One historian has called him “an expert in extermination and a devotee of sadism and necrophilia.”
It’s no secret that Nazis were sadistic. As a whole, they captured, imprisoned, and tortured hundreds of thousands of Jews in the name of Hitler and his master race.
Individually, there were some that were worse than others. Josef Mengele, Joseph Goebbels, and Adolf Eichmann come to mind when thinking of the worst Nazis ever. However, there was another, even more sadistic than the rest, who somehow escaped infamy as a household name.
Oskar Dirlewanger was, perhaps, the most sadistic Nazi of them all. As a teenager he joined the Prussian army, rising through the ranks to become a Lieutenant and taking part in the German Invasion of Belgium.
He was captured by the Romanian government after the Germans surrendered but refused to be held prisoner, instead leading a charge of 600 fellow prisoners out of Romania and back to Germany. Historians attribute the carnage he experienced, and the “unrestrained mode of life” he adopted there to his penchant for human suffering later in life.
Between World War I and World War II, after his escape from Romania, Dirlewanger devolved into a shell of a man. A police report from the German officers described him as “a mentally unstable, violent fanatic and alcoholic, who had the habit of erupting into violence under the influence of drugs.” Dirlewanger had enrolled in college and earned a doctorate degree, and eventually joined the Nazi party.
However, the antics of Oskar Dirlewanger quickly got out of hand, so much that even the Nazi party didn’t want anything to do with him. When even the Nazis draw the line, you know it might be time to cool it.
After enlisting in the Nazi party, Dirlewanger was accused of the rape of a 14-year-old girl. He had his doctorate degree stripped, went to trial and was convicted, and even served two years in jail for the assault, but none of the repercussions did anything to slow him down.
Upon his release from prison, he spun the assault charge, and subsequent prison time, as a political conspiracy, claiming innocence as he petitioned Heinrich Himmler to join the SS. Luckily for him, one of his fellow soldiers from World War I vouched for him, convincing the Nazi party to allow him back into their ranks, as an officer for the Waffen-SS.
The Armed Schutzstaffel, also known as the Waffen-SS, was the armed militant unit of the SS. Oskar Dirlewanger’s unit was stationed in Poland, as a security detail for the civilian towns outside the concentration camps.
The unit was comprised of former poachers, criminals, and military men, along with some civilian soldiers, most of whom had a history of violence and a thirst for blood. Eventually, Dirlewanget began recruiting men from the camps and the towns, forcing them into servitude by beating and threatening them.
Worse than his treatment of his men was his treatment of the people in the Polish camps and ghettos. He would repeatedly pillage them, kidnapping children, and demanding ransoms.
To entertain his soldiers, he would torture prisoners at the concentration camps, injecting young women with strychnine, a neurotoxin that causes a violent, painful death. He would order hundreds of children slaughtered at once, but in the interest of saving bullets would order the executions done by bayonet and rifle butts.
During the unit’s time in Russia, Dirlewanger would burn women and children alive, and then let packs of starving dogs feed on them. A horrific rumor surfaced that he was cutting up Jewish women and boiling them with horse meat to make soap, though no SS officers ever confirmed.
Oskar Dirlewanger’s brigade’s horrific actions culminated in the Warsaw Uprising. Dirlewanger led his men into the Warsaw ghettos, raping and pillaging the villagers and murdering over 40,000. He was awarded the German honor of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for his efforts during the uprising, as his superiors had lied about what had really happened during the invasion.
However, word of his atrocities quickly made their way back to the Allied forces, and soon after being commended by his superiors, Oskar Dirlewanger went into hiding. He was arrested on June 1, 1945, just one month after Hitler’s suicide and the German surrender. He was placed in a prison camp within the French borders and was pronounced dead five days later from natural causes.
However, as death had come so quickly to a seemingly healthy man, it was widely disputed by German officials, who claimed he had been beaten to death by the French prison guards. Furthermore, reports of Dirlewanger being sighted around the world started popping up, causing speculation over whether or not he was really dead, though the French government eventually exhumed him to put those rumors to bed, in 1960.