The Defeat of the Damned
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The Defeat of the Damned
The Destruction of the Dirlewanger Brigade at the Battle of Ipolysag, December 1944
An operational history of the notorious Dirlewanger Brigade, culminating in its destruction in Budapest at the hands of the Red Army.
One of the most notorious yet least understood body of troops that fought for the Third Reich during World War II was the infamous Sondereinheit Dirlewanger, or the “Dirlewanger Special Unit.” Formed initially as a company-sized formation in June 1940 from convicted poachers, it served under the command of SS-Obersturmführer Oskar Dirlewanger, one of the most infamous criminals in military history. First used to guard the Jewish ghetto in Lublin and support security operations carried out in occupied Poland by SS and Police forces, the unit was soon transferred to Belarus to combat the increasingly active Soviet partisan movement. After assisting in putting down the Warsaw Uprising during August–September 1944, by November of that year it had been enlarged and retitled as the 2. SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger. One month later, it fought one of its most controversial actions near the town of Ipolysag, Hungary, now known by its Slovak name of Šahy, between 13 and 18 December 1944. As a result of its overly hasty and haphazard deployment, lack of heavy armament, and a confusing chain of command, it was virtually destroyed by two Soviet mechanized corps.
Consequently, the Wehrmacht leadership blamed Dirlewanger and the performance of his troops for the encirclement of the Hungarian capital of Budapest during late December 1944 that led to the annihilation of its garrison two months later. The brigade’s defeat at Ipolysag also led to its compulsory removal from the front lines by General der Panzertruppe Hermann Balck and its eventual shipment to a rest area where it would be completely rebuilt, so thorough was its destruction. Despite its lackluster performance, the brigade was rebuilt once again and sent to East Prussia in February 1945, but never recovered from the thrashing it received at the hands of the 6th Guards Army in December.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Dirlewanger's Willing Executioners (note: a brief thumbnail history of the brigade and of Oskar Dirlewanger up to September 1944)
Chapter 2: From Regiment to Brigade (note: a description of the overly rapid expansion of the regiment into a brigade while in Slovakia and how the introduction of nearly 1,000 "politicals" from concentration camps changed the character of the unit)
Chapter 3: Budapest Threatened (note: a recap of the fighting in Hungary from September to mid-December 1944 and the Soviet drive through the Ipoly River corridor)
Chapter 4: Deployment into Hungary (note: The state of emergency 11 December 1944 and the initial stages of the brigade's movement from rest area in Slovakia to the Ipolysag/Sahy area)
Chapter 5: Initial Dispositions (note: how the brigade was split up and deployed into three separate locations under 3 separate commands and how this influenced what happened on 15 December)
Chapter 6: The Battle of Ipolysag/Sahy on 15 December 1944 and the Destruction of the Dirlewanger Brigade
Chapter 7: The Axis Front North of the Danube Collapses, 16 - 19 December 1944
Chapter 8: German Attempts to Save the Front and Soviet Reactions, 20 - 28 December 1944 (including the encirclement of Budapest)
Chapter 9: The Brigade's Remnants are Withdrawn from Combat, 29 December 1944 - 3 January 1945
Chapter 10: Aftermath (note: this will briefly discuss the expansion of the Brigade into a Division, its actions in Germany during the next 3 months and its fate [as well as Dirlewanger's] at the war's end)