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Two questions about Dirlewanger and his SS unit:
1. SS recruiting chief Gottlob Berger protected Dr. Oscar Dirlewanger before and during the war. I remember to read somewhere that it was based in friendship between the two. From where is this friendship (WWI?) and how intimate it was?
2. Did members of SS and Heer know much about the existence of SS-Brigade Dirlewanger , and that if court martialed. they could end up in this infamous unit?
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I think I can answer both your questions to some degree.
1. If I am not wrong, a book I had, Soldati dell'Inferno, Bompiani 1973 - reprint 2007 (Hell' soldiers) stated that the two became friends during the skirmishes in the Freikorps in the 1919-1921 period. It was something big, since it involved Dirlewanger saving Berger's life at the risk of his own. Althrough a depraved monster, he was very brave man, capable of excellent soldiery.
2. Not to the extent of the whole structure, but Heer, Waffen-SS and Ordnungpolizei units operating in Poland and Bielorussia had by late 1944 had a very clear idea of the SS-Brigade Dirlewanger, due to it's gruesome operations. It was mainly their behavior in the summer/early fall that cemented their notoriety in the German armed forces. They mainly regarded it with disgust, and wanted to have the least possible to do with them. Some SS leaders, not angels themselves, called for the unit to be outed from the SS and for the members to be court-martialed. That's why the Dirlewanger men took to wore masks when SS and Heer photographers were around. Some SS staff members were driven away at gunpoint. However, despite their infamy and abysmal conduct in some situations, the extent of success they reported from time to time alongside Dirlewanger's hook-up with SS-Obergruppenführer Berger (and by extention, Himmler) managed to keep it afloat. And, as I've already said, despite being a depraved monster, the man himself was an excellent soldier and his many decorations and final rank (SS-Oberführer, on the edge of generalship) prove it.
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As to question number 1: Berger and Dirlewanger fought in the same regiment during WW1, I cannot say if their friendship was formed during that period. German Wiki has a regular note to it in their article on Dirlewanger, there may be more info in the stated source.