that all this was not conducive to high morale. I got up and for 17 days I led charge after charge to break the blockade, engaged in numerous hand-to-hand combats, was wounded four times but never stopped fighting. All my men did just as much and more. The siege was broken by sheer SS guts and spirit.

After Stalingrad, when many thought that all was lost, when the Soviet forces poured across the Ukraine, the Waffen SS stopped the Soviets dead in their tracks. They re-took Charkov and inflicted a severe defeat on the Soviet army. This was a pattern; the SS would over and over turn reverses into victories.

The same fearless energy was also present in Normandy. Gen. Patton called them “the proud SS divisions.”

The SS was the backbone of resistance in Normandy. Eisenhower observed “the SS fought as usual to the last man.”

If the Waffen SS had not existed, Europe would have been overrun entirely by the Soviets by 1944. They would have reached Paris long before the Americans. The Waffen SS heroism stopped the Soviet juggernaut at Moscow, Cherkov, Cherkassy, and Tarnopol. The Soviets lost more than 12 months. Without SS resistance the Soviets would have been in Normandy before Eisenhower. The people showed deep gratitude to the young men who sacrificed their lives. Not since the great religious orders of the middle ages had there been such selfless idealism and heroism. In this century of materialism, the SS stand out as a shining light of spirituality.

I have no doubt whatever that the sacrifices and incredible feats of the Waffen SS will have their own epic poets like Schiller. Greatness in adversity is the distinction of the SS.

The curtain of silence fell on the Waffen SS after the war but now more and more young people somehow know of its existence, of its achievements. The fame is growing and the young demand to know more. In one hundred years almost everything will be forgotten but the greatness and the heroism of the Waffen SS will be remembered. It is the reward of an epic.

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