First Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler

The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was an elite formation of the Waffen-SS initially formed as an armed personal guard for Adolf Hitler . Later it stood out like a special armored unit of the Waffen-SS that acted in many scenes warlike during World War II .

Previous history

In 1919 , Hitler , in his desire to protect his person, surrounded himself at the beginning of characters of his highest confidence, ironically called the Chauffeurezka , who were but a clique of confidence composed by chauffeur Julius Schreck , Julius Schaub , Wilhelm Brückner and Ulrich Graf .

The SA was the first organizational response in 1921 of a paramilitary group that defended Hitler in their rallies. This force was formed with elements of the Freikorps and some of the Reichswehr . These forces were led by Ernst Röhm , and disguised themselves as police auxiliaries or sports sections of the army, as they had no legal status.

Prior to the Munich Putsch in 1923 , the Chauffeurezka was instructed to search for individuals who, because of their National Socialist fervor and proven loyalty, could compose a body parallel to the SA. These people should form the Protection Squads or Schutzstaffel or SS organization . Among these people was Joseph Dietrich , who headed with this organization the Putsch, which failed and brought Hitler to jail.

After the Putsch, the SS assumed a secondary role while Hitler was serving sentence: Dietrich was forced to remain in hiding. Later, with the liberation of Hitler in 1925 , the SS acted only when he was acting as auditor at rallies, leaving the action to the SA. Initially conducted by a journalist with Berthold surname, representing Dietrich.

In that same year, Erhard Eihen was named as head of the SS. This had a bad result, as a series of internal disputes involving Gregor Strasser eventually led Ernst Röhm away from the SA. Hitler dismissed his duties to Eihen in 1929 and instead took command of a poultry farmer named Heinrich Himmler , endowing him with the title of Reichsführer . Himmler approached the Prussian aristocracy to the SS and had a remarkable success increasing from the original 286 members to 300,000 in two years, since it attracted middle and upper social strata, which gave an SS elitist status.

Creation of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler

The 17 as March as 1933 , Hitler created the Stabswache , a personal and armed guard, arranged in units. One of them was the Sonderkommando Berlin or special commando for Berlin, directed by Joseph Dietrich with an initial endowment of 120 men chosen selections. His mission was not only to protect Hitler, but also to perform key missions. Other divisions were created, but this one was the division of elite by antonomasia.


The 9 of November of 1933 , the division already had 800 members and Hitler renamed as “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler”, assigning coat of arms as the “Master Key”. The idea was that this SS division in particular was completely autonomous from the rest and directly subordinated to the orders of the same Hitler towards Dietrich. Himmler would only be an administrative entity in this case.

As Hitler’s guard of honor, his members guarded the Chancellery of the Reich in Berlin, stood guard in the main entrances of the Palace and before the office of Hitler. A complex of barracks destined for them was built next to the Chancellery.

Baptism of Fire

In June 1934, during the so-called Night of Long Knives , the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler performed the tasks of removing unwanted members, such as Ernst Röhm , who had fallen out of favor with Hitler for his open hostility towards him by creating him Conflicts with the Reichswehr . Sepp Dietrich and Theodor Eicke were Röhm’s executioners . Other members of the SA and subversives of the SS were also eliminated.

By virtue of the services rendered on that day, Hitler ascended to SS-Obergruppenführer to Sepp Dietrich, and the division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler commanded by him received a very special treatment, elevating it to division plus of the SS. The members selected took a special oath to Hitler, who said:

I promise you Adolf Hitler as Führer and Chancellor of the Reich, loyalty and courage.
I promise you, and those whom you have appointed to command me, obedience to death.
God help me.

The differentiation of the Wehrmacht and the SS

Graduation ceremony of a member of the LSSAH; In the pulpit his commander, Josef Dietrich .

By 1935, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was about 2660 members; The combat instruction began to be extremely rigorous and its selection process even more stringent. This differed fundamentally from the Wehrmacht .

In addition, Himmler tried to separate and give autonomy to the SS with respect to the Wehrmacht, that did not see with the good eyes the formation of parallel combat troops. On the other hand, Josef Dietrich obtained besides the necessary autonomy of the same organization SS, passing over the same Himmler.

The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was financed directly with state funds and not the party, which was not the case with the rest of the SS. The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was provided with the best instructors, firearms, artillery and instruction.

Dietrich, in his effort to make this special unit autonomous, generated rivalries with the other SS divisions; However, the conflicts generated did not split the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler from the rest of the organization.

What prevented the total independence was the logistic sourcing. The SS depended logistically on the Wehrmacht. Hitler, not to enter into conflicts with the Wehrmacht, put them under the administration of the same army as divisions of support, but on the other hand also wanted the complete autonomy of its elite troops.

For training and indoctrination, a war academy was implemented in Bad Tölz thanks to the initiatives of Paul Hausser ; The official headquarters of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was installed in Lichterfelde, near Berlin . Hausser , despite Dietrich’s opposition, served as a liaison between the SS and the Wehrmacht, partly cushioning the obstacles.

In the selection of individuals for the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, a series of requirements were demanded that not all could satisfy. Those requirements, set by Himmler, were:

  • Have your Arianism certificate duly initialed by Himmler’s signature.
  • The minimum height was 1.78 m; If it was two cm less, they could access the Totenkopfverbände , an SS subunit.
  • Physical and intellectual skills above average.
  • Physical appearance according to the canons of Walther Darré .

In general, the soldier of the Leibstandarte SS considered himself superior to the soldier of the Wehrmacht in both physical and military abilities.

The instruction

Members of the LSSAH conducting training exercises in Berlin (1939).

All recruits remained in the rookie state until they approved ideological indoctrination, infantry and armor courses, all of them in SS schools. The exercises were in most cases with real fire, and in addition a soldier had to be able to place a magnetic mine on a tank that was passing over him. Many of the tactics of instruction were devised by Reinhard Heydrich .

The instruction in general was as rigorous as that of the famous British commandos. At bottom, this policy to form supersoldados was sustained by the mockery that the SA of Röhm initially made to the SS as soldiers of asphalt without military value. In Bad Tölz , the academy had a soccer field, boxing rooms, very complete gyms, swimming pools … The instructors were almost all Olympic champions in their specialty. The course was complemented by training in high mountains, assaults on hostile beaches, neutralization of the hunting traps and realization of incursions as command in enemy territory.

The idea of Hausser , promoter of the SS, was to form a super-soldier-athlete capable of making rapid attacks on enemy positions, resolving dangerous situations, assuming leadership in combat and proposing initiatives to his superiors. On the other hand, in the ideological inculcation, the aspirant was deeply aware of his hatred towards the Jew and communism – this was essential, as repressive tasks would be carried out against populations declared to be enemies of the Reich . The aspirant or novice could give up freely if he did not resist training; After taking the oath, the bond was indeclinable until death.

In fact, during the training it was urged by psychological pressure that the novice resigned to the SS; In this way, those who could not withstand psychological pressure or physical training, were filtered. The final product were supersoldados of proven loyalty. This technique is still used in training commandos and special forces US

The first performances

One of the first military actions of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) was in the development of the annexation of Austria or Anschluss during March 1938. This unit was coupled to the 16th Army, 2nd Battalion Division led by the general tanker Heinz Guderian . Later he participated in the Occupation of the Sudetes in Czechoslovakia , in October of the same year. Until then, these pre- World War II operations were a real walk for the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.

Invasion of Poland: epic tragedy of the Pomorska

By the end of August 1939, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler had gathered in front of the Polish border crossings, awaiting the outcome of Operation Reichsführer (see: Reinhard Heydrich ). On September 1, 1939, they crossed the border and were assigned Krzepice, their first target in times of war. This village was turned into ruins by its attackers. After taking this village, the LSSAH witnessed the famous Pomorska cavalry charge , where old- fashioned armed horsemen loaded onto Guderian tanks . [ Citation needed ]

The visual picture turned out to be surreal, seeing horses facing a Panzer armored division , with their uniformed riders and feather-edged as if to a parade. The cavalry charge was not a show of banal Polish heroism, but the Poles assumed that the armored units at the front were cardboard models to deceive the enemy, which was deadly false. After the Germans recovered from this impression, which left them stunned, the LSSAH first opened the fire against the horsemen, and the reckless act of Polish courage ended in a hideous carnage. [ Citation needed ]

In Bzura, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler executed atrociously 50 Jews from a synagogue .

But not everything was as planned for the LSSAH; In the plains of Lodz , the quagmires bogged down several mechanized units of the division and were swept by anti-tank fire: the first 44 lives of the select SS division were lost. Hitler asked Dietrich for explanations for these lives, but he argued that the army used them as cannon fodder. Once again there was the tension between the Wehrmacht and the SS .

Hitler apparently made no distinction to his beloved LSSAH for actions in Poland. After this episode, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was withdrawn from Poland to receive a new preparation.

Invasion of Holland

During the invasion of Holland , in May 1940 , the Leibstandarte was assigned the intact take of the bridges of Deppo and Zutphen on the Ijssel River , which it successfully fulfilled . Later one of his motorcycle battalions participated in the capitulation of Rotterdam as an adjutant to the Ninth Army .

After the capitulation, soldiers of the Leibstandarte, ignorant of the negotiations that were carried out at that time, machine-gunned the Dutch soldiers who were marching to surrender their arms to the municipality of Rotterdam. In the unfortunate incident, General Kurt Student , chief of the German paratroopers, was seriously injured as he tried to stop the friendly fire. The Wehrmacht treated the Leibstandarte as a ” crazy-to-trigger ” set.

Invasion of France

In France , specifically in Valenciennes , the Leibstandarte supported the actions of Heinz Guderian and his 1st Panzer Division in taking Mount Watten near Bolougne , but stopped Dietrich in his actions while awaiting OKW confirmation. After this, Guderian received the strange order to allow the escape of the British expeditionary force in Dunkirk . However, Joseph Dietrich ignored this order and deployed his forces to occupy Wattenberg Hill. Guderian seeing this, made the decision to follow in Dietrich’s footsteps and support the actions.

In Le Paradis , another serious performance of the Leibstandarte and another SS unit , the 3rd SS Totenkopf Division , took place when elements of both units murdered survivors already surrendered to the British Norfolk commandos . All these actions only maintained a bitter tension over the Wehrmacht’s control over these SS units in their effort to master the deliberate conduct of SS division commanders like Dietrich or Meyer . Later the Leibstandarte was prepared for the Operation Sea Lion , that never came to be realized.

Invasion of the peninsula of the Balkans

In February of 1941 , Italy invaded Greece , which despite having very old equipment, managed to restrain the Italian armies and reject them towards the Albanian border, even going as far as half of Albania . Benito Mussolini requested aid to Hitler and this one sent to its divisions SS to Greece, that obtained in just one week what had not obtained the Italian troops in several months. Among these divisions was the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler; This one participated in the Combate of the passage of Klidi , having to pay a high quota of casualties before taking that step (328 dead). They then acted in combat in Kastoria with the capture of a large enemy contingent. This was one of the few cases in which the LSSAH acted well against its prisoners, treating them with magnanimity.

Operation Barbarroja

The 22 of June of 1941, the signal of beginning of the Operation Barbarroja was given , the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. The Leibstandarte was assigned along with the 5th SS Division Panzergrenadier Division Wiking to the I Panzer Army as part of the Southern Army Group , under Gerd von Rundstedt in the direction of the Black Sea – Dnieper . The courage and daring of the men of the Leibstandarte were praised by the Wehrmacht. However, these same men committed all kinds of abuses against the Ukrainian population in the Kiev sector , either by killing prisoners of war, raping or subjecting Jewish populations to the action of the Einsatzgruppen , so that the Leibstandarte Contributed greatly to the SS soldiers’ bad reputation among the enemy.

In Rostov , the 1st Panzer Army, together with the Leibstandarte and the 5th Wiking division , had for the first time tasted the taste of defeat by having to give up the city under the pressure of the 37th Soviet Army; This cost Rundstedt’s resignation.

While the operation unfolded, the casualties of the Leibstandarte began to be worrying, to such an extent that Himmler agreed to recruit foreigners in the SS. For the first phase (1941-1942) the casualties were of 44,600 soldiers and officers, of whom half was of the Leibstandarte. The high mortality rate was due mainly to the boldness shown by the Waffen-SS soldiers in the combat, because of their great fanaticism, not equaled during the war.

After the terrible winter of 1941-1942, the punished Das Reich , Totenkopf and Leibstandarte units were withdrawn from the Russian front to be reorganized as Panzergrenadier , armored units in France, where they remained until 1943.

On March 12, 1943, the LSSAH had an outstanding performance thanks to its young commander Joachim Peiper in the recovery of Kharkov .

A unit of the 1st Waffen-SS LSSAH regiment in Kharkov (February 1943).

On March 17, 43, along with von Ribenntropp’s 7th Panzer Company, in which Rudolph Lehemann (Division Chief of Operations) calls the race for Belgorod , the Leibstandarte’s fastest unit is launched along with others Kampfgruppen (‘battle groups’) from other divisions to conquer the strategic city.

In the midst of a Kursk offensive and after an onslaught of more than 600 battle tanks against their positions, the KG under Peiper (his battalion, a panzer company and several self-propelled pieces of anti-tank and stugs), resisted and fled the Russians in One of the most powerful clashes in armored means of war. After Kursk the Leibstandarte units withdrew to Italy , where several events against human rights cloud the division’s service sheet. After these proceedings (Kriti Pass), the LSSAH is returned to fight against the USSR .

On November 20, after being once again the division already installed on the Russian front, the commander of the unit’s panzer regiment is killed by the explosion of a 155 mm howitzer. Teddy Wisch, general in charge of the division, gives the greatest power of attack of this division to the young German officer Joachim Peiper , who at the time was 30 years old. More than 300 armored vehicles and tanks are placed under your orders; His old battalion in turn is also to say in some way under his command.

In 1944, the Leibstandarte intervenes in the liberation of the Wiking division and the Gruppe Stemmermann in the so-called Siege of Korsun-Cherkassy , whose action allows to escape important German forces of Erich von Manstein that had been surrounded by crushing Russian forces to the control of Konev And Vatutin. However, almost 55,000 German soldiers fell, and between 11,000 and 18,000 German soldiers were captured, thousands were killed, even though they surrendered, the same hardships as the Soviets captured during Operation Barbarossa’s boom years.

West Front (last performances)

A member of the Waffen-SS died shortly after the landing of Normandy

Later the LSSAH is sent to collaborate in the defense of Normandy after the allied landing of 6 of June of 1944. The LSSAH, in spite of being very decimated, collaborates effectively in the containment in some places of France, realizing remarkable military prowess. There the LSSAH was integrated into the 6th SS Panzer Army , under the orders of SS general Josef Dietrich .

Units of this army are involved in the Slaughter of Malmedy , where Joachim Peiper participates . Finally, the Leibstandarte ends its actions as a combat group in the Balaton Lake Offensive in 1945. There is no accurate record that some members participated in Operation Greif commanded by Otto Skorzeny .

Remains of this unit will fight in the Battle of Berlin and surroundings, and then they will surrender to the American army.