Saturday, November 17, 2007

Belgien SS

Naturally knee-deep in following the Vlaams Belang over on LGF when a thought struck me after reading one of the comments when VB members laid wreaths at the grave of a Belgian SS soldier.

I am reminded of the firestorm that erupted when President Reagan agreed with Chancellor Kohl of West Germany to pay respects to fallen soldiers at Bitburg cemetary in 1985. It turned out there were 43 Waffen SS soldiers also buried in that cemetery, but the way the newscasters and some politicians reacted, it was as if Heinrich Himmler was buried there. Mein gott, the wailing and gnashing of teeth as they theatrically ripped their shirts in outrage.

Some background history on how Byzantine the Nazi war-machine was. There was the regular Wehrmacht that the Nazi's inherited from the Weimar Republic full of Prussians and other non-Nazi feelings. Then there was Himmler's SS, the brutal successor of the SA, which took over the German police force. And finally Himmler's brainchild to keep the Wehrmacht in check, the Waffen SS or the military arm of the SS. For a German to join the Waffen SS was similar to joining the regular SS, one must prove one's racial purity going back many generations plus must exhibit certain physical traits. Which is why the original German Waffen SS units were blonde-haired blue-eyed Aryan picture perfect. As the war progressed, the exacting standards slipped down until in the end a Waffen SS unit was not choosy, some even say they accepted draftees. That is correct, for a majority of the war for a German to join the SS or Waffen SS they had to volunteer.

Now we get to those Belgian Waffen SS soldiers.

First in the 1930s Belgium had their own version of the German National Socialist Workers Party called REXIS. When Germany invaded Poland and England and France declared war on Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands declared their neutrality on Sept. 4, 1939. Which forced the French and the British Expeditionary Force to re-orient and fortify a border they thought secure. Like in WWI, Germany did not honor the neutrality of either country and instead seized them both in a very short time. Then Guderian and Rommel swooped upon a supine France to defeat and conquer, leaving an isolated England as the sole country holding out against the Nazi onslaught.

So how could a Belgian join up in the German military and wear the field gray? Simple answer, by volunteering. Throughout the campaigns on the Eastern Front, units made up of Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Belgians to name a few served alongside German units. They wore the same uniform, though one might find under the German eagle on the sleeve a flag in a country's colors or look at the collar for the unit insignia. Also some Waffen SS units would put the SS decal on their helmets reversed, this being seen on only non-German SS units. They obeyed orders from whichever German Army Gruppe controlled them.

So when Vlaams Belang says they were merely honoring a soldier who fought the communists, remember that soldier volunteered to don German field gray and to put the SS and lightning bolts on their uniform. Puts a different spin on things doesn't it?

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