At the end of WWII in 1945, being a Waffen-SS soldier was dangerous. Unlike Germany’s other armed forces, this branch was under the direct control of Hitler and Himmler and they carried out the Reich’s most heinous commands. They were the soldiers at the death camps, the soldiers that rounded up and captured “undesirables,” and the operators of the slave labor system.
Waffen soldiers knew they would be treated harshly, so they often buried things that would identify them as Waffen. At Nuremberg, the branch was deemed a criminal organization guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Waffen soldiers who had volunteered rather being conscripted were denied the rights of ordinary soldiers.
In 2013, metal detectorists WWIIMD went to the Eastern Front to trace what might have been left behind by Waffen soldiers trying to shed their identity.
Here are notes about some of the interesting things they found:
Allgemeines Sturmabzeichen – in addition to the reasons for the award mentioned in the video, this was also given to combat engineers, members of the artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank who supported infantry units in the fighting.
Nahkampfspange – this award came in three classes: bronze, silver, and gold. The gold version was more precious that the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. There were nearly 20 million German soldiers – 36,000 received the bronze, 9,500 the silver, and only 631 received the gold.
Skull ring – this is likely a Totenkopfring or “Death’s Head Ring.” These rings were not a state decoration but were instead personal gifts of award from Heinrich Himmler. These were given to any officer with three years of service in the SS and were engraved with Himmler’s signature, the officer’s name, and the date awarded.
Watch the video to learn more about:
- Erkennungsmarke from a unit that was part of the Ostfeldzug in Russia
- German Wehrmacht M35 helmet
- German M31 field bottle
- Container for a GM38 gasmask
- Tragegestell 43 equipment carrier
- Gun holster parts for an FN1922 pistol
- SA Sturmabteilung belt buckle
- Bakelite ammunition packing for the Gebirgsgeschutz 36
- Protection container for the spare barrel of an MG34 machine gun
- K98 bayonet scabbard
- Kraftstoff jerrycan