Richard Schulze-Kossens

Rochus Misch

Richard Schulze-Kossens, the son of a Prussian Army officer, was born in Berlin on 2nd October, 1914. After graduating in 1934 he joined the Hitler's personal bodyguard regiment – Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler. He later recalled: "Volunteers were specially selected for their height and athletic prowess. It was a select troop of fine men who underwent a particularly hard and thorough training. So obviously one could get them to do things in their training that one couldn't do with ordinary soldiers."

Schulze-Kossens argued that Heinrich Himmler was not very popular with the men in the Schutzstaffel (SS). "There was always a gap between Himmler and his soldiers. He wasn't very popular with the men because of his concept of a State Protection Corps, or his ideological ideas about the ancient German tribes and their burial mounds, King Heinrich and all that stuff. We just laughed at it."

In 1936 Schulze-Kossens graduated from the SS officers' academy. The following year he served as adjutant to Theodor Eicke. Schulze-Kossens was seconded to the Foreign Office and accompanied Joachim von Ribbentrop to Moscow for the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August 1939.

During the Second World War Schulze-Kossens fought with the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler in Poland in 1939. The following year he was involved in the invasion of France and Belgium. His troops were later accused of war crimes: "Let me say as a soldier I condemn all crimes regardless of who committed them, whether by us or by others, and that includes the crimes committed against captured SS men after the capitulation. But I make no reproaches in that respect. I am not recriminating, I only want to say that in war, amongst the mass of soldiers, there are always elements who develop criminal tendencies, and I can only condemn them. I would not say that the Waffen-SS was typically criminal, but there are well-known incidents. I don't want to excuse anything, but I must say one thing which is, that it is natural in war, during hot and heavy fighting, for young officers to sometimes lose their nerve. I want to mention one example of this, Tulle in France, where a company found the bodies of sixty German soldiers who had not been killed in action but murdered. There they lie wounded and mutilated, and then in an instant there is a desire for revenge and they lose their nerve."

Otto Dietrich
Joachim von Ribbentrop and Richard Schulze-Kossens.

According to Andrew Mollo, the author of To The Death's Head: The Story of the SS (1982): "In October 1941 with the rank of major, he followed in his late brother's footsteps and became an orderly officer at Hitler's headquarters and from October 1942 until December 1944 he was Hitler's personal adjutant." In January 1945, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, took command of the Waffen-SS Officers' Academy at Bad Tolz. When the Red Army entered Nazi Germany, Schulze-Kossens was put in charge of the SS-Grenadierdivision Nibelungen. In April 1945 he took part in the bitter fighting at Vohburg, Landshut, Pastetten and Chiemsee.

Schulze-Kossens surrendered to the United States Army on 8th May 1945. He later recalled: "I was then sent to thirteen different camps where in all honesty I must say the prisoners were badly treated. I was beaten. I was handcuffed, put into a jeep and taken twice to Nuremberg as a defence witness. During our first year of imprisonment the treatment was so bad that it didn't conform to the Geneva Convention. Bearing in mind that we had been taken prisoner in Germany it was only after five months that we were allowed to write to our families. Half the camp was undernourished and I had to start a hunger strike. I think we were subjected to special treatment, because the Americans thought we were the hard cases, but in 1946-1947 things began to get better."

Schulze-Kossens was released in 1948 and worked for the next few years as a salesman. Schulze-Kossens was interviewed and appeared in the television documentary, The World at War (1973-74). However, he initially refused to be interviewed for an English documentary on the Waffen-SS: "I am not prepared to give an interview which begins with the events in the concentration camps, which will inevitably stir up feelings against the SS. As an officer in the former Waffen-SS I am not interested in allowing myself to be defamed again in England if our troops are again to be associated with the events in the concentration camps... I want to take this opportunity to say how deeply it would offend me to have our troops portrayed once again as a sort of 'soldateska' who committed a string of war crimes."

Richard Schulze-Kossens died in Düsseldorf on 3rd July, 1988.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

 

(1) Richard Schulze-Kossens, interviewed by Andrew Mollo (1981)

Let me say as a soldier I condemn all crimes regardless of who committed them, whether by us or by others, and that includes the crimes committed against captured SS men after the capitulation. But I make no reproaches in that respect. I am not recriminating, I only want to say that in war, amongst the mass of soldiers, there are always elements who develop criminal tendencies, and I can only condemn them. I would not say that the Waffen-SS was typically criminal, but there are well-known incidents. I don't want to excuse anything, but I must say one thing which is, that it is natural in war, during hot and heavy fighting, for young officers to sometimes lose their nerve. I want to mention one example of this, Tulle in France, where a company found the bodies of sixty German soldiers who had not been killed in action but murdered. There they lie wounded and mutilated, and then in an instant there is a desire for revenge and they lose their nerve. But if I have to mention other crimes - war crimes, then let me mention Oradour. The Division in question had seventy companies and, because of partisans, one company often found itself fighting civilians and got into a situation which would have led to the commander being court-martialled, had he not been killed in action. I am not excusing this at all, and anyway nothing can be done about it, only war does generate inhuman impulses which might overwhelm someone who carries too great a responsibility at too young an age...

I was then sent to thirteen different camps where in all honesty I must say the prisoners were badly treated. I was beaten. I was handcuffed, put into a jeep and taken twice to Nuremberg as a defence witness. During our first year of imprisonment the treatment was so bad that it didn't conform to the Geneva Convention. Bearing in mind that we had been taken prisoner in Germany it was only after five months that we were allowed to write to our families. Half the camp was undernourished and I had to start a hunger strike. I think we were subjected to special treatment, because the Americans thought we were the hard cases, but in 1946-1947 things began to get better.

(2) The New York Times (11th July, 1988)

Richard Schulze-Kossens, an SS officer who was an adjutant to Adolf Hitler for several years, died of lung cancer on July 3, according to the West German newspaper Die Welt. He was 73 years old.

Mr. Schulze-Kossens served as one of Hitler's adjutants from 1941 to 1944. He was promoted to a lieutenant colonel in the SS in 1944 and named head of an SS training school.

After the Nazi defeat in 1945, Mr. Schulze-Kossens spent three years in an American internment camp and later worked as a salesman and writer.

Mr. Schulze-Kossens first served as an aide to Nazi Germany's Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and was present when Germany signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union in 1939.

Die Welt said more than 100 former members of SS units attended the funeral last Friday, many wearing the insignia of a group formed by SS veterans to assist comrades after the war.