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Czechs 'Wore Nazi Symbol in Afghanistan'
Czechs 'Wore Nazi Symbol in Afghanistan'

" ... The scandal ... leaked a week after the same daily wrote that an elite soldier had trained neo-Nazis for terror attacks and infighting. ... "

Brisbane Times | November 10, 2009 .

AFP - The Czech defence minister has said he would suspend army officers who wore Nazi emblems on their helmets during a mission in Afghanistan and their commanders who tried to hush up the scandal.

"There is no place in the army for people who think this way," Defence Minister Martin Bartak said in a statement following a newspaper report that highlighted the case.

The DNES daily said on Monday that 1st Lieutenant Jan Cermak, a troop commander from the provincial reconstruction team in Logar province, had adorned his helmet with the SS Hohenstaufen division's emblem - the letter "H" crossed by a sword.

Another man, a warrant officer, wore a helmet with the emblem of the SS Dirlewanger division consisting mostly of criminals famous for looting and raping and killing civilians, said DNES, the top-selling Czech non-tabloid daily.

Cermak said he used the emblem because the letter "H" was his initial, pointing at the familiar version of his name - "Honza." "I put it there just for kicks," he said, blaming "youthful recklessness."

Quoting a letter from other soldiers who were upset by the scandal, DNES said Colonel Petr Prochazka, the commander of the contingent, knew about the emblems and covered up as Cermak was his protege.

"Prochazka tolerated the Nazi emblems. He ordered Cermak... to burn the helmet covers with Nazi emblems only after a diplomat had probably complained in Prague," the letter read.

Bartak, who had awarded medals to the officers concerned only last Friday, said he wanted an "immediate and thorough investigation of the case" as what the soldiers did was "unacceptable and cannot be tolerated."

"If the commanders' efforts to hush the matter up prove true, I pledge to make sure they will be severely punished. The first step I will take is their immediate suspension," added Bartak.

The scandal, particularly sensitive in the former communist country where far-right extremism is on the rise, leaked a week after the same daily wrote that an elite soldier had trained neo-Nazis for terror attacks and infighting.

Czech troops in Afghanistan also came under scrutiny earlier this year as the Special Operations Unit (SOG) was accused of letting its British command down by refusing to fight terrorists several times "because it's dangerous."

The Czech army, which has lost three soldiers in Afghanistan since 2007, has 330 soldiers and 10 civilians working in the Logar provincial reconstruction team as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), according to the Defence Ministry website.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
The "Dirlewanger" SS unit was a notoriously brutal "prison brigade", directly responsible for horrific war crimes against civilians.

Quote:The 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, better known SS-Sturmbrigade "Dirlewanger" (often referred to as the Dirlewanger Brigade), was a notorious penal military unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II. Originally formed for anti-partisan duties, it eventually saw action against the Red Army near the end of the war.

The history of the Dirlewanger Brigade is inextricably linked to the life of its commander, Oskar Dirlewanger. Born in 1895, Oskar Dirlewanger was arguably a skillful, fearless and ambitious psychopath. After winning the Iron Cross first and second class while serving in the Imperial German Army during World War I, Dirlewanger joined the Freikorps and took part in the vicious street fighting against communist insurgents. When the crisis was averted, he returned to university and obtained a PhD in political science. Joining the NSDAP in 1923, he was soon expelled and was forced to reapply and rejoin the formation.

After completing his PhD, Dirlewanger went on to hold a teaching job. In 1934, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a female minor. He lost his position and was forbidden from returning to teaching. After serving a two year jail sentence, Dirlewanger was released. Soon after, he was again accused of sexual assault and was thrown into a concentration camp. Desperate, Dirlewanger contacted Gottlob Berger, an old Freikorps comrade now working closely with Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS. Despite the two convictions and the fact that Dirlewanger was an alcoholic, Berger secured his comrade's release and an appointment for him with the Legión Cóndor, a German volunteer unit fighting in the Spanish Civil War on the side of Franco's Falange Española. Dirlewanger fought bravely during this campaign, being wounded in combat three times.

Returning to Germany in 1939, Dirlewanger was granted admission to the Allgemeine SS and given the rank of SS-Untersturmführer. Berger realized that Dirlewanger could be kept in check only while on military duty, so he organized the creation of a military unit which would be used to rehabilitate convicts.

On June 15 1940, the Wilddiebkommando Oranienburg (Poacher's Command Oranienburg) was formed. This unit was to be composed of criminals convicted of poaching, as it was believed that poachers were in possession of skills which would make them excellent scouts and anti-partisan troops. By July 1940, the unit numbered 84 men.

Initially a unit of convicted poachers, it became over time composed of increasing numbers of common criminals. In contrast to those who served in the German penal battalions for minor offences, the volunteers sent to the "Dirlewanger" were convicted of major crimes which would be considered criminal in civilian courts. While the theory was that service in the "Dirlewanger" would rehabilitate the criminals, it in fact provided them with the ability to continue committing criminal acts with no repercussions. The actions of the battalion was the subject of several complaints by high-ranking Wehrmacht officers, but these went unnoticed or were ignored.

As the news spread of the new formation, hundreds of concentration camp prisoners applied for service with the unit. By September 1940, the formation numbered over 300 men. With the influx of criminals, the emphasis on poachers was now lost, and those convicted of other more severe crimes, including assault, burglary and rape joined the unit. Accordingly, the unit name was changed to Sonderkommando "Dr. Dirlewanger" (Special Command "Dr. Dirlewanger"). As the unit strength continued to grow, the unit was placed under the command of the SS-Totenkopfverbände (the formation responsible for the administration of the concentration camps) and it was redesignated SS-Sonderbatallion "Dirlewanger" (it became a Waffen-SS unit again in the late 1944).

In January 1942, the unit was authorised to recruit from Russian and Ukrainian volunteers to rebuild its strength. In its final phase, Dirlewanger's men came to include, besides common criminals, increasing numbers of political prisoners, homosexuals, Gypsies (recruited from Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps), and patients from psychiatric hospitals, as well as others considered unfit to serve in normal military units.

In mid 1941, the "Dirlewanger" was assigned to anti-partisan duties in the General Government region in Poland, and was answerable only to Heinrich Himmler himself. During the battalion's service in Poland, it was involved in numerous cases of corruption, rape, indiscriminate killings and looting. Desertion was also common. The General Government's Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger was disgusted with the behaviour of the "Dirlewanger", and his complaints resulted in its transfer to Belarus in February 1942.

[edit] Belarus

Khatyn massacre memorialIn Belarus, the unit came under the command of Central Russia's Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer, Erich von dem Bach. The "Dirlewanger" resumed anti-partisan duties in this area, working in cooperation with the Kaminski Brigade for the first time. Its conduct in the Soviet Union, rather than improving, worsened and atrocities were a daily occurrence. It is estimated that 200 villages were burned and 120,000 people, most of them civilians, were killed during the operations involving the Dirlewanger's force in Belarus 1942-1944. One of the villages, Khatyn, was later chosen by the Soviet authorities to represent the horrors of the German occupation.

On August 20 1942, the expansion of the "Dirlewanger" to regimental size was authorized. Recruits were to come from more criminals, Eastern volunteers (Osttruppen) and military delinquents. The second battalion finally arrived in February 1943 and the regiment's strength reached 700 men, 300 of whom were former Soviet citizens. The unit was now redesignated SS-Sonderregiment "Dirlewanger". In May 1943, the ability to volunteer for service in the regiment was extended to all criminals and 500 men convicted of the most severe crimes were absorbed into the regiment. May and June saw the unit taking part in the Operation Cottbus. In August 1943, the creation of a third battalion was authorised. With its expansion, the "Dirlewanger" was allowed to display rank insignia and a unique collar patch (at first crossed rifles, later crossed stick grenades). During this period, the regiment saw heavy fighting, and Dirlewanger himself led many assaults, winning several awards for bravery.

In November 1943, the regiment was committed to front line action with Army Group Centre in an attempt to halt the Red Army advance. The regiment, untrained and ill-equipped for such combat, performed poorly and suffered heavy casualties. By the end of the year the "Dirlewanger" could muster only 259 men. Large numbers of amnestied criminals were sent to rebuild the regiment and by late February 1944, the regiment was back up to full strength. It was however decided that Eastern volunteers would no longer be admitted to the unit, as the Russians had proven particularly unreliable in frontline combat. Anti-partisan operations continued until June 1944, when the Soviets launched Operation Bagration, aimed at the destruction of Army Group Centre. The "Dirlewanger" was caught up in the retreat and began falling back to Poland. Unusually, the regiment distinguished itself in several rear guard actions and reached Poland decimated but in good order.

[edit] Poland again

Wola massacre memorial with the list of mass execution sitesWhen the Armia Krajowa initiated the Warsaw Uprising on August 1 1944, the "Dirlewanger" was sent into action as part of the Kampfgruppe of SS-Gruppenführer Heinz Reinfarth, again alongside the Bronislav Kaminski's forces. During the battle, the "Dirlewanger" behaved atrociously, raping, looting and killing citizens of the Polish capital regardless of whether they belonged to the resistance or not, Dirlewanger himself encouraging their excesses. The unit's behavior was reportedly so bestial and indiscriminate that Himmler was forced to detail an attached battalion of SS military police for the sole purpose of ensuring the Dirlewanger's convicts did not turn their aggressions against their own leaders or nearby German units.[1] On August 5 to August 8, the regiment took part in the Wola massacre, the mass executions of at least 40,000 civilians in the Wola district of the city. While the regiment's actions were looked on with disdain by von dem Bach and the sector commander, Generalmajor Günter Rohr, Dirlewanger was recommended by Heinz Reinefarth for the Knight's Cross and the promotion to SS-Oberführer der Reserve. Besides engaging in mass murder, rape and pillage, the "Dirlewanger" fought against the insurgents in Warsaw, suffering extremely high losses. The regiment arriving in the city numbering 881 men and officers; during the course of the two-month urban warfare it received reinforcements of some 2,500 soldiers and lost 2,733. Thus, total casualties numbered 315% of the unit's initial strength.

By October 2 1944, the Poles had surrendered and the depleted regiment spent the next month guarding the Vistula line. During this time, the regiment was upgraded to brigade status, and redesignated SS-Sonderbrigade "Dirlewanger" (SS Special Brigade Dirlewanger). In Early October, it was decided to upgrade the "Dirlewanger" again, this time to a Waffen-SS combat brigade. Accordingly, it was redesignated 2.SS-Sturmbrigade "Dirlewanger", and soon reached its complement of 4,000 men.

[edit] Slovakia and Hungary
When the Slovak National Uprising began in late August 1944, the newly formed brigade was committed to action. The brutal actions of the brigade played a large part in putting down the rebellion, and by October 30 crisis was averted. With the outcome of the war no longer in doubt, large numbers of communist and socialist political prisoners began applying for the "Dirlewanger" in hope of defecting to the Soviets.[2] SS-Brigadeführer Fritz Schmedes, disgraced former commander of the 4th SS Polizei Division, was assigned to the Dirlewanger by Himmler as punishment for refusing to carry out orders. With his extensive combat experience, Schmedes became the unofficial advisor to Dirlewanger on front line combat.

In December, the brigade was sent to the front in Hungary. While several newly formed battalions made up of communist and socialist volunteers fell apart, several other battalions fought well. During a month's fighting, the brigade suffered heavy casualties and was pulled back to Slovakia to refit and reorganize. During this time, the brigade continued its practice of looting, raping and killing, even though Slovakia was a country allied to Germany. Complaints soon began to flow in, and some disciplinary measures were introduced but these did little to halt the atrocities taking place.

[edit] Germany
In February 1945, plans were put in action to expand the brigade to divisional status, however before this could begin it was sent north to the Oder-Neisse line to attempt to halt the Soviet advance. On February 14, 1945, the brigade was redesignated 36.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS. With its expansion to a division (4,000 men), the "Dirlewanger" had regular Heer units attached to the formation: a Grenadier regiment, a Pionier brigade and a Panzerjäger battalion (individual Sturmpionier demolition engineers had been already attached to the force during the fighting in Warsaw).

When the final Soviet offensive began on April 16 1945, the division was pushed back to the northeast. The next day, Oskar Dirlewanger was seriously wounded in combat for the twelfth time. He was sent to the rear and Schmedes immediately assumed command (Dirlewanger would not return to the division). Desertion became more and more common, and when Schmedes attempted to reorganize his division on April 25, he found it had virtually ceased to exist. The situation was highly fluid, with men of the 73rd Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the SS lynching their commanding officer Ewald Ehlers (Ehlers' previous posting had been as the commandant of Dachau, convicted of corruption). The small remnant of the division attempted to reach the U.S. Army lines on the Elbe river. Schmedes and his staff managed to reach the Americans and surrendered on May 3, however only some 700 men of the division survived the war.

[edit] After the war
At the end of the war, Dirlewanger was also captured by the western Allies. On June 1 1945, Polish soldiers, former forced laborers serving in the French occupation forces in Germany, took him to Altshausen jail. Over the next few days Dirlewanger was beaten and tortured. He died from injuries inflicted by the Polish guards around June 5.[3] Dirlewanger was buried on June 19, but the French Military suppressed the news at the time. Over the next 15 years many bogus sightings of Dirlewanger were made around the world. His body was exhumed in 1960 to prove that he was dead.

In 2009, Polish authorities claimed to have identified three survivors of "Dirlewanger" living in Germany and announced that they intend to bring the men to justice.[4]

[edit] In popular culture
A Neo-Nazi music band from Sweden was named Sonderkommando Dirlewanger (often shortened to just Dirlewanger). Dirlewanger Brigade is featured in the last chapter of the 2009 video game Velvet Assassin. The final scenes of the 1985 Soviet war/horror film Come and See are also loosely based on unit's notorious activities in Belarus.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war

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