Why the Waffen-SS

Discussions on all (non-biographical) aspects of the Freikorps, Reichswehr, Austrian Bundesheer, Heer, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Fallschirmjäger and the other Luftwaffe ground forces. Hosted by Christoph Awender.
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I have questions
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by I have questions » 05 May 2020 00:45

BillHermann wrote:
02 Jul 2012 20:13

The simple question still is why are they trendy (Cool), why has so much fiction been created. Why is there whole sale defence of the organization and the constant effort to separate the organization completely from the SS when we know it's not factual. Finally I find it ironic that the Elite status is always floating around while at the same time trying to disasoosiate the organization from the SS and Nazis. When it's the association with the SS and Nazis that gave them the propaganda Elite status in Nazi Germany.
Personally, I never jumped on the Waffen-SS bandwagon. I thought I'd just throw in my two-cents to try and answer your question.

The Waffen-SS received a lot of publicity during and after the war. Elite (or in the case of the Waffen-SS, the perception of elite) military units have always received their fair share of attention. The Germans made the WSS out as the cream of the crop. In the aftermath (as the Cold War set in) there wasn't a whole lot of opposition to the Wehrmacht superiority myth, the WSS was sort of the poster child of this "misunderstood military" being as they were made out as ruthless killers during the war, and, now, in a time where revisionism was running rampant, the WSS suddenly became just a bunch of ordinary soldiers doing their duty. It was more than likely accepted because the U.S and the west in general was trying to whitewash the Germans who were now our allies. The myth of the WSS was heavily perpetuated by its officers after the war in numerous publications, justifying massacres by blaming someone else or fabricating events or blowing actual things out of proportion and making mountains out of mole hills as far as the WSS' combat exploits were concerned. People ate it up, the information made it into other publications. Before you know it the entire view of the WSS changed.

In short, a lot of the reverence is based on a lie. There really isn't anything the WSS did combat wise that separates it from the Heer.

So, to answer your question, while some find the WSS interesting out of the intent to preserve that chapter of history, the ones who seemingly worship them are simply misguided.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Cult Icon » 16 Jun 2020 14:21

The Waffen SS english-language literature is really not much different in its characteristics than the Heer literature. Both exhibit traits from the German military that it came from, with differences subjective and in small degrees. There is more hero worship in the SS literature but I believe that wartime realities show that there was quite a lot in both cultures.

I say this as my personal Heer/SS stash is in the hundreds. Before I collected this stuff I had read this thread and expected to see some funny scandalous stuff but ended up being deceived by false opinion. The "lie" so to speak is claiming that is hugely different.

Basically the failure is in its interpretation by some individuals on the internet, not the inherent traits of the material itself. IF one were to find reason to hero worship the WSS massively over the Heer then the issue is their own. IF one were to claim that the SS material was massively more propagandist than the Heer than it reveals that they have a weak personal library. The irony is that the some of the SS fans eventually became good researchers and as a consequence, published some good books...more the merrier, I say. Even the so-called SS "fanboy" books are somewhat interesting if you read them and look at the photo albums with mature eyes. Basically the reference material, SS or Heer are much more similar than different, I don't believe anyone is committing moral crimes by reading one, or the other, or both.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Sid Guttridge » 16 Jun 2020 17:48

Hi Cult Icon,

My main objection to W- SS English language literature is its sheer scale compared with that on the German Army. Given that (1) the German Army was far bigger than the Waffen-SS and (2) it achieved all Germany's conquests without indispensable W-SS assistance, it serves to distort the historical record to have so much on the W- SS.

The majority of W-SS divisions seem to have at least one English language history. The Charlemagne, which never even campaigned as a division and had no discernible impact on operations, has at least three "divisional" histories in English! This is more than some British or US divisions! Indeed, it is more than some entire countries have!

All this serves to distort the historical record because it gives the W-SS an importance to today's publishing industry that it never had in battle.

It would be easier to get a book on "W-SS cuff-links, 1940-42" published than a military history of Bulgaria in WWII.

The Reich-raised W-SS divisions should be studied as part of the Panzerwaffe. This includes all those that were of any particular military quality.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by LucilleK » 21 Jun 2020 12:52

I'm related to someone whom was in the 12th division and I often find myself defending the SS, but...not everything of course, certain things only. To me I've always been fascinated by the sheer power behind them and the history, although brutal in parts it's our history.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by WCM2020 » 24 Jun 2020 14:10

I appreciate your reply, Sid, as you add elements of a perspective that I am still trying to catch up with. Perhaps I am caught up in some of the personalities of the W-SS, from Wittman and Pieper to Meyer and others. Though surely they had their counterparts in the other branches of the armed forces. Those other personalities just don't seem to stand out like the fighting leaders of the SS. If I could read one book on the W-SS to better understand your points, what do you suggest?

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by I have questions » 24 Jun 2020 20:26

Cult Icon wrote:
16 Jun 2020 14:21
The Waffen SS english-language literature is really not much different in its characteristics than the Heer literature. Both exhibit traits from the German military that it came from, with differences subjective and in small degrees.
I singled out the WSS because that is the subject of this thread, I'm not saying they were the only ones guilty of attempting to whitewash their history.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Sid Guttridge » 25 Jun 2020 00:26

Hi ECM2020,

You have hit upon the problem.

There is no mileage for publishers in a book about the W-SS not being a military elite or any better than it should have been.

I would identify four phases of the puffing of the W-SS.

(1) There was the initial wartime Nazi propaganda.

(2) There was self promotion by W-SS veterans organizations from the early 1950s

(3) There was an English language publishing boom in the W-SS from the late 1960s that inflated its significance.

(4) This spawned a whole generation of under critical W-SS groupies on the internet, in which I would identify the now moribund Feldgrau as a significant player.

It doesn't even require falsification to distort the historical record. It just requires an over emphasis on some less important areas at the expense of others of greater importance.

Thus the W-SS has been puffed up at the expense of the Army, even though it made no indispensible contribution to Germany's conquests and it was militarily little more than an unoriginal clone of the German Army.

All the most capable W-SS formations were motorized or armoured. They should be studied as part of the Panzerwaffe.

The only really distinctive part of the W-SS was its political aspect. This does deserve investigation in its own right.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Cult Icon » 20 Jul 2020 17:50

I have questions wrote:
24 Jun 2020 20:26
I singled out the WSS because that is the subject of this thread, I'm not saying they were the only ones guilty of attempting to whitewash their history.
My response was a critique of your post, a post from 2012, and the quality of the thread in general... :lol: To balance out the pro SS there is also the anti-WSS that are posting false opinion and misinformation based on their own, differing set of prejudices.

It is very easy to make up an opinion with only rudimentary knowledge and aggressively cling on to it for far too long.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by I have questions » 20 Jul 2020 19:17

Cult Icon wrote:
20 Jul 2020 17:50

My response was a critique of your post, a post from 2012, and the quality of the thread in general... :lol: To balance out the pro SS there is also the anti-WSS that are posting false opinion and misinformation based on their own, differing set of prejudices.

It is very easy to make up an opinion with only rudimentary knowledge and aggressively cling on to it for far too long.
Ok. Just out or curiosity, what is your opinion on the matter? Do you think the WSS had a distinctive edge in its military training? Or were you just pointing out that all literature is biased to a certain extent, and that it still has some merit either way?

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Sid Guttridge » 21 Jul 2020 00:07

Hi Ihq,

The W-SS largely followed Army training practice. For specialist technical skills it sent its members directly to Army schools.

The major difference between the Army and W-SS officer training was that the latter devoted as much time to political indictrination as to tactics.

There was no distinctive edge to W-SS military training.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by I have questions » 22 Jul 2020 00:55

I've seen you say this before on this same thread, I don't disagree as I haven't seen anything to contradict it, however, I was wondering what exactly Cult Icon's opinion is. I'm also curious as to how it isn't lying, or at the very least deception/distortion of the facts, to say that the WSS was some supreme force. In order for a history to be credible is must be even-handed, something a lot of the post war WSS publications aren't. Claiming that it is the fault of an individual's interpretation isn't wrong, however, if someone was trying to get good information on the WSS as a beginner and ends up taking something like Weidinger's history of Das Reich word for word, then the publication has just influenced them. They don't have a better reference point, and as a result their learning and study of history is compromised to some extent. Sure, when they become more adept at identifying falsehoods they may be able to use the material for its merits. But the point remains, for those who have an interest and get mislead by this stuff, the consequences are problematic.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Cult Icon » 31 Jul 2020 13:58

WCM2020 wrote:
24 Jun 2020 14:10
I am caught up in some of the personalities of the W-SS, from Wittman and Pieper to Meyer and others. Though surely they had their counterparts in the other branches of the armed forces.
Check out the multi-volume series "Waffen SS Knights and their Battles" by Peter Mooney which is basically a collection of all the knight's cross holders of the SS. There are hundreds of "wittman, peiper, meyers". There were thousands of "wittmann, peiper, meyers" in the German Army with similar RK citations and combat records.

Wittmann is a British/CW biased interest due to his controversial role in Operation Perch, Peiper is known mainly for his trial/crimes in the Ardennes, Meyer for his trial/crimes in Normandy and post-war activities. These 3 people manage to stand out in popular ww2 history, kind of like in real life how a few manage to get well known due to particular acts while the majority are obscure.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by WCM2020 » 11 Aug 2020 17:08

Thank you.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Ludwig Wittgenstein » 01 Sep 2020 01:08

The aspects that come to mind which produced the 'popularity' of the Waffen SS in English speaking countries are:

1. Perception as a military elite: just as the SAS, Navy Seals etc generate a disproportionate amount of literature, so does the W-SS. However, the explanation offered above that it was merely the fact that the senior divisions were mechanised/armoured gave rise to that status seems most plausible, though certainly a tendency to surrender less easily than some other units added to the reputation. British veterans I have interviewed speak of battlefield nervousness if facing any Panzer div, rather than SS specifically, though the SS are mentioned too as being tough opponents of course.

2. Infamy: there is simply a curiosity, sometimes resulting in fascination, about the W-SS and its notoriety, precisely because they had a reputation for being the very 'bad guys' amongst a whole nation of supposed bad guys. It may sound trite but it's true. Everything from the war crimes to the association with NSDAP makes them more intriguing than the regular Heer. Reenactors etc don't like to admit that but it's often true. And don't forget that the whole organisation was actually outlawed after the war. A recipe for later generations who are disassociated from the reality of ww2 to indulge in the cosetting and fetishisation of the W-SS myth.

4. Wartime propagnda: the German propaganda machine talked them up; that identity continued postwar, especially after a few decades has passed and it was safe for English publishers to produce a deluge of books on them called things like HITLER'S IRON KNIGHT MASTERS and other nonsense. (Some of these books can be quite informative though albeit on a narrow focus.)

5. The attire: yep, it's as basic as that. The W-SS just had a more interesting range of clothing. Yeah I know about army Zeltbahns and whatever. But if you're an impressionable youth buying into the myth, who do you want to reenact, some unnamed Heer unit wearing only feldgrau or a flashy SS div with a tough sounding name armband and a whole range of camouflage smocks? It really is nothing more deep than that, a lot of the time. Who cares if the unit committed war crimes, you can always point to the apolitical disclaimer on the organisation's website.

6. Tamyia military miniatures box art: the whole thing is probably their fault actually, lol. Okay I'm joking but there is a grain of truth in it!

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Michael Kenny » 01 Sep 2020 03:32

Cult Icon wrote:
31 Jul 2020 13:58


Wittmann is a British/CW biased interest due to his controversial role in Operation Perch,
Rubbish. Wittmann was deified by the German Press at Kursk. His reputation was made in the east from July 1943-Jan 1944. He lasted but a few weeks once he got to Normandy. He was relentlessly promoted by SS Propaganda and until recent times his actions went unchecked and were uncritically accepted at face-value. When he came to Normandy we could finally check his claims. Turns out Mr Wittmann was a bit of a fantasist because despite a surviving interview where he personally claims to have knocked out 20+ tanks we can prove he could not possibly have met more than half that total. It just so happens that this 'British/CW biased interest' was his downfall and this rankles with a few who are still wedded to the myths and these are the people constantly sniping from the sidelines........
Last edited by Michael Kenny on 01 Sep 2020 21:06, edited 1 time in total.

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