Schutzstaffel

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Protection Squadron
Schutzstaffel
Schutzstaffel Abzeichen.svg
SS insignia (sig runes)
Flag Schutzstaffel.svg
SS flag
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H04436, Klagenfurt, Adolf Hitler, Ehrenkompanie.jpg
Adolf Hitler inspects the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler on arrival at Klagenfurt in April 1938. Heinrich Himmler is standing slightly behind Hitler's right side.
Agency overview
Formed April 4, 1925
Preceding agencies SA-Logo.svg Sturmabteilung
Stabswache
Dissolved May 8, 1945
Superseding agency SA-Logo.svg Sturmabteilung (formerly)
Type Paramilitary
Jurisdiction Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
German-occupied Europe
Headquarters SS-Hauptamt, Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, Berlin
52°30′26″N 13°22′57″E / 52.50722°N 13.38250°E / 52.50722; 13.38250
Employees 1,250,000 (c. February 1945)
Ministers responsible Adolf Hitler, Führer
Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer
Agency executives Julius Schreck, Reichsführer-SS
(Reich Leader of the SS)

(1925–26)
Joseph Berchtold, Reichsführer-SS
(1926–27)
Erhard Heiden, Reichsführer-SS
(1927–29)
Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS
(1929–45)
Karl Hanke, Reichsführer-SS
(April–May 1945)
Parent agency Nazi Germany NSDAP
Child agencies Allgemeine SS
Waffen-SS (SS-Verfügungstruppe)
SS-Totenkopfverbände
RSHASicherheitspolizei (SiPo) and Sicherheitsdienst (SD)
Ordnungspolizei (Orpo)

The Schutzstaffel (German pronunciation: [ˈʃʊtsˌʃtafəl] ( ), translated to Protection Squadron or defence corps, abbreviated SS—or Runic "ᛋᛋ" with stylized "Armanen" sig runes) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP). It began at the end of 1920 as a small, permanent guard unit known as the "Saal-Schutz" (Hall-Protection)[1] made up of NSDAP volunteers to provide security for Nazi Party meetings in Munich. Later, in 1925, Heinrich Himmler joined the unit, which had by then been reformed and renamed the "Schutz-Staffel". Under Himmler's leadership (1929–45), it grew from a small paramilitary formation to one of the largest and most powerful organizations in the Third Reich.[2] Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II (1939–45). The SS, along with the Nazi Party, was declared a criminal organization by the International Military Tribunal, and banned in Germany after 1945.

Background[edit]

The SS expanded from a small paramilitary unit to a powerful force that served as the Führer's bodyguard, the Nazi Party's "Protection Squadron" and a force that, fielding almost a million men (both on the front lines and as political police), managed to exert as much political influence in the Third Reich as the Wehrmacht, Germany's regular armed forces.

According to the Nuremberg Trials, as well as many war crimes investigations and trials conducted since then, the SS was responsible for the majority of Nazi war crimes. In particular, it was the primary organization which carried out the Holocaust.[3] As a part of its race-centric functions, the SS oversaw the isolation and displacement of Jews from the populations of the conquered territories, seizing their assets and transporting them to concentration camps and ghettos where they would be used as slave labour (pending extermination) or immediately killed.

Initially a small branch of the Sturmabteilung ("Brownshirts" or stormtroopers, abbreviated as SA), the SS grew in size and power due to its exclusive loyalty to Adolf Hitler, as opposed to the SA, which was seen as semi-independent and a threat to Adolf Hitler's hegemony over the party. Under Himmler, the SS selected its members according to the Nazi ideology. Creating elite police and military units such as the Waffen-SS, Adolf Hitler used the SS to form an order of men claimed to be superior in racial purity and ability to other Germans and national groups, a model for the Nazi vision of a master race. During World War II, SS units operated alongside the regular Heer (German Army). However, by the final stages of the war, the SS came to dominate the Wehrmacht in order to eliminate perceived threats to Adolf Hitler's power while implementing his strategies, despite the increasingly futile German war effort.

Chosen to implement the Nazi "Final Solution" for the Jews and other groups deemed inferior (and/or enemies of the state), the SS was the lead branch in carrying out the killing, torture and enslavement of approximately 12 million people. Most victims were Jews or of Polish or other Slavic extraction. However, other racial/ethnic groups such as the Roma made up a significant number of victims, as well. Furthermore, the SS purge was extended to those viewed as threats to "race hygiene" or Nazi ideology—including the mentally or physically handicapped, homosexuals and political dissidents. Members of trades unions and those perceived to be affiliated with groups (religious, political, social, and otherwise) that opposed the regime, or were seen to have views contradictory to the goals of the Nazi government, were rounded up in large numbers; these included clergy of all faiths, Jehovah's Witnesses, Freemasons, Communists and Rotary Club members.

Foreseeing defeat, a significant number of SS personnel organised their escape to South American nations. These escapes are said to have been assisted by an organisation known as ODESSA, an acronym of the German phrase Organisation der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, which translates as the Organisation of Former Members of the SS. Many others were captured and prosecuted by Allied authorities at the Nuremberg Trials for war crimes, and absconding SS criminals were the targets of police forces in various Allied nations, post-war West and East Germany, Austria and Israel.

The Nazis regarded the SS as an elite unit, the party's "Praetorian Guard", with all SS personnel (originally) selected on the principles of racial purity and loyalty to the Nazi Party and Germany.[3][4] The SS was restricted to people who were only of "pure Aryan German" ancestry, requiring proof of racial purity,[5] in the early days of the SS, it was required that officer candidates had to trace and prove their family had no Jewish ancestors and were only of German "Aryan" ancestry back to 1750 and for other ranks to 1800.[6][7] Later, when the requirements of the war made it impossible to confirm the ancestry of officer candidates, the proof of ancestry regulation was dropped to just proving their grandparents were "Aryan", which was the requirement of the Nuremberg Laws.

In contrast to the black-uniformed Allgemeine SS (the political wing of the SS), the Waffen-SS (the military wing) evolved into a second German army aside the Wehrmacht (the regular national armed forces) and operating in tandem with them; especially with the Heer (German Army).

Special ranks and uniforms[edit]

The SS had its own rank structure, unit insignia, and uniforms, which distinguished it from other branches of the German military and from German state officials, as well as from the rest of the Nazi Party. The all-black SS uniform was designed by SS-Oberführer Prof. Karl Diebitsch and graphic designer SS-Sturmhauptführer Walter Heck.[8] These uniforms were rarely worn after the war began, however, as Himmler ordered that the all-black uniforms be turned in for use by others. They were sent east where they were used by auxiliary police units and west to be used by Germanic-SS units such as the ones in the Netherlands and Denmark.[9] In place of the black uniform, SS men wore uniforms of earth-grey (Erdgrau) or Army field-grey (grey-green) with distinctive insignia. The uniforms were made by hundreds of clothing factories licensed by the RZM, including Hugo Boss, with some workers being prisoners of war forced into labour work.[10] Many were made in concentration camps. The SS also developed its own field uniforms. Initially these were similar to standard Wehrmacht wool uniforms but they also included reversible smocks and helmet covers printed with camouflage patterns with a brown–green "spring" side and a brown–brown "autumn" side. In 1944 the Waffen-SS began using a universal camouflage uniform intended to replace the wool field uniform.

Finnish Waffen-SS volunteers of the battalion in Gross Born Truppenlager in 1941.

Ideology[edit]

Main article: Ideology of the SS

In contrast to the Imperial military tradition, the nature of the SS was based on an ideology where commitment, effectiveness and political reliability—not class or education—would determine how far they succeeded in the organisation.[11] The SS also stressed total loyalty and obedience to orders unto death. It became a powerful tool used by Hitler and the Nazi state for political ends. The SS ideology and values of the organisation were one of the main reasons why the SS was entrusted with the execution of many Nazi atrocities and war crimes of the Nazi state.

A main ideology of the SS was to fight against "sub-humans" (Untermenschen). As illustrated in the pamphlet The SS as an Anti-Bolshevist Fighting Organization of 1936, Heinrich Himmler wrote:

We shall take care that never again in Germany, the heart of Europe, will the Jewish-Bolshevistic revolution of subhumans be able to be kindled either from within or through emissaries from without.[12][13][14]

Merger with police forces[edit]

Main article: Ordnungspolizei

As the Nazi Party monopolized political power in Germany, key government functions such as law enforcement were absorbed by the SS, while many SS organizations became de facto government agencies. To maintain the political power and security of the Nazi party (and later the nation), the SS established and ran the SD (Security service) and took over the administration of Gestapo (Secret state police), Kripo (criminal investigative police), and the Orpo (regular uniformed police).[15] Moreover, legal jurisdiction over the SS and its members was taken away from the civilian courts and given to courts run by the SS itself. These actions effectively put the SS above the law.

Personal control by Himmler[edit]

Inspection by Himmler at Dachau on 8 May 1936.

Himmler, the leader of the SS, was a chief architect of the Final Solution. The SS Einsatzgruppen death squads, formed by his deputy, Heydrich, murdered many civilian non-combatants, primarily Jews, in the countries occupied by Germany during World War II. Himmler was responsible for establishing and operating concentration camps and extermination camps in which millions of inmates died of systematic mass gassing, shooting, hanging, inhumane treatment, overwork, malnutrition or medical experiments. After the war, the judges of the Nuremberg Trials declared the SS and its sub-parts criminal organizations responsible for the implementation of racial policies of genocide and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

History[edit]

The history of the SS may be grouped into several key periods of the organization's existence. The first group associated with SS (but not known as such) existed briefly in 1923, before being disbanded and re-founded in 1925. This second version of the SS, sometimes known as the "Pre-Himmler SS", existed from 1925 to 1929; then the more recognizable SS under Heinrich Himmler came into being. Himmler's SS existed from 1929 to 1945, and may itself be divided into a peacetime SS until 1939, replaced by a wartime SS lasting until the end of World War II. The group was formally disbanded upon the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Origins[edit]

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 SA.[16] It was designated the Stabswache (Staff Guard).[17] Originally the unit was composed of only eight men, commanded by Julius Schreck and Joseph Berchtold and was modeled after the Erhardt Naval Brigade, a Freikorps of the time. Later that year, the unit was renamed Stoßtrupp (Shock Troop) 'Adolf Hitler'.[18]

After the failed 1923 Putsch by the Nazi Party, the SA and the Stoßtrupp were abolished. Shortly after Hitler's release from prison, violence remained a large part of Bavaria politics.[19] In 1925, Hitler ordered the formation of a new bodyguard unit, the Schutzkommando (protection command).[20] It was given the task of providing personal protection for Hitler at Nazi Party functions and events. That same year, the Schutzkommando was expanded to a national level, and renamed successively the Sturmstaffel (storm squadron), and finally the Schutzstaffel (SS).[20][21] The new SS was delegated to be a protection company of various Nazi Party leaders throughout Germany. Hitler's personal SS protection unit was later enlarged to include combat units and after April 13, 1934, was known as the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH).[22] After Germany mobilized in 1939, the combat units in the LSSAH were mobilized as well, leaving behind an honour guard battalion to protect Hitler. It is these SS troops that are seen at the Reich Chancellery and Hitler's Obersalzberg estate in his personal 8 mm movies.

Development[edit]

The black cap with a Totenkopf of the SS

Between 1925 and 1929, the SS was considered merely a small Gruppe (battalion) of the SA and numbered no more than 1,000 personnel; by 1929 that number was down to 280.[23] After SS commander Erhard Heiden resigned, Hitler appointed Himmler to the position of Reichsführer-SS in January 1929.[24] Himmler rapidly expanded the SS and by the end of 1932 it had 52,000 members. By the end of the following year, it had over 209,000 members. Himmler's expansion of the SS was based on models from other groups, such as the Knights Templar and the Italian Blackshirts. According to SS-Obergruppenführer and General of the Waffen-SS, Karl Wolff, it was also based on the model from the Society of Jesus of absolute obedience to the Pope. A motto of the SS was "Treu, Tapfer, Gehorsam" ("loyal, valiant, obedient").[25]

Before 1929, the SS wore the same brown uniform as the SA, with the exception of a black tie and a black cap with a Totenkopf ("death's head") skull and bones symbol on it. In that year Himmler extended the black colour to include breeches, boots, belts, and armband edges; and in 1932 they adopted the all-black uniform, designed by Prof. Diebitsch and Walter Heck.[8] In 1936 an "earth-grey" uniform was issued. The Waffen ("armed") SS wore a field-grey (feldgrau) uniform similar to the regular army, or Heer. During the war, Waffen-SS units wore a wide range of items printed with camouflage patterns (such as Platanenmuster, Erbsenmuster, captured Italian Telo Mimetico, etc.), while their feldgrau uniforms became largely indistinguishable from those of the Heer, save for the insignia. In 1945, the SS adopted the Leibermuster disruptive camouflage pattern that inspired many forms of modern battle dress, although it was not widely issued before the end of the war.

Their official motto was "Meine Ehre heißt Treue" ("My Honour is Loyalty").[26] The SS rank system was unique in that it did not copy the terms and ranks used by the Wehrmacht's branches (Heer ("army"), Luftwaffe ("air force"), and Kriegsmarine ("navy")), but instead used the ranks established by the post-World War I Freikorps and taken over by the SA. This was mainly done to establish the SS as being independent from the Wehrmacht, although SS ranks did generally have equivalents in the other services.

Himmler, together with his right-hand man, Reinhard Heydrich, consolidated the power of the organization. In 1931 Himmler gave Heydrich the assignment to build an intelligence and security service inside the SS, which became the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). By the time the war began, the number of members rose to 250,000, and the Waffen-SS was formed in August 1940, expanding the earlier armed SS troops who had fought in Poland and France in 1939–40, to serve alongside the Wehrmacht, Germany's regular armed forces. Himmler also received control of the Gestapo in 1934, and, that same year, Hitler had given the SS jurisdiction over all concentration camps. In the wake of the plot against Hitler's life by a group of regular military generals in July 1944, the Führer came to distrust his regular military, putting ever more trust in the SS, particularly Himmler, who had acted against the plotters and their families. This attitude of Hitler's was further shown at the very end of the war, when he refused to station himself in the OKW bunker in Berlin, claiming that he did not "trust the strength of army concrete", however the true reason was probably that he feared another generals' plot and so chose to stay in his own headquarters, surrounded by an apparently more loyal SS retinue.

Early SS disunity[edit]

In its first years of existence, the SS was characterized by significant disunity both geographically within Germany as well as within the structure of the SS as a whole. In addition, prior to April 1934, the Gestapo was a civilian state police agency outside the control of SS leadership. In some cases, it came into direct conflict with the SS and even attempted to arrest some of its members.

The first major division in the early SS was between SS units in northern Germany, situated around Berlin, and SS units in southern Germany headquartered around Munich. The "Northern-SS" was under the command of Kurt Daluege who had close ties to Hermann Göring and enjoyed his position in Berlin where most of the Nazi government offices were located. This in contrast to the SS in southern Germany, commanded unquestionably by Heinrich Himmler and located mostly in Munich which was the location of the major Nazi political offices.

Within the SS, early divisions also developed between the "General SS" and the SS under the command of Sepp Dietrich which would eventually become the Waffen-SS. The early military SS was kept quite separate from the regular SS and Dietrich introduced early regulations that the military SS answered directly to Hitler, and not Himmler, and for several months even ordered his troops to wear the black SS uniform without a swastika armband to separate the soldiers from other SS units once the black uniform had become common throughout Germany.

The division between the military and general SS never entirely disappeared even in the last days of World War II. Senior Waffen-SS commanders had little respect for Himmler and he was scornfully nicknamed "Reichsheini" by the Waffen-SS rank and file. Himmler worsened his own position when he attempted to hold a military command during the last months of the war and proved totally incompetent as a field commander.

The Gestapo, which would eventually become a semi-integrated part of the SS security forces, was at first a large "thorn in the side" to Himmler as the group was originally the Prussian state political police under the control of Hermann Göring and commanded by his protege Rudolf Diels. Early Gestapo activities came into direct conflict with the SS and it was not until the SA became a common enemy that Göring turned over control of the Gestapo to Himmler and Heydrich (the three then worked together to destroy the greater threat of the SA leadership). Even so, Göring was reported to have disliked Himmler to the last days of the war and even turned down honorary SS rank since he did not want to be subordinate to Himmler in any way.[27]

Before 1933[edit]

1925–28[edit]

In early 1925, the future SS was a single, 30-man company that was Hitler's personal bodyguard. In September, all local NSDAP offices were ordered to create body guard units of no more than ten men apiece. By 1926, six SS-Gaus were established, supervising all such units in Germany. In turn, the SS-Gaus answered to the SS-Oberleitung, the headquarters unit. The SS-Oberleitung answered to the office of the Supreme SA Leader (Oberste SA-Führer), Franz Pfeffer von Salomon, clearly establishing the SS as a subordinate unit of the Sturmabteilung.

Between 1926 and 1928, the SS command Gaus were as follows:

  • SS-Gau Berlin Brandenburg
  • SS-Gau Franken
  • SS-Gau Niederbayern
  • SS-Gau Rheinland-Süd
  • SS-Gau Sachsen

1929–31[edit]

In 1929 the SS-Oberleitung was expanded and reorganized into the SS-Oberstab with five main offices:

  • Abteilung I: Administration
  • Abteilung II: Personnel
  • Abteilung III: Finance
  • Abteilung IV: Security
  • Abteilung V: Race

At the same time, the SS-Gaus were expanded into three SS-Oberführerbereiche:

  • SS-Oberführerbereiche Ost
  • SS-Oberführerbereiche West
  • SS-Oberführerbereiche Süd

Each SS-Oberführerbereiche contained several SS-Brigaden, which in turn were divided into regiment-sized SS-Standarten.

1931–33[edit]

In 1931 as the SS began to increase its membership to over 100,000, the organization was again restructured beginning with the SS-Oberleitung, which was replaced by the SS-Amt, divided into five sections:

  • Section I: Headquarters Staff
  • Section II: Personnel Office
  • Section III: Administration Office
  • Section IV: SS Reserves
  • Section V: SS Medical Corps

In addition to the SS-Amt, the SS-Rasseamt (Race Office) and Sicherheitsdienst Amt (Office of the SD) were established as two separate offices on an equal footing with the Headquarters Office.

At the same time that the SS Headquarters was being reorganized, the SS-Oberführerbereichen were replaced with five SS-Gruppen:

  • SS-Gruppe Nord
  • SS-Gruppe Ost
  • SS-Gruppe Süd
  • SS-Gruppe Südost
  • SS-Gruppe West

The lower levels of the SS remained unchanged between 1931 and 1933. However, it was during this time that the SS began to establish its independence from the Sturmabteilung (SA), although officially the SS was still considered a sub-organization of the SA and answerable to the SA Chief of Staff.[27]

After the Nazi seizure of power[edit]

After the Nazi seizure of power, the mission of the SS expanded from the protection of the person of Adolf Hitler to the internal security of the Nazi regime.[28] In 1936 Himmler described this new mission of the SS in his pamphlet, "The SS as an Anti-Bolshevist Fighting Organization".

We shall unremittingly fulfill our task, the guaranty of the security of Germany from the interior, just as the Wehr-macht guarantees the safety, the honor, the greatness, and the peace of the Reich from the exterior. We shall take care that never again in Germany, the heart of Europe, will the Jewish-Bolshevistic revolution of subhumans be able to be kindled either from within or through emissaries from without. Without pity we shall be a merciless sword of justice for all those forces whose existence and activity we know, on the day of the slightest attempt, may it be today, may it be in decades or may it be in centuries.[29]

Following Hitler's assumption of power in Germany, the SS became regarded as a state organization and a branch of the established government. The Headquarters Staff, SD, and Race Office became full-time paid employees, as did the leaders of the SS-Gruppen and some of their command staffs. The rest of the SS were considered part-time volunteers, and in this concept the Allgemeine-SS came into being.

By the autumn of 1933, Hitler's personal bodyguard (previously the 1st SS Standarte located in Munich) had been called to Berlin to replace the Army Chancellery Guard as protectors of the Chancellor of Germany. In November 1933, the SS guard in Berlin became known as the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. In April 1934, Himmler modified the name to Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH).[22] The LSSAH would later become the first division in the Order of Battle of the Waffen-SS.

1934–36[edit]

On April 20, 1934, Göring transferred the Gestapo to Himmler, who was also named chief of all German police forces outside Prussia; two days later Himmler named Heydrich the head of the Gestapo.[30]

SS organization c. 1936–37

The Gestapo's transfer to Himmler was a prelude to the Night of the Long Knives. The SS played a prominent role in the slaughter, carrying out dozens of killings. On July 20, as a token of gratitude for its role, the SS was detached from the SA and became an independent elite corps of the Nazi Party answerable only to Hitler. Himmler's title of Reichsführer now became an actual rank (his formal rank had previously been Obergruppenführer), equivalent to the rank of field marshal in the army.

During that time, the SS again underwent a massive reorganization. The SS-Gruppen were renamed as SS-Oberabschnitt, and the former SS Headquarters and command offices were reorganized into three and then eight SS-Hauptämter. The SS-Hauptamt offices would eventually grow in number to twelve main offices by 1944. These offices remained unchanged in their names until the end of World War II and the fall of the SS.

By mid-1934, the SS had taken control of all concentration camps from the SA, and a new organization, the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) had been established as the SS Concentration Camp Service. The original SS-TV was organized into six Wachtruppen at each of Germany's major concentration camps. The Wachtruppen were expanded in 1935 into Wachsturmbanne and again in 1937 into three main SS-Totenkopfstandarten. This structure would remain unchanged until 1941, when a massive labor and death camp system in the occupied territories necessitated the concentration camps to be placed under the Wirtschafts und Verwaltungshauptamt (SS-WVHA) in three main divisions of labor camps, concentration camps, and death camps.

The early Waffen-SS can trace its origins to 1934 in the SS-Verfügungstruppe: two Standarten (regiments) under retired general Paul Hausser armed and trained to Army standards, and held ready at the personal disposal of the Führer in peace or war. Hausser also established two Junkerschule for the training of SS officers.

1936–39[edit]

Troops of the SS Leibstandarte at a Nazi procession in 1939.

Himmler was named the chief of all German police on June 17, 1936. He thereby assumed control of all of the German states' regular police forces and, nationalizing them, formed the Ordnungspolizei and the Kriminalpolizei.[31] The Orpo, uniformed police, were placed under the command of SS-Obergruppenführer Kurt Daluege. Further, the Gestapo and the Kripo or Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police) were incorporated into the SiPo or Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) and considered a complementary organisation to the SD or Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service).[15] Reinhard Heydrich was head of the SiPo (made up of the Gestapo and Kripo) and SD.[31] Heinrich Müller, was chief of operations of the Gestapo.[32] As chief of police, Himmler was nominally subordinate to Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick. However, from 1936 onward, the police were effectively under SS command, and thus independent of Frick's control. In September 1939, the security and police agencies of Nazi Germany (with the exception of the Orpo) were consolidated into the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), headed by Heydrich.[33]

In 1939 from the existing Totenkopfverbände was formed the SS Division Totenkopf composed of members of the concentration camp service together with support units transferred from the army. The Totenkopf or "Death's Head" division would later become a division of the Waffen-SS.

During World War II[edit]

By the outbreak of World War II, the SS had solidified into its final form. By this point, the term "SS" could be applied to two completely separate organizations, mainly the Allgemeine-SS and the Waffen-SS. The Allgemeine-SS also had control over a third SS branch, known as the Germanic-SS, which was composed of SS groups formed in occupied territories and allied countries. In the last months of World War II, a fourth branch of the SS known as the "Auxiliary-SS" was formed from non-SS members conscripted to serve in Germany's concentration camps.

SS and police leaders[edit]

Main article: SS and Police Leader
Members of the SS posed with bodies of their victims. Occupied Poland
Warsaw Jews being held at gunpoint by SS troops. Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, April 1943.

During World War II, the most powerful men in the SS were the SS and Police Leaders, divided into three levels: regular leaders, higher leaders, and supreme leaders. Such persons normally held the rank of SS-Gruppenführer or above and answered directly to Himmler in all matters pertaining to the SS in their area of responsibility. Thus, SS and Police Leaders bypassed all other chains of command.

SS offices[edit]

By 1942 all activities of the SS were managed through twelve main offices of the Allgemeine-SS.[34]

Allgemeine-SS[edit]

Main article: Allgemeine-SS

The Allgemeine-SS (the "General SS") refers to a non-combat branch of the SS. The Allgemeine-SS formations were divided into Standarten, organized into larger formations known as Abschnitte and Oberabschnitte. Many personnel served in other branches of the state government, Nazi Party, and certain departments within the RSHA (e.g., the SD, Gestapo and Kripo). Members of the Allgemeine-SS were considered more or less reservists with many serving the German military or the Waffen-SS. For those who served in the Waffen-SS, it was a standard practice to hold separate SS ranks for both the Allgemeine-SS and the Waffen-SS.

Waffen-SS[edit]

Main article: Waffen-SS
Polish civilians murdered by Waffen-SS troops (SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger) in Warsaw Uprising, August 1944.

The Waffen-SS were frontline combat troops trained to fight in Germany's battles during World War II. During the early campaigns against Czechoslovakia and Poland, military SS units were of regiment size and drawn from existing armed SS formations:

For the invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940 (Fall Gelb) the three SS-VT and three of the SS-TV regiments were each organized into divisions (the future 2nd "Das Reich" and 3rd "Totenkopf"), and another division was raised from the Ordnungspolizei (later the 4th "Polizei"). Following the campaign, these units together with the Leibstandarte and additional SS-TV Standarten were amalgamated into the newly formed Kommandoamt der Waffen-SS within the SS Führungshauptamt.

In 1941 Himmler announced that additional Waffen-SS Freiwilligen units would be raised from non-German foreign nationals. His goal was to acquire additional manpower from occupied nations or prisoners of war. These foreign legions eventually included volunteers from Belgium, Britain and its Dominions, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

While the Waffen-SS remained officially outside the armed forces (Wehrmacht) and under Himmler's authority, they were placed under the operational command of the Armed Forces High Command (OKW) or Army High Command (OKH), and were largely funded by the Wehrmacht. During the war, the Waffen-SS grew to 38 divisions. The most famous are the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH), 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, 3rd SS Division Totenkopf, 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, and the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend.

Foreign Legions[edit]

The Waffen-SS maintained several "Foreign Legions" of personnel from conquered territories and countries allied to Germany. The majority wore a distinctive national collar patch and preceded their SS rank titles with the prefix Waffen instead of SS. Volunteers from Scandinavian countries filled the ranks of two divisions, the 5th "Wiking" and 11th "Nordland." Belgian Flemings joined Dutchmen to form the "Nederland" Legion, their Walloon compatriots joined the Sturmbrigade "Wallonien". There was also a French volunteer division, 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French).[35]

Although initially the SS was restricted to people that were classified as of only "pure German Aryan" descent, during the war the racial restrictions were relaxed to the extent that other "Aryans" could be admitted. These included Ukrainian Slavs, Albanians from Kosovo, Turkic, Caucasian, Cossack, and Tatar Legions,[36] The Ukrainians and the Tatars had both suffered persecution under Joseph Stalin and they were likely motivated primarily by opposition to the Soviet government rather than genuine ideological agreement with the SS. The exiled Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, used anti-Semitism and anti-Serb racism to recruit an entire Waffen-SS division of Bosnian Muslims, the 13th SS Division "Handschar" (Scimitar).[37] The year-long Soviet occupation of the Baltic states at the beginning of World War II produced volunteers for Latvian and Estonian Waffen-SS units. The Estonian Legion, for example, had 1,280 volunteers under training by the end of 1942.[38] However, by February 1, 1944 the German military situation on the Eastern front had worsened. As the result, another 10,000 Estonia men were conscripted into the Waffen-SS. Approximately 25,000 men served in the Estonian SS division (with thousands more conscripted into the "Police Front" battalions and border guard units).[39] After 1943 most men from the east were conscripts. However, some other occupied countries such as Greece, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland never formed formal Waffen-SS legions. Nevertheless, some citizens of those countries were in the service of the Waffen-SS. In Greece, the fascist organisation ESPO tried to create a Greek SS division, but the attempt was abandoned when its leader was assassinated.

Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini greeting Bosniak SS volunteers in November 1943.

There was, from August 1944 until the end of the war, an Indische Freiwilligen-Legion der Waffen-SS ("Waffen SS Indian Volunteer Legion") which had been formed as a Heer (German Army) unit in August 1942, chiefly from disaffected Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army, captured by the Axis in North Africa. Many, if not most, of the Indian volunteers who switched sides to fight with the German Army and against the British were strongly nationalistic supporters of the exiled, anti-British, former president of the Indian National Congress, Netaji (the Leader) Subhas Chandra Bose. (See also: Tiger Legion and; Indian National Army.)[40]

Other non-Europeans who volunteered for military service with Nazi Germany, served with, or were attached to, the Heer (such as the Ostlegionen units), the Kriegsmarine (typically POWs in an unofficial capacity) or with the Luftwaffe (civilians or POWs, in non-flying roles), rather than with the Waffen-SS.

Germanic-SS[edit]

Main article: Germanic-SS

The Germanic-SS was an SS-modeled structure formed in occupied territories and allied countries. The main purpose of the Germanic-SS was enforcement of Nazi racial doctrine and antisemitic policies. Denmark and Belgium were the two largest participants in the Germanic-SS programme. Germanic-SS members wore the all-black SS uniforms favoured by the pre-war German SS. After the war began, Himmler ordered the uniforms to be turned in and many were then sent west to be used by Germanic-SS units such as the ones in the Netherlands and Denmark.[9] These groups had their own uniforms with a modification of SS rank titles and insignia. All Germanic-SS units answered to the SS headquarters in Germany.

Auxiliary-SS[edit]

Auxiliary SS Patch

The Auxiliary-SS (SS mannschaft) was an organization that arose in 1945 as a last-ditch effort to keep concentration camps running. Auxiliary-SS members were not considered regular SS personnel, but were conscripted members from other branches of the German military, the Nazi Party, and the Volkssturm. Such personnel wore a distinctive twin swastika collar patch and served as camp guard and administrative personnel until the surrender of Germany.

Auxiliary SS members had the distinct disadvantage of being the "last ones in the camp" as the major concentration camps were liberated by allied forces. As a result, many auxiliary SS members, in particular those captured by Russian forces, faced swift and fierce retaliation and were often held personally responsible for the carnage of the camps to which some had only been assigned for a few weeks or even days.

There also exist very few records of the Auxiliary SS since, at the time of this group's creation, it was a foregone conclusion that Germany had lost the Second World War and the entire purpose of the Auxiliary SS was to serve in support roles while members of the SS proper escaped from allied forces. Thus, there was never a serious effort to properly train, equip, or maintain records on the Auxiliary SS.

SS units and branches[edit]

Within the two main branches of the Allgemeine-SS and Waffen-SS, there further existed several branches and sub-branches some with overlapping duties while other SS commands had little to no contact with each other. In addition, by 1939 the SS had complete control over the German Police, with many police members serving as dual SS members. Most of these branches committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and many individuals were tried for these offences after the war.

Concentration camps[edit]

Main article: SS-Totenkopfverbände
Kragenpatten, 13. SS-TK-Standarte.jpg
General (later U.S. President) Dwight D. Eisenhower inspecting prisoners' corpses at the liberated Ohrdruf forced labor camp, 1945

The SS is closely associated with Nazi Germany's concentration camp system. After 1934, the running of Germany's concentration camps was placed under the total authority of the SS and an SS formation known as the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV), under the command of Theodor Eicke. Known as the "Death's Head Units", the SS-TV was first organized as several battalions, each based at one of Germany's major concentration camps, the oldest of which was at Dachau. In 1939, the Totenkopfverbände expanded into a military division with the establishment of the Totenkopf division, which in 1940 would become a full division within the Waffen-SS.

With the start of World War II, the Totenkopfverbände began a large expansion that eventually would develop into three branches covering each type of concentration camp the SS operated. By 1944, there existed three divisions of the SS-TV, those being the staffs of the concentration camps proper in Germany and Austria, the labor camp system in occupied territories, and the guards and staffs of the extermination camps in Poland that were involved in the Holocaust.

In 1942, for administrative reasons, the guard and administrative staff of all the concentration camps became full members of the Waffen-SS. In addition, to oversee the large administrative burden of an extensive labor camp system, the concentration camps were placed under the command of the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA). Oswald Pohl commanded the WVHA, while Richard Glücks served as the Inspector of Concentration Camps.

By 1944, with the concentration camps fully integrated with the Waffen-SS and under the control of the WVHA, a standard practice developed to rotate SS members in and out of the camps, based on manpower needs and also to give assignments to wounded Waffen-SS officers and soldiers who could no longer serve in front-line combat duties. This rotation of personnel is the main argument that nearly the entire SS knew of the concentration camps, and what actions were committed within, making the entire organization liable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Security services[edit]

Main article: Sicherheitspolizei

In addition to running Germany's concentration camps, the SS is well known for establishing the police state of Nazi Germany and suppressing all resistance to Adolf Hitler through the use of security forces, such as, the Gestapo.

The RSHA was the main office in charge of SS security services and had under its command the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), and the Gestapo as well as several additional offices to handle finance, administration, and supply. The term Sicherheitspolizei referred to the combined forces of the Kriminalpolizei, and the Gestapo, police and security offices.[31]

Reinhard Heydrich is viewed as the mastermind behind the SS security forces and held the title of Chef des Sicherheitspolizei und SD until September 27, 1939 when he became the overall supreme commander of the Reich Main Security Office.[33] Heinrich Müller became Gestapo Chief, Arthur Nebe, chief of the Criminal Police (Kripo), and the two branches of SD were commanded by various SS officers such as Otto Ohlendorf and Walter Schellenberg. Heydrich was assassinated in 1942. His positions were taken over by Ernst Kaltenbrunner in January 1943, following a few short months of Heinrich Himmler personally running the RSHA while searching for Heydrich's replacement.[41]

Death squads[edit]

Main article: Einsatzgruppen
A Jewish woman protects a child with her body as Einsatzgruppen soldiers aim their rifles in Ivangorod, Ukraine, 1942.

The Einsatzgruppen were special units of the SS that were formed on an "as-needed" basis under the authority of the Sicherheitspolizei and later the RSHA, whose commander was Heydrich. The first Einsatzgruppen were created in 1938 for use during the Anschluss of Austria and again in 1939 for the annexation of Czechoslovakia. The original purpose of the Einsatzgruppen was to "enter occupied areas, seize vital records, and neutralize potential threats". In Austria and Czechoslovakia, the activities of the Einsatzgruppen were mainly limited to Nazification of local governments and assistance with the establishment of new concentration camps.

In 1939 the Einsatzgruppen were reactivated and sent into Poland to exterminate the Polish elite (Operation Tannenberg, AB-Aktion), so that there would be no leadership to form a resistance to German occupation. In 1941 the Einsatzgruppen reached their height when they were sent into Russia to begin large-scale extermination and genocide of "undesirables" such as Jews, gypsies, and communists. The Einsatzgruppen were responsible for the murders of more than one million people. The most notorious massacre of Jews in the Soviet Union was at a ravine called Babi Yar outside Kiev, where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation on September 29–30, 1941.

The last Einsatzgruppen were disbanded in mid-1944 (although on paper some continued to exist until 1945) due to the retreating German forces on both fronts and the inability to carry on with further "in-the-field" extermination activities. Former Einsatzgruppen members were either folded into the Waffen-SS or took up roles in the more established Concentration Camps such as Auschwitz.

Special action units[edit]

Beginning in 1938, the SS enacted a procedure where offices and units of the SS could form smaller sub-units, known as Sonderkommandos, to carry out special tasks and actions which might involve sending agents or troops into the field. The use of Sonderkommandos was very widespread, and according to former SS Sturmbannführer (Major) Wilhelm Höttl, not even the SS leadership knew how many Sonderkommandos were constantly being formed, disbanded, and reformed for various tasks.

The best-known Sonderkommandos were formed from the SS Economic-Administrative Head Office, the SS Head Office, and also Department VII of the Reich Main Security Office (Science and Research) whose duties were to confiscate valuable items from Jewish libraries.

The Eichmann Sonderkommando was attached to the Security Police and the SD in terms of provisioning and manpower, but maintained a special position in the SS due to its direct role in the deportation of Jews to the death camps as part of the Final Solution.

Crematorium operation being demonstrated at Dachau, the first concentration camp established in 1933

The term "Sonderkommando" was also used to describe the teams of Jewish prisoners who were forced to work in gas chambers and crematoria, receiving special privileges and above-average treatment, before then being murdered themselves.[42] The distinction was that these Jewish "special-action units" were not SS Sonderkommandos; the term was simply applied to these obviously non-SS personnel due to the nature of the tasks which they performed.

SS and police courts[edit]

Main article: SS and Police Courts

SS and police courts were special tribunals which were the only authority authorized to try SS personnel for crimes. The different SS and Police Courts were:

  • SS- und Polizeigericht: Standard SS and Police Court for trial of SS officers and enlisted men accused of minor and somewhat serious crimes
  • Feldgerichte: Waffen-SS Court for court martial of Waffen-SS military personnel accused of violating the military penal code of the German Armed Forces.
  • Oberstes SS- und Polizeigericht: The Supreme SS and Police Court for trial of serious crimes and also any infraction committed by SS Generals.
  • SS- und Polizeigericht z.b. V.: The Extraordinary SS and Police Court was a secret tribunal that was assembled to deal with highly sensitive issues which were desired to be kept secret even from the SS itself.

The one exception to the SS and Police Courts jurisdiction involved members of the Allgemeine-SS who were serving on active duty in the regular Wehrmacht. In such cases, the SS member in question was subject to regular Wehrmacht military law and could face charges before a standard military tribunal.

Special protection units[edit]

The original purpose of the SS, that of safeguarding the leadership of the Nazi Party (Adolf Hitler) continued until the very end of the group's existence. Hitler had used bodyguards for protection since the 1920s, and as the SS grew in size and importance, so too did Hitler's personnel protection unit. In all, there were two main SS groups most closely associated with protecting the life of Adolf Hitler.

  • Leibstandarte: The Leibstandarte was the end product of several previous groups which had protected Hitler while he was living in Munich, before he became Chancellor of Germany. By the start of World War II, the Leibstandarte itself had become four distinct entities mainly the Waffen-SS division (unconnected to Hitler's personal protection but a key formation of the Waffen-SS), the Berlin Chancellory Guard, the SS security regiment assigned to the Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden, and an original remnant of the Munich based bodyguard unit which protected Hitler when he visited his personal apartment and the Brown House Nazi Party headquarters in Munich.
  • RSD: The RSD, or Reichssicherheitsdienst was a special corps of personal bodyguards who protected Hitler from physical attack. While the Leibstandarte was concerned with security in and around Hitler, the RSD was trained to protect Hitler's actual person and to give their lives in order to prevent harm or death to the Führer.

Hitler also made use of regular military protection, especially when travelling into the field or to operational headquarters (such as the Wolf's Lair). Hitler always maintained an SS escort, however, and his security was mainly handled by the Leibstandarte and the RSD.

SS special purpose corps[edit]

Another section of the SS consisted of special purpose units which assisted the main SS with a variety of tasks. The first such units were SS cavalry formations formed in the 1930s as part of the Allgemeine-SS (these units were entirely separate from the later Waffen-SS mounted commands).

One of the more infamous SS special purpose corps were the SS medical units, composed mostly of doctors who became involved in both euthanasia and human experimentation. The SS also formed a unit to conduct historical research into Nordic-Germanic origins.

SS Cavalry Corps[edit]

The SS Cavalry Corps (German: Reiter-SS) comprised several Reiterstandarten and Reiterabschnitte, which were really equestrian clubs to attract the German upper class and nobility into the SS. In the 1930s, the Reiter-SS was considered as a nucleus for a military branch of the SS, but this idea was phased out with the rise of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (later the Waffen-SS).

By 1941 the Reiter-SS was little more than a social club. Most of the serious cavalry officers transferred to combat units in the Waffen-SS and the SS Cavalry Brigade. Between 1942 and 1945, the Reiter-SS effectively ceased to exist except on paper, with only a handful of members. During the Nuremberg Trials, when the Tribunal declared the SS to be a criminal organization, the Reiter-SS was expressly excluded, due to its insignificant involvement in other SS activities.

SS Medical Corps[edit]

Main article: SS Medical Corps
Nazi gas van used to murder people at Chelmno extermination camp.
Carpathian Ruthenian Jews arrive at Auschwitz–Birkenau, May 1944. The camp SS doctors would carry out the selection process generally after arrival.

The SS Medical Corps first appeared in the 1930s as small companies of SS personnel known as the Sanitätsstaffel. After 1931, the SS formed a headquarters office known as Amt V, which was the central office for SS medical units.

In 1945, after the surrender of Germany, the SS was declared an illegal criminal organization by the Allies. SS doctors, in particular, were marked as war criminals due to the wide range of human medical experimentation which had been conducted during World War II as well as the role SS doctors had played in the gas chamber selections of the Holocaust. The most infamous member, Doctor Josef Mengele, served as a medical officer at Auschwitz under the command of Eduard Wirth of the Auschwitz medical corps. Eduard Wirth was "organizer-in-chief" of selections, which he often attended himself. Josef Mengele also made the daily gas chamber selections of people as well as conducting many experiments at the camp. After the trial of members as to crimes against humanity, it was determined that in the territory of the Krasnodar Territory of the USSR about 7,000 civilians were killed by gas poisoning.[citation needed]

SS Women's Corps[edit]

The SS-Helferinnenkorps ("Women Helper Corps") comprised women volunteers who joined the SS as auxiliary personnel. The Helferin Corps maintained a simple system of ranks, mainly SS-Helfer, SS-Oberhelfer, and SS-Haupthelfer. Members of the Helferin Corps were assigned to a wide variety of activities such as administrative staff, supply support personnel, and female guards at concentration camps.

Himmler set up the Reichsschule für SS Helferinnen at Oberenheim in 1942 to train a corps of women who, amongst other things, were taught Nazi ideology, specialist communications, "mother schooling", and fitness.[43] The intention was that in addition to facilitating the transfer of men from communications into combat roles, the SS-Helferinnen women would eventually replace all female civilian employees in the service of the Reichsführer. It was postulated that the SS-Helferinnen would be more suitable and reliable because they were to be trained and selected according to NSDAP racist ideology.[43][44] The designation SS-Helferin was used only for those who had been trained at the Reichsschule-SS at Oberehnheim in Elsass, although whether this made them officially accepted SS members has been debated.[43][44][45] In her review of Jutta Muhlenberg's book, Das SS-Helferinnenkorps: Ausbildung, Einsatz und Entnazifizierung der weiblichen Angehörigen der Waffen-SS 1942–1949, Rachel Century writes:

Mühlenberg is very careful not to generalise and tar all the SS-Helferinnen with the same brush. Although all these women were a part of the bureaucratic staff, and were 'Mittäterinnen, Zuschauerinnen und zum Teil – auch Zeuginnen von Gewalttätigkeiten' [accomplices, spectators and sometimes even witnesses of violence] (p. 416), she notes that each woman still had individual responsibility over what she did, saw and knew, and it would be very difficult to identify the individual responsibilities of each SS-Helferin. Mühlenberg focuses on de-Nazification in the American sector, although the British zone is also discussed. A detailed report was drawn up by the Americans about the school, indicating how the women of the school should be dealt with; they were to be automatically detained. Although many were arrested and held in prison camps, it is not possible to give exact figures. Mühlenberg states that, for example, 700 women (out of a total of 9000 people) were interned in one particular British Civil Internment camp in December 1945, it is unknown how many of these were SS-Helferinnen. In later years, the SS-Helferinnen had to go through the de-Nazification process. Within each tribunal it was disputed whether these women were members of the criminal SS organization. As a consequence, there were many different and conflicting decisions in individual proceedings. Despite her acknowledgement of the varying degrees of individual responsibility, Mühlenberg concludes that the guilt of the former SS-Helferinnen lies in their voluntary participation in the bureaucratic apparatus of the SS.

— Rachel Century, review of Das SS-Helferinnenkorps: Ausbildung, Einsatz und Entnazifizierung der weiblichen Angehörigen der Waffen-SS 1942–1949, (IHR review no. 1183).[43]

The Reichsschule was closed in 1944 due to the advance of the Allies.[citation needed]

SS Scientific Corps[edit]

Main article: Ahnenerbe

The Scientific Branch of the SS that was used to provide scientific and archeological proof of Aryan supremacy. Formed in 1935 by Himmler and Herman Wirth, the society did not become part of the SS until 1939.

Other SS groups[edit]

Austrian-SS[edit]

Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Heinrich Himmler, August Eigruber, and other SS officials visiting Mauthausen concentration camp in 1941.
Main article: Austrian SS

The term "Austrian-SS" was never a recognized branch of the SS, but is often used to describe that portion of the SS membership from Austria. Both Germany and Austria contributed to a single SS and Austrian SS members were seen as regular SS personnel, in contrast to SS members from other countries which were grouped into either the Germanic-SS or the Foreign Legions of the Waffen-SS.

The Austrian branch of the SS first developed in 1932 and, by 1934, was acting as a covert force to influence the Anschluss with Germany which would eventually occur in 1938. The early Austrian SS was led by Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Arthur Seyss-Inquart and was technically under the command of the SS in Germany, but often acted independently concerning Austrian affairs. In 1936 the Austrian-SS was declared illegal by the Austrian government.

After 1938, when Austria was annexed by Germany, the Austrian SS was folded into SS-Oberabschnitt Donau with the 3rd regiment of the SS-Verfugungstruppe, 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.

Austrian SS members served in every branch of the SS, including Concentration Camps, Einsatzgruppen, and the Security Services. One notable Austrian-SS member was Amon Göth, immortalized in the film Schindler's List. The fictional character of Hans Landa in the film Inglourious Basterds was also depicted as a member of the Austrian-SS.

According to political science academic David Art:

Austrians also played a central role in Nazi crimes. Although Austrians comprised only 8 percent of the Third Reich's population, over 13 percent of the SS were Austrian. Many of the key figures in the extermination project of the Third Reich (Hitler, Eichmann, Kaltenbrunner, Globocnik, to name a few) were Austrian, as were over 75 percent of commanders and 40 percent of the staff at Nazi death camps. Simon Wiesenthal estimates that Austrians were directly responsible for the deaths of 3 million Jews.[46]

Contract workers[edit]

To conduct upkeep, house-keeping, and the general maintenance of its many headquarters buildings both in Germany and in other occupied countries, the SS frequently hired civilian contract workers to perform such duties as maids, maintenance workers, and general laborers. The SS also occasionally employed civilian secretaries, but more often used the female SS corps for these duties.

Within the concentration camps, the SS used a different method to gain such work skills, mainly through the use of slave labor by "assigning" concentration camp inmates to work in certain jobs. This included doctors, such as Miklós Nyiszli who, while a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz, served as Chief Pathologist and personal assistant to Josef Mengele.

In occupied countries, especially France and the Low Countries, various resistance groups made use of the SS need for low-level workers by planting resistance members in certain jobs within SS headquarters buildings. This allowed for intelligence gathering which assisted resistance attacks against German forces; resistance groups in the conquered eastern lands also used this method, with less success, although groups in Norway conducted several assassinations of SS officers through the use of intelligence plants within SS offices. The SS was often aware of such "moles" and actively attempted to locate such persons and, on occasion, even used the resistance plants to German advantage by supplying bad information in an attempt to bring resistance groups out into the open and destroy them.

The French Resistance was by far the most successful in using SS contracted civilian workers to achieve intelligence gathering and conduct partisan operations. At the end of World War II, resistance groups also rounded up local civilians who had worked for the SS, subjecting them to humiliating ordeals; such as, the shaving of heads in public squares.

Several motion pictures have been the subject of local civilians working for the SS, such as A Woman at War, starring Martha Plimpton, and Black Book, starring Christian Berkel.

ODESSA and postwar activity[edit]

According to Simon Wiesenthal, toward the end of World War II, a group of former SS officers went to Argentina and set up a Nazi fugitive network code-named ODESSA, (an acronym for Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, "Organization of the former SS members"), with ties in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, operating out of Buenos Aires, Argentina. ODESSA allegedly helped Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Erich Priebke, and many other war criminals find postwar refuge in Latin America.

It is estimated that out of roughly 70,000 members of the SS involved in crimes in German concentration camps, only about 1,650 to 1,700 were tried after the war.[47]

However, SS members who escaped judicial punishment were often subject to summary execution, torture and beatings at the hands of freed prisoners, displaced persons or Allied soldiers.[citation needed] Waffen SS soldiers were executed by U.S. soldiers during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, and SS officer Oskar Dirlewanger was beaten and tortured to death at the end of the war.[48] In addition at least some members of the U.S Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) delivered captured SS camp guards to displaced persons camps with the intention of them being extrajudicially executed.[49]

Argentinian citizen and water company worker Ricardo Klement was discovered to be Adolf Eichmann in the 1950s, by former Jewish Dachau worker Lothar Hermann, whose daughter, Sylvia, became romantically involved with Klaus Klement (born Klaus Eichmann in 1936 in Berlin). He was captured by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, in a suburb of Buenos Aires on May 11, 1960, and tried in Jerusalem on April 11, 1961, where he explicitly declared that he had abdicated his conscience in order to follow the Führerprinzip (the "leader principle", or superior orders). Eichmann was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Approaching the end of the war Eichmann was quoted saying "I will jump into my grave with joy knowing that I am taking 10,000 jews with me".

Josef Mengele, disguised as a member of the regular German infantry, was captured and released by the Allies, oblivious of who he was. He was able to go and work in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1949 and to Altos, Paraguay, in 1959 where he was discovered by Nazi hunters. From the late 1960s on, he exercised his medical practice in Embu, a small city near São Paulo, Brazil, under the identity of Wolfgang Gerhard, where in 1979, he suffered a stroke while swimming and drowned.

The British writer Gitta Sereny (born in 1921 in Hungary), who conducted interviews with SS men, considers the story about ODESSA untrue and attributes the escape of notorious SS members to postwar chaos, an individual bishop in the Vatican, and the Vatican's inability to investigate the stories of those people who came requesting help.

The Argentine author and journalist Uki Goñi's book, The Real Odessa, claims that such a network in fact existed, and in Argentina was largely run by Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón, a Nazi sympathiser who had been impressed by Benito Mussolini's reign in Italy during a military tour of duty in that country which also took him to Nazi Germany. More recently researched (2002) than Sereny's interviews, counterclaimants point out that it is at a far greater chronological remove—multiple decades, not simply a year or two—from the actual point(s) in time he asserts such events occurred, a remove material enough that it could call into question the veracity of a number of his claims.

In the modern age, several neo-Nazi groups claim to be successor organizations to the SS. There is no single group, however, that is recognized as a continuation of the SS, and most such present-day organizations are loosely organized with separate agendas.

Oath of the SS[edit]

The full Eidformel der Schutzstaffel (Oath of the SS) consisted of three questions and answers. The following text is cited from a primary source written by Heinrich Himmler.

German English
"Wie lautet Dein Eid ?" - "Ich schwöre Dir, Adolf Hitler, als Führer und Kanzler des Deutschen Reiches Treue und Tapferkeit. Wir geloben Dir und den von Dir bestimmten Vorgesetzten Gehorsam bis in den Tod. So wahr mir Gott helfe !"

"Also glaubst Du an einen Gott ?" - "Ja, ich glaube an einen Herrgott."

"Was hältst Du von einem Menschen, der nicht an einen Gott glaubt?" - "Ich halte ihn für überheblich, größenwahnsinnig und dumm; er ist nicht für uns geeignet. [1][50]"

"What is your oath ?" - "I vow to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and chancellor of the German Reich loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to the leaders that you set for me, absolute allegiance until death. So help me God !"

"So you believe in a God ?" - "Yes, I believe in a Lord God."

"What do you think about a man who does not believe in a God ?" - "I think he is overbearing, megalomaniac and foolish; he is not one of us."

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Waffen–SS, Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. p. 7.
  2. ^ Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine-SS, Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. p. 16.
  3. ^ a b International Military Tribunal (1946), "The Schutzstaffeln (SS): The Nuremberg Charges", Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (Washington, D.C.: USGPO) II: 173–237 
  4. ^ d'Alquen, IMT Volume IV, Document 2284-PS, p. 975.
  5. ^ Bob Guess (21 June 2011). Kumpel. iUniverse. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-4620-2274-8. 
  6. ^ Roderick Stackelberg (22 January 2002). Hitler's Germany: Origins, Interpretations, Legacies. Taylor & Francis. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-203-00541-5. 
  7. ^ Andrew Rawson (1 February 2011). The Third Reich 1919–1939: The Nazis' Rise to Power. History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-5570-9. 
  8. ^ a b Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine – SS, p. 53.
  9. ^ a b Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine – SS, p. 56.
  10. ^ Givhan, Robin (1997-08-15), Clothier Made Nazi Uniforms, Los Angeles Times, retrieved 2008-11-08 
  11. ^ Lumsden, Robin (1997), Himmler's Black Order 1923–45, Sutton, pp. 52–53 
  12. ^ Himmler, Heinrich (1936 or 1937). Die Schutzstaffel als antibolschewistische Kampforganisation [The SS as an Anti-bolshevist Fighting Organization] (in German). Munich: Franz Eher Nachfolger. "Wir werden dafür sorgen, daß niemals mehr in Deutschland, dem Herzen Europas, von innen oder durch Emissäre von außen her die jüdisch-bolschewistische Revolution des Untermenschen entfacht werden kann." 
  13. ^ Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality (1946). "Chapter XV: Criminality of Groups and Organizations – 5. Die Schutzstaffeln" (PDF, 46.2 MB). Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume II. Washington, D.C.: USGPO. p. 220. OCLC 315871222. 
  14. ^ Stein, Stuart D (8 January 1999). "The Schutzstaffeln (SS) – The Nuremberg Charges, Part I". Web Genocide Documentation Centre. University of the West of England. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  15. ^ a b Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine – SS, pp. 80–84.
  16. ^ McNab 2009, pp. 14, 16.
  17. ^ McNab 2009, p. 14.
  18. ^ McNab 2009, p. 16.
  19. ^ Weale 2010, p. 26.
  20. ^ a b Lumsden 2002, p. 14.
  21. ^ Weale 2010, pp. 26-29.
  22. ^ a b Cook, Stan & Bender, R. James. Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, R. James Bender Publishing, 1994, pp. 17, 19.
  23. ^ Weale 2010, pp. 32, 33.
  24. ^ McNab 2009, p. 18.
  25. ^ "SS Motto". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  26. ^ Mollo, Andrew (1991). Uniforms of the SS: Volume 3: SS-Verfügungstruppe. Historical Research Unit. p. 1
  27. ^ a b Yerger, Mark C. (1997), Allgemeine-SS: The Commands, Units, and Leaders of the General SS, Schiffer Publishing [page needed]
  28. ^ "Organizations book of the NSDAP for 1943", NCA V, Washington, D.C. 1946: USGPO, 1943 
  29. ^ Himmler, Heinrich (1943), "The SS as an Anti-bolshevist Fighting Organization", in Document 1851-PS, NCA, Washington, DC 1946: USGPO 
  30. ^ Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volume 1. 2001, p 61.
  31. ^ a b c Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volume 1, 2001, p 77.
  32. ^ Weale, Adrian. The SS: A New History. 2010, p 132.
  33. ^ a b Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine – SS, p. 83.
  34. ^ Yerger has at least a paragraph on each office. pp. 13–21
  35. ^ Bishop, Chris. Waffen-SS Divisions, 1939–45, p. 180 – "Some French sources suggest that the division had Swedish, Swiss, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Japanese members."
  36. ^ Robert L. Canfield, Turko–Persia in Historical Perspective p. 212 – "The majority of Central Asian soldiers taken prisoner opted for the enemy – a fact still hidden from the Soviet public today – although systematic starvation and cruel treatment in German hands, which resulted in appalling losses, must have been one of the major inducements to change sides. As Turkistanis they joined the so-called "Eastern Legions", which were part of the Wehrmacht and later the Waffen-SS, to fight the Red Army (Hauner 1981:339-57). The estimates of their numbers vary between 250,000 and 400,000, which include the Kalmyks, the Tatars and members of the Caucasian ethnic groups (Alexiev 1982:33)"
  37. ^ Himmler had convinced himself that Bosniaks and Croats were Germanic rather than Slavic, and he admired Islam. SS: Hell on the Western Front. The Waffen SS in Europe 1940–1945, 2003. p. 70
  38. ^ Bishop, Chris (2005). Hitler's Foreign Divisions, p. 93
  39. ^ Bishop, Chris (2005). Hitler's Foreign Divisions, pp. 93, 94
  40. ^ Stein, George H. (1984). The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War, 1939–1945. Cornell University Press. p. 189
  41. ^ Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine – SS, p. 84.
  42. ^ McNab 2009, p. 141.
  43. ^ a b c d Century, Rachel (January 2011). "Review of Das SS-Helferinnenkorps: Ausbildung, Einsatz und Entnazifizierung der weiblichen Angehörigen der Waffen-SS 1942–1949". Reviews in History (Institute of Historical Research). Review no. 1183. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  44. ^ a b Rempel, Gerhard (1989). Hitler's Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 223–224. ISBN 978-0-8078-4299-7. OCLC 18779318. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  45. ^ Mühlenberg, Jutta (2011). Das SS-Helferinnenkorps: Ausbildung, Einsatz und Entnazifizierung der weiblichen Angehörigen der Waffen-SS 1942–1949 (in German). Hamburg: Hamburger Edition. ISBN 978-3-86854-239-4. OCLC 795328974. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  46. ^ Art, David. The Politics of the Nazi Past in Germany and Austria. Cambridge University Press (2006). p. 43.
  47. ^ As stated by Piotr Cywiński, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, in: (Polish) Marcin Bosacki, Dominik Uhlig, Bogdan Wróblewski (May 2008), "Nikt nie chce osądzić zbrodniarza", Gazeta Wyborcza (2008–05–21), retrieved 2008-05-21 
  48. ^ Walter Stanoski Winter, Walter Winter, Struan Robertson. Winter Time: Memoirs of a German Sinto Who Survived Auschwitz. 2004. p 139. ISBN 1-902806-38-7.
  49. ^ Matthew Brzezinski, Giving Hitler Hell Washington Post Sunday, July 24, 2005; p. W08
  50. ^ Heinrich Himmler: Die Schutzstaffel (SS) als antibolschewistische Kampforganisation, 1937, p.15

References[edit]

  • Art, David (2006). The Politics of the Nazi Past in Germany and Austria. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-85683-3
  • Bishop, Chris (2005). Hitler's Foreign Divisions: 1940–45. Amber. ISBN 978-1-904687-37-5.
  • Bishop, Chris (2007). Waffen-SS Divisions: 1939–45. Amber. ISBN 1-905704-55-0.
  • Cook, Stan & Bender, Roger James (1994). Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler: Uniforms, Organization, & History. San Jose, CA: R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 978-0-912138-55-8.
  • International Military Tribunal (IMT) (1947–49). Record of the Nuremberg Trials November 14, 1945 – October 1, 1946. 42 Vols. London: HMSO.
  • Lumsden, Robin (1997). Himmler's Black Order 1923–45. Sutton. ISBN 0-7509-1396-7.
  • Lumsden, Robin (2000). A Collector's Guide To: The Waffen-SS. Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7110-2285-2.
  • Lumsden, Robin (2002). A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine-SS. Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7110-2905-9.
  • McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923–1945. Amber Books. ISBN 978-1-906626-49-5. 
  • Mollo, Andrew (1991). Uniforms of the SS: Volume 3: SS-Verfügungstruppe. Historical Research Unit. ISBN 1-872004-51-2.
  • "Organizations Book of the NSDAP for 1943", NCA, V, Washington, D.C. 1946: U.S. GPO, 1943
  • Stein, George H. (1984). The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War, 1939–1945. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-9275-0.
  • Weale, Adrian (2010). The SS: A New History. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1-4087-0304-5. 
  • Williams, Max (2001). Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volume 1. Ulric Publishing. ISBN 0-9537577-5-7.
  • Yerger, Mark C. (1997). Allgemeine-SS: The Commands, Units, and Leaders of the General SS. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0145-4.

Further reading[edit]

  • Arenhövel, Verlag. Topography of Terror. Berlin: Berliner Festspiele GmbH. (1989). ISBN 3-922912-25-7
  • Browder, George C. Foundations of the Nazi Police State—The Formation of Sipo and SD, University of Kentucky, Lexington, (1990). ISBN 0-8131-1697-X
  • Buchheim, Hans (1968). "Command and Compliance". Anatomy of the SS state. New York: Walker. pp. 303–396. OCLC 1084. 
  • Höhne, Heinz. Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf, Verlag Der Spiegel, Hamburg 1966; English translation by Richard Barry entitled The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS, London: Pan Books (1969). ISBN 0-330-02963-0.
  • Koehl, Robert Lewis. The Black Corps, University of Wisconsin Press (1983).
  • Koehl, Robert Lewis. The SS: A History 1919–1945, Tempus Publishing Limited (1989). ISBN 0-7524-2559-5
  • Krausnick, Helmut (editor). Anatomy of the SS State, with contributions by Hans Buchheim; Martin Broszat & Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, translated from the German by Richard Barry, Marian Jackson, Dorothy Long, New York : Walker (1968).
  • Lasik Aleksander. Sztafety Ochronne w systemie niemieckich obozów koncentracyjnych. Rozwój organizacyjny, ewolucja zadań i struktur oraz socjologiczny obraz obozowych załóg SS, wyd. Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oświęcim (2007). ISBN 978-83-60210-32-1.
  • Library of Congress Military Legal Resources: Office of the United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality, OCCPAC Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volumes I though VIII
  • Merkel, Reiner: Hans Kammler – Manager des Todes, 2010 August von Goethe Literaturverlag, Frankfurt am Main. ISBN 978-3-8372-0817-7.
  • Mollo, Andrew. Pictorial History of the SS (1923–1945), Stein & Day (1977). ISBN 0-7128-2174-0
  • Reitlinger, Gerald. The SS: Alibi of a Nation 1922–1945, Viking (Da Capo reprint), New York (1957). ISBN 0-306-80351-8
  • Shirer, William L.. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Gramercy (1960). ISBN 0-517-10294-3
  • Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich, pp. 45, 94, 95, 144, 268–69 (Russian POWs), pp. 369–371 (concentration camp labor), pp. 372–374 (business enterprises and labor camps), Macmillan, New York (1970). ISBN 0-517-38579-1 (1982 Bonanza reprint).
  • SS Officer Personnel Files, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD
  • Tetens, T. H. The New Germany and the Old Nazis. (LCN 61-7240)
  • Weale, Adrian. The SS: A New History, Little, Brown, (2007). ISBN 978-0-316-72723-5
  • Wechsbert, Joseph and Wiesenthal, Simon, The Murderers Among Us, Bantam, (1973). ASIN: B000KXLBOQ

External links[edit]