The Second World War, and for the Russian people, the Patriotic War, left a trace in the history of all states - its participants. Until today, these events are striking with their cruelty and greatness of deed of many millions of people. Interest in historical facts among contemporaries is very great, this can be judged by constant new publications, many of which, purposefully or not, distort the initial meaning of documentary sources. Therefore, the need to discuss the last world war is a topical and controversial topic.
Among the most selfless devotees of Nazism, differing in brute cruelty and lack of military prowess, the parts of the SS appear. At the beginning of the operations on the eastern front, the advance of these divisions meant imminent death for all who were on their way. Throughout the war this reputation of troops of this kind was skillfully maintained. The greatest atrocities in the massacres of civilians and prisoners of war became famous for the SS division "The Dead Head". It should be noted that in most Russian soldiers these elite units did not cause horror, but disgust. According to the recollections of our fighters, the SS men were shot "like rabid dogs", and treated them the same way. But all recognize the fact that as a military unit, the division "The Dead Head" acted effectively in the attack and stably on the defensive. To understand the motivation of these "warriors" it is necessary to turn to the history of the emergence of this connection.
A key role in the formation of the SS divisions, which were directly involved in the fighting, was played by one of the main political figures of Germany in the period of Nazism, the Reichsfuhrer SS G. Himmler. The figure is well-known, his biographical data is standard for the military of that time. The greatest interest is his belief in various mystical rites, runes, the process of reincarnation, so when creating the SS "black order" he intensively introduced medieval rites of knights, which took root partly.
At the initial stage, the Reichsfuhrer planned the creation of these units as a "party army". The SS divisions were to consist only of racially pure Germans who were fanatically devoted to the National Socialist Party. The functions of the SS troops were initially defined as guarding intra-German troops, but training was conducted at the level of functional combat units. Himmler deliberately created his own army, which, in his opinion, was to be radically different from the units of the Wehrmacht and to represent a new type of troops. The contradictions between the military officers, officers of the highest leading echelon and the ideas of the SS Reichsfuhrer led to the fact that the formation of divisions was carried out in parallel with the main appeal. The SS division "The Dead Head" was created from the only source of human reserves available to Himmler - the protection of concentration camps in Germany. In this he was greatly helped and assisted by Theodore Eike, whose personality can not be unambiguously assessed. However, his absolute devotion to Hitler and Himmler in the comments does not need.
Creation of division
Concentration camp Dachau was located near Munich. It was on its basis that the future division "The Dead Head" was created. In 1934, Eike, on the designation of Himmler, becomes the SS brigadenfuhrer and receives in his charge a relatively neglected camp, farmed in corruption and terror. By hard methods he brings order to the Dachau camp in a very short time, so by 1935 he became an inspector of the entire penal system in the territory of the Third Reich.
The history of the SS division "The Dead Head" (Totenkopf) begins in 1939, originally this division was only guarding functions. The name itself came from the badge that the soldiers wore on their buttonholes. In addition to the double run of Zig, the guards of the concentration camps used as their emblem a skull with crossed bones. Historically, this sign did not carry an awesome function, it implied contempt for death and total self-sacrifice. Eike was an excellent performer of all the innovations of Himmler, so the choice was made with his mystical inclinations. The emblem of the SS division "The Dead Head" adorned the buttonholes of all the guards of the camps until the end of the war and was present on the form of SS units. To create a new type of troops was chosen Dachau, on their territory they were trained. The selection was carried out on very strict principles, Eike personally produced it. The growth of the future soldier of the Third Reich should be from 178 cm, also excellent health was required, the age from 17-18 to 22 years. More attention was paid to racial origins and political views. Intellectual abilities were not evaluated.
According to Eyke, the soldier should not think, he is obliged to carry out the order without analyzing his adequacy. At the heart of the training lay lengthy heavy physical training and political training based on hatred of the enemy. Cruelty was cultivated by the founder himself, Eike. The SS division "The Dead Head" was created in conditions of strict discipline and complete submission to the leadership, all dissatisfied with the method were in the concentration camp as prisoners. For a better understanding of the basics of the creation of this unit, it is necessary to turn to some facts from the life of Eyke and his psychological portrait. His fanatical devotion to Hitler and Himmler passed all the boundaries of the rational.
The career rise of the future commander of the SS unit occurred suddenly, he connected with the victory in Germany of the Nazis and the beginning of Hitler's rule. Participation in the world (first) war did not give Eike no high ranks, no great power. His animal instincts, generously seasoned with psychopathy, came to the Nazis, so Himmler made him a punitive tool against their enemies. Theodore Eike, according to his contemporaries, was distinguished by cruelty and sharpness, especially in relation to Jews, Communists and all who did not meet the definition of "true Aryan." These qualities were very useful to him when working in concentration camps, where strict discipline and intolerance to violation of rules not only from prisoners, but also protection was introduced. His efforts were appreciated, and the next increase in rank coincided with the new position. Having created a trouble-free system of camps, Eike gets the opportunity to realize Himmler's dream of a "new army", the embodiment of which becomes the SS division "The Dead Head." The level of his education was quite low, he had no commanding skills. He was a simple soldier, who built relations with his subordinates in full submission to any orders. Soldiers loyal to him called Eika "daddy" and tried to match his ideas about the ideal warrior of the Third Reich. Due to the illiterate command, the future SS Panzer Division "The Dead Head" suffered heavy losses in technology and people, but at the same time, Eike's resistance to soldiers allowed them to withstand loads and fight in the areas that all other units had left.
The German division "The Dead Head", like all the SS units under the direction of Himmler, was created in a very rigid ideological space. Unity of spirit, views, interests, common enemies and friends, a common goal and disregard for the means at the time of its achievement - on such principles elite sections of the Nazis were created. The emblem of the SS division "The Dead Head" was supposed to terrify the enemies and inspire respect to friends. Partially with the assigned task, this sign coped. With this emblem the SSs were very easily calculated. And, as a rule, they shot at once, Russian troops rarely took captive frank, fanatical murderers. Up to now, the ring of the "Dead Head" division has hardly reached the mark. It was given to the most distinguished officers and soldiers. The ring was signed by Himmler, before the name of the soldier there was necessarily a "my dear" address. Its design was overloaded with runic symbols, the center of the composition was a skull with crossbones. After the death of the owner of the ring, it was necessary to return him to the SS Reichsfuhrer, who kept all copies as a memory of his dead comrades. By the order of Himmler the whole collection was destroyed, it was buried under the provoked collapse of the rock.
Hymn of the SS division "The Dead Head"
The fanatical devotion to Hitler and his immediate commander was often based on correct Nazi propaganda and suggestion. The heads of the majority of young people who were not literally adherents of the racial theory of Hitler, were hammered by propaganda, the maximum amount of information contained emblems and hymns-dedications to the Fuhrer. For example, the march of the SS division "The Dead Head" does not contain any patriotic information, it's a song about how we live together, we'll die together and drink together if we're lucky. This "masterpiece" serves only the purpose of uniting the army and nurturing brotherly relations within the unit.
The future German Panzer Division "The Dead Head" began its march through Europe from Poland. Cross the border troops Eike were after the passage of the regular army of the Wehrmacht, they were assigned the role of policemen in the occupied territory. In the military operations, the soldiers of the "Dead Head" did not participate, there were several skirmishes with the parts coming out of the encirclement, but basically the unit fought with the civilian population. At the same time, their activities for cleaning were highly appreciated by Himmler.
To create a full-fledged unit of the SS troops, the command decided to train officers and Eike himself on the basis of the strategy and tactics of combat, but the result was negative. Therefore, in May 1940, to the Franco-German border, the division "The Dead Head" is still suitable as part of the administrative corps, but this time with the possibility of participation in hostilities. During the invasion, because of a lack of supply, the SS units engaged in an outright robbery of the population. Soldiers Eike distinguished themselves in France in many battles, but their losses were very high. This was the result of the illiterate leadership of the officers. Subsequently, Himmler "scoffed" not too educated, but the most faithful commander, and then left the division in Bordeaux for reformation.
Since April 1940, a mass transfer of troops of fascist Germany to the borders of the Soviet Union begins. Himmler engaged in the reformation of all the standards of the SS. This also affected the division "The Dead Head": it was complemented by additional infantry companies. The first clash with Soviet troops took place on July 6, 1941. According to Manstein, in whose troops the division began the offensive movement, the soldiers of the "Dead Head" possessed a very high level of discipline, they attacked hard and effectively in battle. But the mismanagement of the command all the positive moments was reduced to zero, as a result, all the victories were achieved by "great blood". By the winter of 1941, losses accounted for more than 50% of the initial strength of the unit. The Soviet army began to attack the German troops in the northern direction of the front, the defense took several hundreds of soldiers every day, there were no reserves for Eik, the remaining ones were too morally and physically exhausted. Nevertheless, a clear discipline made the division a combat-ready unit even without a commander who was sent to the rear with a wound.
At the beginning of January of the year 42, simultaneously, four Soviet armies attacked the 16th German divisions with the aim of encircling it and then destroying it. Commander of the group of German armies "North" Leb (General-Field Marshal) reported to Hitler about the situation at the front and the possibility of losing the selective units of the Wehrmacht. But the order for the retreat was not followed, which helped the Russian troops, albeit with great losses, to complete the maneuver and close the encirclement in the area of Demyansk. In fact, since February 10, the German army fought in the cauldron. Leb resigned, in his place rose the former commander of the 18th Army Kühler. The SS division "The Dead Head" in the Demyan boiler was with its commander Theodore Eyke, where he began a long defense. According to various sources, around 100,000 German soldiers were surrounded, who continued to fight desperately.
So, the avant-garde compound, which was thrown on the breakthrough of the encirclement in March 1942, was the SS division "The Dead Head". The history of the third panzer division of the SS troops could actually end in a Demyan cauldron. After all, when creating the Ramushevsky Corridor and removing the remnants of the army, less than 30% of the soldiers remained from Eyke's units. Until October 1942 the division held its positions on the Demyan's ledge, as a result of which its remains were sent for rest and reinforcement to France.
The SS tank division "The Dead Head" appears precisely in this period. By order of Hitler, the unit is formed as a tank-grenadier. In southern France, Eyke soldiers participate in Operation Atilla, after which the division is transferred to Angouleme. Its expanded composition and rested soldiers enable the commander to begin new exhausting trainings that turn the unit into a formidable weapon of Nazism. The rest was short as the situation on the eastern front became threatening, in early February 1943 the division was transferred to Ukraine and is part of the army "South".
The death of Eyke
The fierce battles for Kharkov led to great losses on both sides. Eike tried as a division commander to show a strategic initiative, for this he needed to know exactly the location of his troops. On 26.02.43, he took up the last time aboard his single-engine reconnaissance aircraft, which was shot down by Soviet troops from rifles. Eick's body was repulsed and buried in the town of Orelki. When the German troops retreated, the ashes were exhumed and reburied in Zhytomyr. At the end of December 43 the city was completely liberated by Soviet troops, and Eike's burial was leveled with the ground. At the time of the withdrawal of German troops from Zhytomyr, all SS units were in a different location, so they could not take out the commander's body.
After Ukraine, the movement of the German troops turned into a permanent retreat, sometimes managed to gain a foothold in some positions and keep the defense, but the Soviet army could not be stopped. On the western borders the Allied army was deployed. The defense of individual cities allowed to counterattack by regrouping forces, but the German troops could not advance to the offensive. During the promotion many standards of the SS were mixed up, complemented by one another. The constant need for replenishment could not be repaid at the expense of partially fit for the service of loggers. To protect Budapest, all the nearby forces of the Wehrmacht were pulled off, which further accelerated the process of taking by the Soviet troops of Berlin and Vienna. From January to April, the battle for the Hungarian valley, the key to German fuel supply, continued. Historians have not confirmed, but probably in it met two legendary SS military units: the Edelweiss division and the "Dead Head".
"Awakening of Spring", surrender
In March 1945, there was actually no such group of troops as the SS division "The Dead Head". Photo and film archives say that the extremely depleted retreat and completely demoralized remains of German units in the area of Lake Balaton were preparing for their last offensive. To do this, all possible reserves were tightened, Hitler called the operation "Awakening of Spring". It was this process that became an insurmountable obstacle for the Wehrmacht troops. In spring, the marshy soil became liquefied, which led to a slowdown in the offensive and, consequently, a loss of initiative. The failure of the last operation of Hitler led to a massive flight of troops and their surrender. On May 8, 1945, the remnants of the once-elite Totenkopf (Dead Head) surrendered to the Americans, retreating to Linz and effectively ensuring an unimpeded passage to the Soviet troops for Vienna. The capitulation was accepted, but at the request of the Soviet command, the remnants of the division (about a thousand people) were transferred to the victorious country.