The 5th SS division has a reputation as a "clean" Waffen-SS unit - i.e. innocent of
war crimes (whether spontaneous or premeditated, apolitical or ideologically motivated).
I used to subscribe to this belief, although in the past year or so my view has become more
It's important to point out the role of Felix Steiner in the reputation of the W-SS in general and the 5th SS division in particular.
Steiner is one of the most famous W-SS generals. I won't get deeply into his biographical career,
but basically he was a career soldier and member of a Freikorps and the Reichwehr who
joined the SS in 1935 and molded the SS-VT into an efficent military formation. His contribution
to the military training of the SS-VT is often cited as the reason the W-SS was an "elite" formation.
Steiner was the first divisional commander of the "Wiking" division and in many respects the unit,
made up of Germans plus a varied assortment of European volunteers, became his "baby". Steiner went on
become the commander of the III SS Panzerkorps and the 11th SS Panzer "army".
Postwar, Steiner was one of the founding members of the W-SS veterans group HIAG and author of books such
as such as The Volunteers: Idea and Sacrifice
. His writings consistently stressed the idealistic
and "pan-European" nature of the Waffen-SS and were instrumental in the attempts to portray the W-SS as
"soldiers like the others" and unaffiliated with any of the sordid criminal activities and racist ideology
of the Third Reich. He is the namesake of the neo-Nazi organization Kameradenwerk Korps Steiner (KKS) which was active
in the 1990's.
George Stein in his 1966 book The Waffen-SS
mentions the Wiking division's role in the execution of 600 Galacian Jews
"as a reprisal for Soviet cruelties" on p272 and cites Reitlinger's 1957 book The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-45
p157 as the source.
The primary source document for this may be the Einsatagruppen Operational Situation Report USSR No. 19 (July 11, 1941) in which
is the following citation:
has finished its activity in Tarnopol. 127 executions. Parallel to that,
liquidation of 600 Jews in the course of persecutions of Jews as inspired by the Einsatzkommando.
In Zborov, 600 Jews liquidated by the Waffen-SS as retaliation measures for Soviet atrocities
http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/german/ ... r-019.html
Zborov, for those who are interested, is a town NE of Ternopil near the provincial border with L'viv.
http://www.explore-ukraine.com/Province ... boriv.html
As mentioned on wssob.com, Richard Rhodes book Masters of Death
describes a execution of
Jews which may be part of the activities mentioned by the Einsatzgruppen Report #19 or may be an unrelated incident.
P. 45 of Rupert Butler's book SS-Wiking
mentions the Einsatzgruppen report but also goes on to mention
how the divisional supply train officer, Heinz Karl Fanslau (who incidently, was supposedly SS General Paul Hausser's
adj. at the SS officer school Bad Tölz) organized an execution of Jews in reprisal for the June 30 death of battalion
commander Hilmar Wackerle (an "old fighter" Nazi and first commander of the Dachau concentration camp until relieved by Himmler
after 3 months for brutality). Fanslau supposedly told his troops that killing the Jews would not be a punishable offense. All
this information came of in Aug 1947 during one of the war crimes trials.
On p 45-46 Butler further documents that during the capture of Zhitomir, troops
from "Wiking" rounded up "the usual suspects" - Kommissars and 31 Jews who were "active Communists." At Rudjina and Trojanov, 26 "Jewish Commissars"
were hanged in front of 400 Jews forced to watch; 402 Jews were then shot at Zhitomir and 113 Jews killed at Radomyschl.
In general, "Wiking" was operating in the same sectors as Einsatzgruppe C and specifically the 70-man Einsatzkommando 4b.
Page 82-83 of the book The German Army and Genocide
incudes a quote from Einsatagruppen Operational Situation Report USSR No. 28 (July 20, 1941)
which specifically mentions the "Wiking" division passing through Tarnopol (Ternopil), site of another massacre of Ukrainian Jews. The front cover of the book
shows a photo of what is possibly an SS man in his cammo smock along side other Heer soldiers, staring at the corpses of the executed at Tarnopol.
The execution of Jews by members of the 5th SS supply train in retaliation for the death of Wackerle may have been one of those
"spontaneous" mass murders that Himmler frowned upon. However, it seems increasingly likely
that troops of the 5th SS division did assist members of Einsatzkommando 4b in their murderous operations
in Galicia during the month July 1941. It also seems likely that troops of the 5th SS division did their part
in carrying out Hitler's "Commissar Order" by killing people suspected of being Jewish or suspected of being
Communist without due process.