Why the Waffen-SS

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mihaiS
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by mihaiS » 29 Jul 2023 18:21

What positions does “mittlere Führung” encompass precisely?

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Aida1 » 29 Jul 2023 20:45

Sid Guttridge wrote:
29 Jul 2023 18:19
Hi Aida1,

Jealousy of what? High losses?

Cheers,

Sid.
Jealousy about the existence of the Waffen SS.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 29 Jul 2023 21:15

mihaiS wrote:
29 Jul 2023 18:21
What positions does “mittlere Führung” encompass precisely?
I guess divisional and regimental commanders.
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 29 Jul 2023 21:30

In addition to the three Wehrmacht divisions, about 110.000 Waffen SS men were still fighting in the West in the summer of 1944. They were grouped into five panzer divisions, one panzer-grenadier division and two heavy panzer bataillons. Two SS panzer corps were available as higher-level command authorities. Although the Waffen-SS was increasingly transformed into a mass army with many "Germanic" and "alien" divisions during the final phase of the war, this development did not spread to its western divisions. This was because all six divisions could be described as elite units or at least as having above-average combat strength.
Certainly, since the middle of the war, the Waffen-SS was far from being a force of exclusively volunteers, as it had long been. The "involuntary volunteers" - as Himmler once referred to them in a speech - increasingly formed the core of the crews. The "Hohenstaufen" and the "Frundsberg," for example, consisted mainly of compulsorily conscripted RAD members born in 1925. Even the "classic" Waffen SS divisions had many normal conscripts in their teams in 1944. The division "Das Reich," for example, is said to have had 9,000 conscripts assigned to it upon its arrival in southern France, some of them even from the Alsace and the incorporated eastern territories. Thus, in social terms, the teams in the divisions of the Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht differed less and less over time. The intellectual-political experience horizon of the recruits had been strongly influenced by pre-military education and the norms of the Third Reich. In the course of the war, other differences between the Waffen SS and the army became blurred. On the one hand, this was due to the common experience at the front, and on the other hand, due to a lack of qualified junior staff officers of the Waffen-SS, some positions were filled by Wehrmacht officers who had defected. The slogan of the Waffen SS as the "fourth part of the Wehrmacht" found, according to Wegner, a "factually incorrect but subjectively accurate term" as a result of all these factors.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to marginalize the still existing differences between the Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht. The sheer strength of the Waffen SS, with nearly 20.000 men per division, favored it over an armored division or even an infantry division of the Army. Only the 9th SS Panzer Division "Hohenstaufen" and the 10th SS Panzer Division "Frundsberg", which had been transferred from the east to Normandy in mid-June, had been reduced in personnel strength by the previous fighting to about 15,000 men each. With the exception of the "Frundsberg," the SS units were also equipped with a large number of the modern Panzer V and were clearly favored over the Army in the allocation of materiel. In addition, the average age of Waffen SS soldiers was generally younger than that of the army. Significantly, even shortly before its deployment to the Normandy Front, the "Leibstandarte" could afford to transfer all those over 30 years of age from the fighting units to the division supply troops or to the field gendarmerie. Even more important, however, was the ideological factor, for the soldiers of the Waffen SS were and remained at their core "Hitler's political soldiers." Thus, the leaders and, to a large extent, the sub-leaders of the divisions were almost all convinced National Socialists. The same can be said of a large part of the crews, especially since they had already grown up under the Nazi regime.
In 1944, the commander of the division "Das Reich", SS Brigadeführer Heinz Lammerding, still attached the same importance to "intensive ideological education" as to genuine soldierly training. Only in this way would the soldier be able to cope with the mental strain of combat.

This politicization was certainly most pronounced in the 12th SS Panzer Division, the "Hitler Youth". The idea of forming an SS division from Hitler Youth volunteers had originated with Reich Youth Leader Arthur Axmann and met with an overwhelming response from Hitler. The dictator placed great hopes in the "wonderfully idealistic spirit" of the youth, which would guarantee to fight with a fanaticism never experienced before. The ranks of the "Hitler Youth" were almost exclusively born in 1926, so the recruits were only seventeen years old when they were drafted. The "Hitler Youth" received its instructors from its sister division, the 1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler". There was a lively exchange of personnel between the two divisions. The "Hitler Youth" was thus symbolically the first political-military child of Hitler's former bodyguard. Significantly, Hitler did not deploy his favorite division in the East; rather, the division was always prepared for deployment against the Western Allies. Besides the "Leibstandarte", the 2nd SS Panzer Division was the second "classic" division of the Waffen-SS to be deployed in the West. The other three divisions, the "Hohenstaufen", the "Frundsberg" and the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division "Götz von Berlichingen" were not formed until 1942/43. Their tribes came from various SS replacement units or SS schools. In the Waffen-SS officer corps, daredevils and radical hotshots set the tone. A brief look at the military assessments of some of the men may suffice here: "Hard and ruthless on duty," was how even the notorious Theodor Eicke characterized Heinz Lammerding, later commander of the "Das Reich" division. To the commander of the "Hitler Youth" Kurt Meyer - also known as "Panzermeyer" - was attested to have a "fanatical fighting spirit". And Jakob Fick of the SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 37 and later commander of the "Götz von Berlichingen" was considered a "tough leader personality". These assessments, mind you, were written by people who could be considered anything but "soft" themselves. Characteristic for the leadership style of the Waffen-SS are also the losses among the highest leaders: Of all six SS divisions in the West, only the commander of the "Frundsberg," SS-Oberführer Heinz Harmel, led his unit continuously during the summer months of 1944. All other division commanders were severely wounded or fell.

The intellectual level of the SS officers was of little interest for a career in the troops. More than two thirds of these officers did not have a high school diploma! Certainly, the former lieutenant general of the Reichswehr Paul Hausser or the former Reichswehr officer and pilot Wilhelm Bittrich as commanding general of the II SS Panzer Corps had education and military expertise. Lammerding even had a degree in civil engineering. But this was true only for a few. Sepp Dietrich, as is well known, was anything but an intellectual high-flyer and came from a humble background.
Theodor Wisch, the commander of the "Leibstandarte", had the secondary school leaving certificate and had been a farmer; Günther Wisliceny, the commander of the panzergrenadier regiment "Deutschland" of the division "Das Reich", was a trained miner; the commander of the neighboring regiment "Der Führer" and later of the "Hohenstaufen", Sylvester Stadler, an electrician. Admittedly, it must be added that many of these men often did not have the opportunity for higher education due to the difficult economic situation in the early 1930s.
Konventioneller Krieg oder NS-Weltanschauungskrieg?
Kriegführung und Partisanenbekämpfung in Frankreich 1943/44, p. 112-115, Peter Lieb.

https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/ ... ml?lang=de
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 29 Jul 2023 21:37

Nevertheless, a soldier of the Waffen SS had a different self-image than a soldier of the Wehrmacht. This included the mythical epithet given to each division, for each SS man a "constant obligation to a superior". However, this self-image of belonging to an elite unit also manifested itself in negative ways, such as in dealing with the civilian population.
In March 1944, for example, the commander of SS Panzer Regiment 12 had to repeatedly urge the "Hitler Youth" to behave properly, since "sub-leaders and men [...] believed that they had to document the German strength here in the west to the population through challenging behavior. Soldiers of the regiment had smashed up bars and fired pistols in the streets while drunk. Just like the Wehrmacht, the Waffen-SS had to contend with the same disciplinary problems, only earlier in time and probably far more severely. Thus, the leadership of the Waffen-SS made efforts to prevent the disciplinary lapses of its own soldiers. "Looting not only undermines manly discipline, but also the reputation of the Waffen-SS," it was said in an instruction of the division court of the "Hohenstaufen." And indeed, even the Waffen-SS could behave correctly: When four French schoolchildren were killed in Beaucamps (Dép. Somme) after an accident during a gun drill of a company of the "Hohenstaufen", a delegation of the company took part in the funeral, while the injured children were cared for by the company.
Ibid. p.117-118
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 29 Jul 2023 22:00

The first phase of the Battle of Kursk, the German summer offensive "Citadel," lends itself particularly well to a comparison between the Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht in operational action. This is because most of the units involved were continuously engaged in combat in the same section, at least during the first week of the operation. In contrast, defensive and counterattacks alternated repeatedly as the battle progressed; units were detached and moved to other sections of the front. This makes it much more difficult to compare the deployment of troops.

The goal of this micro-study is to answer three questions. First, were the Waffen SS units involved in the Battle of Kursk better equipped than the Army divisions? Second, did the SS divisions prove themselves militarily at Kursk? Third, did they suffer higher casualties than the Army? The aim is to contribute to the operational history of the Waffen-SS and to the evaluation of its military efficiency.

I.Were the SS divisions better equipped than the army units?

A total of 33 German divisions took part in the attack on Kursk, namely 17 infantry divisions, 5 armored infantry divisions and 11 armored divisions. In addition, there were quite a number of tank, tank destroyer and assault gun divisions, which were deployed as "army troops". The 9th Army, led by Army High Command (AOK) 9, attacked from the north, from the Oryol area, toward Kursk. It was commanded by Colonel General Walter Model. 17 of its divisions took part in the attack on Kursk; SS units were not among them. The offensive fighting with Model's army lasted exactly one week, from July 5-11, 1943. On July 12, the Red Army began its counteroffensive in the direction of Oryol (Operation "Kutuzov"). As a result, the 9th Army, and with it the northern wing of the German offensive pincer, had to abandon all further advances.

From the south, from the area around Belgorod, attacked the 4th Panzer Army and the army detachment Kempf. The latter was named after its commander-in-chief, General der Panzertruppe Werner Kempf.

Their command authority was AOK 8. Seven divisions of Army detachment Kempf took part in "Zitadelle". Their mission was to offensively shield the advance of the 4th Panzer Army (commander-in-chief: Colonel General Hermann Hoth) to the east and to protect Hoth's army against Soviet flank attacks.

To the 4th Panzer Army fell the most important task of the southern assault forces: to break through the deeply divided Soviet position system south of Kursk as quickly as possible, advance northward, and unite with Colonel General Model's 9th Army to close the ring around the Soviet forces in the Kursk frontal arc. The 4th Panzer Army, led by Panzer Army High Command (PzAOK) 4, was therefore significantly stronger than Army Detachment Kempf. PzAOK 4 had a total of ten divisions under its command during "Citadel." Nine of these took part in the attack on Kursk, including the Army Panzer Grenadier Division "Großdeutschland" and the SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler" ("Leibstandarte"), "Das Reich" and "Totenkopf". The three SS divisions were combined in the II SS Panzer Corps.

Already in terms of target strength, the SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions were far superior to the Panzer Grenadier Divisions of the Army in almost every respect. They were equipped with personnel and material that significantly exceeded even that of the Army's armored divisions. For example, the three SS divisions, each with a ration strength of about 20,000 men, were not only conspicuously stronger than most Army armored divisions; they also each possessed five instead of three motorized infantry battalions. In addition, each of the three SS divisions had two light artillery detachments. The Army armored divisions had only one of each. The Army Panzer Grenadier Division "Großdeutschland" shared these advantages with the SS units and, in addition, was the only division other than the "Leibstandarte" to possess particularly strong motorized infantry battalions, each with five companies instead of the usual four. Even more decisive for the fighting power, however, was the equipment with armored vehicles.

In the summer of 1943, the three SS divisions and the "Großdeutschland" division had equipment that the soldiers of most of the Army's armored divisions could only dream of: Each of the four divisions possessed a complete bataillon of the newly introduced self-propelled artillery (Panzerartillerie).In addition, all four divisions had their own company of the "Tiger" main battle tanks, which were particularly feared by the enemy, with a target strength of 14 Tigers. Not to be underestimated is also the equipment of the three SS divisions and the division "Großdeutschland" each with its own Sturmgeschützabteilung. In the summer of 1943, assault guns were among the most sought-after combat vehicles on the Eastern Front. Contemporary reports praised their great combat power almost effusively. In addition, the Panzergrenadierdivision "Großdeutschland" received a complete bataillon of the powerful Panzerkampfwagen "Tiger" with a target strength of 45 tanks in the summer of 1943. And it was equipped with the latest type of tank, the "Panther" armored fighting vehicle, earlier than the SS divisions. "Großdeutschland", however, was an exception among the Army divisions. As the "Leibstandarte of the Army" with influential advocates, it was exceptionally favored over the Army's normal tank units - just like the three SS divisions, first and foremost the "Leibstandarte", which had the largest number of modern tanks at its disposal during the attack on Kursk.

The above-average equipment of the three SS divisions that took part in Operation Citadel should not, however, lead to the generalized conclusion that "the" Waffen-SS was fundamentally favored over the Army in material terms in the summer of 1943. Even the renowned SS Panzergrenadier Division "Wiking" was clearly worse off than its three sister divisions: In the summer of 1943, it was more like a normal Army panzergrenadier division in terms of its armored vehicle equipment. At the beginning of July 1943, it had 46 mostly obsolete armored fighting vehicles, 6 assault guns, and 14 self-propelled tank destroyers. By comparison, the Army's 16th Panzergrenadier Division, deployed with the "Viking" in the Donets Basin, had 53 armored fighting vehicles and 14 tank destroyers.

The better equipment of the SS divisions "Leibstandarte", "Das Reich" and "Totenkopf" in the summer of 1943 was certainly related to the fact that these formations were to be the Schwerpunkt of the attack on Kursk. Some divisions of the Army that were earmarked for the "Citadel" enterprise were also favored, and not only "Grossdeutschland." Probably the most striking example was the 78th Sturm Division, which, as a reinforced infantry division, was so favored with weapons that problems arose as the Summer fighting progressed in 1943. So says a report from mid-August 1943:

"The 78th Assault Div. is unusable in its present condition. At least the Pz.Jg.Abt. (Sf.) [Panzerjägerabteilung on self-propelled gun carriage] would have to be taken away from it, since it still has a total Sturm-Gesch.Abt. The div. has too many weapons, and the leaders cannot use this mass for its intended purpose. In the event of failures, the weapons cannot be recovered and manned."
Waffen-SS und Wehrmacht in der Schlacht bei Kursk: Ein Vergleich im operativen Einsatz in Die Waffen-SS: Neue Forschungen, p. 318-323, Roman Töppel
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 29 Jul 2023 22:25

II. Did the SS divisions suffer above-average losses at Kursk?

The operation in the Schwerpunkt of "Zitadelle" was bound to result in high losses for the three divisions of the II SS Panzer Corps. However, the question arises as to how high these losses were in comparison to those of the army and whether they were above average.

Is the accusation often made by the Wehrmacht that the Waffen-SS bought its successes with unnecessarily high losses true? Researchers have already pointed out that it was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler himself who repeatedly emphasized the supposedly particularly high losses of the Waffen-SS. In doing so, he reinforced the reputation of "his" soldiers as tough and fanatical fighters. Such a "marketing strategy" was, however, double-edged, because the population soon believed that the Waffen-SS was suffering unnecessarily high losses. Some young men refused to enlist in the Waffen-SS for this reason. Even in the eyes of professional military men, the Waffen-SS suffered a devaluation because high losses did not speak for the combat value of a troop. A military unit is known to be good if it inflicts high losses on the enemy with as few of its own losses as possible. The example of the deployment of the 18th Panzer Division during the Battle of Kursk shows that high losses do not mean high combat value. It is true that there are no complete casualty data for the 18th Panzer Division for the period of the "Citadel" offensive. What is certain, however, is that it was one of the units that was particularly badly decimated in the 1943 Summer battles - so badly, in fact, that it was no longer replenished, but was virtually disbanded and ceased to exist as Panzer Division. The failure of the 18th Panzer Division in the "Citadel" operation can be explained, on the one hand, by the fact that the division was one of the weakest of the panzer divisions deployed and was far from being brought up to the required target strength before the attack began. However, it was mainly tactical mistakes that led to failures and high losses. Even the history of the 18th Panzer Division, written by a former member of the unit, openly admits the military failure of the troops in the attack on Kursk.

The SS divisions did not have to face such reproaches. On July 12, 1943, at the height of the "Citadel" Operation, the Commander-in-Chief of Army Group South, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, visited the II SS Panzer Corps and expressed his "thanks and appreciation to the three SS divisions for their outstanding successes and exemplary conduct in the battles." A few days later, the commander-in-chief of the 4th Panzer Army, Colonel General Hoth, also expressed his "highest appreciation" to the subordinate SS divisions in a daily order for the "attitude, toughness, and exemplary bravery demonstrated in the past battles." That this praise was apparently more than the usual phrases used in daily orders to motivate the troops is evidenced by the fact that the Commanding General of the II SS Panzer Corps, SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser, was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross after the conclusion of the attack battles around Kursk, at Hoth's suggestion. Of the three commanding generals who had been under the 4th Panzer Army, Hausser was the only one to be decorated after "Citadel". General Otto von Knobelsdorff, who had led the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, had to be satisfied with a letter of commendation from Hoth. And General Eugen Ott, the commanding general of the LII. Armeekorps, went away empty-handed.

But what price did the SS divisions pay for their successes during Operation "Zitadelle"? Were their losses above average? A mere comparison of the casualty figures of all German divisions participating in "Zitadelle" would not be very meaningful. For one thing, the offensive on Kursk already ended on July 11, 1943, for the units under the command of AOK 9, while the attacking battles of AOK 8 and PzZAOK 4 continued until July 17, 1943. On the other hand, it is not sufficient to compare absolute casualty figures, since the divisions entered the attack with sometimes very different strengths. A meaningful comparison becomes possible only when the losses are put in relation to the initial strength. Such a compilation was made for the divisions of Army Group South that participated in "Zitadelle" in Table 2, namely for the personnel losses.

The list shows that the infantry divisions had the highest losses. If they are disregarded and only the tank units are considered for the comparison, the losses of the SS divisions are indeed in the upper range. However, the three divisions of the Waffen-SS formed the Schwerpunkt of the attack forces in the southern section of Kursk. Against this background, their losses are not to be regarded as strikingly high. This is even clearer in the case of the tank losses of the units involved in the "Citadel" enterprise. Table 3 lists the total losses of "Tiger" armored fighting vehicles, P IIIs, PIVs, and assault guns as reported to the OKH up to 14 July 1943.

The table shows that the three SS divisions suffered surprisingly low tank losses. Admittedly, these divisions had an unusually large number of tanks at the beginning of the offensive, so that the losses were not so significant in percentage terms. Units that possessed particularly large numbers of combat vehicles were also able to overcome resistance more quickly and were more likely to avoid failures than divisions that had few tanks to begin with. However, the three SS divisions bore the brunt of the tank battles in the South. Against this background, the conclusion remains valid: remarkably low tank losses.
ibid. p.323-328
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 30 Jul 2023 06:29

III. "Elite Troops"? The Military Value of the SS Divisions in the Summer of 1943

The Battle of Kursk did not end with the termination of "Citadel", but, according to the Soviet definition, lasted until August 23, 1943, the day when the Red Army recaptured the city of Kharkov. Therefore, in order to answer the question of whether the SS divisions proved themselves militarily in the Battle of Kursk, we will take another look at the other summer battles of 1943 in the southern section of the Eastern Front. The "Leibstandarte" did not take part in these battles, because it was transferred to Italy after the fall of Benito Mussolini on July 25, 1943. Hitler justified the decision to send precisely the "Leibstandarte" to Italy to Field Marshal Hans Günther von Kluge, the commander-in-chief of Army Group Center, with the words: "I can only do something down there with very first-class units that are, above all, also politically close to fascism."

The divisions "Das Reich" and "Totenkopf," on the other hand, remained on the Eastern Front and continued to fight at the heavy and hot spots of Army Group South. In late July 1943, they first took part in the counterattack to eliminate a Soviet bridgehead on the Mius River in the Donets Basin.

At the beginning of August, together with the SS Division "Wiking", they were again transferred to the Kharkov area and placed under the command of the III Panzer Corps - the final phase of the Battle of Kursk had begun. The Chief of the General Staff of the III Panzer Corps, Colonel i.G. Ernst Merk, gave his first assessment of the three SS units as early as 13 August 1943 to a General Staff officer who had arrived from the OKH: "In accordance with their excellent personnel and material equipment, the SS divisions have performed well in detail. Their leadership, however, does not correspond to the good composition of the troops and requires tight management and constant supervision by the higher command authorities." The value of this statement is limited by the fact that the three SS units had been under the command of the III Panzer Corps for only a few days when Merk made this statement. Nevertheless, the accusation of poor leadership is interesting, because the Waffen-SS was confronted with it again and again, even after the war, in the memoirs of German army generals.

Indeed, the Waffen-SS suffered from a chronic shortage of officers and NCOs. This was due in no small part to its enormous bloat within a short period of time. In the first half of 1943 alone, the formation of six new SS divisions was ordered. The consequences for the existing formations were severe. Even the three particularly favored divisions, "Leibstandarte," "Das Reich," and "Totenkopf," had a very noticeable shortage of officers and NCOs in the summer of 1943. The "Leibstandarte" was the most severely affected, lacking a total of 277 officers and 1,179 NCOs despite months of rest before the start of "Zitadelle" in early July 1943. This shortage was probably mainly due to the reorganization of the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth" as a sister division of the "Leibstandarte". The new division was not only provided with personnel who otherwise would certainly have been given to the 'Leibstandarte' as replacements, but the 'Leibstandarte' also had to give up quite a number of its most militarily proven officers and NCOs, who in the future formed the skeleton personnel of the 'Hitler Youth' division. But the other two SS divisions also had an enormous number of shortfalls: "Das Reich" lacked 286 officers and 734 NCOs, while "Totenkopf" lacked 259 officers and 967 NCOs.

The situation was completely different in the armored divisions of the army that were designated for "Citadel." Of these, the 2nd Panzer Division had the highest number of officer shortages, a mere 21. The 12th Panzer Division had the largest shortage of noncommissioned officers: as many as 388. For most of the Army's armored units, however, the numbers were much lower still; some divisions had almost no shortages or, like the 6th Panzer Division, no shortages at all.

The crucial question, however, is the extent to which the considerable shortage of officers and NCOs among SS divisions affected them on the battlefield and whether unnecessary casualties resulted from poor leadership. What is certain is that high casualties are often a hallmark of poor leadership. And indeed, examples can be found in which SS units suffered unnecessary casualties as a result of bad decisions. A particularly glaring case occurred in late July 1943, during the counterattack on the Soviet bridgehead at Mius. As in "Citadel", this time the II SS Panzer Corps formed the Schwerpunkt again, but on the first day the attack on a commanding height failed amid high casualties. The leadership of the 6th Army, to which the SS divisions were subordinated, now urged more flexible tactics. It expressly stressed that the attack should not be made again at the same place the following day. Nevertheless, the II SS Panzer Corps attacked again in the same direction the next day. Again the attack failed and especially "Totenkopf" suffered heavy losses. Now the 6th Army command intervened directly and ordered the II SS Panzer Corps to shift its Schwerpunkt for the third day of the attack in order to bypass the commanding and seemingly impregnable heights. This time the attack succeeded and the Soviet bridgehead was finally eliminated.

Such examples of poor leadership and unnecessary losses were by no means limited to the Waffen-SS, however, but were also to be found in the Army in the summer of 1943, and at all levels of command. For example, the First General Staff Officer of the "Grossdeutschland" Division, Colonel Oldwig von Natzmer, stated in August 1943: "The division commanders of the Pz.Div. generally do not meet the demands placed on them." Another example of poor leadership, this time at the regimental level, is the deployment of the Panzer Regiment "Grossdeutschland" and the Panzer Regiment 39 in the "Zitadelle" operation under Colonel Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz. The latter used the tanks of the two regiments in such a daredevil manner and without regard for casualties that the superior brigade commander summed up his leadership style in the words: "downright insane" and "idiotic." And there are known cases of incompetence at the company level as well. The commander of Heavy Panzer Bataillon 505, which was to advance from the north to Kursk during Operation Citadel, complained to a general staff officer who had arrived from the OKH: "Due to the inexperience of a company commander sent as a replacement, who had previously been used only in rear services and as the leader of a staff company, one of the division's attacks became a failure and cost several Tigers." This was not an isolated case. A report from Panzer-Brigade 10, which fought south of Kursk, stated: "In almost all units equipped with the new 'Tiger' and 'Panther' types of tanks that fought in the brigade's area, the companies were led by officers who were too young and inexperienced." The report mentions only one exception, and that was the "Panther" bataillon of the SS division "Das Reich." There were also battles in which army generals were responsible for SS units suffering unnecessary losses, for example, on August 4, 1943, during a German attack on a Soviet bridgehead on the Donets River. The commanding general of the XXXX. Panzer Corps, General der Panzertruppe Sigfrid Henrici, sent the SS Division "Viking" under his command, against the objection of its division commander, into a hopeless attack that was unsuccessful and resulted in high casualties. Leadership errors with unnecessary losses thus occurred again and again in the Army as well. However, the fact that the Waffen SS in particular was repeatedly accused of poor leadership by the Army could also be related to the fact that its special position within the German armed forces and its preferential treatment repeatedly aroused the suspicion of the Wehrmacht and led to tensions.

On August 20, 1943, General Otto Wöhler, who had assumed supreme command of Army Detachment Kempf five days earlier, requested the immediate replacement of the commander of Division "Das Reich," SS-Gruppenführer Walter Krüger. The reason was not that Krüger had been too reckless and that his style of leadership had claimed unnecessary casualties; on the contrary, Wöhler considered Krüger to be "far too lacking in momentum and ponderous for a first-class force like the Waffen-SS.'' Wöhler's request was in vain, however. Krüger retained command of the Das Reich Division and was even awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross eleven days later. His division had distinguished itself in the fighting around Kharkov to such an extent that it was named in the Wehrmacht report on August 27, 1943.

The other two SS divisions under Wöhler also proved themselves militarily in the final phase of the Battle of Kursk and played a decisive role in the fighting. In mid-August, the "Totenkopf" Division was so successful in its counterattacks in the Kharkov area that General Hermann Breith, the commanding general of the III Panzer Corps, suggested its naming in the Wehrmacht report. General Wöhler paid tribute to the SS divisions twice within a few days. On August 17, he singled out by name the "Totenkopf" Division, and three days later he praised this unit again, as well as the "Wiking" Division. About the latter, moreover, there is an interesting testimony from early November 1943, which sheds light on the question of the supposedly poor leadership of the SS divisions. In an "Assessment of the Internal Combat Value of the Divisions" of the III Panzer Corps it says about the "Wiking":
The Div. has performed very well in the heavy defensive battles and also in attacking tasks that occur. It possesses a tenacious fighting force with almost 2 years of Eastern War experience. With the heavy losses, however, the Div.'s performance is largely based on the constant efforts of the few remaining good officers and NCOs. The leadership is energetic and resourceful, but its waywardness does not make relations with neighbors and higher authorities entirely easy."
Despite a considerable shortage of leaders and sub-leaders, a military unit could thus be well led. As is so often the case, it was not quantity but quality that mattered. And this was obviously good in the SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions in the summer of 1943, both in terms of material and personnel. Accordingly, the Waffen-SS armored units were repeatedly thrown into hot spots. As the American historian George Stein put it in his 1960s work on the Waffen-SS, which is still worth reading today, "Wherever, in Hitler's opinion, the danger was greatest, that is where the Waffen-SS armored divisions were sent." Stein was referring to the divisions "Leibstandarte," "Das Reich," "Totenkopf," "Wiking," "Hohenstaufen," "Frundsberg," and "Hitlerjugend." These seven units had been renamed from "SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions" to "SS Panzer Divisions" in late 1943. For Stein, they represented 'elite divisions'. But can the Waffen-SS really be called an 'elite force'?

The term military "elite" has recently come under criticism and is rejected, especially in relation to the Waffen-SS. And indeed, in view of the great heterogeneity of the SS units and the considerable qualitative differences between the total of 38 divisions, one must strongly differentiate. By no means can "the" Waffen-SS in its entirety be described as a military "elite." Moreover, it is debatable whether large military units should be called "elite troops" at all, or whether the term "elite" is not entirely unsuitable as an analytical category in the study of military efficiency. The word "elite troops," however, also exists as a historical term. Thus it was used in the German Wehrmacht report to refer to some of the enemy's particularly powerful troops, e.g., in a June 1941 announcement for Greek units and in September 1944 for the British paratroopers landed at Arnhem. Hitler used it in reference to his own "elite troops," such as when he spoke of two German paratrooper divisions in March 1943. And military history research has also consistently used the term military "elite" when referring to particularly strong, highly motivated, successful, and well-equipped units. If one bases the concept of the military "elite" on this classical definition from the history of operations, then the SS divisions deployed at Kursk unquestionably belonged to the "elite troops". Their opponents also saw it that way: In Soviet documents from the summer of 1943, the divisions "Leibstandarte," "Das Reich," "Totenkopf," "Wiking," and "Grossdeutschland" are referred to as "elite divisions" ("otbornye divizii").
ibid. p.328-334
Last edited by Westphalia1812 on 30 Jul 2023 08:09, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 30 Jul 2023 06:37

Conclusion

Basically, it is very difficult to compare the military efficiency of formations in a battle. This is because there have always been sometimes great differences in terms of tactical situation, terrain, weather conditions, air support, but also in terms of the strength and motivation of one's own troops and the fighting power of the enemy. It is almost impossible to take all these factors into account, so many questions must remain unanswered. Nevertheless, some clear results can be named for the 1943 Summer battles on the Eastern Front: First, the SS divisions did not suffer disproportionately high casualties at Kursk, which argues against the charge of particularly poor leadership. Second, there is no doubt that the SS divisions ın the Battle of Kursk proved themselves militarily. Third, the soldiers of the three SS divisions "Leibstandarte," "Das Reich," and "Totenkopf" benefited in the summer of 1943 from above-average equipment and a correspondingly higher combat strength of their units. However, this preferential treatment had a downside for the soldiers: because of it, they were repeatedly deployed to the heavy and hot spots. This also shaped their self-image.

A former member of the "Totenkopf" division, who was drafted into the Waffen SS in 1942 and fought on the Eastern Front until the end of the war, answered in an interview when asked if the soldiers in his division felt like a military elite: "We didn't feel like an elite. We were made into an elite." For the fighting on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1943, this was undoubtedly true.
ibid. p.334-335

https://www.academia.edu/resource/work/15439503
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by mihaiS » 30 Jul 2023 07:35

Westphalia1812 wrote:
29 Jul 2023 21:30
With the exception of the "Frundsberg," the SS units were also equipped with a large number of the modern Panzer V and were clearly favored over the Army in the allocation of materiel.
Konventioneller Krieg oder NS-Weltanschauungskrieg?
Kriegführung und Partisanenbekämpfung in Frankreich 1943/44, p. 112-115, Peter Lieb.

https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/ ... ml?lang=de
It is truly disappointing how often this conjecture comes up, and how few historians are truly well-acquainted with this subject. Maybe it's some perfectionist part of me speaking, or maybe I'm simply delusional when it comes to the study of history, but I can't imagine writing unsubstantiated, bold claims in such a book. This is not even a matter of proving that the Waffen-SS was better- or worse-off than the Heer, or of rehabilitating it or whatever others might try, but of accurately and truthfully portraying the past, and of thoroughly consulting all available sources beforehand. Even a quick visit to the few digitised fonds of the Bundesarchiv would've easily disproved his claim, or at the very least made it appear less "clear" than he believed, but this is someone with easy access to the physical archives themselves, and he was writing a doctoral dissertation, not a mass-market, popular history book.

This is his footnote for this specific claim ("[...] were clearly favored over the Army in the allocation of materiel."):
So waren am 10.6.1944 51,4% des gesamten Panzerbestandes der Divisionen der Waffen-SS im Westen vom Typ Panzer V („Panther"); bei den Panzerdivisionen des Heeres waren es nur 25,7%. Zusätzlich standen im Westen Anfang Juni 1944 über 80% aller 102 Panzer VI (Tiger) der Waffen-SS zur Verfügung. Die Zahlen wurden errechnet mit der Tabelle in: Deutschland im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Bd.5, S.635 sowie für die Anzahl der Panzer VI: Zetterling, Normandy, S.177ff. Die Panzerbestände der „Hohenstaufen" und der „Frundsberg" sind in der Statistik vom 10.6.1944 nicht aufgeführt. Eine Einbeziehung ihrer Panzer würde den Schnitt von 51,4% an „Panthern" bei den SS-Divisionen etwas drücken
I am not familiar with the Tiger figures, but as far as Panthers are concerned, both Zetterling's book and other figures pertaining to Gen.Insp.d.Pz.Tr strength reports and vehicle deliveries show that the Heer and Waffen-SS averages were almost identical, whereas others, those of trucks and SPW as far as I can recall, even disfavored the Waffen-SS. The percentages that he has calculated, 51,4% and 25,7% (which are closer in truth to 43% and 33%) have more to do with the fact that those Heer units had even more Panzer IV on average in that specific timeframe, rather than with the Waffen-SS units being "clearly favored over the Army in the allocation of materiel", or at least so I have understood from the available figures.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 30 Jul 2023 08:13

mihaiS wrote:
30 Jul 2023 07:35
Westphalia1812 wrote:
29 Jul 2023 21:30
With the exception of the "Frundsberg," the SS units were also equipped with a large number of the modern Panzer V and were clearly favored over the Army in the allocation of materiel.
Konventioneller Krieg oder NS-Weltanschauungskrieg?
Kriegführung und Partisanenbekämpfung in Frankreich 1943/44, p. 112-115, Peter Lieb.

https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/ ... ml?lang=de


I am not familiar with the Tiger figures, but as far as Panthers are concerned, both Zetterling's book and other figures pertaining to Gen.Insp.d.Pz.Tr strength reports and vehicle deliveries show that the Heer and Waffen-SS averages were almost identical, whereas others, those of trucks and SPW as far as I can recall, even disfavored the Waffen-SS. The percentages that he has calculated, 51,4% and 25,7% (which are closer in truth to 43% and 33%) have more to do with the fact that those Heer units had even more Panzer IV on average in that specific timeframe, rather than with the Waffen-SS units being "clearly favored over the Army in the allocation of materiel", or at least so I have understood from the available figures.
I am not an expert on armor strenghts of German units but I guess it was pretty even in Normandy. One might also has to look at artillery and small weapons distribution. PzL and 2.PzDiv e.g. had more SPWs than any SS division in Normandy.
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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by mihaiS » 30 Jul 2023 08:50

I am no expert either, and honestly I am not even interested that much in these matters - it's the superficiality that bothers me, and the way in which many facets of the Waffen-SS are treated. It's as if the myths and propaganda of that time have never left, even though there are so many available primary sources to learn from, and it is especially disappointing when you notice that it's not something that is exclusive to the general populace or to amateur historians, but that supposedly seasoned historians also like to indulge in it at times. Admittedly I am not that familiar with Peter Lieb, and this specific work of his is not that recent, so perhaps I am mistaken.

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Re: Why the Waffen-SS

Post by Westphalia1812 » 30 Jul 2023 09:01

mihaiS wrote:
30 Jul 2023 08:50
I am no expert either, and honestly I am not even interested that much in these matters - it's the superficiality that bothers me, and the way in which many facets of the Waffen-SS are treated. It's as if the myths and propaganda of that time have never left, even though there are so many available primary sources to learn from, and it is especially disappointing when you notice that it's not something that is exclusive to the general populace or to amateur historians, but that supposedly seasoned historians also like to indulge in it at times. Admittedly I am not that familiar with Peter Lieb, and this specific work of his is not that recent, so perhaps I am mistaken.
I agree. Liebs book, however, deals mostly with the German occupation of France and not with military matters. I just found some of his comments concerning the Waffen-SS interesting.
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