Like many extreme rightists, Dirlewanger then travelled to Spain in 1936 to fight alongside Franco’s fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Subsequently, he joined the notorious Condor Legion, a volunteer force made up of German fighters. He was wounded three times while fighting in the Iberian peninsula, which may have been part of the reason why he gained reinstatement to the Nazi Party in 1939.
With the outbreak of World War II, Dirlewanger now joined the Waffen SS – a unit which would become infamous for its depraved war crimes. Then in 1940, the same friend who had got Dirlewanger back into the SS previously now set up him with his own unorthodox SS division.