Allgemeine SS (General SS) was the most numerous branch of the
Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany, and it was
managed by the
SS Main Office
SS Main Office (SS-Hauptamt). The
Allgemeine SS was
officially established in the autumn of 1934 to distinguish its
members from the
SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS Dispositional Troops or
SS-VT) which later became the Waffen-SS, and the SS-Totenkopfverbände
(SS Death's Head Units or SS-TV) which managed the Nazi concentration
Starting in 1939, foreign units of the
Allgemeine SS were raised in
occupied countries. From 1940 they were consolidated into the
Directorate of the
Germanic-SS (Leitstelle der germanischen SS). When
the war first began, the vast majority of SS members belonged to the
Allgemeine SS, but this proportion changed during the later years of
the war after the
Waffen-SS opened up membership to ethnic Germans and
1 Early years
2 Formation and service
3 Hierarchy and structure
3.1 Full time SS personnel
3.2 SS regional units
3.3 Security forces
3.4 Concentration camp personnel
3.5 Other units
4 Total manpower
4.1 Order of battle
5 See also
Adolf Hitler in 1925 ordered
Julius Schreck to organise the formation
of a new bodyguard unit, the Schutzkommando ("Protection Command").
Hitler wanted a small group of tough ex-soldiers like Schreck, who
would be loyal to him. The unit included old Stoßtrupp members like
Emil Maurice and Erhard Heiden. The unit made its first public
appearance on 4 April 1925. That same year, the Schutzkommando was
expanded to a national level. It was also successively renamed the
Sturmstaffel ("Storm Squadron") and then finally the Schutzstaffel
("Protection Squadron"; SS) on 9 November 1925. The SS was
subordinated to the SA and thus a subunit of the SA and the NSDAP. It
was considered to be an elite organization by both party members and
the general population.
The main task of the SS was the personal protection of the
the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler. In 1925 the SS had only 200 active
members and in 1926, it ended the year with the same number.
There were 280 members in 1928 as the SS continued to struggle under
the SA. After
Heinrich Himmler took over the SS in January 1929, he
worked to separate the SS from the SA. By December 1929, the number
of SS members had grown to 1,000. Himmler began to systematically
develop and expand the SS with stricter requirements for members as
well as a general purge of SS members who were identified as
drunkards, criminals, or otherwise undesirable for service in the SS.
Himmler's ultimate aim was to turn the SS into the most powerful
Germany and most influential branch of the party.
By 1930 Himmler had persuaded Hitler to run the SS as a separate
organisation, although it was officially still subordinate to the
Formation and service
Machtergreifung (seizure of power) by the NSDAP in January
1933, the SS began to expand into a massive organization. By the end
of 1932 it included over 52,000 members. By December 1933 the SS
increased to 204,000 members and Himmler ordered a temporary freeze on
On 20 April 1934, Göring and Himmler agreed to put aside their
differences, largely because of their mutual hatred of the SA. Göring
transferred control of the
Gestapo to Himmler, who was also named
chief of all German police forces outside Prussia. Two days later
Reinhard Heydrich the head of the Gestapo. The SS
was further cemented when both it and the
Gestapo participated in the
destruction of the SA during the
Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives from 30 June
to 2 July 1934. They either killed or arrested every major SA leader,
above all Ernst Röhm.
Himmler was later named the chief of all German police in June, 1936,
 and the
Gestapo was incorporated with the Kripo (Criminal Police)
into sub-branches of the SiPo. Heydrich was made head of the SiPo and
continued as chief of the SD.
In August 1934, Himmler received permission from Hitler to form a new
organisation from the SS Sonderkommandos and the Politischen
SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT). This was a standing
armed military force, which in war was to be subordinate to the
Wehrmacht ("Armed Forces"), but remained under Himmler's control in
times of peace and under Hitler's personal control regardless.
According to this restructure, the SS now housed three different
SS-Wachverbände, known as the
SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) from 29
March 1936, forward
Himmler further conducted additional purges of the SS to exclude those
deemed to be opportunists, alcoholics, homosexuals, or of uncertain
racial status. This "house cleaning" removed some 60,000 SS members by
December 1935. By 1939, the SS was again up to an estimated 240,000
By the outbreak of World War II in Europe, the SS had solidified
into its final form. Correspondingly, the term "SS" could be applied
to three separate organizations, mainly the Allgemeine SS,
SS-Totenkopfverbände and the Waffen-SS, which until July 1940 was
officially known as the SS-VT. When the war first began, the
vast majority of SS members belonged to the Allgemeine SS, but this
statistic changed during the later stages of the war when the
Waffen-SS opened up membership for non-Germans. Further, with
Himmler as Chief of the German Police, the SS also controlled the
Ordnungspolizei (Order Police).
Hierarchy and structure
The term Allgemeine-SS referred to the "General-SS," meaning those
units of the SS considered "main, regular, or standard." By 1938, the
Allgemeine-SS was administratively divided into several main sections:
Full-time officers and members of the main SS departments, including
Part-time volunteer members of SS regional units
SS security forces, e.g., the
Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo – Gestapo
& Kripo) and
Concentration Camp staffs of the Totenkopfverbände
Reserve, honorary or otherwise inactive SS members
World War II
World War II began, the lines between the Allgemeine-SS and the
Waffen-SS became increasingly blurred, due largely to the
Allgemeine-SS headquarters offices having administrative and supply
command over the Waffen-SS. By 1940, all of the Allgemeine-SS had been
issued grey war-time uniforms. 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.
Full time SS personnel
Approximately one third of the Allgemeine-SS were considered "full
time" meaning that they received a salary as government employees,
were employed full-time in an SS office, and performed SS duties as
their primary occupation. The vast majority of such full-time SS
personnel were assigned to the main SS offices that were considered
part of the Allgemeine-SS. By 1942, these main offices managed all
activities of the SS and were divided as follows:
Hauptamt Persönlicher Stab
Reichsführer-SS (Personal Staff of the
Reich Leader SS; HaPerStab)
SS-Hauptamt (Main Administrative Office; SS-HA)
SS-Führungshauptamt (SS Main Operational Office; SS-FHA)
Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office; RSHA)
Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt (Economic and Administration Main
Ordnungspolizei Hauptamt (Main Office of the Order Police)
Hauptamt SS-Gericht (Main Office of SS Legal Matters; HA SS-Gericht)
SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt
SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (SS Office of Race and Settlement;
SS-Personalhauptamt (SS Personnel Main Office; SS PHA)
Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle
Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (Racial German Assistance Main
SS-Schulungsamt (SS Education Office)
Hauptamt Reichskommissar für die Festigung Deutschen Volkstums (Main
Office of the Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German
Main office commanders and staff were exempt from military
conscription. Although many, such as Heydrich, served as reservists in
the regular German military. Main office members did join the
Waffen-SS, where they could accept a lower rank and serve in active
combat or be listed as inactive reservists. By 1944, with Germany's
looming defeat, the draft exemption for the Allgemeine-SS main offices
was lifted and many junior members were ordered into combat with
senior members assuming duties as
SS regional units
The core of the Allgemeine-SS were part-time mustering formations
spread throughout Germany. Members in these regional units would
typically meet once a week in uniform, as well as participate in
Nazi Party functions. Activities including drill and
ideological instruction, marching in parades, and providing security
at various Nazi party rallies.
Regional SS units were organized into commands known as
SS-Oberabschnitt meaning "SS-Senior Sector" responsible for commanding
a (region), which were subordinate to the SS-HA; SS-Abschnitt
(SS-Sector) was the next lower level of command, responsible for
administrating a (District); Standarten (regiment), which were the
basic units of the Allgemeine-SS. Before 1934, SS personnel
received no pay and their work was completely voluntarily. After 1933,
the Oberabschnitt commanders and their staff became regarded as "full
time" but the rank and file of the Allgemeine-SS were still part-time
Regular Allgemeine-SS personnel were also not exempt from conscription
and many were called up to serve in the Wehrmacht. By 1942, most of
the part-time Allgemeine-SS had either joined the
Waffen-SS or had
been conscripted into the regular German military. The senior levels
of the Abschnitte and Oberabschnitte were considered draft exempt, but
most of these SS leaders and staff were themselves merged into the
offices of the
SS and Police Leaders
SS and Police Leaders which were considered as
quasi-military commands with
Waffen-SS authority, although on paper
still part of the Allgemeine-SS. Draft exemption for these senior
leadership staffs was itself lifted in 1944, and most of the remaining
Allgemeine-SS personnel were assigned to the
Waffen-SS as reservists.
1939 photograph; shown from left to right are Franz Josef Huber,
Arthur Nebe, Heinrich Himmler,
Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Müller.
According to the archival caption, these men are planning the
investigation of the bomb assassination attempt on
Adolf Hitler of 8
November 1939 in Munich.
In 1936, the state security police forces of the
Gestapo and Kripo
(Criminal Police) were consolidated. The combined forces were folded
Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) and placed under the central
command of Reinhard Heydrich, already chief of the party
Sicherheitsdienst (SD). Later from 27 September 1939 forward, the
SD, Gestapo, and Kripo were folded into the Reich Main Security Office
(RSHA) which was placed under Heydrich's control. As a functioning
state agency, the SiPo ceased to exist. The ordinary uniformed German
police, known as the
Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) were also under SS control
after 1936 but never incorporated into the Allgemeine-SS, although
many police members were also dual SS members.
The death squad units of the
Einsatzgruppen were formed under the
direction of Heydrich and operated by the SS before and during World
War II. In September 1939, they operated in territories occupied
by the German armed forces following the invasion of Poland. Men for
the units were drawn from the SS, the SD, and the police.
Originally part of the SiPo, in late September 1939 the operational
control of the
Einsatzgruppen was taken over by the RSHA. When the
units were re-formed prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union in
1941, the men of the
Einsatzgruppen were drawn from the SD, Gestapo,
Kripo, Orpo, civilian (SS auxiliary) and Waffen-SS. All
Einsatzgruppen personnel wore grey
Waffen-SS type uniforms.
During World War II, security force personnel were deemed as
performing "essential duties" to the Reich and thus were exempt from
conscription into military service. Many such personnel, however,
typically joined the
Waffen-SS or served in the
reserve. SS-Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, for instance, was an
Untersturmführer in the
Waffen-SS Reserve while Lieutenant Colonel
Herbert Kappler was a Reserve Feldwebel (sergeant) in the German Army.
Germany began losing World War II, the draft exemption for security
forces was slowly lifted, although due to the nature of the Nazi
regime, there was a constant need for security personnel up until the
very end in 1945. For this reason, many Gestapo, SD, and Kripo members
who served as reservists never saw combat until the very last days of
the war, if at all.
Concentration camp personnel
All Concentration Camp staffs were originally part of the
Allgemeine-SS under the office of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate
(Inspektion der Konzentrationslager or IKL). First headed by Theodor
Eicke, the Concentration Camp personnel were formed into the
SS-Wachverbände in 1933, which later became known as the
SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV). Thereafter, the unit increasingly
became divided into the camp service proper and the military Totenkopf
formation controlled by the SS-VT (the early Waffen-SS).
Carpathian Ruthenia arriving at Auschwitz concentration
Nazi regime became more oppressive and
World War II
World War II escalated,
the concentration camp system grew in size, lethal operation, and
scope as the economic ambitions of the SS intensified.
Intensification of the killing operations took place in late 1941 when
the SS began construction of stationary gassing facilities to replace
the use of
Einsatzgruppen for mass killings.
Victims at these new extermination camps were killed with the use of
carbon monoxide gas from automobile engines. During Operation
Reinhard, three death camps were built in occupied Poland: Bełżec
(operational by March 1942), Sobibór (operational by May 1942), and
Treblinka (operational by July 1942). On Himmler's orders, by
early 1942 the concentration camp at Auschwitz was greatly expanded to
include the addition of gas chambers, where victims were killed using
the pesticide Zyklon B.
After 1942, the entire camp service was placed under the authority of
Waffen-SS for a variety of administrative and logistical reasons.
The ultimate command authority for the camp system during World War II
SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WHVA) under Oswald Pohl.
Beside the camp operations, the WHVA was the organization responsible
for managing the finances, supply systems and business projects for
the Allgemeine-SS. 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. 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.
By late 1940 the Allgemeine-SS also controlled the Germanische SS,
which were collaborationist organizations modeled after the
Allgemeine-SS in several Western European countries.
The Allgemeine-SS also consisted of the SS-Frauenkorps was an
auxiliary reporting and clerical unit, which included the
SS-Helferinnenkorps (Women Helper Corps), made up of female
volunteers. Members were assigned as administrative staff and supply
personnel, and served in command positions and as guards at women's
concentration camps in places such as Ravensbrück concentration
camp. Like their male equivalents in the SS, females
participated in atrocities against Jews, Poles, and others.
In 1942, Himmler set up the Reichsschule für SS Helferinnen (Reich
school for SS helpers) in
Oberehnheim to train women in communications
so that they could free up men for combat roles. Himmler also intended
to replace all female civilian employees in his service with
SS-Helferinnen members, as they were selected and trained according to
NSDAP ideology. The school was closed on 22 November 1944 due
to the Allied advance.
The ranks of the
Allgemeine SS and the
Waffen-SS were based upon those
of the SA and used the same titles. However, there was a distinctly
separate hierarchical subdivisions of the larger
Waffen-SS from its
general-SS counterpart and an SS member could in fact hold two
separate SS ranks. For instance, in 1940
Hermann Fegelein held the
Allgemeine SS rank of a
Standartenführer (full colonel), yet was only
Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) in the
Waffen-SS. If this same SS member were an architectural engineer,
SS-Hauptamt would issue a third rank of SS-Sonderführer.
SS members could also hold reserve commissions in the regular military
as well as a
Nazi Party political rank. Add to this that many senior
SS members were also employees of the Reich government in capacities
as ministers, deputies, etc., and an SS member could in the end have
as many as five ranks in various organizations as well as a number of
additional titles. Per one SS historian:
Multiple and overlapping commands were very commonplace ... A man
could hold one post while temporarily assigned to another and hold
rank in the Allgemeine-SS,
Waffen-SS and Polizei
simultaneously ... I'm thoroughly convinced even
Berlin was not
100% sure who was in certain positions at exact points in time,
confirmed by individual BDC (
Berlin Document Center) records.
In 1944, nearly every SS general was granted equivalent Waffen-SS
rank, without regard to previous military service. This was ordered so
to give SS-generals authority over military units and POW camps and
apparently to try to provide potential protection under the Hague
Convention rules of warfare. In the event of capture by the
Allies, SS-Generals would be given status as military prisoners rather
than captured police officials. This distinction was observed by
British and American forces in the West, but hardly ever even noticed
by the Soviet Red Army, in particular in situations where SS and
Police Leaders or other SS units involved in genocide, would fall into
In 1944, the stated membership estimate for the SS was 800,000. The
Waffen-SS had approximately 600,000 of those members in their
Waffen-SS had grown from three regiments to over 38
divisions during World War II, and served alongside the Heer (regular
army) but was never formally part of it. In comparison, by the end
of the war the Allgemeine-SS only had a little over 40,000 men still
in its ranks.
Order of battle
Main article: Allgemeine-SS Order of Battle
The mustering formations of part-time SS members, considered before
1938 to be the core of the Allgemeine-SS, were maintained in their own
order of battle, beginning with regiment sized Standarten units and
extending upwards to division strength Oberabschnitte commands. Within
the Allgemeine-SS Standarten there were in turn subordinate battalions
of Sturmbann themselves divided into company Sturme.
For most rank and file members of the Allgemeine-SS, the Sturm level
was the highest which the ordinary SS member would typically associate
with. The Sturm itself was further divided into platoon sized Truppen
(sometimes known as Zug) which were in turn divided into squad sized
Scharen. For larger Allgemeine-SS commands, the Scharen would be
further divided into Rotte which were the Allgemeine-SS equivalent of
a fire team.
It was the ultimate aim of
Heinrich Himmler to merge the Allgemeine-SS
units into the police and security forces of the Third Reich, thus
creating formations known as Staatsschutzkorps which would serve to
enforce Nazi Doctrine as well as provide homeland police services. In
the concept of the Lebensraum, Himmler had even grander visions with
plans to build twenty eight SS cities in the conquered lands of
Russia. These lands would be overseen by SS-Lords, militarily guarded
by the Waffen-SS, and worked and lived on by "Peasant warriors" of the
Germany was defeated in World War II, Himmler's
dream were never realized although the construction of the Wewelsburg
SS fortress was seen as a possible first step.
Glossary of Nazi Germany
Nazi Party leaders and officials
List of SS personnel
^ Weale 2010, p. 26.
^ Weale 2010, pp. 16, 26.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 10, 11.
^ Weale 2010, pp. 26, 27, 29.
^ a b c McNab 2009, p. 16.
^ Weale 2012, p. 32.
^ Weale 2010, pp. 32, 33.
^ Weale 2010, pp. 45–47.
^ Weale 2012, p. 49.
^ Weale 2010, pp. 45–47, 300–305.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 228–229.
^ Williams 2001, p. 61.
^ Hildebrand 1984, pp. 13–14.
^ a b c d Williams 2001, p. 77.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 201, 469, 470.
^ a b Stein 1984, p. 23.
^ a b Padfield 2001, p. 129.
^ Buchheim 1968, p. 258.
^ Snyder 1994, p. 330.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 156.
^ Koehl 2004, pp. 212–213.
^ Höhne 2001, p. 458.
^ Yerger 1997, pp. 13–21.
^ Stackelberg 2007, p. 302.
^ Yerger 1997, pp. 82, 83.
^ Yerger 1997, p. 117.
^ Yerger 1997, p. 169.
^ Gerwarth 2011, p. 163.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 425.
^ Longerich 2010, p. 144.
^ Longerich 2010, p. 185.
^ Wachsmann 2015, pp. 196–198.
^ Wachsmann 2010, pp. 26–27, 196–198.
^ Gerwarth 2011, p. 208.
^ Longerich 2010, pp. 279–280.
^ Evans 2008, p. 283.
^ Evans 2008, p. 283, 287, 290.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 295, 299–300.
^ Wachsmann 2010, p. 29.
^ Weale 2012, p. 115.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 559.
^ Reitlinger 1989, p. 265.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 258–263.
^ Lower 2013, p. 108.
^ Schwarz 1997, pp. 223–244.
^ Lower 2013, pp. 108–109.
^ Lower 2013, p. 109.
^ Century 2011.
^ Rempel 1989, pp. 223–224.
^ Mühlenberg 2011, p. 27.
^ Miller 2006, p. 306.
^ Yerger 1997, p. 10.
^ "Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 20 day 195". Avalon Project,
Yale Law School. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
^ Stein 1984, p. xxv.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 54, 56, 57, 66.
^ Stein 1984, p. xxi.
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SS and Police Leaders
Höchste SS und Polizeiführer (HöSSPF)
Höhere SS und Polizeiführer (HSSPF)
SS und Polizeiführer (SSPF)
SS-Fliegersturm (Flight Units)
SS and police leader
Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS
SS Main Office
Head Operational Office
Reich Main Security Office
Reich Main Security Office (RSHA)
Economics and Administration Office
Office of Race and Settlement (RuSHA)
Main Office for Ethnic Germans (VOMI)
Office of the Reich Commissioner for Germanic Resettlement (RKFDV)
Das Schwarze Korps
SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz
Police and security services
Regular uniform police (Orpo)
Criminal police (Kripo)
Secret State police (Gestapo)
State Security police (SiPo)
SS Security Service (SD)
SS-Begleitkommando des Führers
Belarusian Auxiliary Police
Latvian Police Battalions
Lithuanian Security Police
Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalions
Ukrainian Auxiliary Police
Estonian Auxiliary Police
SS Division Das Reich
SS Division Totenkopf
SS Polizei Division
SS Division Wiking
Foreign SS units
Germaansche SS in Nederland
Germaansche SS in Vlaanderen
Germanske SS Norge
S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A.
Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS
SS Sword of Honour
SS Honour Ring
SS Honor Dagger
Ranks, uniforms and insignia
Uniforms and insignia of the SS
Ranks and insignia of the Waffen-SS
Ranks and insignia of the Orpo