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.
Michael Kenny
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Michael Kenny » 01 Sep 2020 03:39

Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote:
01 Sep 2020 01:08

. 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!
More than a grain.
I started making Airfix tanks in the 1960s so know what was available both in kits and books at this time. I saw the rise in 'Wittmann related' items when Tiger tank kits took over the modelling scene. The explosion in SS books was striking and the the terms 'Warrior'/'Knights'/'Samaurai'/'Elite' became commonplace. I still have them and can check back at the the naive uncritical way they handled the subject in stark contrast to more modern works.

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Maxschnauzer
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Maxschnauzer » 01 Sep 2020 08:47

Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote:
01 Sep 2020 01:08
The aspects that come to mind which produced the 'popularity' of the Waffen SS in English speaking countries are:
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.
Exactly. Add Nordic runes and mythic/historical heroes onto Divisional names (not to mention the "occult connection" to the SS in general) and you have the perfect storm to entice a certain fan base.
Cheers,
Max

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Dwight Pruitt
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Dwight Pruitt » 01 Sep 2020 20:53

There was a "Wittmann Cult" within the U.S. Army, especially in the Armor branch, from the mid- 1970s to the end of the 90s. He was mentioned several times in Armor Magazine, the professional journal of the Armor and Cavalry branch. There was a fawning article about him in the July-August 1992 issue that parrotted his "21 tank kill" myth at Villers and painted him as the greatest tank ace of all times.

I remember that the greatest proponents of Wittmann in the service were modelers, readers of Munin Verlag books, and Avalon Hill gamers.

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Cult Icon
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Cult Icon » 03 Sep 2020 12:53

Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote:
01 Sep 2020 01:08
The aspects that come to mind which produced the 'popularity' of the Waffen SS in English speaking countries are:

How about try your hand at "social psychology of Anti-Waffen SS bias on internet forums?".

In the years that I've posted very, very few people who post aggressively against the WSS actually have more than very little knowledge of the SS, German Army, and Eastern Front and their viewpoints are mostly conditioned by hatred, envy, digust, and ignorance. WSS thread topics typically degenerate into fights (this thread on AHF is an exception) and into rants about war crimes. This is one of those topics that stimulate the passions.

The example of Wittmann above is case in point- I have found that British-clinging types experience feelings of hatred for him at Villers-Bocage and happiness when discussing his death at Totalize. A "dangerous" thread topic is anything about the battles of Caen, the British-clinging type experiences a mixture of envy and hatred over the German defense, particularly that of 12th SS Hitlerjugend and tries his best to denigrate it. Or the German clinging side expresses admiration for the Waffen SS defensive performance. One side starts the conflict, and the verbal fights initiate. Tanks kills, war crimes, etc. and then the thread is locked

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Sid Guttridge » 03 Sep 2020 15:03

Hi Cult Icon,

You are right that the tone and longevity of this thread is both welcome and something of an exception.

However, my experience is rather different.

I don't think anyone hates Wittman. He was just a man doing a job at some considerable risk to himself. However, there is definitely sometimes animus against today's W-SS gurus, gatekeepers and groupies, who, at no personal risk, have a tendency to misrepresent the W-SS as a military elite; when it's distinguishing characteristic was actually political.

I was twice banned from Feldgrau and once here because W-SS lobby site administrators are sometimes incapable of holding or allowing a civil discussion on their pet subject and would rather stop debate entirely than have their life's work questioned.

One, who was apparently a doctor by profession; even publicly called me a "psychopathic personality in need of personal protection"! This was an outrageous breach of professional conduct on his part, both as a doctor and administrator, yet he wasn't disciplined, but I got banned!

On the positive side, one if them has recently apologised by PM here on AHF, so not all is lost.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by mihaiS » 03 Sep 2020 17:05

Cult Icon wrote:
03 Sep 2020 12:53
How about try your hand at "social psychology of Anti-Waffen SS bias on internet forums?".
I would say that this bias that you speak of manifests in different ways. There are those who criticize the combat performance of the Waffen-SS, or rather their "elite" status, which was certainly wrongly bestowed upon most of these units. I personally find this criticism fair, as long as it is accompanied by civil discussion, and if it is backed by logic and proper research. However, as you've pointed out, there are also people with little knowledge of the Waffen-SS, who are oftentimes more vocal than the aforementioned group, and who speak with great conviction about facets of history with which they are merely superficially acquainted. I personally find this especially irritating.

I would go even further, and say that this is present in academia as well. However, there I would not call it bias, nor would I say that it resembles in any way the endless arguments that surround this topic on internet forums. I've had my own, somewhat disappointing, experience with two well known professors from my country, very intelligent men, specialized in 20th century politics and ideologies, who apparently were completely unaware of the true extent of the Waffen-SS's recruitment efforts in Ukraine and the Baltic Countries, and who had some pretty amateurish opinions regarding this organisation. Same goes for the Schutzmannschaften or the auxiliary Wehrmacht units.

It is obvious that, regardless of where it is encountered, or in what shape it manifests itself, this phenomenon mostly stems from the Waffen-SS's association with the SS itself. The stigma that it bears has, for rightful reasons, permeated into the Waffen-SS as well. I understand why some people would hesitate to delve deeper into the SS's various endeavors and branches, or why they would be content with a superficial understanding of this subject, but I find it completely dishonest when it comes to studying history.
Last edited by mihaiS on 03 Sep 2020 17:17, edited 2 times in total.

Richard Anderson
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Richard Anderson » 03 Sep 2020 17:13

Cult Icon wrote:
03 Sep 2020 12:53
The example of Wittmann above is case in point- I have found that British-clinging types experience feelings of hatred for him at Villers-Bocage and happiness when discussing his death at Totalize. A "dangerous" thread topic is anything about the battles of Caen, the British-clinging type experiences a mixture of envy and hatred over the German defense, particularly that of 12th SS Hitlerjugend and tries his best to denigrate it. Or the German clinging side expresses admiration for the Waffen SS defensive performance. One side starts the conflict, and the verbal fights initiate. Tanks kills, war crimes, etc. and then the thread is locked
Alternatively, there seems to be an issue from some "focused" on imagined hatred, dangerous threads, and British, American, Soviet, or German-clinging (or whatever other nationality happens to float their boat) type experiences, when the problem all too often is missing the forest for the trees. Fixating on the Waffen-SS, or the 12. SS-Panzerdivision, or whichever happens to be the posters "favorite" misses that they did not operate in a vacuum. To mangle an old saw, neither Wittmann nor 12. SS-Panzer halted PERCH, I think 21. Panzer, Lehr, 2. Panzer, 716. Infanterie, and the rest of 7. Armee holding on for dear life in the face of growing Allied strength may have had something to do with it. :D
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Ludwig Wittgenstein
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Ludwig Wittgenstein » 24 Oct 2020 00:12

Actually prior to coming across more critical commentators on this forum I don't think I saw much other than various degrees of reverence for the Waffen-SS and Wittman. The deluge of books with titles describing them/him as Samurai, Knights, Elite etc was always the standard. In the 90s I saw several plastic models of Wittman, yet never any of a ww2 personality from our own British armed forces of the time. (That may be different now.) Some of the books bestowed high praise to a cringe worthy level, some outright refused to acknowledge war crimes (James Lucas) and a small number focused on war crimes (Max Hastings).

So, reading more sceptical views on the status of the Waffen SS on this forum has been quite refreshing, since my general impression of the subject's treatment by military history 'enthusiasts', from authors to plastic model makers had hitherto been one of admiration with the occasional mandatory deference to the organisation's questionable politics, often crystalised into trite expressions ("good soldiers though" etc,) all of which I suppose is far too simplistic for the truth that the organisation consisted of everything from politically motivated 'fanatics' (as the overused word goes) to reluctant conscripts just trying to survive the dangers posed by both the Allies and the NCOs on their own side, until a chance to surrender came about.

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