The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume II
Criminality of Groups and Organizations
The Schutzstaffeln (SS)
(Part 1 of 16)

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In the early weeks of the trial, there appeared in a newspaper circulated in Nurnberg an account of a correspondent's visit to a camp in which SS prisoners of war were confined. The thing which particularly struck the correspondent was the one question asked by the SS prisoners: Why are we charged as war criminals? What have we done except our normal duty?

The evidence which follows will answer that question. It will show that just as the Nazi Party was the core of the conspiracy, so the SS was the very essence of Nazism. For the SS was the elite group of the Party, composed of the most thorough-going adherents of the Nazi cause, pledged to blind devotion to Nazi principles, and prepared to carry them out without any question and at any cost. 'It was a group in which every ordinary value was so subverted that today its members can ask, what is there unlawful about the things we have done?

In the evidence of the conspirators' program for aggressive war, or concentration camps, for the extermination of the Jews, for enslavement of foreign labor and illegal use of prisoners of war and for the deportation and Germanization of inhabitants of conquered territories, in all this evidence the name of the SS runs like a thread. Again and again that organization and its components are referred to. It performed a responsible role in each of these criminal activities, because it was and indeed had to be a criminal organization.

The creation and development of such an organization was essential for the execution of the conspirators' plans. Their sweeping program and the measures they were prepared to use and did use, could be fully accomplished neither through the machinery of the government nor of the Party. Things had to be

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done for which no agency of government and no political party even the Nazi Party, would openly take full responsibility. A specialized type of-apparatus was needed - - an apparatus which was to some extent connected with the government and given official support, but which, at the same time, could maintain a quasi-independent status so that all its acts could be attributed neither to the government nor to the Party as a whole. The SS was that apparatus.

Like the SA it was one of the seven components or formations of the Nazi Party referred to in the Decree on Enforcement of the Law for Securing the Unity of Party and State of 29 March 1935 (1725-PS). But its status was above that of the other formations. As the plans of the conspirators progressed, it acquired new functions, new responsibilities, and an increasingly more important place in the regime. It developed during the course of the conspiracy into a highly complex machine, the most powerful in the Nazi State, spreading its tentacles into every field of Nazi activity.

The evidence which follows will be directed toward showing first, the origin and early development of the SS; second, how it was organized -- that is, its structure and its component parts; third, the basic principles governing the selection of its members and the obligations they undertook; and finally, its aims and the means used to accomplish them.

The history, organization, and publicly announced functions of the SS are not controversial matters. They are not matters to be learned only from secret files and captured documents. They were recounted in many publications, circulated widely throughout Germany and the world -- in official books of the Nazi Party itself, and in books, pamphlets, and speeches by SS and State officials published with SS and Party approval. Throughout this section there will be frequent reference to and quotation from a few such publications.

A. Origin and General Functions of the SS.

(l) Origin. The first aim of the conspirators was to gain a foothold in politically hostile territory, to acquire mastery of the street, and to combat any and all opponents with force. For that purpose they needed their own private, personal police organization. The SA was created to fill such a role. But the SA was outlawed in 1923. When Nazi Party activity was again resumed in 1925, the SA remained outlawed. To fill its place and to play the part of Hitler's own personal police, small mobile groups

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known as protective squadrons -- Schutzstaffel -- were created. This was the origin of the SS in 1925. With the reinstatement of the SA in 1926, the SS for the next few years ceased to play major-role. But it continued to exist as an organization within the SA -- under its own leader, however -- the Reichsfuehrer SS. This early history of the SS is related in two authoritative publications. The first is a book by SS Standartenfuehrer Gunter d'Alquen entitled "The SS" (2284-PS). This pamphlet of some 30 pages, published in 1939, is an authoritative account of the .history, mission, and organization of the SS. As indicated on its fly leaf, it was written at the direction of the Reichsfuehrer SS, Heinrich Himmler. Its author was the editor of the official SS publication "Das Schwarze Korps". The second publication is an article by Himmler, entitled "Organization and Obligations of the SS and the Police." It was published in 1937 in a booklet containing a series of speeches or essays by important officials of the Party and the State, and known as "National Political Course for the Armed Forces from 15 January 1937 to 23 January 1937".

As early as 1929, the conspirators recognized that their plans required an organization in which the main principles of the Nazi system, specifically the racial principles, would not only be jealously guarded but would be carried to such extremes as to inspire or intimidate the rest of the population. Such an organization would also have to be assured complete freedom on the part of the leaders and blind obedience on the part of the members. The SS was built up to meet this need. The following statement appears on page 7 of d'Alquen's book, "Die SS" (2284-PS):

"On 11 January 1929, Adolf Hitler appointed his tested comrade of long standing, Heinrich Himmler, as Reichsfuehrer SS. Heinrich Himmler assumed charge therewith of the entire Schutzstaffel totaling at the time 280 men, with the express and particular commission of the Fuehrer to form of this organization an elite troop of the Party, a troop dependable in every circumstance. With this day the real history of the SS begins as it stands before us today in all its deeper essential features, firmly anchored into the national Socialist movement. For the SS and its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, its first SS man, have become inseparable in the course of these battle-filled years." (2284-PS)

Carrying out Hitler's directive, Himmler proceeded to build up out of this small force of men an elite organization which, to use d'Aquens words, was "composed of the best physically, the most

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dependable, and the most faithful men in the Nazi movement." As d'Alquen further states, at page 12 of his book:

"When the day of seizure of power had finally come, there were 52,000 SS men, who in this spirit bore the revolution in the van, marched into the new State which they began to help form everywhere, in their stations and positions, in profession and in science, and in all their essential tasks." (2284-PS)

(2) General Functions. The conspirators now had the machinery of government in their hands. The initial function of the SS -- that of acting as their private army and personal police force was thus completed. But its mission had in fact really just begun. That mission is described in the Organizations book of the NSDAP for 1943 as follows:


"The most original and most eminent duty of the SS is to serve as the protector of the Fuehrer.

"By order of the Fuehrer its sphere of duties has been amplified to include the internal security of the Reich." (2640-PS)

This new mission -- protecting the internal security of the regime was somewhat more colorfully described by Himmler in his pamphlet, "The SS as an Anti-bolshevist Fighting Organization," published in 1936 (1851-PS):

"We shall unremittingly fulfill our task, the guaranty of the security of Germany from the interior, just as the Wehrmacht 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." (1851-PS)

This conception necessarily required an extension of the duties of the SS into many fields. It involved, of course, the performance of police functions. But it involved more. It required participation in the suppression and extermination of all internal opponents of the regime. It meant participation in extending the regime beyond the borders of Germany, and eventually, participation in every type of activity designed to secure a hold over

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those territories and populations which, through military conquest, had come under German domination.

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