The Austrian SS was a segment of the SS developed in 1934 as a covert force to influence the Anschluss with Germany which would occur in 1938. The early Austrian SS was led by Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Arthur Seyss-Inquart. The Austrian SS was technically under the command of the German SS and Heinrich Himmler but acted independently concerning Austrian affairs.
Austrian SS men were organized under the same manner as the Allgemeine-SS but operated as an underground organization, in particular after 1936 when the Austrian government declared the SS an illegal organization. One of the largest formations of the Austrian SS was the 11th SS-Standarte operating out of Vienna. The Austrian SS used the same rank system as the regular SS, but rarely used uniforms or identifying insignia. Photographic evidence indicates that Austrian SS men typically would wear a swastika armband on civilian clothes, and then only at secret SS meetings.
After 1938, when Austria was annexed by Germany, the Austrian SS was completely incorporated into the regular SS. Most of the Austrian SS was folded into SS-Oberabschnitt Donau with the 3rd regiment of the SS-Verfügungstruppe, Der Führer, and the fourth Totenkopf regiment, Ostmark, recruited in Austria shortly thereafter. A new concentration camp at Mauthausen also opened under the authority of the SS Death's Head units.
Cultural differences between Austrian and German SS men were present to the end of World War II, even though in theory the two countries contributed to a single SS. The issue was highlighted in 1943, when Austrian SS commanders were responsible for heavy losses in the first days of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and charged with negligence. Jürgen Stroop, the SSPF in Warsaw, overturned several courts martial (death) sentences since it was believed that Austrian members of the SS might rebel against the German officers who passed the sentences.
A notable figure of the Austrian SS included Amon Göth, who was portrayed in the film Schindler's List by Ralph Fiennes. Göth had joined the Austrian SS in 1930 and was an underground member until the Anschluss by Nazi Germany in 1938. Thereafter, he was appointed a regular SS officer in the Concentration Camp service.