I don’t know about you but I’ve always found the word ‘wanger’ funny. Not shit grippingly funny, more kind of worthy of a sneaky chuckle. “Huh huh…. Wanger…” That kind of funny. Anyway, one wanger that definitely wasn’t getting a go on Mock The Week was Oscar Dirlewanger. Oscar was one of those people that look like a shaved weasel. Oscar had ‘wanger’ in his surname. Oscar was the commanding officer of a notorious SS penal battalion that were responsible for some of the worst atrocities visited upon the populations of Eastern European countries which, given the rather stiff competition, was no mean feat. Well it was. Being mean is kind of inherent in the whole terror/massacre gig but you catch my drift. Oh, and did I mention that he looked like Blakey from On The Buses? Ask your granddad.
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Like so many mid to high ranking Nazis, ‘wanger fought in WWI, where he won a couple of Iron Crosses and possibly some of that insanity stuff that they seemed to dish out in the trenches. He also followed the well-trodden career ladder — or ‘karriereleiter’ as our Germanic chums might have it — that served such notables as Heinrich Himmler so well; he joined the Freikorps. Now this bunch of little darlings, jolly miffed at the way they perceived their beloved Fatherland to have rolled over, parted its cheeks and lubed up for the victorious Allies, made themselves some crazy hats and sizzlin’ brown uniforms, picked up anything that could be swung at someones head, and did just that.
Communism had become quite all the rage in post war Germany, what with the runaway successes of the Russian revolution, so the Freikorps swung stuff at the Reds’ heads until someone tapped them on the shoulder and told them that Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and pretty everyone else were going to be the victims de jour. During this time, ol’ ‘wanger had got himself a PhD in political science, and a police record for sexually assaulting a minor. By 1934 he’d been caught again and was sent to a concentration camp. An old comrade from the Freikorps wangled his release and he served for a while in the Legion Condor which were Nazi volunteers fighting for Franco in the Spanish Civil war. Wounded three times, blah blah, flown home etc, Joined the SS. Natch. Where else? He couldn’t sing, was TERRIBLE with kids, and Greggs wasn’t even a twinkle in a fat Geordies eye at this stage so bang went the bakery apprenticeship…
It’s all downhill from here. First off, Oscar got some practice at hunting down and killing partisans with the Allgemeine SS, then he was tasked with forming a unit out of — and I shit you not — poachers. Yes, those jolly tweed clad fuckers with long pockets and shitload of attitude. Mainly directed at rabbits. Got bored with poachers, or too many of them got shot. Anyway, the long and short of it is that Oscar Dirlewanger ended up dredging the prisons (both civilian and military) and concentration camps of the Third Reich and assembled a large unit of utter shitbags, unrivalled before or since, including rapists, murderers, and your typical common or garden psychopaths.
Ooh, and they got on like a house on fire, which is either very ironic or a touch insensitive of me. You ever heard it said that an owner can end up looking like his dog? Similar turn out. In 1940 they were turned loose on the partisans of Poland. Wherever they served, looting rape and violence became the norm. And that was during their down time. Things got so bad that the chief SS honcho, HÃ¶herer SS- und PolizeifÃ¼hrer Friedrich Wilhelm KrÃ¼ger — himself a war criminal accused of setting up the odd death camp — had the unit removed from his area of operations due to apparently genuine disgust at the way Dirlewanger allowed his men to wage ‘war’.
Quick question — what’s your favourite war film? Hands up everyone who said Saving Private Ryan. Yeah, the opening scenes are proper bwadbwai but they still leave you with a slight feeling of ‘how cool was that?’ don’t they? Go on, admit it. If you haven’t seen it already I recommend Come and See, a Belarus movie the end of which is supposed to be based on the kind of thing the Dirlewanger Brigade did for shits ‘n’ giggles. Briliant film. Real horrible though. Really fvcking horrible. Not in a WOOT! GUTS! way. In a ‘I don’t comprehend how anyone could even think of doing that’ way.
Yes folks, the men who made the rest of the SS look like red coats had rolled into town. Cue more atrocities, more horror, lots of forcing unarmed civvies into the nearest large flammable building and torching it. They’re alleged to have killed 30,000 people in Belarus (I refuse to draw comparisons with various football grounds, but let’s just say that Boro would have killed for those nu…. sorry). They were so off message that an SS court was convened to investigate their behaviour, although it came to nothing.
Despite this, Oscar continued winning Manager of the Month, and was rewarded with ever larger commands. The unit went on to be decimated, built up, decimated, built up, moving through several countries, doing often the dirtiest jobs that even the dementors of the Einsatzgruppen didn’t fancy, until they rocked up in Warsaw in 1944 where they took savagery against mainly unarmed and traumatised Poles to a new level. Called a ‘herd of pigs’ by one German commander, they were praised by yet another, and Oscar received another medal to hang around his pinched, scrotal neck. Further tours of horror wound their way through Slovakia and Hungary before Dirlewanger was seriously injured and removed from combat. In April 1945, during the final Russian push, the Dirlewanger Brigade, known in the end as 36th Waffen Grenadier Division der SS, was virtually annihilated. Hope it hurt you dirty pack of degenerate scum.
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Speaking of hurting, what of Oscar? He lurched around for a bit, probably thought he’d got away with it and might even have been contemplating buying a nice linen suit, a Panama hat and a one way ticket to Buenos Aires, until he was captured by the Free French in Germany. They seemingly handed him over to some Polish soldiers who, in a completely understandable act of retribution, tortured the evil bastard to death. BOOM!