During the night of March 23-24, 1945, with the Russians less than 100 miles from Berlin, Hitler held a conference in the living quarters of his underground bunker. The proceedings were taken down stenographically and the record provides us with Hitler's own final assessment of the eastern SS.|
HITLER: One never knows what's floating around. I've just heard, to my surprise, that a Ukrainian [Waffen] SS-Division has suddenly turned up. I knew absolutely nothing about this Ukrainian [Waffen] SS-Division.|
GÖHLER: [SS Liaison Officer] It has been in existence for a long time.
HITLER: But it has never been mentioned at any of our conferences. Or do you recall otherwise?
GÖHLER: No, I don't remember.
HITLER: [In reference to foreign units in general and the Ukrainian Division in particular] Either the unit is reliable or it isn't reliable. At the moment I can't even create new formations in Germany because I have no weapons. Therefore it is idiocy to give weapons to a Ukrainian division which is not completely reliable. I would much rather take their weapons away and set up a new German division. I assume that it is outstandingly equipped, probably much better armed than most of the German divisions we are creating at present.
BURGDORF: [General and Chief Wehrmacht Adjutant to the Füuhrer] It is the same with the Latvian 20th [sic]. It also collapsed immediately down there [Silesia].
DE MAIZIERE: [Lieutenant Colonel on the General Staff] The Latvian is fighting in Courland at the moment, and quite well at that. It was the Estonian [20th Waffen-Grenadierdivision der SS (estn. Nr. 1)] down there.
BURGDORF: Yes, it was the Estonian that disintegrated immediately. One has to look at it also from a psychological viewpoint. A bit too much has been demanded of these people.
HITLER: After all, why should they still fight? They are far from their homeland.
HITLER: [...] The whole business is nonsense. If one has a surplus of weapons, one can permit oneself such amusements for propaganda purposes. But if one has no such surplus [it] is simply not justifiable.
HITLER: [Again referring to the Ukrainian-Galicia Division] If it is composed of [former] Austrian Ruthenians [Western Ukrainians living within the Austro-Hungarian empire prior to WW II], one can do nothing other than immediately to take away their weapons. The Austrian Ruthenians were pacifists. They were lambs, not wolves. They were miserable even in the Austrian Army. The whole business is delusion.
HITLER: I don't want to maintain that nothing can be done with these foreigners. Something can indeed be made of them. But it requires time. If one had them for six or ten years and controlled their homelands as the old monarchy did, they would naturally become good soldiers. But if one gets them when their homelands lie somewhere over there [in enemy territory]--why should they be expected to fight?
George H. Stein, The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War, 1939-1945, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1966, pp. 194-195. My own deletions or insertions are indicated in bold red; those that are not in bold red can be attributed to Stein. The back cover of Stein's book provides the following information about the author:
George H. Stein is Vice President for Academic Affairs at the State University of New York, Binghamton, where he also teaches history.