The armed forces of the National Socialist organization SS, the Waffen-SS, continually committed atrocities and war crimes on the Eastern Front after the launch of the Russian Campaign in 1941. These events and the reasons they occurred have been thoroughly investigated in the past decades. Surprisingly, however, few have researched the motives and circumstances regarding the war crimes committed by soldiers of the Waffen-SS on the Western Front against Allied prisoners of war. We try to answer the questions surrounding these motives through three specific case studies: the massacres of Allied prisoners of war perpetrated by the Totenkopf-division at Le Paradis; the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler-regiment in Wormhoudt in 1940; and the Hitlerjugend-division at Chateau d’Audrieu in 1944. The analyses of these cases demonstrate the importance of influence from the officer corps as all three massacres were commissioned by a commanding officer. These officers were all longstanding members of the NSDAP and had over the course of their careers been brutalized by The Night of the Long Knives, in the concentration camps, during the invasion of Poland and pacification of the Polish and Jewish population and during the “total war” in the East. The fact that the perpetrators had their first real experience with the realities of war in the days before the massacres and had met rather unexpected, stubborn and massive resistance from the Allied forces they were fighting also had an impact on the events as the urge for revenge acted as a catalyst in at least one of the massacres. It is furthermore significant that there was a difference in attitude towards the killing of prisoners of war in 1940 and in 1944 based on their efforts of hiding the crimes, the regular soldiers’ attitude towards the crime and the fact that the order to murder all prisoners in 1944 came from the very top of the division. The main interest, though, is the impact of the prevalent ideology on the actions of the Waffen-SS and its officers. In previous research it has been established that the Wehrmacht did not prove guilty of atrocities and war crimes as often as the Waffen-SS and the main differences between these two armed forces were the soldiers’ background as well as the fact that the soldiers of Waffen-SS were regarded as political troops. And these ideological soldiers – led by a fanatical officer corps – would go further than any other units to achieve victory and annihilate its enemies.
|Educations||History, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate|
|Publication date||9 Jan 2012|
|Supervisors||Claus Bundgård Christensen|
- War Crime
- Waffen SS
- Le Paradis
- Chateau d'Audrieu