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I have decided to talk to you about a „small“ (I know it’s anything but small) project that I am working on. But I think It’s vital that I give you some background information, beforehand, so please bear with me …
Recently I went through some really horrible experiences in my „away from the Internet“ life. So, I’ve been looking for an escape from all the stress hospitals and courts charged me with (not to say that I am also a chef and we all know how relaxing that is, by looking at Gordon Ramsay’s behaviour). I wanted something that doesn’t numb my mind and keeps me away from video games.
„Why not plastic model kits“, I thought? „German WW2 models?“, came the next thought and „Yeah, I always liked those!“, was the answer to myself. „But I don’t just want some pieces of plastic that I put together with glue. No! I want to be able to link that miniature to a real life tank and the real persons that were in it. That would be tons of fun“.
And so … I found out how much it sucks to lose a war. The first picture of a Panther ausf. A – the first model that I wanted to put together - belonged to a machine that was part of the 5. SS-Panzer-Division „Wiking“. It was marked with a huge „800“ on its turret and it was associated, in a photo comment, with Karl Nicolussi-Leck, a very decorated guy that we are not going to talk about here. Next to the tank, you could see a Iong line of Panzergrenadiers that was marching through the frozen steppes of Russia, some of them towards certain death. Somehow something in that image left a weird echo in me. It seemed so raw, so real, so taken just a few days ago. And it made my troubles seem nothing compared to what those people were going through. And I wanted to know more about them.
But after 3 days of digging all over the Internet, nothing came up about the other members of the tank crew. I could find only 3 photographs of the tank (one of which needs you to pay a lot of attention to make the connection). I dug up a few photos of Leck. And absolutely nothing about what happened to the tank. Was it abandoned and captured by the Allies? Was it blown to pieces by the crew? Did a IS-2 put a hot one in it (very unlikely, since Leck was alive and well many years after the war)? Is the tank in a museum, somewhere? Nothing! Nada! Zero!
The reasons for this „blackout“ became obvious. Germany lost the war. And it did it in a bad way, as well. Part of the fighting force (especially the one that I was interested in, the Waffen-SS) was involved in massacres beyond any logic or reason, against civilians and enemy soldiers alike.
In literature and films they became „the real bad guys“ of the German fighting force. Everyone knows nowadays that Rommel was „an honourable (maybe even a good) Nazi“ and it’s also common knowledge that wearing an SS badge makes you instantly one of the most horrible persons that ever existed. And I can’t say this enough, most of the times they are perfectly spot on.
So, after the war ended, there were maybe a handful of people that had the curiosity (or the guts) to look at these units with a purely scientific eye. And it’s even less common to hear stories about who these people were and what they went through. I mean, it's kind of easy to understand why the ones that survived the war and the camps would be shy about telling their war stories or why they would rather forget what happened and continue to live their lives.
And, in the end, who cares about what these animals that killed innocents by the hundreds of thousands felt, if they even felt anything, right? But there’s a thought that will stay with me forever after reading „The Gulag Archipelago“ by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The fact that „the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts“. And that line can move. One way or the other.
Documents about the units these people were part of got captured, were destroyed on purpose, were lost or are hidden deep in archives that require you to travel thousands of miles to get to. What survives and is available is most of the time hidden beyond paywalls of one sort of the other. Most of them are set quite high for someone like me. I understand that people work their asses off to collect and aggregate that data so I have nothing against them asking for money when it comes to their research. But that doesn’t make it easy for people like me, right?
And neither is German, a language that I am just beginning to decode and that has such grammar that most of the documents that I come upon are written in abbreviations, so that there is some paper left for other things on this planet. (In truth, I really like German as a language).
Alright, now let’s return to the point of this very long post that I am writing to all of you. I have decided to start a small database with the soldiers that fought in the 5th SS-Panzer-Division „Wiking“. I am going to make this database (built in Excel) available for free, to everyone and anyone. It costs me only time to build it, but it’s my R&R time so it has no monetary value to me. Obviously, because I am an evil capitalist, I will make donations from you a possibility. My evil plan is to buy … books with that money. But let’s not talk about that for now.
The reasons I chose „Wiking“ are quite simple. Firstly, it was put together relatively late in the war so it’s less work. Secondly, I could find quite a few free resources for the research and that’s a huge deal. Thirdly, there were foreign (non-German) volunteers in its ranks, so stories came to the surface a little bit easier after the war. And this leads me to the last point, which are the Romanian volunteers that served with the 5th SS. That’s the country that I was born in so, obviously, I am feeling somehow connected with these people and quite curious about who they were.
So, I have started my work from one main source. It’s a list of officers of the division, made available in a Norwegian database (http://www.sno.no/files/documents/118259.pdf). As you can see, everything is sketchy and written in those horrible (I actually love them) abbreviations. Also, it’s a scanned PDF so, good luck with trying to copy-paste that information or with having an attempt at sorting anything by any parameter.
The first thing I am going to try is to make this information easier to read and put it in some context (I will explain that in future posts). The next step is to add additional information (like medals and distinctions these people got). Also, I would like to expand the list with non-officers.
There is a secondary source that I am using to cross-reference the information in the first document that is available on a now defunct website (http://www.oocities.org/~orion47/SS-POL ... ist-A.html). I have a very strong feeling this list might be part of the work that a gentleman called John P. Moore (active on this forum, by the looks of it) has done. I would love to give anyone their due credit. I will do my best to abstain from any type of copyright infringement and if I break that rule, I am willing to apologise for it and correct the problem as soon as possible. So, this is one thing that I am really asking you to help me with.
The few pages of Kriegsprache by Thomas Houlihan made available on Google Books are an amazing resource and most of my understanding of the abbreviations related to German military terms come from them. I will surely buy that book as soon as possible. And so should you if you are in the same position as I am. You might notice that I am using that books title as my nickname. That’s how much I love it.
Another thing that I would not mind is being corrected with my spelling in both English and German. I am a non native speaker of any of them so there will be mistakes. Also, there are certain abbreviations that make no sense to me, no matter how much time I spend researching them. Help with those would also be highly appreciated. I have noticed certain units changed their names or type during the war. I want to make that evident in a separate document regarding the history of „Wiking“, that will accompany the database. I will also do my best to take that into account when I am filling in information not made available in the primary source documents.
So … yeah … this is my „small“ plan. It took me three A4 pages just to describe it. But I have started it. And it makes me feel better. I will post my first version of the database in a few days. I would love to hear from all of you, but please (triple please) try to keep things on the positive side. I already know that what I’m attempting is hard, useless and impossible. I’d love to hear what it’s not.
Love you all,
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from Rolle 076 - SSO of SS-Ustuf E.Bock
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