Concept

Oskar Dirlewanger

Summary
Oskar Paul Dirlewanger (26 September 1895 – c. 7 June 1945) was a German military officer (SS-Oberführer). He played a significant role as the founder and commander of the SS penal unit known as the "Dirlewanger" during World War II. Serving in Poland and in Belarus, his name is closely linked to some of the most notorious crimes of the war. He also fought in World War I, the post-World War I conflicts, and the Spanish Civil War. He reportedly died after World War II while in Allied custody. According to historian Timothy Snyder, "in all the theaters of the Second World War, few could compete in cruelty with Dirlewanger". Dirlewanger was born in Würzburg on 26 September 1895. He was the son of a merchant, and spent much of his childhood in Esslingen Am Neckar after his family moved there in 1906. He attended the Esslinger Gymnasium (known today as the Georgii-Gymnasium) and the Schelztor-Oberrealschule. He completed his Abitur in 1913. Dirlewanger enlisted in the Württemberg Army on the 1 October 1913, and served as a machine gunner in the "König Karl" Grenadier Regiment 123, a part of the XIII (Royal Württemberg) Corps and as a one-year volunteer. He would fight as a part of this unit on the Western Front of World War I, where he took part in the German invasion of Belgium and later fought in France. He received the Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class, having been wounded six times, and finished the war with the rank of lieutenant, in charge of a company on the Eastern Front in southern Russia and Romania. At the cessation of hostilities, Dirlewanger's battalion was supposed to be interned in Romania, but Dirlewanger decided to return his unit to Germany, and led 600 men from his company and other battalion units home. According to German biographer Knut Stang, the war was a contributing factor that determined Dirlewanger's later life and his "terror warfare" methods, as "his amoral personality, with his alcoholism and his sadistic sexual orientation, was additionally shattered by the front experiences of the First World War and its frenzied violence and barbarism.
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