A Few Answers To Questions You Always Wondered About

January 9, 2019 | No Comments » | Topics: Answers

(German Federal Archives)

Who was the most brutal SS officer?

Oskar Dirlewanger, no questions. He was hated by the friends and foes alike. He was so cruel – and so hated – that there was an unofficial reward in Wehrmacht for killing him.

Oskar Dirlewanger was a convicted paedophile and criminal. Dirlewanger is invariably described as an extremely cruel person by historians and researchers, including as “a psychopathic killer and child molester” by Steven Zaloga, “violently sadistic” by Richard Rhodes, “an expert in extermination and a devotee of sadism and necrophilia” by J. Bowyer Bell, and “a sadist and necrophiliac” by Bryan Mark Rigg. According to Timothy Snyder, “in all the theatres of the Second World War, few could compete in cruelty with Dirlewanger”.

He was born in Imperial Germany in 1895, and served initially as a machine gunner in WWI. He was described as “insanely brave” and “possessing leadership qualities”, and he finished the war as Lieutenant, having been wounded five times.

Between his militant forays, he studied at the Goethe University Frankfurt and in 1922 obtained a doctorate in political science. He joined the Nazi party (NSDAP) in 1928, but he soon became known as an irresponsible and unruly sadist. In 1934, he was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment for the rape of a 14-year-old girl, as well as the illegal use of a government vehicle and damaging said vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Dirlewanger also lost his job, his doctor title and all military honours, and was expelled from the NSDAP.

[Un]fortunately, he had friends in high places, and after being paroled, his wartime companion and local NSDAP cadre comrade Gottlob Berger, who was also a long-time personal friend of the SS chief Heinrich Himmler and had become the head of the SS Head Office (SS-Hauptamt, SS-HA), and arranged him in the military – the only place where he could be of any use.

Dirlewanger next went to Spain. Through Berger he transferred to the German Legion Condor, where he served from 1936 to 1939 and was wounded three times. Following further intervention on his behalf by his patron Berger, he successfully petitioned to have his case reconsidered in light of his service in Spain. Dirlewanger was reinstated into the NSDAP, albeit with a higher party number (#1,098,716). His doctorate was also restored by the University of Frankfurt.

But Dirlewanger was not only a pedophile and alcoholic, he was also a sadist and psychopath. He was so unruly that he was assigned to form a special unit – to be composed of convicted criminals and poachers, as well as soldiers expelled from the military for disciplinary reasons – to act as an anti-partisan unit.

Later, Dirlewanger’s soldiers were mostly recruited among the ever-increasing groups of German convicted criminals (civilian and military) and concentration camp inmates, eventually including mental asylum patients, homosexuals, interned gypsies, and (at the end of the war) even political prisoners sentenced for their anti-Nazi beliefs and activities.

This unit was initially a battalion, but it soon grew into a regiment. It was known for its sadism, ruthlessness, cruelty and viciousness against both enemy partisans and civilians. One Wehrmacht officer described it as a lunatic asylum run by its patients. Dirlewanger was known as both an insanely brave leader and upkeeping brutal discipline. He had anyone sent to the firing squad from the slightest dissidence or failing to follow orders.

In the end, the unit was expanded into a brigade and later division. The 36th Waffen Grenadier Division “Dirlewanger” was known for its brutality and atrocities. It consisted mainly of convicted criminals, soldiers expelled from the Wehrmacht due to punitiary or disciplinary measures, sexual criminals, and mental patients. Its insignia was collar plates with two hand grenades crossed.

The Dirlewanger division was so hated that many Wehrmacht commanders simply refused to co-operate with it, and even other SS formations shunned it. But for Dirlewanger himself, the war was heaven. He was able to fulfill all his sadism, his perversions, and his psychopathy to the fullest.

Buoyed by the approaching Soviets, resistance fighters in Warsaw saw their chance to rise up and fight the Nazis themselves. The uprising would prove to be the Dirlewanger unit’s most bloody battlefield yet.

Assigned to clear out the Wola district of the city, and supported by many Ukrainian and Cossack volunteers eager to spill Polish blood, Dirlewanger’s men swept through house after house on 5 August, breaking each one open before wreaking carnage within.

One of the accounts of Dirlewanger’s actions during the massacre come from Mathias Schenk, an 18-year-old Belgian assault engineer re-assigned to the SS brigade during the uprising. Using his knowledge of explosives, he was tasked with breaking, or blowing, open each building, to allow the SS men to race in. On one occasion they came across a makeshift hospital:

“The doors opened and a nurse appeared with a tiny white flag. We went inside with fixed bayonets… Wounded were everywhere. Besides Poles there were also wounded Germans. They begged the SS-men not to kill the Poles. A Polish officer, a doctor and 15 Polish Red Cross nurses surrendered the military hospital to us… The SS-men killed all the wounded. They were breaking their heads with rifle butts…”

Later, Schenk witnessed the fate of the hospital staff:

“Dirlewanger stood with his men and laughed. The nurses from the hospital were rushed through the square, naked with hands on their heads. Blood ran down their legs… When they were hanging one of the nurses, Dirlewanger kicked the bricks she was standing on. I couldn’t watch that anymore.

Not only was the ‘bandit’ rebellion of Warsaw crushed entirely, but the women, children, sick and elderly of the city were also slaughtered in their thousands. Each Thursday, Dirlewanger made a habit of hanging people, either resistance fighters or even just a member of his own unit that he despised. For his work during the suppression, Dirlewanger was awarded the Ritterkreuz, the Knight’s Cross. Oskar Dirlewanger was wounded in action in WWII four times, making his total 12.

36th Waffen Grenadier Division was sent to battle in Byelorussia, where it fared badly. The atrocities committed by Dirlewanger’s men were so well known that Wehrmacht commanders simply stated quietly “Okay, b*stard, you are on your own” and abandoned him to his own fortunes. The division was almost wiped out, but Dirlewanger survived.

Shortly after rejoining the fight, now in the defence of Berlin, many of the 36th were captured by the Soviets, but Dirlewanger himself escaped west to be picked up by the Allies. Reports are hazy, but indicate he was eventually beaten to death in his cell one night, likely by his own Polish, ex Armia Krajowa, guards who recognized him by sight. He had escaped karma 12 times, but 13th proved fatal.

It is likely, should he have survived, that he would have been guillotined in post-war Germany for civilian crimes, had he not been either shot or hanged for military crimes first.

It is perhaps not an exaggeration that the evil reputation SS has today is greatly due to Dirlewanger. He was a monster, and an exception even in the degree of depravity Nazis possessed.



How much annual salary would you have to make to be considered well-off in Silicon Valley?

Don’t confuse annual salary with total compensation. The companies I worked for kept the “base pay” relatively low. In the lean years (and there are always lean years), living on the base pay was a challenge. In the good years, bonus, stock options, RSUs, etc., easily doubled, tripled or more the base pay. Once in a great while is the outstanding year (wildly appreciating stock and or stock options) that would change your life forever.

How much is needed really depends on you. If you want to live in a single family home near Stanford in Palo Alto $$$$ or Los Altos $$$$, or in one of the upscale bedroom neighborhoods of Silicon Valley such as Saratoga or Los Gatos (both $$$$), housing is ridiculous. Then again, the schools in those towns are all superb. Suppose you could find a liveable house in one of those four places for $2 million (a laughably low amount for those towns), California property tax is fixed as a percentage of purchase price, roughly 1.2%—figure $24,000 a year on a $2M purchase. The good news is the tax bill cannot increase more than 2 or 3 percent per year after you purchase the property. (The history of California’s property tax is fascinating, and driven by a speculative run-up in home prices in the 70s that drove retirees out of their homes because they could not pay the ever increasing property tax. It lead to a taxpayer revolt.)

Assuming you have $400K to put down on your $2M home, that means your annual payments on a 30 year fixed would be (7,700 x 12) $92,400. Throw in insurance and the tax bill and you are looking at $130K per year for housing without maintenance—and there is always maintenance. The old rule of thumb is the housing cost (mortgage, insurance, tax) should not exceed 40% of your annual income.

That puts your annual income at $325K for a home you probably don’t want to buy. And, although we all pay the same Federal tax, California’s tax rate at the top end is around 10% so figure as much as 30% (perhaps more) for your net tax bill.

If you have followed this so far, you realize 40% went to housing, 30% to income taxes leaving you with 30% of your $325K to live on. So, you say, I can live on $97,500 a year, no problem…hold on…you asked, “Well off”

My wife and I were at a very nice wine bar but certainly not Michelin rated. We had three glasses of wine between us and two “tasting” sized appetizers. Total bill before tip? $99.00. Why? Because the shops and restaurants have to cover their rent. And the rents in Silicon Valley for prime commercial real estate are out of this world. Rumor has it the three star Michelin restaurants in the Bay area (French Laundry, Manresa) are now running over $1,000 for a dinner for two on their prix fix menu with the wine pairing. You did say, “Well off”.

Add to cost of commuting (there is no effective public transportation) with a car, insurance, maintenance and gas (the country’s most expensive, by the way). Of course, “well off” as you posed in your question would mean you are driving BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Tesla…you get the idea.

And, of course, “well off” would do at least two vacations a year—Hawaii and Europe. I had one board member tell me that the pressures of my job were such I should plan on a 4 or 5 day weekend each quarter plus take two vacations for at least a week each year. He suggested Hawaii for the 4 day weekends and the long vacations should be in Europe, Australia, Bora Bora, or take cruise trips—on Silversea or Seaborn. I hope you are getting the idea. Your discretionary $97,500 out of $325K disappeared a long time ago.

Can you live for less? Of course! There are apartments, condos, townhouses and even homes in communities that have solid (but not superb) schools that go for a lot less than $2M. But your question was qualified by the term “Well off”.

Pat Lamey



How do I know if a Chinese restaurant is good or not?

A Chinese dude’s guide to eating Chinese food in North America

If I walk through the door and 75% of the patrons are Chinese, I’m in good hands. The second thing is if the waiter addresses me in Chinese first and English second, the food is going to be good. If the host speaks better English than I do and there is no Chinese on the menu I usually get concerned.

Some other tips:

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