Historical Fact: Waffen-SS
An info that will be added in the storygame.
Ah, the SS – those bastards who were the sole people that were reaponsible for the holocaust and other atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. The SS did nasty things and deemed as a criminal organization after the war. Let’s dig further into this ‘villain’ organization, especially its armed forces.
From its birth as Hitler’s personal bodyguard units to his private army.
Despite the fact that by the end of WW2 the SS was a truly vast organization, with branches that seemed to reach into almost every sphere of German life, and could boast an armed force of some of the most effective troops in WW2, its beginnings were less than impressive.
Initially starting as Hitler’s personal bodyguard units fully devoted to protecting his life, it steadily grew to a bigger organization as Hitler strived to power. And eventually, it fielded quite impressive army (and did horrible things).
Between 1933 and 1939, the power of the SS grew considerably. The armed SS was expanded, and the Gestapo and other SS police units began to round up the enemiea of the Reich. For Heinrich Himmler, his SS empire was expanding rapidly.
Were the SS soldiers just like any others? No simple answer. To attempt to be as objective as possible, it is necessary to consider the SS not as a single entity but as four broad groupings. First, those who served on the homefront or rear of combat zones, such as the SD (SS intelligence agency) and Gestapo. Second, the Totenkopf Division, part of the Waffen-SS but inextricably linked with the concentration camp guard units. Third, foreign volunteers who served in the ranks of the SS, and fourth, the so-called ‘classic’ Waffen-SS divisions, most of which were Nazi Germany and Aryan in origin.
Now let’s focus on the Waffen-SS.
Waffen-SS units had a ‘not-so-pleasant’ beginning in WW2, but they improved drastically as the war went on, and decreased dramatically as Germany was losing.
SS units began their first combat in Poland. Individual SS units did not find the Poles to be the pushover many had expected, but the losses suffered by the SS were high, largely due to aggressive and daring tactics instilled into its recruits during training, rather than to inexperience or poor leadership, as some of its Aemy detractors had suggested.
SS units were mostly trained just like their Wehrmacht counterparts, but they were much more ideology indoctrinated. They were thoroughly indoctrinated in Nazi philosophy so they would know what they were fighting for. While many believed, or came to believe in the SS creed, others were certainly more cynical and believed that they werw fighting to make Germany great again. These factors, coupled with their personal oath of allegiance to Hitler, goes a long way towards accounting for the almost suicidal determination and courage of the Waffen-SS soldiers and their disdain of death.
Initially, they failed to win the respect of most of the Heer’s senior commanders, probably unfairly, and were considered by their Army counterparts to have been to brash or reckless (the reason why they suffered high casualties). The SS in turn was critical of the Heer, insisting that its units had been misused, and had been given the most difficult and dangerous tasks. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
Overall, the SS had played only a minor role in the Polish campaign, though the Leibstandarte division in particular had demonstrated the effecriveness of fully motorized infantry units, as ir was rushed from one sector of the front to another.
(The Leibstandarte ended up as the most elite Waffen-SS unit. Michael Wittmann also served in the Leibstandarte)
The SS units were also known to be more atrocious and savage, as they were more indoctrinated in the Nazi ideology and had specifically tasked units to do the nasty stuff (such as the Einsatzgruppen).
Soon, other SS units gained their experiences as they fought on the following battles. But the best of them was the Leibstandarte.
The Army, though it was now beginning to grudgingly admit that some Waffen-SS troops fought very well, still had some considerable misgivings. SS soldiers were, after all, considered to be political soldiers, and the lack of self-control led to such atrocities. Whereas the more experienced units (such as Leibstandarte) were led by by officers who had combat experience and could temper their natural aggressiveness and reckless daring with a little caution, the less experienced units lacked experience and suffered high casualties as a result.
Prior to Germany invasion of Soviet Union (thus breaking the treaty between Hitler and Stalin), they started to fill up the Waffen-SS with more volunteers. They started to replace casualties and imroved the quality and quantity of the Waffen-SS units.
The Leibstandarte and SS-Verfuegungsdivision were well equipped. Totenkopf Division was also equipped to a reasonable standard while Polizei Division remained as a second rate unit.
Now that Hitler had been satisfied that his Waffen-SS could perform well, he demanded that the SS would receive stuff as good as, or sometimes better than the Wehrmacht. Hitler’s campaigns in the East would eventually see the formation of 38 Waffen-SS divisions, still small in relation to the Heer, but whose influence in the war cannot be overestimated.
They also recruited personnel from Nordic countries such as Denmark, Netherlands, and Finland. Though the Waffen-SS tries to recruit west Europeans in their crusade against Bolshevism with posters and propagandas, research had shown that those were not the main reason the non-German volunteers donned SS uniform. Rather, they were motivated by such factors as boredom, better food, avoid dreaded compulsory labor service, lust for adventure, and the glamour of wearing an SS uniform.
Waffen-SS losses were extremely high. By mid-November 1942, for example, it had lost over 8400 men KIA and in excess of 27.115 WIA and 935 MIA. However, its combat achievements silenced many of its detractors once and for all. Though there were still many in the Heer who found the SS and its methods distasteful, few now questioned its military prowess and gallantry in action. Some Wehrmacht commanders were now glad to have troops of such a high caliber operating alongside them.
And as usual, the Leibstandarte was at the top. The most elite SS unit of all time.
But there were also other SS units whose records were less than impressive, or whose actions were more sinister. Hell, even some of those bad quality units were poorly motivated and easy to be beaten and flee in panic. Some were only good for committing atrocities and anti-partisam duties. Otherwise, meh.
So quality of Waffen-SS troops depend on what units they are in, with the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler being the best.
Among the Waffen-SS are the Einsatzgruppen – murder units devoted to committing atrocities, killing Jews, carrying out the bad sh*ts. And the SS-TV handled the concentration camps.
In the storygame, men of the Leibstandarte will be your allies when playing as the Wehrmacht in some scenes. You might find it unpleasant, but they are very capable soldiers.
Meanwhile, the other Waffen-SS units will act as antagonists while playing the Red Army parts.
The Einsatzgruppen will be the antagonist for both, good Wehrmacht guys and the Soviets. Because as a good Wehrmacht protagonist, you don’t want these guys to suddenly do evil shits and “HURR DURR LETS BE NAZIS” and make all the friendly communist-hating Soviet citizens into hostiles, thus increasing the risk of partisan activites.