The SS-Ehrenring ("SS Honour Ring"), unofficially called Totenkopfring ("Death's Head Ring"), was an award of Heinrich Himmler's Schutzstaffel (SS). It was not a state decoration, but rather a personal gift bestowed by Himmler. The SS Honor Sword and SS Honor Dagger were similar awards.
The ring was initially presented to senior officers of the Old Guard (of which there were fewer than 5,000). By 1939, it was available to officers with 3 years service in the SS. Each ring had the recipient's name, the award date, and Himmler's signature engraved on the interior. The ring came with a standard letter from Himmler and citation. It was to only be worn on the left hand, on the "ring finger". If an SS member was dismissed or retired from the service, his ring had to be returned.
The name of the recipient and the conferment date was added on the letter. In the letter, Himmler wrote that the ring was a "reminder at all times to be willing to risk the life of our selves for the life of the whole".
It became a highly sought-after award, one which could not be bought or sold. Some SS and police members had local jewelers make unofficial versions to wear. In 1938 Himmler ordered the return of all rings of dead SS-men and officers to be stored in a chest in Wewelsburg Castle. This was to be a memorial to symbolize the ongoing membership of the deceased in the SS-order. In October 1944, Himmler ordered that further manufacture and awards of the ring were to be halted. Himmler then ordered that all the remaining rings, approximately 11,500, blast-sealed inside a hill near Wewelsburg. By January 1945, 64% of the 14,500 rings made had been returned to Himmler after the deaths of the "holders". In addition, 10% had been lost on the battlefield and 26% were either kept by the holder or their whereabouts were unknown.
- One Sig Rune left and right of the skull framed by a triangle represent the power of the sun and conquering energy
- A Hagal rune (framed by a hexagon) which represents the faith and camaraderie that was idealised by the leaders of the organisation. The esoteric meaning of the Hagal rune according to Guido von List: "Enclose the universe in you and you control the universe."
- A Hakenkreuz (standing on the vertex) framed by a quadrat. The SS liked to portray the Swastika as another influential symbol of the power of the Aryan race.
- The double runes on the rear of the ring framed by a circle were to be Heilszeichen (literally: signs of salvation) of the past. They were a creation of the SS designers rather than historical runes. They are a "gibor" rune plus a bind rune for "o" and "t". The bind rune was designed by Wiligut, and spells "Got" the Old High German word for God.
The ring is wreathed with oak leaves.
- Don Boyle SS Totenkopf H. Himmler Honor Ring 1933-1945
- Patzwall, Klaus D., Der SS-Totenkopfring, Patzwall, 4th edition 2002. ISBN 3-931533-47-6
- Gottlieb, Craig, The SS Totenkopf Ring, from Munich to Nurnberg, Schiffer, ISBN 978-0-7643-3094-0
- McNab, Chris (2013). Hitler's Elite: The SS 1939-45, Osprey Publishing, p. 100.
- in German: "Der Totenkopf ist die Mahnung, jederzeit bereit zu sein, das Leben unseres Ichs einzusetzen für das Leben der Gesamtheit." Citation from: Peter Longerich, Heinrich Himmler. Biographie, München 2010, p. 298.
- Nicholas Goodrick Clarke: Die okkulten Wurzeln des Nationalsozialismus (The Occult Roots of National Socialism), p. 163.