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The Schutzstaffel, or SS, was a paramilitary unit in Nazi Germany. It was formed from the ranks of the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1925 to be Adolf Hitler's personal guard and to guard NSDAP meetings. On January 6, 1929 Hitler appointed Heinrich Himmler as the leader of the group, which then had only 280 people. With Hitler's approval, Himmler built up the SS. By the end of 1932 the SS had 52,000 members; by the end of that year, it had over 209,000 members.

Before 1932, the SS wore the same uniform as the SA, except for a black tie and a black cap with a skull symbol on it (Totenkopf, "death's head"). Later they adopted a black uniform and then, just before the war, a dove grey uniform. The Waffen or armed SS wore a fieldgrey uniform similar to the Riechsheer. The German public admired the discipline of the SS especially when compared with the SA who committed random violence. Its motto was "Meine Ehre heißt Treue ("My honor is loyalty.") The SS rank system was unique in that it did not copy the terms used in the Wehrmacht.

Heinrich Himmler, together with his right-hand man Reinhard Heydrich, consolidated the power of the organisation. In 1931 Himmler gave Heydrich the assignment to build an intelligence service inside the SS, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD).

By the time World War II began the number of members rose to 250,000 and the Waffen-SS was formed in December 1940 to fight alongside the Wehrmacht, Germany's regular military. The SS also received control of the Gestapo in 1936.

Hitler gave the SS jurisdiction over all concentration camps and allowed them to oversee the day-to-day control of all countries conquered by Germany during the war.

Towards 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) with tentacles in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Vatican, operated out of Buenos Aires, which helped Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Erich Priebke and many other war criminals find refuge in Latin America. Some historians however consider the story about Odessa greatly exaggerated by sensationalist journalists.

On September 30, 1946, the judges of the Nuremberg Trials (Tribunal) sentenced the SS-organization, declaring it a criminal organization. The judges underpinned this sentence by stating that: "The SS was used for purposes which were criminal, involving the persecution and the extermination of the Jews, brutalities and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the administration of occupied territories, the administration of the slave labour programme and the maltreatment and murder of prisoners of war" (IMT, 1946, Vol. XXII, p.516, in: Höhne, 1969, p.3). The sentence continued by declaring that suspicion of crime was to be attached to all persons "who had been officially accepted as members of the SS...who came or remained members of the organization with knowledge that it was being used for the commission of acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the [London War Crimes] Charter" (IMT, 1947-1949, Vol. XXII, p.517 in: Höhne, 1969, p.3).


Table of contents
1 SS Leaders
2 Organizational Structure
3 See also
4 References
5 External links

SS Leaders

Organizational Structure

The SS consisted of twelve main offices. The following is a list of those offices in 1944 and who headed each one.

See also

Praetorian Guard, Theodor Eicke, Einsatzgruppen, Kampfbund, SS rank


External links