36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Dirlewanger

  • 91st Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the SS

Division Leaders:

  • SS-Oberführer Doctor Oskar Dirlewanger (until February 1945)
  • SS-Brigadeführer Fritz Schmedes

To understand the true essence of this unit, we first must get acquainted with Oskar Dirlewanger (on the photo), who in August 1943 received the Golden German Cross and in October 1944 the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Dirlewanger, the former army mate of Waffen-SS headquarters' leader Gottleb Berer, was imprisoned in 1935 for sexual crimes.

After being released he got a job in Legion Condor thanks to Berger, to wash his sins with blood, so to speak. In 1940 he received a permission to form a small battalion out of German convicts. In 1941 he and his punishment unit were in Poland.

From 1942 to 1944 the battalion was expanded first to brigade and later to division. The brigade consisted of German convicts, concentration camps' prisoners and SS army's prisoners. Basically it was a punishment unit and its members got a chance to redeem their sins with blood. They participated in securing the homefront in Russia and fought with partisans. The brigade's terrifying and extremely cruel actions made other Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht Heer units to protest. However, since the enemy's partisans were cruel with German soldiers and civilians on the front, Dirlewanger's unit was used to battle against them and to balance the situation. The brigade's subunits murdered 1,742 inhabitants of one Belarus village in July 1942. The inhabitants were killed because they were accused of feeding the partisans and giving them information. In the summer of 1944 the 4,000-men SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger was sent quickly to Warsaw to suppress a revolt. There they performed extremely cruel crimes so that the leaders of the SS and Wehrmacht immediately demanded the unit to retreat.

At the end of 1944 the division was active in Slovakia, Hungary and on Oder. In February 1945 Dirlewanger was wounded. He died in prison under mysterious circumstances in June 1945 and was buried in Althaus.

The division was surrounded by the Red Army on April 29, 1945 and was completely destroyed.


Crossed guns on the collar patches, under these a grenade (horizontally).