Waffen-SS - War Crimes

War Crimes

The separately organised Allgemeine SS was responsible for the administration of death camps, although many members of it and the SS-Totenkopfverbände subsequently became members of the Waffen-SS, forming the initial core of the Totenkopf Division. Many Waffen-SS members and units were responsible for war crimes against civilians and allied servicemen. For members who did not directly take part in them, they had to face the fact there was a "guilt by association" that attached. After the war the Schutzstaffel organisation as a whole was held to be a criminal organization by the post-war German government, due to evidence that it was responsible for war crimes. Formations such as the Dirlewanger and Kaminski Brigades were singled out, and many others were involved in large-scale massacres or smaller-scale killings such as the Houtman affair or murders perpetrated by Heinrich Boere. The most infamous incidents include the following:

  • Wormhoudt massacre by SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, 1940, Belgium
  • Le Paradis massacre by SS Division Totenkopf, 1940, France
  • Oradour-sur-Glane massacre by SS Division Das Reich, 1944, France
  • Ochota massacre by SS Kaminski Brigade, 1944, Poland
  • Wola massacre by SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, 1944 Poland
  • Huta Pieniacka massacre by SS-Galizien division 1944, Poland
  • Tulle massacre by SS Das Reich, 1944, France
  • Marzabotto massacre by 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS, 1944, Italy
  • Malmedy massacre by Kampfgruppe Peiper part of 1st SS Panzer Division, 1944, Belgium
  • Ardeatine massacre by two SS Officers, 1944, Italy
  • Distomo massacre by 4th SS Polizei Division, 1944, Greece
  • Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre by 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS, 1944, Italy
  • Ardenne Abbey massacre 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, 1944, France

The linking of the SS-VT with the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) in 1938 posed important questions about Waffen-SS criminality, since the SS-TV were already responsible for imprisonment, torture and murder of Jews (and other political opponents) through providing the personnel for manning of the Concentration Camps. Their leader, Theodor Eicke, who was the commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, inspector of the camps and murderer of Ernst Röhm, later became the commander of the 3 SS Totenkopf Division. With the invasion of Poland, the Totenkopfverbände troops were called on to carry out "police and security measures" in rear areas. What these measures involved is demonstrated by the record of SS Totenkopf Standarte Brandenburg. It arrived in Włocławek on 22 September 1939 and embarked on a four day "Jewish action" that included the burning of synagogues and the execution en masse of the leaders of the Jewish community. On 29 September the Standarte travelled to Bydgoszcz to conduct an "intelligentsia action". Approximately 800 Polish civilians and what the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) termed "potential resistance leaders" were killed. The Totenkopfverbände was to become one of the elite SS divisions, but from the start they were among the first executors of a policy of systematic extermination.

Several formations within the Waffen-SS were found guilty of a war crime, especially in the opening and closing phases of the war. In addition to documented atrocities, Waffen-SS units assisted in rounding up Eastern European Jews for deportation and utilised Scorched-earth tactics during anti-partisan operations. Some Waffen-SS personnel convalesced at concentration camps, from which they were drawn, by serving guard duties. Other members of the Waffen-SS were more directly involved in genocide.

The end of the war saw a number of war crime trials, including the Malmedy massacre trial. The counts of indictment related to the massacre of more than 300 American prisoners "in the vicinity of Malmedy, Honsfeld, Büllingen, Ligneuville, Stoumont, La Gleize, Cheneux, Petit Thier, Trois Ponts, Stavelot, Wanne and Lutrebois", between 16 December 1944 and 13 January 1945, and the massacre of 100 Belgian civilians mainly in the vicinity of Stavelot.

During the Nuremberg Trials, the Waffen-SS was declared a criminal organisation, except conscripts from 1943 onward, who were exempted from that judgement as they had been forced to join.

Read more about this topic:  Waffen-SS

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