The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume II
Criminality of Groups and Organizations
The Schutzstaffeln (SS)
(Part 2 of 16)

B. Organization and Branches of the SS.

The expansion of SS duties and activities resulted in the creation of several branches and numerous departments and the development of a highly complex machinery. Although those various branches and departments cannot be adequately described out of the context of their history, a few words about the structure of the SS may be useful.

For this purpose reference is made to the chart depicting the organization of the SS as it appeared in 1945. This chart was examined by Gottlob Berger, formerly Chief of the SS Main Office, who stated in an attached affidavit that it correctly represented the organization of the SS (Chart Number 3).

(1) Supreme Command of the SS. At the very top of the chart is Himmler, the Reichsfuehrer SS, who commanded the entire organization. Immediately below, running across the chart and down the right hand side, embraced within the heavy line, are the twelve main departments constituting the Supreme Command of the SS. Some of these departments have been broken down into the several offices of which they were composed, as indicated by the boxes beneath them. Other departments have not been so broken down. It is not intended to indicate that there were not subdivisions of these latter departments as well. The breakdown is shown only in those cases where the constituent offices of some department may have a particular significance in this case.

These departments and their functions are described in two official Nazi publications: The first is the Organizations Book of the NSDAP for 1943, at pages 419-422 (2640-PS). The second is an SS manual, which bears the title: "The Soldier Friend -- Pocket Diary for the German Armed Forces -- Edition D: Waffen SS" (2825-PS). It was prepared at the direction of the Reichsfuehrer SS and issued by the SS Main Office for the year ending 1942.; In addition, the departments are listed in a directory of the SS Published by one of the Main Departments of the SS (2769-PS). This document was found in the files of the Personal Staffs of the Reichsfuehrer SS. It is entitled "Directory for the Schutzstaffel of the NSDAP, 1 November 1944", marked "Restricted", and bears the notation "Published by SS Fuerhungshauptamt, Kommandant of the General SS. Berlin -- Wilmersdorf."

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Returning to the chart, following down the central spine from the Reichsfuehrer SS to the regional level, the Higher SS and Police Leaders, the supreme SS commanders in each region are reached. Immediately below these officials is the breakdown of the organization of the Allgemeine or General SS. To the left are indicated two other branches of the SS - - the Death Head Units (Totenkopf Verbaende) and the Waffen SS. To the right under the HSS Pf is the SD. All of which, together with the SS Police Regiments, are specifically named in the Indictment (Appendix B) as being included in the SS.

(2) Principal Branches of the SS. Up to 1933 there were no such specially designated branches. The SS was a single group, made up of "volunteer political soldiers." It was out of this original nucleus that new units developed.

(a) The Allgemeine SS. The Allgemeine (General) SS was the main stem from which the various branches grew. It was composed of all members of the SS who did not belong to any of the special branches. It was the backbone of the entire organization. The personnel and officers of the Main Departments of the SS Supreme Command were members of this branch. Except for high ranking officers and those remaining in staff capacities, as in the Main Offices of the SS Supreme Command, its members were part-time volunteers. Its members were utilized in about every phase of SS activity. They were called upon in anti-Jewish pogroms of 1938; they took over the task of guarding concentration camps during the war; they participated in the colonization and resettlement program. In short, the term "SS" normally meant the General SS.

It was organized on military lines as will be seen from the chart (Chart Number 3), ranging from district and subdistrict down through the regiment, battalion, and company, to the platoon. Until after the beginning of the war it constituted numerically the largest branch of the SS. In 1939 d'Alquen, the official SS spokesmen, said, in his book, "The SS" (2284-PS)

"The strength of the General SS, 240,000 men, is subdivided today into 14 corps, 38 divisions, 140 infantry regiments, 19 mounted regiments, 14 communication battalions and 19 engineer battalions as well as motorized and medical units. This General SS stands fully and wholly on call as in the fighting years, except for one small part of the chief leaders and men. The corps, which are presently led by a Lt. General or Major General, are subdivided into divisions, regiments, battalions and companies." (2284-PS)

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Similar reference to the military organization of the General SS will be found in Himmler's speech, "Organization and Obligations of the SS and the Police" (1992-A-PS), and in the Organizations Book of the NSDAP for 1943 (2640-PS). Members of this branch, however, with the exception of certain staff personnel-were subject to compulsory military service. As a result of the draft of members of the General SS of military age into the Army, the numerical strength of presently active members considerably declined during the war. Older SS men and those working in or holding high positions in the Main Departments of the Supreme Command of the SS remained. Its entire strength during the war was probably not in excess of 40,000 men.

(b) The SD. The second component to be mentioned is the Security Service of the Reichsfuehrer SS, almost always referred to as the SD. Himmler described the SD in these words (1992-A-PS):

"I now come to the Security Service (SD); it is the great ideological intelligence service of the Party and, in the long run, also that of the State. During the time of struggle for power it was only the intelligence service of the SS. At that time we had, for quite natural reasons, an intelligence service with the regiments, battalions and companies. We had to know what was going on on the opponents side, whether the Communists intended to hold a meeting today or not, whether our people were to be suddenly attacked or not, and similar things. I separated this service already in 1931 from the troops, from the units of the General SS, because I considered it to be wrong. For one thing, the secrecy is endangered, then the individual men, or even the companies, are too likely to discuss everyday problems." (1992-A-PS)

Although, as Himmler put it, the SD was only the intelligence service of the SS during the years preceding the accession of the Nazis to power, it became a much more important organization promptly thereafter. It had been developed into such a powerful and scientific espionage system under its chief, Reinhard Heydrich, that on 6/9/1934, just a few weeks before the bloody purge of the SA, it was made, by decree of Hess, the sole intelligence and counterintelligence agency of the entire Nazi Party (2284-PS). Its organization and numbers, as they stood in 1937, were thus described by Himmler (1992-A-PS):

"The Security Service was already separated from the troop in 1931 and separately organized. Its higher headquarters, coincide today with the Oberabschnitte and Abschnitte -- [that is, the districts and subdistricts of the General SS] --

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and it has also field offices, its own organization of officials with a great many Command Posts, approximately three to four thousand men strong, at least when it is built up." (1992-A-PS)

Up to 1939 its headquarters was the SS Main Security Office (Sicherheitshauptamt), which became amalgamated in 1939 into the Reich Main Security Office (or RSHA), one of the SS main departments shown on the chart (Chart Number 3).

The closer and closer collaboration of the SD with the Gestapo and Criminal Police (Kripo), which eventually resulted in the creation of the RSHA, as well as the activities in which the SD engaged in partnership with the Gestapo are discussed in Section 6 on the Gestapo. The SD was, of course, at all times an integral and important component of the SS. But it is more practicable to deal with it in connection with the activities of the whole repressive police system with which it functioned.

(c) The Waffen SS. The third component is the Waffen SS, the combat arm of the SS, which was created, trained, and finally utilized for the purposes of aggressive war. The reason underlying the creation of this combat branch was described in the Organizations Book of the Nazi Party for 1943:

"The Waffen SS originated out of the thought: to create for the Fuehrer a selected long service troop for the fulfillment of special missions. It was to render it possible for members of the General SS, as well as for volunteers who fulfill the special requirements of the SS, to fight in the battle for the evolution of the National Socialist idea, with weapon in hand, in unified groups, partly within the framework of the Army." (2640-PS)

The term "Waffen SS" did not come into use until after the beginning of the war. Up to that time there were two branches of the SS composed of full-time, professional, well- trained soldiers: the so-called SS Verfuegungstruppe, translatable perhaps as "SS Emergency Troops"; and the SS Totenkopf Verbaende, the "Death Head Units." After the beginning of the war, the units of the SS Verfuegungstruppe were brought up to division strength, and new divisions were added to them. Moreover, parts of the SS Death Head Units were formed into a division, the SS Totenkopf Division. All these divisions then came to be known collectively as the "Waffen SS".

This development is traced in the Organization Book of the Nazi Party for 1943:

"The origin of the Waffen SS goes back to the decree of 17 March 1933, establishing the "Stabswache" with an original

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strength of 120 men. Out of this small group developed the later-called SS Verfuegungstruppe (SS Emergency Force)." (2640-PS)

The function and status of the SS Verfuegungstruppe are described in a Top Secret Hitler order, 17 August 1938 (647-PS).

That order provides, in part:

"II. The Armed Units of the SS.

"A. (The SS Verfuegungstruppe)

"1. The SS Verfuegungstruppe is neither a part of the Wehrmacht nor a part of the police. It is a standing armed unit exclusively at my disposal. As such and as a unit of the NSDAP its members are to be selected by the Reichsfuehrer SS according to the philosophical and political standards which I have ordered for the NSDAP and for the Schutzstaffel. Its members are to be trained and its ranks filled with volunteers from those who are subject to serve in the army who have finished their duties in the obligatory labor service. The service period for volunteers is for 4 years. It may be prolonged for SS Unterfuehrer. Such regulations are in force for SS leaders. The regular compulsory military service (par. 8 of the law relating to military service) is fulfilled by service of the same amount of time in the SS Verfuegungstruppe."


"III. Orders for the Case of Mobilization.

"A. The employment of the SS Verfuegungstruppe in case of mobilization is a double one.

"1. By the Supreme Commander of the Army within the wartime army. In that case it comes completely under military laws and regulations, but remains a unit of the NSDAP politically.

In case of necessity in the interior according to my orders, in that case it is under the Reichsfuehrer SS and chief of the German Police.

"In case of mobilization I myself will make the decision about the time, strength and manner of the incorporation of the SS Verfuegungstruppe into the wartime army, these things will depend on the inner- political situation at that time." (647-PS)

Immediately after the issuance of this decree, this militarized force was employed with the Army for aggressive purposes -- the taking over of the Sudetenland. Following this action, feverish preparations to motorize the force and to organize new units,

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such as antitank, machine gun, and reconnaissance battalions, were undertaken pursuant to further directives of the Fuehrer. By September 1939, the force was fully motorized, its units had been increased to division strength, and it was prepared for combat. These steps are described in the National Socialist Yearbook for the years 1940 (2164-PS) and 1941 (2163-PS): The Yearbook was an official publication of the Nazi Party, edited by Reichsleiter Robert Ley and published by the Nazi Party publishing company.

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