World War II Had A Real-Life Suicide Squad
Some people who watched 2016’s Suicide Squad left with a big nitpick. If the government was putting together a team to act as a check on known superheroes, what was the point in picking bad guys? Why not put together a team of unknown superpowered good guys? Especially since the highest-profile of the Squad, Harley Quinn, has all the flaws of being a villain without even having the advantages of superpowers.
The answer was unclear in 2016’s Suicide Squad, but to be fair, nothing was clear in 2016’s Suicide Squad. It made slightly more sense in the comics, or in 2021’s The Suicide Squad. Or, you can look to real life, where there have been real cases of militaries assembling units out of criminals because they considered it strategic to treat some units as expendable.
Naturally, this all makes for the most satisfying story when, like in The Suicide Squad, the military is looking to do something evil, so the team’s refusal to play by their superiors' rules works out for the best in the end. So let’s turn our eyes to the worst people of all, the Nazis, who during World War II set up a division known as the Dirlewanger Brigade. The Brigade contained convicted criminals. Commander Oskar Dirlewanger, for example, disobeyed orders in World War One to break his men out of internment. Joining the squad gave criminals a high chance of dying but also a chance at clearing their record.
So the Dirlewanger Brigade, these were guys who defied the Nazi leadership, and the Wehrmacht soon became very frustrated with their antics. That’s because, when they were sent out into cities to do the Nazis’ bidding, the Dirlewanger Brigade instead went and ... oh no. They committed a bunch of war crimes that were even worse than what the regular Nazis did.
Yeah, the Nazis may have locked up some people for doing nothing wrong at all, but they also arrested some people for committing actual crimes, and if the Nazis saw evil people and said “these criminals are too evil, even for us,” those criminals sometimes turned out to be pretty bad. With Commander Oskar, for starters, we conveniently skipped all over his real crimes, including sex crimes, when giving you his abbreviated résumé, and when the Nazis gave him command over a group that included the criminally insane, that gave him an opportunity for a whole new level of mass sadism.
The atrocities that the Dirlewanger Brigade committed as a team included ... uh, you know what? We’re not going to detail those atrocities here. It’s too early in the morning to make anyone read that. If you really want to know exactly which body parts they mutilated and what they did with fire, you can research that at leisure. We’re just here to tell you that, wow, when the Nazis built a squad out of outlaws, it turned out so bad that even a judge from the SS issued an order to arrest them all for war crimes.
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Top image: German Federal Archive