The Info List - Reichsführer-SS

--- Advertisement ---

(German: [ˈʁaɪçsˌfyːʁɐ ˈɛs ˈɛs] ( listen), " Reich Leader-SS") was a special title and rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945 for the commander of the Schutzstaffel
(SS). Reichsführer-SS
was a title from 1925 to 1933, and from 1934 to 1945 it was the highest rank of the SS. The longest serving and by far most noteworthy Reichsführer-SS
was Heinrich Himmler.


1 Definition 2 Duties 3 Relationship with the Waffen-SS 4 Kommandostab Reichsführer-SS 5 Office holders 6 In popular culture 7 Notes 8 References

8.1 Citations 8.2 Bibliography

Definition[edit] Reichsführer-SS
was both a title and a rank. The title of Reichsführer was first created in 1926 by the second commander of the SS, Joseph Berchtold. Julius Schreck, founder of the SS and Berchtold's predecessor, never referred to himself as Reichsführer. Yet, the title was retroactively applied to him in later years. In 1929, Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
became Reichsführer-SS
and referred to himself by his title instead of his regular SS rank of Obergruppenführer. This set the precedent for the commander of the SS to be called Reichsführer-SS. Prior to the Night of the Long Knives, the SS was an elite corps of the Sturmabteilung
(SA or storm troopers), and the Reichsführer-SS was subordinate to the SA's operating head, the Stabschef. On 20 July 1934, as part of the purge of the SA, the SS was made an independent branch of the Nazi Party, responsible only to Hitler. From that point on, the title of Reichsführer-SS
became an actual rank, and in fact the highest rank of the SS.[1] In this position, Himmler was on paper the equivalent of a Generalfeldmarschall
in the German Army. As Himmler's position and authority grew in Nazi Germany, so did his rank in a "de facto" sense.[2] Further, there was never more than one Reichsführer-SS
at any one time, with Himmler holding the position as his personal title from 1929 (becoming his actual rank in 1934) until April 1945.[3] Duties[edit] Under its original inception, the rank of Reichsführer-SS
was the designation for the head of the Allgemeine-SS. In this capacity, the SS Reich Leader was the direct commander of the SS Senior District Leaders (SS-Oberabschnitt Führer); by 1935, the Reich Leader was further designated as head of the three main SS branches: the Allgemeine-SS
(General-SS), SS-Verfügungstruppe
(SS-VT; Political Action Troops), and the SS-Totenkopfverbände
(SS-TV; Concentration Camp Service). The Reichsführer-SS
was also the designated senior officer for all the SS Main Office
SS Main Office
Leaders. During the Second World War, the Reichsführer-SS
in effect held several additional roles and wielded enormous personal power. He was responsible for all internal security within the Third Reich. He was overseer of the concentration camps, extermination camps (through the Concentration Camps Inspectorate
Concentration Camps Inspectorate
and SS-TV), and Einsatzgruppen (through the RSHA).[4] Over time, his influence on both civil and foreign policy became marked, as the Reichsführer reported directly to Hitler and his actions were not tempered by checks and balances. This meant the office holder could implement broad policy such as the Final Solution, or order criminal acts such as the Stalag Luft III murders, without impediment. It is difficult to separate the office from the duties assigned to the individual. As of 20 April 1934, Himmler in his position of Reichsführer-SS
already controlled the SD and Gestapo. On 17 June 1936 Himmler was named chief of all German police, thereby placing all uniformed police (Orpo) and criminal police (Kripo) in Germany under his control. In the latter role, he was nominally subordinate to the Interior Minister, Wilhelm Frick.[5] It is not clear how much of this power would technically reside in the office of the Reichsführer-SS were those duties to be split up.[Note 1] These questions became moot by the time Himmler became the Interior Minister in 1943. It is difficult to define precisely the full detailed duties and responsibilities of the Reichsführer-SS
beyond that of leader and senior member of the SS, since, in the words of historian Martin Windrow, "(b)y the outbreak of the (Second World) war it would have been impossible to define exactly the role within the state" of the entire SS itself.[6] Relationship with the Waffen-SS[edit] The rank of Reichsführer-SS
was defined in the SS hierarchy as the highest possible rank of the Allgemeine-SS. The exact position of the rank within the military Waffen-SS
evolved over many years, ranging from clearly defined to vaguely associated. The Waffen-SS
was originally a small armed SS unit called the SS-Verfügungstruppe, and in the 1930s was clearly under the command of Himmler who, in his position as Reichsführer-SS, issued directives and orders to SS-VT commanders. Hold-outs existed for some aspects of the armed SS however, as well as within the special bodyguard unit known as the SS-Leibstandarte. Sepp Dietrich, since the earliest inception of an armed SS unit, never truly accepted Himmler's authority and in the mid-1930s went so far as to order his troops to remove their swastika armbands as well as forbidding General-SS members (Himmler among them) from entering the Leibstandarte barracks. The Waffen-SS
eventually grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions and served alongside the German Army, but was never formally part of it.[7] During World War II, the authority of the Reichsführer-SS
over the Waffen-SS
was mainly administrative in that certain General-SS offices controlled supply and logistics aspects of the Waffen-SS. Himmler also held authority to create new Waffen-SS divisions as well as order the formation of various smaller SS combat units. The daily association with the Waffen-SS, however, encompassed primarily inspecting Waffen-SS
troops and presenting high-ranking medals to its members. The Reichsführer-SS
further never exercised direct operational authority over Waffen-SS
units until the very end of the war and then only through his capacity as an Army Group commander and not as the head of the SS. Top Waffen-SS
commanders, such as Sepp Dietrich, Wilhelm Bittrich, and Matthias Kleinheisterkamp, further held a certain derision for Himmler, describing him as "sly and unmilitary".[8] The Waffen-SS
rank and file also saw the Reichsführer as an odd character, present at high level parades and formations, but of little use to the Waffen-SS
operational chain of command. As a further act of indifference, Himmler was known by the nickname "Reichsheini" among Waffen-SS
soldiers. Himmler's rank of Reichsführer was also not seen as a military superior rank of the Waffen-SS, and as such there was no operational equivalent to the rank of field marshal in the armed SS hierarchy. In the very last months of the war, a proposal was made for a new SS rank to be known as Volksmarschall, with this new rank being a Waffen-SS direct equivalent to the army and air force rank of field marshal. Sepp Dietrich
Sepp Dietrich
was considered for the rank, but due to the looming defeat of the war the rank was never presented nor even an insignia designed. Kommandostab Reichsführer-SS[edit] Main article: Kommandostab Reichsführer-SS Attached to the office was the 18,438-strong SS formations managed by the Kommandostab Reichsführer-SS
Kommandostab Reichsführer-SS
("Command Staff Reichsführer-SS") reporting directly to Himmler. To head the Command Staff, Himmler appointed a career army officer Kurt Knoblauch who acted as chief of staff for the units.[9] Prior to the launch of the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, these formations included two motorized SS-Infantry Brigades, two SS-Cavalry Regiments combined with an SS-Cavalry Brigade, a bodyguard battalion, flak units and a number of companies of support troops. Units were temporarily placed under army command for operations, but the Reichsführer could call them back at any time. Despite the name, it was not employed as a unified HQ unit. Instead, its individual units were sent to occupied areas, subordinated to local Higher SS and Police Leaders (HSSPFs) and used for "pacification actions" alongside the Einsatzgruppen. Often these actions were atrocities and mass murders, targeting Jews and "suspected partisans".[10] Office holders[edit] In all, five people held the title of Reichsführer-SS
during the twenty years of its existence. Three persons held the position as a title while two held the actual SS rank.

Reichsführer-SS Took office Left office Time in office Party Ref


Schreck, JuliusJulius Schreck (1898–1936) 4 April 1925 15 April 1926 7002376000000000000♠1 year, 11 days NSDAP [11]


Berchtold, JosephJoseph Berchtold (1897–1962) 15 April 1926 1 March 1927 7002320000000000000♠320 days NSDAP [11]


Heiden, ErhardErhard Heiden (1901–1933) 1 March 1927 6 January 1929 7002677000000000000♠1 year, 311 days NSDAP [11]


Himmler, HeinrichHeinrich Himmler (1900–1945) 6 January 1929 29 April 1945 7003595700000000000♠16 years, 113 days NSDAP [11]


Hanke, KarlKarl Hanke (1903–1945) 29 April 1945 8 June 1945 † 7001400000000000000♠40 days NSDAP [11]

Hanke was appointed SS leader in April 1945, but not informed until early May. He was killed on June 8, 1945, while attempting to escape a Czech POW camp. Historians have often speculated that Reinhard Heydrich would have eventually held the rank had Himmler in some way been killed or removed from his position earlier in World War II, and indeed Heydrich was often seen as Himmler's heir apparent by senior SS leaders. However, at a diplomatic function in Italy
in 1941, Heydrich was reported as stating that he had no desire to succeed Himmler.[12] In popular culture[edit] The rank of Reichsführer-SS
has also appeared in fiction with the following some of the more notable examples:

In the Robert Harris novel Fatherland, set in a parallel history where Germany won the Second World War, Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
is depicted as having been promoted to the rank of the Reichsführer-SS, after Himmler was mysteriously killed in a plane crash in 1962. While the novel dealt with Heydrich's assumption of the rank at some length, the HBO film adaptation gives little reference to this. In the film, the only indication of Heydrich as the Reichsführer-SS
is a quick three-second shot of a non-speaking extra (intended to be Heydrich), seen wearing a grey SS uniform
SS uniform
standing on a VIP-platform with several German generals. The Star Trek
Star Trek
episode "Patterns of Force" depicts an alien planet where a historian has recreated Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
in an attempt to form a benign fascist government marked by efficiency without sadism. In the episode, during a speech given by John Gill, the Federation historian turned Führer, a top SS general is seen wearing the complete uniform and insignia of the Reichsführer-SS. This character is not given a name in the episode, nor does he speak any dialogue. The Star Trek Reichsführer was portrayed by actor Frank da Vinci. Himmler appears as Reichsführer-SS, visiting a conquered Britain in November 1941, in the Len Deighton alternate history novel SS-GB. In Harry Turtledove's novel Colonization: Second Contact, Himmler is depicted as succeeding Hitler as Führer, and continuing to rule Nazi Germany until his own death in the 1960s. In another of Harry Turtledove's novels In the Presence of Mine Enemies, one of the antagonists is the Reichsführer-SS
Lothar Prützmann, who attempts to overthrow the new Führer, Heinz Buckliger. In the backstory, Himmler succeeded Hitler as Führer. The Reichsführer-SS
(Heinrich Himmler) appears in the film The Aryan Couple (2004). In the '60's sitcom Hogan's Heroes, two officers, Rudolf von Heffernick and Herman Freitag, wear the insignia of a Reichsführer-SS on their uniforms. Von Heffernick is stated to be a general by Colonel Klink, but what exact rank is unstated. Freitag is addressed explicitly in dialogue as a Gruppenführer, which would make him a major general.


^ As noted in, The SS (Time-Life, pp. 70–73.): "Himmler...was now the head of two important, separate organizations - the SS and the national police (emphasis added)." Much of his power and influence as Reichsführer-SS
resided from control of the police, duties separate, yet linked.

References[edit] Citations[edit]

^ Kershaw 2008, p. 316. ^ McNab 2009, pp. 9, 17, 26–27, 30, 46–47. ^ McNab 2009, pp. 9, 17. ^ McNab 2009, pp. 9, 35–36, 46–47. ^ McNab 2009, pp. 9, 46–47. ^ Windrow 1982, p. 7. ^ McNab 2009, pp. 9, 35–36, 46–47, 61, 64, 66–70. ^ Messenger, Charles (26 September 2005). Hitler's Gladiator (Re-issue ed.). London: Conway Maritime Press. p. 51. ISBN 1844860221.  ^ Hale 2011, pp. 160–162. ^ Stein 1984. ^ a b c d e McNab 2009, pp. 16, 17. ^ Yerger 1997.


Flaherty, T. H. (1988). The Third Reich: The SS. Time-Life Books, Inc. ISBN 0-8094-6950-2.  Hale, Christopher (2011). Hitler's Foreign Executioners: Europe's Dirty Secret. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-5974-5.  Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6.  McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923–1945. Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-906626-49-5.  Stein, George H. (1984). The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War, 1939–1945. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-9275-0.  Windrow, Martin (1982). The Waffen-SS. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-425-5.  Yerger, Mark C. (1997). Allgemeine-SS: The Commands, Units and Leaders of the General SS. Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7643-0145-4. 

Junior Rank Oberstgruppenführer SS rank Reichsführer-SS Senior Rank Oberste Führer
der Schutzstaffel

v t e



Allgemeine SS Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) Waffen-SS


Reichsführer-SS SS and police leader SS personnel SS commands


Julius Schreck Joseph Berchtold Erhard Heiden Heinrich Himmler Karl Hanke

Main departments

Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS SS Main Office Head Operational 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) Courts Office Personnel Office Education Office

Ideological institutions

Ahnenerbe Das Schwarze Korps SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz Lebensborn

Police and security services

Regular uniform police (Orpo) Schutzpolizei (Schupo) Criminal police (Kripo) Secret State police (Gestapo) State Security police (SiPo) SS Security Service (SD)


SS-Begleitkommando des Führers Reichssicherheitsdienst

Paramilitary units

Einsatzgruppen Schutzmannschaft Belarusian Auxiliary Police Latvian Police Battalions Ypatingasis būrys Lithuanian Security Police Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalions Rollkommando Hamann Arajs Kommando Ukrainian Auxiliary Police Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz Trawnikis Estonian Auxiliary Police Police Regiment Centre


Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) Leibstandarte (LSSAH) SS Division Das Reich SS Division Totenkopf SS Polizei Division SS Division Wiking

Foreign SS units

Germanic-SS Germaansche SS in Nederland Germaansche SS in Vlaanderen Germanske SS Norge Schalburg Corps Britisches Freikorps S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS

SS-controlled enterprises

Ostindustrie Deutsche Wirtschaftsbetriebe Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke DEST Allach porcelain Apollinaris Mattoni Sudetenquell Anton Loibl

SS awards

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 Corps colours of the Waffen-SS

v t e

Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
paramilitary ranks          

Combat ranks

Anwärter Junker Schütze Oberschütze Sturmmann Volkssturmmann Stabsscharführer Rottenführer Unterscharführer Scharführer Oberscharführer Hauptscharführer Sturmscharführer Zugführer (Volkssturm) Untersturmführer Obersturmführer Kompanieführer (Volkssturm) Hauptsturmführer Bataillonsführer (Volkssturm) Sturmbannführer Obersturmbannführer Standartenführer Oberführer Brigadeführer Gruppenführer Obergruppenführer Oberst-Gruppenführer

Non-combat ranks

Bewerber Aufseherin Mann Oberrottenführer HJ Staffelführer Truppführer Obertruppführer Haupttruppführer Sturmführer Rapportführer Sonderführer Sturmhauptführer Schutzhaftlagerführer Gauführer Untergruppenführer Stabsführer Reichsjugendführer Bannführer Korpsführer Stabschef
(SA) Reichsführer-SS

Nazi Party
Nazi Party

Blockleiter Zellenleiter Ortsgruppenleiter Kreisleiter Gauleiter Reichsleiter

Other ranks



Nazi Party Sturmabteilung Schutzstaffel Allgemeine SS SS-Verfügungstruppe Waffen-SS SS-Totenkopfverbände Hitler Youth National Socialist Motor Corps National Socialist Flyers Corps Volkssturm

v t e

Heinrich Himmler

Reichsführer-SS Chief of German Police Minister of the Interior


Himmler's service record Ideology of the SS Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS Freundeskreis Reichsführer-SS
("Circle of Friends of the Reichsführer-SS") Adolf Hitler Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
(Chief of the RSHA) Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Ernst Kaltenbrunner
(successor as Chief of the RSHA) Karl Wolff
Karl Wolff
(Chief of Personal Staff) Hedwig Potthast
Hedwig Potthast
(secretary) Rudolf Brandt
Rudolf Brandt
(Personal Administrative Officer to RFSS) Hermann Gauch
Hermann Gauch
(adjutant) Werner Grothmann
Werner Grothmann
(aide-de-camp) Heinz Macher (second personal assistant) Walter Schellenberg
Walter Schellenberg
(personal aide) Karl Maria Wiligut (occultist)


Schutzstaffel Gestapo Ahnenerbe Lebensborn Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion

Responsibility for the Holocaust

The Holocaust Porajmos Crimes against Poles Crimes against Soviet POWs Persecution of Slavs in Eastern Europe Persecution of homosexuals Action T4 Persecution of Serbs Suppression of Freemasonry Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses Persecution of black people Kommandostab Reichsführer-SS Volksliste Operation Reinhard Hegewald Posen speeches Himmler-Kersten Agreement


Margarete Himmler
Margarete Himmler
(wife) Gudrun Burwitz
Gudrun Burwitz
(daughter) Hedwig Potthast
Hedwig Potthast
(mistress) Gebhard Ludwig (older brother) Ernst (younger brother) Katrin Himmler (great-niece) Heinz Kokott (brother-in-law) Richard Wendler
Richard Wendler


Operation Himmler Army Group Oberrhein Army Group Vistula Operation Nordwind

Failed assassins

Václav Morávek Claus von Stauffenberg Henning von Tresckow


Erhard Heiden
Erhard Heiden
(predecessor as Reichsführer-SS) Karl Hanke
Karl Hanke
(successor as Reichsführer-SS) Falk Zipperer (closest friend) Karl Gebhardt
Karl Gebhardt
(personal physician) Felix Kersten (personal masseur) Hugo Blaschke (dentist) Sidney Excell
Sidney Excell
(man who