German Special Forces Nazi War Criminals as Role Models?

A new book co-written by two former German commando leaders hails a Nazi-era elite unit as a role model for the modern German special forces.


General Reinhard Günzel, former commander of Germany's KSK special forces, has praised an elite Nazi unit in his new book.
DPA

General Reinhard Günzel, former commander of Germany's KSK special forces, has praised an elite Nazi unit in his new book.

Two former commanders of German special forces have been criticized for praising a World War II commando unit as an inspiration for Germany's modern-day elite soldiers.

Former general Reinhard Günzel, head of Germany's KSK elite forces until 2003, wrote in a recently published book "Secret Warriors": "The commando soldiers know exactly where their roots lie." The missions of the Wehrmacht's Brandenburg division had been "legendary" among his troops, writes Günzel, who was fired in 2003 for praising a speech by a conservative member of parliament who had referred to Jews as a "race of perpetrators."

The book's co-author Ulrich Wegener, who founded Germany's GSG9 anti-terrorism unit in the 1970s, writes that comradeship and esprit de corps "could be learned especially from the Brandenburgers."

The comments were criticised by Hans-Peter Bartels, a member of the German parliament's defence committee. "If the picture of the KSK being painted in the book is true, then some changes need to be made in the army's special forces," he told DER SPIEGEL.

The KSK forces, comparable to the US Delta Force or Britain's SAS, appear to be "full of contempt for the effeminate world of civilians and for the rest of the army," said Bartels.

The Brandenburg commando unit was formed in 1939 as an arm of the intelligence service within the regular Wehrmacht army. It was tasked with covert operations behind enemy lines, such as seizing strategic bridges and tunnels.

Its units operated in almost all fronts and took part in the invasions of Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Russia and Greece. The Brandenburg division operated outside the Hague Convention on land war -- as did special forces from other countries -- because its soldiers were often disguised as civilians or enemy troops.

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