80th anniversary of Khatyn massacre: Nazi gangs in Ukraine celebrate Dirlewanger as historical idol

‘Unbowed Man,’ sculpture by Soviet artist Sergei Selikhanov at the Khatyn Memorial site in Belarus. It depicts the only adult survivor of the massacre carrying his dead son.

On the afternoon of March 22, 1943, the 1st company of the SS special unit Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, together with forces from the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118, invaded Khatyn. The Nazis brutally plundered the Belarusian village, located around 50 kilometers north of Minsk. Some soldiers raped a young woman; finally, the more than 150 residents were herded into a barn, which the perpetrators set on fire. People trying to escape the flames were gunned down. The massacre, carried out in retaliation for a partisan attack, left a total of 152 dead, including 75 children and youth; the other victims were mainly the elderly. Only two boys, two girls and the village blacksmith survived.

The Dirlewanger Brigade, one of the most bloodthirsty combat units of the Waffen-SS, is admired and revered in Ukraine – especially now, as the 80th anniversary of the Khatyn massacre is being marked. Their emblem of crossed stick hand grenades can be found time and again on the uniforms and helmets of National Guardsmen, but also on regular soldiers. As videos document, Kiev troops decorated themselves with it in the battle for Kherson in autumn 2022 – some even wear it tattooed on their skin. Even before the Russian army marched in, a Belarusian volunteer from the neo-Nazi Azov regiment posed on social media with a tattoo portrait of Commander Oskar Dirlewanger.

Oskar Dirlewanger’s SS brigade is celebrated by the fascist network Misanthropic Division, which maintains multiple connections to Azov and distributes photos of “Bolshevik safaris” with dead “subhumans.” Many militant Ukrainian right-wingers feel historically, ideologically and culturally connected to it. The 1st company of Dirlewanger’s unit was mainly recruited from fighters from the fascist organization of Ukrainian nationalists who were vassals of Hitler’s Germany. 

Like Dirlewanger’s troops, quite a few Ukrainian neo-Nazis today are characterized by a pronounced desire to pillage and an urge to destroy: For example, on the anniversaries of the Odessa pogrom on May 2, 2014, Misanthropic Division and associated groups published propaganda banners with pictures of Molotov cocktails and barbecues, on which Kolorads (potato beetles), as the Russian-speaking population call them, are roasted. Inscription: “We remember! We are proud!”

Another parallel: like Dirlewanger’s troops, various Ukrainian Nazi units today consist of right-wing criminals and act largely with impunity. This is the case, for example, for members of the Tornado battalion, notorious for the orgies of torture its fighters carried out, mostly for sheer amusement: They chopped off prisoners’ genitals and limbs; brutally raped civilians, including small children; many of the victims were subsequently massacred. Although the battalion was disbanded in 2015 and some members received prison sentences – unreasonably low – President Volodymyr Zelensky released the perpetrators in 2022 and reinstated them into the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The liberal West is correspondingly open to Dirlewanger’s political grandchildren: The glamor magazine Vanity Fair already presented in 2015 a colorful heroic story about women in the Ukrainian “freedom struggle.” In the accompanying photo series there is a picture of a volunteer named “Anaconda” in front of a vehicle with the Dirlewanger troop insignia and the addition of “1488” (“14” for the belief system of the white supremacy movement; “88” for “Heil Hitler”) – without a word about the meaning of the symbols. Nor about the fact that the woman belongs to a Nazi battalion which, according to a Polish journalist, unofficially maintained its own Dirlewanger unit (it is unknown whether this still exists). In 2020, Zelensky awarded the battalion, which has since been integrated into the regular Ukrainian army as an assault force “for special use,” by “awarding the honorary name” Aidar, as it was initially called after its foundation in 2014.

The incorporation of extremely criminal Nazi gangs into the Ukrainian security apparatus and the appreciation they receive from the head of state reveal something about the racket nature of post-Soviet society. As early as the late 1930s, Marxist researchers of fascism identified the tendency towards gang rule as a phenomenon of decay in bourgeois societies after the (self-)destructive dynamics of capital had been unleashed. However, since the fascist bands of robbers were empowered with the support of NATO, they also reveal a lot about the status of the brutality of “Western civilization.” 

It is revealing that the European and U.S. public pay homage to Azov and Co. as terminators of the old hated enemy. So far, the unpleasant past references of the new heroes have mostly been suppressed: Their weakness for Dirlewanger memorabilia means nothing, according to the growing Internet fan community of Nazi warriors. On the right-hand edge, however, some are picking up ideologically where Hitler’s beasts had to stop thanks to the Red Army in 1945, and long for revenge: Dirlewanger is used for psychological warfare against “the Russkies,” bragged one user recently. “They still have nightmares.”

Translated by Melinda Butterfield

Source: Junge Welt

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