SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger

The SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger , later denominated like 36.Waffen-Grenadier-SS Division was unit SS-Strafbataillon (” Battalion of punishment “) created by the Untersturmführer-SS Oskar Dirlewanger , under the consent of Himmler and that emphasized by its acts Atrocious in Poland and Belarus operating in similar functions as a SonderkommandoEinsatzgruppen during World War II .


In June of 1940 Himmler authorized the creation of the Untersturmführer-SS Oskar Dirlewanger with the aim of forming a criminal unit composed of 300 men denominated Wilddiebkommando Oranienburg initially integrated by soldiers of Waffen-SS punished by indiscipline (in his Mostly poachers or snipers) and who operated in Poland earning a bloody reputation for their methods employed against the Jewish population. The unit began with 84 military convicts specializing in “human hunting”.

In 1942, Hitler modified the concept of the Battalions of punishment or Strafbataillon to receive in their ranks criminals of serious crimes such as pederasts, rapists, murderers with treachery, arsonists etc., many of them with profiles of sadism. These criminals were offered the option of serving in the army in exchange for commuting the penalty that weighed upon them.

In case of fulfilling his mission, his criminal history would be erased and reintegrated, either in the army or in German society. Himmler’s hidden intention was to use them against the partisans, to achieve the goal and to get rid of these “undesirables” as they happened to be placed in the first line of combat

With this provision, the unit came to have 700 members. In August of 1942 they were promoted to the standard of regiment and they were under the administration of the SS-Totenkopfverbände and in 1944 they became part of Division Dirlewanger under the direction of the general Odilo Globocnik , which allowed these soldiers to execute without intention to the Jewish and partisan population on the Polish-Belarussian border with the aim of decimating the population to establish the vital space of Nazi Germany.

In addition to the control of the military police ( Feldgendarmerie-SS ), Dirlewanger was personally responsible for keeping his men disciplined since any minor offenses were punished physically or even to death.

Operations and facts

In August 1940 the Dirlewanger brigade began an ethnic cleansing campaign in Lublin . The main victims were the Jewish population which motivated the massive exodus of thousands of Polish Jews to the border with Belarus (then part of the Soviet Union), entering the forests where the leading figure of Tuvia Bielski would emerge . While the campaign lasted, the Nazi unit wore gas masks. Hans Frank called the events “biblical plague” and the unit was transferred to Logoisk , Belarus. 1

Later they would join the Kaminski Brigade , which operated on the border and interior of Belarus under the pretext of fighting the partisans. One of the preferred methods was to lock up civilian men and women in a building and burn it with them inside, while those who tried to escape were riddled, thus running 30,000 Poles in a few days.

Operation Cottbus began in May 1943 in collaboration with the Ukrainian border guard 2 whose aim was to eliminate the partisans from the areas of Belarus, Lepel, Begolm and the Baltic republics. The Dirlewanger razed forests and villages while massacring 9 500 Poles, although other sources speak of 20 000 deaths. 3 General SS Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger redirected the unit to combat the Soviets as a way to get rid of Dirlewanger and his men. With the advance of the Red Army, the SS-Totenkopfverbande by the Dirlewanger regiment they were moved to deliberately fight on the front line because of poor training and fighting being decimated and replaced by several German prisons convicts, all criminals and psychopaths 4

During the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto , the Heinz Reinefarth unit and the Kaminski Brigade under Bronislav Kaminski carried out several massacres, including the Wola and Ochota district . Among the victims of the massacres were children, elderly and hospitalized civilians. Such atrocities reached such a magnitude that SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski called them ” herds of pigs” and added that “by their actions they strengthened the resistance.”

500 members of the Dirlewanger Brigade were killed by the resistance, so Himmler had to recruit another group of convicts, this time 1,900 to fill the casualties and increase the quota

General Heinz Guderian protested to Hitler: 5

“What I saw … was so terrible that I felt compelled to inform Hitler that very night to demand the withdrawal of the two brigades [Dirlewanger and Kaminski] from the eastern front.”

Memories of Guderian

Even the SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein , Himmler’s chief representative to Hitler confirmed his statement, saying:

– “It’s true, mein Führer, these men are real scoundrels.”

In response to the protests, Hitler himself ordered Himmler to withdraw both units from Poland, as Kaminski was executed after a judicial farce and Dirlewanger was awarded the Knight’s Cross . 6

The unit was sent to Czechoslovakia to quell a rebellious uprising with optimum result for the Nazis.

After terminating the Slovak uprising, the Dirlewanger unit was promoted to the rank of SS Division under the name “36th Waffen Grenadier Division der SS” consisting of between 4,000 and 6,000 men, while Dirlewanger ascended Obersturmführer . These soldiers carried standard Waffen-SS armor and even an armored section. 40% of these were regular soldiers, the rest were renegade Poles, convicts highly dangerous criminals and condemned soldiers.


During the last months of the Nazi regime, the 36th Division was sent to defend the River Oder against the Soviet advance; During the fighting, Commander Dirlewanger was seriously wounded and retired in April, being replaced by Brigadier SS Fritz Schmedes , who found the division virtually unusable because of defections. The rest of the remaining combatants died in the battle of Halbe .

Oskar Dirlewanger was captured by the French in Germany under a false name and sent to the Altshausen hospital prison where he was recognized by some members of the Polish military police, who allegedly lynched him. [ Citation needed ]


  1. Back to top↑ Brigade Dirlewanger
  2. Back to top↑ Operation Cottbus
  3. Back to top↑ Statistics of the antipartisan fight by the SS
  4. Back to top↑ Dirlewanger and his men
  5. Back to top↑ The abduction of Warsaw
  6. Back to top↑ SS Dirlewanger and Kaminski