How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

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

Post by Pascal. Kullmann. » 15 Aug 2019 20:55

Good evening or morning,

some members in this forum have met and talked with many SS vets. (The most famous being obviously Timo) My question is how you look back at these conversations and if there was some kind of respect or even admiration from your side? I've actually posted this a week ago and deleted it straight afterwards...but this is something that really bothers me!
I hope this question doesn't sound stupid. :)

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

Post by Harro » 16 Aug 2019 19:17

Certainly no stupid question. For me talking with veterans was usually a mixed experience ranging from extremely helpful veterans to very reserved. Some talked for hours and hours during meetings, on the phone or in extensive correspondence, others answered a few letters or calls, others remained silent. Some were still ardent believers, most of them quite neutral and focused on military aspects, some repentant (whether genuine or not is difficult to say), apart from one veteran all stuck to the common SS version of what happened at Malmédy and in and around Stavelot. Respect: yes, certainly (apart from one or two). Admiration: in general, no, apart from one or two. Some remained very formal, some were very warm personalities but I would not go as far as call any of them a friend and I never addressed them by their first name, not during meetings, not during long hours on the phone. Not sure if this was the age difference or me distancing myself a bit. Probably a combination. It sometimes felt uneasy but the fast majority of the conversations - in person and on the phone - were very pleasant.

Hope this is of some help.

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

Post by Pascal. Kullmann. » 17 Aug 2019 06:54

This really answered all my questions! Thank you for this wonderful post!!:)
Btw. Do you still plan to release your 2nd book?
:)
Last edited by Pascal. Kullmann. on 17 Aug 2019 08:17, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by Georg_S » 17 Aug 2019 07:34

All of them that I have meet was Very friendly as Timo wrote, even if I got the opportunity to adress Them with their first Name, but only after they told me that we was DU with each other , and that could take 1-3 years in some cases never.
In My opinion all of them could talk about their experiences , even if 95% never talked about crimes comitted by the Germans, if they wanted to talk about that they where among those who thought that it was all a lie. But crimes against Germans could they talk for hours. I have meet soldiers who after a few years admitted they have Bern stationer in different camps even if they was Very few maybe 5-6 of all the veterans that I have meet.

As Timo I have meet fullblood NS and those who after the war started to hate what Hitler did, but Still was they proud to have been soldiers in the Waffen-SS. But some tried to excuse their membership in Waffen-SS "I volonteered for the Luftwaffe, but I was to Young " others could say "i wanted to be part of the best"

Most of them are now dead, but Still I have My memorirs and all of the conversations are written down.

Georg
Waffen-SS, SS-TV, KZ/KL SS-Pz.A.A.
- http://wennallebruderschweigen.blogspot.com/

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Jan-Hendrik » 17 Aug 2019 07:41

But some tried to excuse their membership in Waffen-SS "I volonteered for the Luftwaffe, but I was to Young " others could say "i wanted to be part of the best"
Not to forget those who were transfered to the Waffen-SS from 1943 on without being asked....'Herrman-Göring-Spende' and so on-...
My grandfather was transfered in early 1945....when his Geschwader was disbanded.

Jan-Hendrik

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

Post by Pascal. Kullmann. » 17 Aug 2019 13:03

Thank you all for these responses!! :) :)
Another question:
Did veterans shared any story with you that made you emotional?
:)

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

Post by Harro » 18 Aug 2019 08:18

Pascal. Kullmann. wrote:
17 Aug 2019 06:54
Btw. Do you still plan to release your 2nd book?
:)
Yes, the manuscript is nearly complete but currently on hold. I was contacted by the grandson of one of the veterans who helped me. He ordered his Opa's service records from the Deutsche Diensstelle which I am eager to use for the book but the waiting times for such files are bizarre.
Pascal. Kullmann. wrote:
17 Aug 2019 13:03
Did veterans shared any story with you that made you emotional?
:)
Several, all concerning their fallen comrades and the thin line between life and death. For example:

“Between the 18th and the 20th of December we were in a bleak position again. We were under constant attack and suffered very high losses. Among us drivers there was this unwritten rule that we took turns in transporting wounded men across the desolate terrain between our positions and the main aid station. It wasn’t my turn when [SS-]Sturmmann Engels was brought in from 4th platoon. He had a horrible large heavily bleeding gap between his shoulder blades. We pressed several complete bandage rolls into the wound. Because no one else wanted to go I threw Engels in the back of my car to hurry him to the main aid station. The road ran only a few hundred meters from the enemy lines. I was soon spotted and came under mortar fire. Explosions rained all around me and I could hear the shrapnel riddle my car. As soon as I had pulled through, the engine stalled and my car came to a halt. Fortunately a Kfz. 12 came into view, it belonged to the 4th platoon and was on its way from the main aid station back to our lines. He then towed me to the main aid station. After we had handed over Engels we went to our G1 who checked my car and established that the oil sump had been perforated and that all the oil had leaked away causing the pistons to seize. The supply truck of [SS-]Unterscharführer Gosemann then towed me from the G1 to Zhytomyr. While he collected his supplies I was standing in the road waiting for us to move on. A column of Wehrmacht soldiers passed by and when I glanced up I was looking at my uncle’s face. By coincidence they just paused so we could talk for a while. He asked me what it was like in the frontline, I replied: ‘when you hear shots, stick your nose in the dirt and don’t look up to see where the shooting is coming from.’ Only after the war I learned that he never returned from a patrol before Christmas.”

- Walter Hermann (1. Komp./AA LAH). Willi Herrmann was born on the 27th of July 1907 and went missing in action in Kodnja near Zhytomyr since the 23rd of December 1943 (Volksbund).

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

Post by Pascal. Kullmann. » 18 Aug 2019 12:54

8O I couldn't imagine researching all this horror for years!!

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Peter89 » 19 Aug 2019 08:19

Well, Waffen-SS was an international organization, many of its divisions were quasi-conscripted and thus not really loyal to the cause. Some divisions were set up from volunteers. Even in those divisions, some guys just did go for paychecks, or better equipment / supply than their country of origin.
One grandfather of mine was a Waffen-SS veteran. But even that is an overstatement, because he was conscripted as an ethnic German in Hungary, and pressed into service at the later stages of war. Obviously, their armament and equipment were nowhere near the image we percieve as "Waffen-SS", like LSSAH or Das Reich.
About a third of the boys (including my grandpa) didn't even understand their officiers, because they were "Germans on paper", so basically their parents had claimed that they have German identity on the 1941 census. Imagine a platoon where you need to hear the translation of commands first...
They were fighting sometimes, but mostly retreating, in the last weeks they were hurrying to reach the Wallied troops, to be able to surrender to them. Their formation broke up much before they reached the river Enns, my grandfather was amongst the last ones who crossed. He was later employed by an Austrian farmer (food were scarce in Austria back then), and he tried to make his way home. He was captured by the Soviets two times (one time they found out he was an SS member, and his death sentence was to be carried out next morning) before reaching Hungary, but he managed to escape, once on the top of a train.
He always mentioned a Luftwaffe boot he stole from a corpse, but the day he arrived to his hometown, a man of the Soviet garrison took it from him.
So he began anew barefoot... became a high ranking communist, a director of a factory, a politican on town- and county levels. He died as a communist, not as a Waffen-SS veteran.

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 19 Aug 2019 10:58

Hi Pascal,
It should be remembered that one doesn't tend to run into W-SS veterans by accident.
As a result, those who do run into them have almost certainly sought them out. This usually means that they have some particular inner motivation to do so, be it hero worship, political sympathy, a neutral thirst for knowledge, etc., etc. This is often primed by the extensive W-SS publishing industry.
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.
Thus, most of those who get to talk to W-SS veterans tend to be to some degree "on side" already and inherently receptive to what they have to say.
One can't really blame the W-SS veterans for any biases that result. After all, who wants to be beset by a hostile inquisitor? However, we should bear in mind that being questioned by a friendly inquisitor is unlikely to bring out the full story either.
I have only met one claimed W-SS man personally, who was civil and receptive to my enquiries, but I confess that I was not too pressing with my questions out of respect for his age and experience. I have had contact with others on forums such as AHF and Feldgrau, but at least one was proven to be an imposter. Of the other two, who I presume were genuine, (though one can never be entirely certain on the internet), one seemed to assume that everything he said should be accepted without question and the other was more accommodating to questioning.
We are now reaching the stage that few, if any, ex-W-SS men will be fit or tech-savvy enough to use the internet regularly, so personal interviews are pretty much all that is left.
One cannot generalize about W-SS veterans. They were all individuals with their own motivations. For most, membership was not really a choice. For those youths who volunteered, propaganda probably influenced their decisions. For the regulars at the outset of war, there was no choice but to serve. Most were quite possibly more likely to die at the hands of the enemy's indirect artillery fire than they were to kill anyone personally with their own direct-fire infantry weapons.
Most were therefore, "soldiers like any other." Their military experiences were pretty much identical to those of their Army equivalents.
Cheers,
Sid.

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Peter89 » 19 Aug 2019 11:50

Sid Guttridge wrote:
19 Aug 2019 10:58
Hi Pascal,
It should be remembered that one doesn't tend to run into W-SS veterans by accident.
As a result, those who do run into them have almost certainly sought them out. This usually means that they have some particular inner motivation to do so, be it hero worship, political sympathy, a neutral thirst for knowledge, etc., etc. This is often primed by the extensive W-SS publishing industry.
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.
Thus, most of those who get to talk to W-SS veterans tend to be to some degree "on side" already and inherently receptive to what they have to say.
One can't really blame the W-SS veterans for any biases that result. After all, who wants to be beset by a hostile inquisitor? However, we should bear in mind that being questioned by a friendly inquisitor is unlikely to bring out the full story either.
I have only met one claimed W-SS man personally, who was civil and receptive to my enquiries, but I confess that I was not too pressing with my questions out of respect for his age and experience. I have had contact with others on forums such as AHF and Feldgrau, but at least one was proven to be an imposter. Of the other two, who I presume were genuine, (though one can never be entirely certain on the internet), one seemed to assume that everything he said should be accepted without question and the other was more accommodating to questioning.
We are now reaching the stage that few, if any, ex-W-SS men will be fit or tech-savvy enough to use the internet regularly, so personal interviews are pretty much all that is left.
One cannot generalize about W-SS veterans. They were all individuals with their own motivations. For most, membership was not really a choice. For those youths who volunteered, propaganda probably influenced their decisions. For the regulars at the outset of war, there was no choice but to serve. Most were quite possibly more likely to die at the hands of the enemy's indirect artillery fire than they were to kill anyone personally with their own direct-fire infantry weapons.
Most were therefore, "soldiers like any other." Their military experiences were pretty much identical to those of their Army equivalents.
Cheers,
Sid.
The problem with the Waffen-SS "genuinity" is the very high number of non-German citizens amongst its members.
Example given, the 22. SS-Kav.-Division was formed with some men from the 8. SS-Kav.-Division and transfers from HRA, and heavy conscription amongst ethnic Germans in upper-east Transdanubia.
After the Battle of Budapest its survivors were used to form the 37. SS-Kav.-Division, and its ranks were filled up partially with underage boys (like my grandpa).
Waffen-SS were quite colourful, the original divisions might have been more politically inclined.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 19 Aug 2019 17:13

Hi Peter89,
You add another category of W-SS members that I missed. It is difficult not to see some of the younger, late war, conscripts as victims of circumstance, rather than proactive participants, let alone perpetrators.
For the most part, it was the institution of the SS and its ideology that was rotten, not the individual members themselves.
Sid.

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by AKahl » 21 Aug 2019 00:52

I was wondering whether it was in any way indicative of something positive that certain individuals became "drop outs" after the war, shunning interaction and perhaps also glorification and/or whitewashing of the Waffen-SS image and role, post-war.

Obviously, there could be any number of reasons for this, aside from misgivings, guilt or shame, but I guess I tend to view it as a positive reflection, in the absence of contrary information.
Remain yourself, in spite of all the mighty do.

Goethe

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Re: How do you see Waffen-SS veterans?

Post by Jan-Hendrik » 21 Aug 2019 06:14

My comrade Erich for example, was in the Gemeinderat of Eschede for the SPD....for many, many years.

Jan-Hendrik

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

Post by AKahl » 22 Aug 2019 04:47

Jan-Hendrik wrote:
21 Aug 2019 06:14
My comrade Erich for example, was in the Gemeinderat of Eschede for the SPD....for many, many years.

Jan-Hendrik
Good example.
Remain yourself, in spite of all the mighty do.

Goethe

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