Introduction: Waffen-SS (02:20)
Members of the Waffen-SS were Adolf Hitler’s elite body guard and among the most feared soldiers of World War II. They were responsible for some of the most barbaric atrocities of the war, though surviving veterans insist they were just soldiers doing their duty.
Waffen-SS Origins (06:59)
The origins of the Waffen-SS lie in the Sturmabteilung, or Brownshirts, a unit formed to protect Nazi speakers in 1922. Out of this was formed the Schutzstaffel, an elite unit that Heinrich Himmler took control of in 1929.
Formation of SS-VT (03:03)
Sepp Deitrich’s Leibstandarte became a full regiment following the decimation of the Brownshirts, and two more were formed. These were to be known as the SS-Verfugungstruppe, or SS-VT. The troops were to be distinct from other branches of the SS.
Name Changed to Waffen-SS (02:05)
The German army was critical of the SS-VT’s performance during the Polish campaign. Himmler argued that the unit would perform better if concentrated into one formation, and Hitler agreed. The expanded unit was renamed in March 1940.
Hitler Attacks Allies (03:40)
Hitler launched his long-expected attack on the West on May 10, 1940. SS regiments helped to spearhead the invasion of Holland. The Leibstandarte captured a number of British soldiers which were subsequently brutally murdered.
Balkans Campaign (07:41)
The SS-Viking was formed with volunteers from occupied Denmark, Holland and Norway. SS troops took part in the invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941. Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, on June 22, 1941.
Battle of Kursk (02:04)
No Waffen-SS units were involved in the disaster at Stalingrad in early 1943, when an entire German army was surrounded and forced to surrender. Hover, they were heavily involved in one of the largest and most bitter tank battles in history, the Battle of Kursk.
The Hitler Youth were a generation of boys who had grown up under Nazi rule; they were among the most fanatical of all of Hitler’s political soldiers. Only one panzer division was close to the beaches when the Allies landed at Normandy.
Battle of Cologne (02:20)
The German commander, Fritz Witt, was killed during the Nazi defense of Cologne and replaced by Kurt Meyer, who was known as “Panzer Meyer.” The Das Reich panzer division was responsible for the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre of June 10, 1944.
Battle of the Bulge (05:00)
The Nazis eventually buckled under relentless Allied pressure, and the shattered remnants of the German army withdrew eastwards across France. The Nazis mounted a counter-offensive in the Ardennes region of Belgium, during which Waffen-SS field officer Joachim Peiper committed atrocities.
Fall of Nazi Germany (06:46)
The final German offensive in the East took place in early March 1945. The true horrors of SS atrocities became clear as the Allies liberated Nazi extermination camps. The Russian assault on Berlin began on April 16, 1945. Many SS officers received light sentences and received pensions after the war.
Credits: Gladiators of World War II: The Waffen-SS (00:57)
Credits: Gladiators of World War II: The Waffen-SS
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