Question on SS casualties

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Marcel, Sep 27, 2015.

  1. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    There is a story here in the Netherlands on how SS casualties were quickly transported away from battlefields in order to keep up the myth that they were elite troops. This would hide the real death toll taken by the SS units. According to some the was mainly so in the first few years of the war. Does anyone know if there is any truth to this?
     
  2. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    It seems like too much of a hassle to be true...
     
  3. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    That's what I thought. Still some persist in this story to explain the lower-than-expected losses by the German SS here. So maybe someone with knowledge could shed a light o this?
     
  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    All services within the German armed forces had their own medical service, but that does not mean that battlefield casualties were necessarily treated at a 'field hospital' of their own service. All services endeavoured to evacuate and treat casualties as quickly as possible and I don't see any evidence that the SS was any more efficient at this than any other service. How quickly casualties could be evacuated and dead recovered depended more on local conditions.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  5. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    The feldgrau.com website says that 1 million men served in the Waffen SS through its history, of whom 250,000 were killed. This site also gives monthly casualty figures to the end of 1944 for the German armed forced as a whole. The figures show that apart from January 1943 (Stalingrad), the worst months were July and August 1944 (the double disasters of Bagration, the almost complete destruction of an entire German army group, with the loss of Army Group Centre's Fourth Army, Third Panzer Army and Ninth Army, the most calamitous defeat experienced by the German armed forces during the Second World War, and Normandy). Total German losses in these two months alone were well over 800,000, of whom a high proportion would have been Waffen SS. And that was before the debacle at Budapest, which cost the Germans 40,000 dead, again with a high proportion of Waffen SS. Stalin had sent a million man army to surround, isolate, and capture Budapest. By 26 Dec 1944 the encirclement was complete trapping nearly 33,000 German and 37,000 Hungarian soldiers, as well as over 800,000 civilians within the city. Refusing to authorize a withdrawal, German dictator Adolf Hitler had declared Budapest a fortress city (Festung Budapest), which was to be defended to the last man. Waffen SS General Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, the commander of the IX Waffen SS Alpine Corps, was put in charge of the city's defenses. On 11 Feb, against Hitler’s orders 28,000 German and Hungarian troops attempted a break out. The first groups surprised the Soviets and managed to escape but following waves were not so lucky.
    Thus Waffen SS casualties in the last year of the war, particularly in Normandy and at Budapest were very heavy. Now one also needs to recall that by the end of the war the Waffen SS was 60% composed of non-Germans, which suggests that the majority of the Germans who had volunteered for the Waffen SS before 1943, i.e. before the introduction of SS conscription and the influx of foreigners, were dead by the end of the war.
     
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  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    There was a huge expansion of the Waffen SS during the final two years of WWII with many new units formed. Many of the new units such as those in the Balkans were mostly composed of non-Germans.
     
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  7. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    I would imagine if you wanted to hide SS casualties it would be so much easier to just lie, than to actually hide the bodies.
     
  8. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    From 1942 onwards, the requirements were relaxed and they filled their ranks with men of all nationalities, including quite a large number from northern European countries.
     
  9. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Well the theory is this: SS standarte "Der Fuehrer" fought at the Grebbeberg here in the Middle of the Netherlands. The supposedly lost a great number of men. If that is true, it would have been hard to hide, because everywhere in the Netherlands live people and people see it. The Germans didn't want the Dutch to see their losses, as the SS had the reputation of elite troops and seeing many of those lying around, killed by the Dutch army was considered to be a great anti-propaganda, undermining the idea of the unstoppable SS soldier. So the shipped their many dead away before the civilians returned to their houses near the Grebbe.
    This would explain the difference between the claimed death toll by the Dutch and the number of bodies found.
     
  10. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    #10 mikewint, Sep 30, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2015
    Total casualties amongst the Waffen-SS will probably never be known, but one estimate indicates that they suffered 180,000 dead, 400,000 wounded, and 40,000 missing
    According to a report from 12 July 1972 from the German bureau responsible for notifying next-of-kin of men killed in the former Wehrmacht, the total Waffen-SS casualties, including those who died in P.O.W. camps, amounted to 6 per cent of the entire German Armed Forces. That included 181,000 men killed and 72,000 missing in action, totaling approximately 253,000 casualties. That constitutes 25–28 per cent of the total strength of the Waffen SS.
    By comparison, the United States Army suffered 318,274 killed and missing in all theatres of the war
    On several occasions, the Waffen-SS was criticised by Heer commanders for their reckless disregard for casualties while taking or holding objectives. However, the Waffen-SS divisions eventually proved themselves to a skeptical Heer as capable soldiers, although there were exceptions such as Kampfgruppe Nord's rout from the the town of Salla during its first engagement in Karelia.
    As the fronts began to crumble, the Waffen-SS divisions began increasingly to be used in a "fire-brigade" role. Held back behind the line,the divisions would be committed to counter enemy breakthroughs. As the success of the divisions increased, so too did the difficulty of the missions assigned them. In the closing months of the war, Waffen-SS formations were assigned impossible missions by Hitler, who saw them as not only exceptionally effective in combat, but also politically reliable. The Konrad operations to relieve Budapest and the Frühlingserwachen operation to recapture the Hungarian oilfields were doomed to defeat from the beginning. After the failure of Frühlingserwachen, Hitler proclaimed that the Waffen-SS had let him down, and ordered the removal of all honorary cufftitles. The commander of VI.SS-Panzer-Armee, SS-Oberstgruppenführer 'Sepp' Dietrich, completely dis-gusted by the order, did not pass it on to his troops.
     
  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure that's supported by surviving documents and memoirs. The mutual distrust between the Heer and SS only became further exacerbated late in the war by failure.

    During the Ardennes debacle Brigadefuhrer Wilhelm Mohnke of Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler wanted to court martial officers of the 14th Fallschirmjager-Regiment for cowardice (the SS spread a rumour that the paratroopers had sat down to have a drink with the Americans in the cellar of a house in Villers-la-Bonne-Eaux). He also wanted to attach Nationalsozialistischen Furungsoffizier to the politically unreliable units of the Heer and Luftwaffe.

    For the Army's part Generalmajor Kokott wrote of the prioritisation of the SS use of roads and resources that it caused chaos, amongst other things.

    "These [chaotic] road conditions reached their peak when SS formations arrived in the Bastogne combat sector. These units - unduly boastful and arrogant anyway - with the total lack of discipline so typical of them, with their well known ruthlessness combined with a considerable lack of logic, had a down right devastating effect and in all cases proved a handicap for any systematic conduct of fighting."

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  12. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    While tactically subordinate to the Army, the Waffen SS had their own command and control channels and effectively answered to Himmler. The relationship between the Waffen-SS and the German Army was one of rivalry.
    The soldiers of the German Army considered themselves as the best soldiers and looked down on SS troops. The soldiers of the SS VT were only amateurs; the soldiers of the SS Totenkopf, the concentration camp guards, were sadist, and the soldiers of the Leibstandarte were "asphalt soldiers," who looked great on the parade ground, but were incapable fighters. After the first German campaigns in Poland and Western Europe, most army officers admired the courage and recklessness with which Waffen-SS units fought, but they felt that overall most SS troops suffered from a combination of recklessness and lack of training.
    In the Waffen SS combat training consisted primarily of several months of intensive basic training with three objectives; physical fitness, small-arms proficiency and political indoctrination. The training was so intensive that one in three potentials failed to pass the course. As the war progressed and replacements were required more frequently, the intensity of the training was relaxed somewhat.
    For officers, the focus was on leadership and combat command, usually at the SS-Junkerschüle at Bad Tölz. The process tended to produce outstanding soldiers and officers, and many of the basic tenets of Waffen-SS training are still used by many armed forces today. A strong emphasis was placed on creating a bond between the officers and men, and officer candidates were made to pass through basic training alongside the enlisted candidates. This created a mutual trust and respect between the officers and men, and meant that the relationship between these groups was very relaxed, unlike the Heer, where strict discipline and a policy of separation between the officers and enlisted men existed. In addition, training emphasized unit cohesion and mutual respect between officers and men, rather than strict discipline. In the Waffen-SS, it was not a requirement to salute officers and a more casual salute was adopted, i.e. the right arm raised vertically from the elbow. Added to this, the practice of addressing a superior as Herr was also forbidden, with everyone up to Himmler being addressed simply by their rank.
    The poor initial performance of the Waffen-SS units was mainly due to the emphasis on political indoctrination rather than proper military training. This was largely due to the shortage of experienced NCOs, who preferred to stay with the regular army. Despite this, the experience gained from the Polish, French and Balkan campaigns and the peculiarly egalitarian form of training soon turned Waffen-SS units into elite formations.
    Waffen-SS men were equipped with camouflage smocks and helmet covers, a new innovation which made them easily identifiable and provided them with an edge in combat. While they received the latest in uniforms, the majority of the Waffen-SS men received second rate weapons and equipment, many formations receiving Czech and Austrian weapons and equipment. This policy continued throughout the war. Contrary to popular belief, the Waffen-SS did not receive the best equipment, and in fact many units were equipped with outdated or captured weapons, vehicles and tanks, with the majority of the best equipment going to the Heer's elite divisions
    The relationship between the German Army and the Waffen-SS reached its lowest point during the German operations in Yugoslavia in 1941 when SS troops threatened to open fire on army columns. Army and Waffen-SS units were even competing to capture the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, first. The turning point came during the German campaign in the Soviet Union when the Waffen-SS earned its reputation for bravery and steadfastness. No longer did the German Army look down on SS troops, as their élan and courage propelled many German advances and stopped many Soviet attacks. In 1944 when the SS units were still winning tactical victories on both the Eastern and Western Fronts, many army units even admired the Waffen-SS units, which were constantly rushing over the front, plugging gaps in the line, rescuing encircled troops, and mounting ferocious counterattacks.
     
  13. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    All branches of the SS (including Camp SS)were explicitly 'political soldiers'. They were considered politically reliable in a way that the Army and Navy in particular were not. The Luftwaffe, being like the SS an entirely Nazi construct, usually avoided such approbation. National Socialist zeal was considered capable of overcoming all sorts of adversity, something it demonstrably could not.
    The idea of the Nationalsozialistischen Furungsoffizier was stolen from the Soviets with their Commissars and promoted by the SS whilst being vigorously resisted by the Army.

    The various and nefarious elements of the SS were indeed answerable ultimately to Himmler. Army officers almost without exception seem to have privately (he was a dangerous enemy until the death of the regime) considered him a jumped up policeman and amateur soldier, opinions that he would unintentionally do his best to prove correct.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  14. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Several formations within the Waffen-SS were proven to have committed numerous war crimes, most notoriously at Oradour-sur-Glane, Marzabotto and in the Malmedy massacre. Some additional allegations have never been substantiated as many were intended to link the Waffen-SS to crimes committed by the Allgemeine-SS.
    Perhaps the most infamous of all SS formations were the Dirlewanger and Kaminski Brigades which would later become the 36.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS and 29.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS respectively. These formations, composed mostly of ex-Einsatzgruppen, released criminals and Russian Prisoners of War and commanded by the fanatical Nazis Oskar Dirlewanger and Bronislaw Kaminski, were engaged in numerous atrocities throughout their existence. After their actions in putting down the Warsaw Uprising, Heer complaints resulted in these units being dissolved and several members (including Kaminski) being tried and executed for their role in several incidents.
    Note the “der SS” in the name of these units. On 14 June 1940, the Wilddiebkommando Oranienburg ("Oranienburg Poacher's Unit") was formed as part of the Waffen-SS. Himmler made Dirlewanger its commander. The unit was sent to Poland where they were joined by four Waffen SS NCOs selected for their previous disciplinary records and twenty other recruits.
    From the beginning the formation attracted negative criticism from both the Nazi Party and the SS for the idea that convicted criminals who were forbidden to carry arms, therefore then exempt from conscription in the Wehrmacht could be a part of the elite SS. A solution was found where it was proclaimed that the formation was not part of the SS, but under control of the SS. As the war proceeded with a need for further manpower Germany recruited other Strafbattalions and Penal military units technically under the control of but not part of the Waffen SS.
    Within a couple of years, the unit grew into a band of common criminals. In contrast to those who served in the German penal battalions for committing minor offences, the recruits sent into Dirlewanger's band were convicted of major crimes such as premeditated murder, rape, arson and burglary. Dirlewanger provided them with an opportunity to commit atrocities on such a scale that even the SS executioners complained. Martin Windrow, the British historian, described them as a "terrifying rabble" of "cut-throats, renegades, sadistic morons, and cashiered rejects from other units"
    Similarly, the Waffen-Sturm-Brigade RONA has a "combat" record riddled with atrocities as well as abysmal conduct when faced with front line service.
    While divisions like the Nordland and Nord have virtually spotless records, most Waffen-SS divisions were involved in at least some questionable actions. The debate over the culpability of the organization is the center of much revisionist thinking.
    Regardless of the record of individual combat units within the Waffen-SS, the entire organization was declared a criminal organization by the International Military Tribunal during the Nuremberg Trials, except conscripts, who were exempted from that judgment due to being forcibly mobilized. The actions of Himmler and the Nazi hierarchy in attaching the SS combat divisions to the same overall command of as the Allgemeine SS,Concentration Camps and Einsatzgruppen meant that such a decision was inevitable.
     
  15. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    While this is all very interesting, I don't see any answer to my original question, so I think the whole theory is bogus as I expected.
    Thanks.
     
  16. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Well, there may be a grain of truth to it, Marcel.

    They may have tried, but collecting and transporting casualties, especially during combat can be extremely difficult.
     
  17. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Marcel - Yes, I/we/us do wander off topic in just about every post but IMHO, (a) all of the posts in some way do answer or are related to your question, which on the surface is not as easy to answer as it might seem.
    And (b) I thought the questions was pretty well answered in post (10): Total casualties amongst the Waffen-SS will probably never be known, but one estimate indicates that they suffered 180,000 dead, 400,000 wounded, and 40,000 missing
    According to a report from 12 July 1972 from the German bureau responsible for notifying next-of-kin of men killed in the former Wehrmacht, the total Waffen-SS casualties, including those who died in P.O.W. camps, amounted to 6 per cent of the entire German Armed Forces. That included 181,000 men killed and 72,000 missing in action, totaling approximately 253,000 casualties. That constitutes 25–28 per cent of the total strength of the Waffen SS.
     
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