Controversies about the Waffen-SS

SS-Oberscharführer Kurt Sametreiter
The term Waffen-SS have been used interchangeably, and the actual history is often confused. Contrary to SS-Brigadeführer Paul Hausser´s and SS-Standartenführer Felix Steiner´s original conception, Reichführer-SS Himmler assigned numerous units to the Waffen-SS that had purposes other than combat. These included Einsatzgruppe murder squads and wartime concentration camp guards. These men carried Waffen-SS paybooks but had more in common with the political Allgemeine-SS than with members of combat units of the Waffen-SS. These executioners and guards were not expected to serve in a military role, and did not do so. To add to the confusion, Allgemeine-SS wore uniforms nearly identical to the Waffen-SS. This doomed the classic Waffen-SS – along with hundreds of thousands of volunteers and highly-motivated foreigners – to condemnation that extends until our days. In the minds of the Waffen-SS veterans, they and their European comrades were the Waffen-SS, the others being elements forced upon them. They saw themselves as an elite; they had fought well in many battles and had usually served honorably as soldiers. Credit: Marc Rikmenspoel, Waffen-SS Encyclopedia. Image: The Austrian volunteer SS-Obersturmführer Kurt Sametreiter served as an Panzerjäger with SS-Division Totenkopf, Leibstandarte SS and 23.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nederland. Sametreiter was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during the Battle of Kursk in the tank Battle of Prokhorovka on July 1943. He was responsible for destroying 24 Soviet tanks in one action. Photo: A formal studio portrait by SS-Kriegsberichter Max Büschel, probably made in connection with the award of the Knight's Cross, on July 31 1943. Kurt Sametreiter died aged 95 on January 28 2017 in Bad Gastein, Austria. Commons Bundesarchiv.

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