Often in Batman movies and comic series, the worst bad guys in Gotham will team up to defeat the caped crusader. Often such criminal coalitions are comical and cartoonish. During World War II however, the SS, the notorious Nazi organization responsible for carrying out the Holocaust, created their coalition of the worst scum humanity had to offer. In 1940 the SS organized the 36th SS Waffen Grenadier Division. The division (actually a brigade in size) was formed as a penal division, in other words a military unit created to punish criminals. However unlike other penal units which were formed from men who committed minor infractions, the 36th SS was formed from the worst criminals and monsters Germany had to offer. This included murderers, rapists, arsonists, and armed robbers. Worst of all the man chosen to lead brigade was Oberfuhrer (Brigadier) Ernst Dirlewanger. A veteran of World War I and the Spanish Civil War, Dirlewanger was also a known alcoholic, sadist, and pedophile who had been convicted of multiple accounts of child rape and sexual assault. Because he had friends in high places, he was released from prison and given command of the new division (thus nicknamed “Dirlewanger’s Brigade) in 1940.
The first assignment of the brigade was to conduct anti-partisan actions in occupied Poland. Rather than venturing into the wilderness and hunting down resistance fighters, Dirlewanger ordered retaliations against civilians. Every time the partisans attacked, Dirlewanger ordered innocent civilians to be rounded up, gathered in a barn, and burned alive while those who attempted to escape were shot. Incredibly, the brigade suffered a number of causalities from these executions, mostly because the men were intoxicated at the time and accidentally shot each other. As well as anti-partisan duties, the brigade managed a number of concentration camps, Jewish ghettos, as well as the mass executions of so called “undesirables”. The Dirlewanger Brigade is especially noted by both its victims and its colleagues for being especially brutal and sadistic. Often the men executed Jews and Slavs with sick glee, torturing and raping them before finally murdering them. Dirlewanger himself had a particularly morbid past time in which he would inject young Jewish women with strychnine, then have them whipped as they convulsed to death in front of him.
Believe it or not, Dirlewanger’s atrocities were so sickening that SS commanders (those tasked with conducting the Holocaust) demanded that his unit be disbanded and Dirlewanger himself be imprisoned for atrocities. After an investigation by SS courts and a petition by SS and army commanders in Poland, the Dirlewanger brigade was reassigned to Belorussia. There it would continue it’s terrible atrocities, raping and murdering thousands more throughout the war.
In 1944 the Dirlewanger brigade was recalled to Poland, where it was tasked with quelling the Warsaw Uprising. During the uprising the brigade is noted for conducting some of the most heinous atrocities of the war. In what would later become known as the Wola Massacre, Dirlewanger ordered the burning of three hospitals with patients and staff inside. Nurses who escaped were grabbed, ganged raped, and hung naked as gasoline was poured over them and they were lit on fire. Physicians and male patients were shot or hung. One of the worst massacres occurred at a daycare, where the brigade stormed the building and murdered around 500 children. A German soldier named Matthia Schenk testified on the massacre,
“After the door of the building was blown off we saw a daycare-full of small children, around 500; all with small hands in the air. Even Dirlewanger’s own people called him a butcher; he ordered to kill them all. The shots were fired, but he requested his men to save the ammo and finish them off by rifle-butts and bayonets. Blood and brain matter flowed in streams down the stairs.”
While Dirlewanger’s Brigade was composed of the worst monsters humanity had to offer, bloodthirsty murderers do not make good soldiers. As Germany began to lose the war the Brigade often found itself forced into combat operations. Since the brigade was composed of undisciplined and often drunk criminals, it suffered terrible casualties at the hands of the Soviet Red Army. In April of 1945 the Brigade was ordered to hold the line against the Soviet offensive on Berlin. In a matter of no time and with little effort, the Red Army annihilated the Dirlewanger Brigade from the face of the planet, GOOD RIDDANCE!
Oskar Dirlewanger escaped to the west but was captured by French forces on June 1st, 1945. Apparently he was recognized by a Jewish concentration camp inmate. He was incarcerated in a French prison where he would be found dead four days later. The exact cause of his death is murky, especially since there is evidence of a cover-up by French prison officials. However, according to his cellmate, a German Air Force officer, Dirlewanger was recognized by a group of Polish guards under French employ. The Polish guards were all former victims of one of Dirlewanger’s concentration camps in Poland. On the night of June 4th/5th they entered his cell and beat him to death.