Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

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Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by DougENash » 09 Jun 2022 16:14

Hello,

Here's another question from the Dirlewanger Brigade files. Back in 2011, SS historian Rolf Michaelis published what was purported to be the memoir of a member of the infamous Dirlewanger unit, "Erinnerungen an das SS-Sonderkommando Direlwanger." The author claimed to have been one of the original poachers brought into the unit in June 1940, and was with the brigade until the end of the war, when he deserted.

He claimed to have risen in the ranks to become an Untersturmführer, leading the 5. Kompanie of SS-Sturm-Regiment 2 of the brigade, replacing Hauptsturmführer Harald Momm who took over the battalion.

Although he admitted to being interrogated after the war, he was never charged with any crimes, though as an original member who took part in almost every single battle or engagement fought by the "Dirlewanger Einheit," he would have at least been an eyewitness if not a participant in many of the horrendous crimes committed by brigade's members. This individual is supposed to have become a bus driver after the war and wrote the memoir after he retired. He supposedly died at the ripe old age of 86.

I have contacted Michaelis, who informed me that even though the author had died, he had sworn a vow of secrecy that he would never reveal his name. Fair enough.

Now, I've gone over the list of the men who were supposed to have been original members of the brigade since its founding in 1940 and compared ages, birth places, etc. I've also combed through the award and casualty lists, such as still exists. After doing some exhaustive detective work, I am now convinced that the "memoir," if you can call it such, is a composite of the experiences of several different members of the brigade. I've got several reasons for saying so, which I'll talk about later.

There is only one individual who served in the Brigade who comes even close to meeting the self-description of the author. That individual is (or was) Friedrich Walter. Here is his biography:

Friedrich Walter, SS-Unterscharführer: born. May 17, 1921 in Neuburgweier. Franz Wegscheider described him as a young boy. Walter finished eight grades of primary school (Volksschule). He never joined the NSDAP, but belonged for a time to the Hitlerjugend, from which he was expelled for insubordination (he did not show up for meetings).

In January 1940 he was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for poaching. He served four months in a prison for juvenile offenders in Heilbronn, and in June or July 1940 he was transferred to the Sachsenhausen camp, where he saw how Jewish prisoners were mistreated.

He testified that after Gottlob Berger's inspection, he and eighty other poachers were sent to the Stammkompanie Norwegen (he did not know where the name came from). At the SS barracks in Oranienburg, he was trained for six weeks by an SS-Unterführer.

At the turn of September/October 1940, the poachers were sent to Lublin (in further testimony, Walter gave August/September 1940). He pointed out that from then on they were called the Sonderkommando "Dirlewanger". They were quartered in Lublin for two to three weeks, after which they were sent to Stare Dzików.

In the early summer of 1941, they were again housed in Lublin. From there, at the beginning of 1942. ("there was still snow in Lublin") they were sent to Bobruisk in Belarus to fight partisans. They stayed there for about 4-6 weeks. Walter recalled that in the late summer of 1942 they were transferred to Mogilev, where they were stationed for about a year.

There Walter obtained a first class motorcycle license and began serving as a motorcycle reporting messenger. In addition, he performed reconnaissance patrols. He was assigned to a motorcycle platoon. Their tasks included maintaining communications between small German units during skirmishes with partisans. Later they were also stationed in Łohojsk and Uzda.

In August 1943, Walter was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class. In the summer of 1944, he was promoted to SS-Unterscharführer. In June 1944 he got married (he later had seven children).

During the Warsaw Uprising, he still belonged to the motorcycle platoon at Dirlewanger's headquarters.

He fought in the unit until 14 February 1945. - He was wounded near Lubsko (Sommerfeld) near Gubin (his shin was shot through). He was sent to a hospital in Freising, Bavaria, where he stayed until the American army entered. He was released from captivity on June 13, 1946.

After the interrogation and his manner of expression, the investigators described him as a "primitive" man. He died on December 30, 1987.

So, what I'd like to ask the group, is there anyone who knows the actual identity of the author of the Memoir edited & published by Rolf Michaelis? It could be Walter, or like I proposed, he could also be a composite. The reason why this is important, is because the memoir's "author" was an eyewitness to several key conversations during the battle of Ipolysag between himself and Harald Momm, and a conversation between Dirlewanger and his Adjutant, Kurt Weisse. If anyone know, please PM me if you're not comfortable revealing his identity.

Thank you -

Doug Nash
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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by mil-archive » 10 Jun 2022 11:16

I think this one is how many people will know this book :
1.jpg
He says in the introduction that this book (above) should be taken as a supplement to his previous 2 Dirlewanger books

Das SS-Sonderkommando "Dirlewanger" : Der Einsatz in Weißrussland 1941-1944
&
Die SS-Sturmbrigade "Dirlewanger" : Vom Warschauer Aufstand bis zum Kessel von Halbe

I have these three books but obviously have not gone into this in remotely the same depth as you have. Never really thought of a reason to doubt the authors assertion that it was a single soldiers account and that even in death he wished to remain anonymous. Not sure what the motive would be to create the single soldier narrative out of an amalgamation of records. I don't think for example it would have hurt sales too much to simply say this is an amalgamated account of several unit members.
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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by DougENash » 15 Jun 2022 20:54

Mil-Archive, thank you. Yes, I agree it wouldn't have hurt the story to say it was a composite - the author (or authors) shed a good deal of light on what it was like to serve in the Brigade as an enlisted man. And now, with him having passed away, and his children in their 70s and 80s, I don't see what harm it would cause to release his name nearly 80 years after the end of the war.

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by Orlov » 15 Jun 2022 22:20

An interesting thesis - but I will continue to look for answers whether it was one soldier - I have a few ideas this Michaelis Anonymous.
This is typical German behavior - no one admitted to extermination in the Einsatzgruppen - as well as to service in a penal unit, especially infamous SS-Sdr.Kmd. Dirlewanger.
It was the same with a Silesian Anonymous - he was the only one in the collection of memories of Silesians from the German army to not reveal his name - a former Polish citizen (before the war) fought during the Warsaw Uprising - and after the war he went to West Germany.
Anonim, Pan Jan” [***], Tłumiłem Powstanie Warszawskie, [w:] Marian Kulik, Gott Mit Uns! – ostatni żołnierze. Wspomnienia Ślązaków z armii III Rzeszy (Lędziny: Instytut Ślunskij Godki, bd. [20l6]).
[Anonymous Mr. John ”/***/, I suppressed the Warsaw Uprising, [in:] Marian Kulik, Gott Mit Uns! - the last soldiers. Memories of Silesians from the army of the Third Reich (Lędziny: Institute Ślunskij Godki, no date [20l6]).
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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by DougENash » 20 Jun 2022 13:29

Thank you - yes, it is easy to see why someone would not want his name revealed in connection with the crimes of the Dirlewanger Einheit as well as anything that took place during the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising. Horrible crimes were committed by German troops and their "auxiliaries" and most of those who carried out these crimes escaped justice. An investigation of the Dirlewanger Einheit and its activities in Warsaw was not begun by the German criminal court in Ludwigsburg until the late 1950s/early 1960s and little resulted from it. Many eyewitness statements were collected from members of the Dirlewanger Einheit, but nearly all were given by former enlisted men. The officers who were responsible for the actions of their men were either dead by 1960 (Dirlewanger, Steinhauer, Herbert Meyer, etc.) or disappeared (Kurt Weisse). The subject of the memoir in Michaelis' book claimed to have been interviewed by the investigative court, but I have yet to see any evidence of this. So perhaps it will remain a mystery, until and unless Michaelis himself discloses his name, which is highly unlikely.

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by Orlov » 20 Jun 2022 21:37

The testimony from Ludwigsburg and the documents from Freiburg must be carefully examined.
Weisse didn't disappeared - worked for Organisation Gehlen and later for BND.
Unfortunately, now I have to hurry with my book about the fights of SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger in Slovakia - there is no cooperation, so we have become competitors. My situation is worse - it will not be as popular as a book well-know author written in English.

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by DougENash » 21 Jun 2022 19:43

I researched the CIA and OSS files for Weisse at their library when I was on active duty and still carried an active US government security clearance, and the information they had about Weisse was inconclusive, at best. So I would consider any evidence about him working for Gehlen and BND to be speculative at this point, until and unless the BND releases a declassified dossier on him that I can read with my own two eyes. The BND hired a number of war criminals, but hiring Weisse, a known killer and child rapist, would have been going too far, even for them.

I am writing an operational history about the Battle of Ipolysag/Sáhy, with the D-Brigade being the focal point of the action as a case study, but it will deal equally with the combat performance of the 9th Guards Mech. Corps, Div-Gruppe Rintelen, the 24. Pz.Div., and the LXXII. Armee-Korps.

Fortunately, there is a great amount of primary source material on hand to work with, allowing a more rounded picture of the battle to be presented. Norbert Szamveber dedicated a chapter to that period of the Red Army's offensive in Hungary in his book "Days of Battle" - I highly recommend it.

You could also contact English-language publishers to inquire as to whether they would be interested in having your book translated - if it is well-written, thoroughly researched, and interesting, there is a good chance that they might publish it. Helion, J.J. Fedorowicz and of course Casemate are good places to start, since they are always looking for new material. Good luck with your book!

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by Orlov » 22 Jun 2022 13:40

Organisation Gehlen employed all "specialists" from Ostgebiete - because I have a lot of information on this subject - the Polish communist secret police (Urzad Bezpieczenstwa/Sluzba Bezpieczeństwa) dealt with them in a counterintelligence aspect - I will give another example slightly related to Dirlewanger - a warcriminal from Baranowicz and Leiter SD-Aussenstelle - SS-Ustuf. Waldemar Amelung trained Belarusian saboteurs and spies transferred to Soviet Belarus during "Cold War". Gehlen took anyone with experience of serving in the Ostgebiete.
I haven't heard of Weisse having sexual intercourse with children - maybe in Warsaw? but this information would appear in one of the post-war testimonies - look the case with W-Stubaf.d.SS Frolow from RONA and his fact of pedophilia - Weisse was a brute - he bludgeoned his soldiers to death.
I have already written a chapter of my doctoral dissertation on the operational activities of the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger during the SNP, as well as the later activities of the "Bandenbekämpfung" in Slovakia and short-time front fightning in/near Ipolyság (now Šahy) - I was the first to confront German documents with Soviet and Slovak archival docs (three archives) on nearly 200 pages.
I know books of Dr. Norbert Számvéber - is an excellent historian - in a moment I will be editing the content of the Polish edition of his latest book "The Sword Behind the Shield: A Combat History of the German Efforts to Relieve Budapest 1945 - Operation 'Konrad' I, II, II".
Unfortunately, I have not very positive experiences with Anglo-Saxon publishers - I proposed my dissertation and the wartime journal SS-Ogruf. von dem Bach, which I found in the Bundesarchiv. Unfortunately, publishers (and authors) in the West do not recognize Polish historians as noteworthy historians, (despite I used of documents from 23 archives from six countries in over a thousand pages Dirlewanger's PhD thesis). And despite this I proposed an unknown document of Ch.d.BVK for a academical edition. The answers so far discouraged me from asking any more.

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by DougENash » 22 Jun 2022 15:06

The details of Weisse's rape of an underage young man (a boy, really) is detailed in his personnel file. It happened in Germany in 1940. I know of three personal example of officers from the Wiking Division working for Gehlen after the war - they had either been in the division's signal battalion or artillery regiment. They have all passed away now.
The Dirlewanger Brigade fought at Ipolysag/Sahy from 10 December until 28 December 1944 - over two weeks of intense combat action, which also witnessed approximately 700 men deserting to the Red Army (most of these of course were communists and socialists KL prisoners who "volunteered" to join the brigade in Oct./Nov. 1944). The brigade also suffered over 1,000 KIA and WIA, the loss of its antitank guns, its heavy mortar company and one of its artillery batteries - in short, it was destroyed as an effective fighting unit and had to undergo complete "Auffrischung" when it was finally pulled out of the line on 28 December and sent back to Novaky. Both of its infantry regiments had combined strength of only 2,207 men on 5 January 1945, less than half of what they began with when they were committed to the battle on 10 December. Considering each regiment had approximately 2,500 - 2,800 men when the battle began, that represented a casualty rate of between 56 - 61% and that's the Iststärke - the Kampfstärke was probably far lower.
I think that a biography of VDB would be very welcome - to my knowledge, one has not been written or published about him in the English-language reading populace, so you might try again - I, for one, would be interested in a copy. I have a copy of his diary as well as his Nuremberg Testimony, as you already have, and he is a most intriguing individual!

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by Orlov » 22 Jun 2022 15:22

Thank you for the information about the poor German boy who encountered Weisse's urge.
It seems to me that both regiments did not have such high levels of personnel, despite their support with volunteers from the enemies of National Socialism - here are the documents from Archiv der Zentralkomitee der SED - very interesting.
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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by mil-archive » 22 Jun 2022 16:45

DougENash wrote:
09 Jun 2022 16:14

In the early summer of 1941, they were again housed in Lublin. From there, at the beginning of 1942. ("there was still snow in Lublin") they were sent to Bobruisk in Belarus to fight partisans. They stayed there for about 4-6 weeks. Walter recalled that in the late summer of 1942 they were transferred to Mogilev, where they were stationed for about a year.
You probably already have access to it but I have been tripping up over references to Dirlewanger today going through some R20 rolls. In particular R 20 /8 has many references to the Bobruisk and Mogilew period above, working with Pol.Btl.122 /51 and Polizeiregiment2 Russland Mitte. This is one which is now digitised and available on Bundesarchiv online;

R 20/8

Teilnahme des Regiments an Unternehmungen zur Bandenbekämpfung im Gebiet um MogilewJuni - Okt. 1942
Enthält u.a. :
Gefechtsberichte von Einheiten des Pol.-Rgts. 14 über Unternehmen "Potsdam" (Juni), "Adler" (Juli, Aug.), "Greif" (Aug.), "Ersatz Breslau" I und II (Sept.), "Regatta" und "Karlsbad" (beide Okt.)

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by DougENash » 22 Jun 2022 17:18

Yes, I downloaded that entire file. It is so much better to read them in full color and clarity, compared to the grainy and out-of-focus versions of them on NARA Microfilm. A book has yet to be written incorporating the vast amount of (incriminating) information contained in those pages. French MacLean touched upon them, Christian Ingrao referred to them, as did Hans-Peter Klausch (may he rest in peace), but the history of those operations continue to languish in obscurity, but beg to be told.

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by DougENash » 22 Jun 2022 17:37

I forgot to mention - the figures about the strength of the Dirlewanger Brigade in mid-December was estimated to have been 6,500 men, according to reliable eyewitness SS-Hstuf. Bruno Wille, who survived a month as the Brigade's staff judge advocate until Dirlewanger chased him away by the end of December. Exactly which series of Regiment KStNs were used to build the 2-regiment brigade remain unknown, but most likely Dirlewanger and his staff were using the same Infantry Regiment KStNs that were used in May 1944 to expand the Sonderbataillon into a regiment. These KStNs included: KStN 101 (Inf.Rgt.Stab) dated 1.11.41; KStN 130 (Inf.Rgt.Stabs-Kp.) 1.3.43; KStN 111 (3xInf.Btl.Stabs); KStN 131c (Schutz.Kp. x 9) 1.2.41; KStN 151c (M.G.Kp.u.s.Gr.W. Kp x 3) 1.2.41 and the addition of a KStN 175 (12 cm Gr.W.Zg. x 3) 22.1.43. The antitank company was omitted. Adding up these numbers, for a Kriegs-Etat 44 type infantry regiment that this is based upon, would give you approximately 2,800 men (of course, this assumes that they were filled up to the maximum allowed Iststärke). So if you estimate 2 infantry regiments at 2,800 men apiece, which gives you 5,600 men, that leaves 900 men to fill the remaining billets authorized for the brigade. This would include the artillery Abteilung, brigade Tross, and all the other companies. Had it been filled up to the required numbers, the brigade probably should have exceeded 7,000 men, virtually a miniature division.

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by Orlov » 22 Jun 2022 21:47

Actual number of prisoners from KZ's: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, Neuengamme, Natzweiler, Flossenbürg, Groß-Rosen, Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen, Stutthof, for Dirlewanger = 2,030. The SS-WVHA ordered the recruitment of prisoners until November 10, 1944. At the end of the Warsaw Uprising, Dirlewanger commanded only 648 soldiers, which after deducting the losses, which amounted to 2,715 killed, amounted to almost 314% of the initial state. Plus other numbers of detainees assigned to the regiment are given in the document from September 20 (So they came to SS-Sdr.Rgt. Dirlewanger after the fights on Czerniakow - I don't know if they were used in Mokotow - the last phase Warsaw's fights with the participation of Dirlewanger's soldiers): "The RFSS ordered the prisoners of the Matzkau penal camp, under the command of SS-Obersturmbannführer Grothmann and SS-Hauptsturmführer Beelitz, calculated for about 1,500 prisoners, to form a march battalion at the [SS-Sonder]regiment Dirlewanger".
I still don't understand where came from 6,000-7,000 SS-Sturmbrigade soldiers (only testimony of SS-Hstuf. Bruno Wille? ) - of course, these are full-time jobs. The strength of the Dirlewanger Brigade reached this level when it was developed into a weak W-Gren.Div.d.SS 36.
2,030 + 1,500 + 648 = 4,178 in October 44 on Slovakia.
I have not find the documents about further transfers to the SS-Sturmbrigade after the capture of Banska Bystrica.

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Re: Author of Dirlewanger Memoir

Post by DougENash » 23 Jun 2022 12:55

I have now come to the understanding that the casualty rate was very high, but not 314%. In fact, I believed it was much lower because the entire Sonderregiment was not committed to the fight in Warsaw. At first, that is what I also thought when I read the report from Warsaw stating that Dirlewanger commanded only 648 soldiers. The 648 was the Kampfstärke or actual combat strength. That report was dated 2 October 1944.

What that 648 number actually refers to is the men belonging to "Angriffsgruppe Dirlewanger," so what that includes was the 2 battalion-sized Kampfgruppen from the Sonderregiment (KGr Meyer and Steinhauer) that were actually committed under Dirlewanger's control, as well as other units whose numbers are not included in that 648 figure. Again, 648 is the Kampfstärke, and does not include the Tross of the two battalions and that of the regiment, who were "noncombatants" (i.e., not counted as part of the Kampfstärke). So that would have been several hundred other men. The 648-man figure also does not include men assigned to the Artillerie Batterie, the Signal Platoon, and the schw. Mörser Batterie/Pz.Jäg.Kompanie (from the old Postschutz Kompanie). These men were not routinely calculated as part of Kampfstärke either. So if you add in the Tross and the heavy weapons companies, the number of men actually present to duty (Tagestärke or Iststärke), the strength of the Sonderregiment would have been well over 1,000 men on 2 October.

Now - the issue at hand. Exact casualty figures, or official casualty figures for the number of casualties suffered by "Angriffsgruppe Dirlewanger" have yet to be located. So we don't know how many men actually fell, either KIA or WIA. Kranhaals in his book estimated it, but his figures were that - only an estimation. Large numbers of replacements began to pour in as early as 8 August. According to eyewitness testimony on file in Ludwigsburg, during the period 8 August to 24 September, the Sonderregiment received between 2,870 to 3,370 replacements, including between 1,350 to 1,750 men from the Wehrmacht military prisons at Glatz, Torgau, and Anklam. It also received between 120 – 200 common criminals from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. However, by far the largest number of replacements it received at one time were the 1,500 SS and Police B-Schützen from the SS-Danzig-Matzkau prison who were sent to the Warsaw area on or about 24 September. By that point, most of the heavy fighting in Warsaw was over.

I believe that a large percentage of the 1,500 SS and Police B-Schützen that arrived on 24 September were used to form the new III. Btl. of the Sonderregiment, and possibly even the foundation for the new IV. Btl. (which was renumbered as the II. Btl./SS-Sturm-Rgt. 2 in Nov. 44). It is doubtful whether this group of SS and Police B-Schützen suffered any casualties at all; if they did, they would have been a small number since the fighting was practically over. So, most of the casualties suffered during fighting was limited to the men assigned to the regiment before 4 August and the 1,470 - 1,950 replacements assigned throughout the month of August. Does that lower the percentage of loss? Yes, quite a bit once you subtract from your number the 1,500 men assigned on 24 September 1944 (and that means that was when they were assigned - they may have also been sent to the Ersatz Kompanie in Krakau on that date, meaning that they would have arrived in Warsaw at some point after 24 September.

Furthermore, the commander of the 9. Armee directed on 9 October 1944 that the Luftwaffe training area at Wolanów (west of Radom) prepare billets for 6,000 men of the Brigade for it to undergo reconstitution. This was never carried out, but this means that the commander of a field army understood that the Brigade consisted of about 6,000 men. This movement to Wolanów did not take place of course, since the Brigade was shipped to Slovakia instead.
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