I agree that you cannot automatically and necessarily label W-SS soldiers war criminals, but that last paragraph in particular just goes way overboard.tonyh wrote:To begin, I was replying to BillHermann's mistaken assertion of:Harro wrote:I don't mean what does "oh yawn" mean, I want to now what you mean when you say...because it tastes like the usual "Soldiers Like Any Other" mantra Hausser invented and which is again and again parroted by Waffen-SS appologists despite being complete bantam.tonyh wrote:But for every Theofor Eicke, or Max Simon, there was a Paul Hausser, or Kurt Meyer, or Wilhelm Mohnke, or Wilhelm Bittrich, or Felix Steiner, or Fritz Witt.
"It is the fiction that they had no role in the camps or were men of an organization that had no political affiliation."
The sentence above would give the less educated reader the impression that when Waffen SS soldiers weren't at the front, they were happily gassing Jews in the camps.
It simply isn't the case and the vast majority of the men who passed through the ranks of the Waffen SS hadn't any contact with any camp at all.
My point in contrasting the likes of Eicke and say Bitterich, is to say that while one was ensconced in the camp system, the other never even saw a camp and it illustrates the folly of lumping a large body of men into one convenient bag.
Also, while the Waffen SS was part of the nazi organisation and wholly incorporated in the nazi state and system, the majority of the men (especially the younger ones) had no real political affiliation, in the true sense of the word. As I said, most weren't even members of the party.
If there was a common "political" trend amongst the volunteers of the Waffen SS (who drew men from a large geography), it was vehement anti Communism.
The Waffen SS were, explicitly, openly and fundamentally, a politicised organisation. Its entire rationale for existing was political and ideological. It was, and understood itself as, the armed branch of the nazi movement, to whom it had a more fundamental loyalty than even to the German state. I am sure many soldiers joined it for other reasons, just like lots of people joined the KGB for other reasons than ideological fervor. But that does not change the nature of the organisation.
While the interconnectedness with the camp system etc can certainly be exaggerated as factor defining the organisation, that connectedness was much more than an incidental occurrence on the individual level. There was, quite simply, no essential distinction between the Waffen SS and the elements operating the camps, or engaged in executing the holocaust in the field in the east. People moved backed and forth between one and the other routinely. There were people commanding W-SS divisions who had commanded Einsatzgruppen in 1941, and W-SS divisions formed in part from the units that spent much of 1941 lining men, women and children up in the baltic woods and shooting them through the head. While most W-SS soldiers were not direct holocaust participants, the W-SS as an organisation contained a very great proportion of those who were. There was no divide. That can not legitimately be simply ignored, or fobbed away as a matter of a few individual cases.
"It's perhaps unfortunate that the men of the Waffen SS even had SS in its title"? I repeat - there was no divide. There was no "concentration camp SS" in which the bad people served, and a "Waffen-SS", in which the "real soldiers" served. People moved from Einsatzgruppen to front service to security work to camp duty seamlessly and without particular fanfare, all deployed and run by the same instance, SS Führungsamt. The stated purpose of operating conventional military units within the SS framework was the need to use war service to build the organisation's (that is, the SS) prestige, so that it could better fulfill its chief function as the ultimate executor of the nazi movement's political vision. That is why the organisation existed and that is why there was such a thing as Waffen-SS divisions. The Waffen Ss wasn't built to bolster Germany's warmaking capacities, it was built to bolster the political clout of the SS.The problem with that type of approach is that it leads one to incorrect conclusions and colours the view terribly. It's fine if one has a "History Channel" level of interest, but delving deeper requires a more intense approach. Labelling organisations is dodgy as it labels the men under those organisations. This is why it's wrong to believe that the Waffen SS was a "criminal" organisation, on the basis that the SS was labelled as such. It's perhaps unfortunate that the men of the Waffen SS even had SS in its title. Perhaps if their title was different, the view of them by some people would be different too. Organisations have different levels of people and involvement and assuming everyone in a given organisation is fully paid up, or shares exactly the same views etc is, by and large, a mistake.
It's really just an extension of "all Germans were nazis".
I have many times argued hard against people who want to see the history of the Waffen-SS entirely in that light, and approach them primarily as a tool of ideological terror and crimes against humanity. That is in my opinion not the right historical approach, because most W-SS formations did spend most of its time in tasks other than this, and with the increasing complexity of the organisation it also becomes more contradictory - containing, for instance, lots of foreign volunyteers and even German conscripts. But, it should never be forgotten that this was because the history of the organisation was shaped and cut short by events (the deterioration of the war and eventual defeat) that derailed its design. Had Germany won the war, the W-SS would have fulfilled its purpose, and the men who were killing tanks on the steppes in 1943 would have become the men relied upon to implement radical demographic designs in the east, with everything that entailed. It doesn't matter if everyone within the organisation had the same views or motives, this is what it was.