We Accept Death, We Hand Out Death I | Weapons and Warfare


Hennecke and his colleagues were indoctrinated to achieve victory at whatever cost. On the Eastern Front, Hennecke remembered his battalion’s motto, Wir nehmen Tod, Wir teilen Tod Aus (We accept death, we hand out death). Nearby in Russia, he reminisced, was a unit (III Battalion of the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment) which acquired the nickname of der Lötlampe Abteilung (Blowtorch Battalion) because of the speed with which they burned through Soviet formations and torched villages. Such concepts the Waffen-SS brought to the Western Front and would employ against their American foes in the Ardennes: they knew no other way.

Hennecke could still recite his SS serial number (363530), and proudly recounted that by 1944 he had become a seasoned veteran of the Russian Front, won the Iron Cross, gained a commission and was commanding a tank platoon in the 1st SS Panzer Regiment. He proved very adaptable and served as a platoon leader (Zugführer) of tank, anti-aircraft and combat reconnaissance units, which was his role when an Untersturmführer in an SS Kampfgruppe during the Battle of the Bulge, aged twenty-four.

Hans Hennecke’s story was typical of many ‘true believers’ in the formations which comprised Josef ‘Sepp’ Dietrich’s Sixth Panzer Army. The potential presence of Dietrich, as we have seen, greatly worried Allied intelligence because of the unique reputation he had accrued to this date, for he was no ordinary military commander but one of the original Nazis.