How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

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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Harro
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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Harro » 26 Aug 2019 07:25

Sid Guttridge wrote:
19 Aug 2019 10:58
It should be remembered that one doesn't tend to run into W-SS veterans by accident [...] Contacting W-SS veterans is usually done through "gate-keepers" - individuals who already have their confidence and vet others who want to meet them as suitable in advance.
Back in 2001, I wrote an e-mail to a German Schwimmwagen club inquiring if they had info about vehicle deliveries to the Leibstandarte. Much to my surprise their secretary replied that they had no such info but two Leibstandarte veterans who frequented their club meetings might know more. They gave me the address of Helmut Merscher and that was that. Through Merscher I met more veterans - so he was a gate-keeper if you will - but I guess the start of it all was rather a-typical.

Pascal. Kullmann.
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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Pascal. Kullmann. » 28 Aug 2019 21:54

Interesting replies, especially from Harro and Sid! Thank you for your help :)
Quite sad to think about the fact that most veterans are already dead... and I will never get the chance to talk to one of them! But we are lucky to have people like Timo that tell their stories!

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 31 Aug 2019 14:13

Hi Pascal. Kullmann.

For every W-SS man there were some 20 German Army men (more if we are only talking about Reich Germans). As their military experience was pretty much identical to that of the W-SS, if you are interested in military history there are presumably more numerous Army veterans available to talk to.

The only reason to seek out W-SS veterans rather than Army veterans is if one is particularly interested in their ideological motivations (if any) for the Reich-born W-SS men and the nationalist motivations of the Freiwillige W-SS "volunteers" of other nationalities.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Pascal. Kullmann. » 31 Aug 2019 16:10

Hi Sid,

I meant veterans from all sides not just the Waffen - SS :)

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by BlaueLitze » 31 Aug 2019 18:41

As I understand it the Waffen SS was an organization with a total membership of several hundred thousand men, including the killed. It's hard for me to imagine having a generalized opinion on such a huge number of individuals.

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Harro
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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Harro » 02 Sep 2019 06:43

Sid Guttridge wrote:
31 Aug 2019 14:13
The only reason to seek out W-SS veterans rather than Army veterans is if one is particularly interested in their ideological motivations (if any) for the Reich-born W-SS men and the nationalist motivations of the Freiwillige W-SS "volunteers" of other nationalities.
The only reason? What about a particular interest in their warcrimes?

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 03 Sep 2019 16:04

Hi Harro,

I would suggest that their war crimes were largely a function of their leaders' ideological motivations.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 03 Sep 2019 16:06

Hi BlauLitze,

You post, "It's hard for me to imagine having a generalised opinion on such a huge number of individuals."

True. That was why the post-war war crimes trials had to be against individuals for specific misdeeds. Mere enrolment in the W-SS wasn't a crime.

Cheers,

Sid

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Harro
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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Harro » 03 Sep 2019 18:05

Sid Guttridge wrote:
03 Sep 2019 16:04
Hi Harro,

I would suggest that their war crimes were largely a function of their leaders' ideological motivations.

Cheers,

Sid.
Nice spin

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Pascal. Kullmann. » 03 Sep 2019 22:07

Sid Guttridge wrote:
03 Sep 2019 16:04
Hi Harro,

I would suggest that their war crimes were largely a function of their leaders' ideological motivations.

Cheers,

Sid.
I don't think Hitler motivated them to throw grenades into a basement full of helpless civilians in Stavelot...

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by eindhoven » 03 Sep 2019 22:59

We are steering away from the main discussion here. Which is always the case!

I have meet some long ago, the last in 2013 when I went to bury my beloved Onkel, a very old gentleman who shook my hand like some others I'd met before him who knew both my Onkel and Opa. After the war the Americans setup an SS-Lager for PWs in our town. A few stayed, others came back. Some of these men, these W-SS veterans, have zero remorse and empathy for anything they have done under their banner. Some are quiet, others talk more. Drinking a Bier-Cola at our Gasthaus they would talk in their groups. My Opa knew some of them though having fought alongside them. They laud their battles, hold their comrades high, and build a case for you that they are the victims, they express esprit de corps and no remorse. Their enemy and the civilian populace they brutalized and at other times inexplicably cared for were nothing compared to their main cause which is always they say against Bolshevism, not Lebensraum they, like other branches, are careful to avoid, their honor after all was loyalty. Being German requires a certain hardness and even brutality by default. It is literally cultural for us. It is certain that hardness and hardiness was much more real in their time and also, expected. So much so it was referenced in speeches of their time.

Total war is what it is. Whatever Western code of morality we decide to apply we struggle to understand, because we have not held their ground, there are civilizations on this earth that have zero qualms on killing. Death means nothing to them. Such was the W-SS at times, others as well, though not always, but their record is what it is. The brutality of WW2 and the Waffen-SS should shock no one because it is easy to understand their primary motivation and adaptability towards brutality. You see it now in modern times. Armies are not just there for parade. Their primary motivation involves the destruction of other human beings.

We pretend to be civilized at our core but we can adapt, horrendously or courageously. The Waffen-SS adapted to their ideology, their cause, and were efficient at their task but not always. Their brutality was not even consistent. They are not an enigma.

What more would you expect of them in that short time they inhabited? And how can you expect them to turn from their time and then condemn it? and by proxy themselves and their comrades? What then did their comrades die for? Or any soldier in military history? What then did they loose themselves for? And more to point, what monster in themselves do you want them to recognize?

The flowers are in bloom in the image below.
Am Ostfront.jpg
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Last edited by eindhoven on 04 Sep 2019 12:02, edited 1 time in total.

Pascal. Kullmann.
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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Pascal. Kullmann. » 04 Sep 2019 06:36

eindhoven wrote:
03 Sep 2019 22:59
We are steering away from the main discussion here. Which is always the case!

That is true and it's my fault! I think we can close the thread as it goes into the wrong direction.

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Cult Icon » 05 Sep 2019 15:17

eindhoven, very interesting observations. I also believe that there is an inherent "darkness" in the human heart, which is suppressed/re-routed in a second-rate manner by modern entertainment, sports, and capitalistic achievement/status hunting. Evolutionary psychologists call this survival instincts/imperative. I find the SS to be interesting and more true in that manner, to see these forces released in an unrestrained way and given free range to roam. They remain as one of man's social experiments.

There is a very interesting theory presented by anthropologist Ernst Becker in the 1973 Pulitzer Prize winner, the "Denial of Death"which followed up with his incomplete manuscript, "Escape from evil "(Becker died before this work was finished). There is also a film about the theory. Basically it's saying that human beings have an innate death anxiety that is never extinguished from our subconscious which drives us to create and participate in immortality projects- such as inventing religions, political ideologies, morality, and other belief systems or creating enduring works...in the main to extend our genetic survival or survival through our achievements after death. This is further popularized by Prof. Solomon in "The Worm at the Core: Role of Death in Life" (conclusions from hundreds of related studies in the decades since Becker's death) and his public talks.

The tragedy- black comedy of the 3rd Reich hold these traits in abundance. IMHO the clinging onto the 3rd Reich by veterans organizations was a way for survivors to cope with their sacrifices and those of their friends, by giving their experiences an enduring sense of meaning. This is ironically how the more successful holocaust victims coped in the camps, according to Psychologist and survivor Frankl in "Man's Search for Meaning".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory

In the end of Erwinn Bartmann's memoir, "For Volk and Fuhrer" he comments that he has no regrets on his participation with the Leibstandarte and would never make another choice if he could live his life again even though he fully admits to fighting on the side of evil. It was a crucial, shining moment of his life.

I am most curious of whether or not German soldiers (army, ss, luftwaffe, or other) experienced profound feelings of joy in and after combat and what these feelings entailed.

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Leprechaun » 05 Sep 2019 17:53

Cult Icon wrote:
05 Sep 2019 15:17
I am most curious of whether or not German soldiers (army, ss, luftwaffe, or other) experienced profound feelings of joy in and after combat and what these feelings entailed.
Why German ? Why not any nationality ? Why do you have a fascination with the SS ?
Jack

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Leprechaun » 05 Sep 2019 18:04

In my opinion the Japanese had a far more brutal approach to war and death maybe peoples interest in the SS is because it's a European phenomenon ?
Thanks Jack

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