Joseph Berchtold (6 March 1897 in Ingolstadt – 23 August 1962 in Herrsching), a former stationery salesman, succeeded Julius Schreck as Reichsführer-SS in 1926. He was the last surviving person to hold that rank and the only one to survive under it during World War II.
Berchtold served in the First World War and held the rank of second lieutenant at the end of the war. In 1920 he joined the NSDAP. Hitler in early 1923, ordered the formation of a small separate bodyguard dedicated to his service rather than "a suspect mass" of the party, such as the Sturmabteilung (SA). Originally the unit was composed of only eight men, commanded by Julius Schreck and Berchtold. It was designated the Stabswache (Staff Guard). Later that year, the unit was renamed Stoßtrupp (Shock Troop) 'Adolf Hitler'. On 9 November 1923 the Stoßtrupp, along with the SA and several other paramilitary units, took part in the abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. In the aftermath of the putsch both Hitler and other Nazi leaders were incarcerated at Landsberg Prison. The Nazi Party and all associated formations, including the Stoßtrupp, were officially disbanded.
In 1924, Berchtold was District Director of the Nazi Party in Carinthia in Austria and there was leader of the SA. After the re-admission of the Nazi Party in Germany (20 February 1925), he was again a party member (membership no. 964). In April 1926, Berchtold returned to Germany. On 15 April 1926, he took over the leadership of the Munich SA. He also became the successor to Julius Schreck as chief of the SS, an office which was known as the Reichsführer-SS from 1 November. He was considered to be more dynamic than his predecessor, but was still unable to keep the Party organizers at bay. Berchtold became disillusioned by the subordination of the SS to the SA. In March 1927, Berchtold handed over leadership of the SS to his deputy, Erhard Heiden.
He was from 1928 to 1945 an SA leader on the staff of the Supreme SA leadership (OSAF). In the following years, Berchtold operated primarily as a journalist and propagandist: from 1 January 1927 to January 1933 he was from Editor, Chief of the service from January 1933 to February 1943 January 1938 in addition Deputy main writer of "Völkischer observer". In 1928, he founded the journal "The Storm Trooper"; until January 1938, he was the main writer of the paper, which was published by the Supreme SA leadership. He was also the author of various Nazi publications and staff of additional magazines.
Additional posts in the Third Reich were of secondary importance: from March 1934 Berchtold was Councilman of the town councillor in Munich, then from 1 October to the end of the war. He belonged to the Reichstag from 29 March 1936. On 15 November 1935, Berchtold was appointed to the Reich culture Senator; from 6 March 1936, he belonged to the "culture of SA". From 29 April 1940 he served as a captain of the reserve on a temporary basis in the Wehrmacht. After the war ended in 1945, Berchtold was temporarily in Allied detention. He died in August 1962.
- Hamilton, Charles (1984). Leaders & Personalities of the Third Reich, Vol. 1. R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 0-912138-27-0.
- McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923–1945. Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-906626-49-5.
- Weale, Adrian (2010). The SS: A New History. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1408703045.
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