SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) (English: SS Dispositional Troops)
was formed in 1934 as combat troops for the
Nazi Party (NSDAP). They
were involved in the German invasion of Poland in 1939. By 1940 these
military SS units had become the nucleus of the Waffen-SS.
On 17 August 1938
Adolf Hitler decreed that the SS-VT was neither a
part of the police nor the German Wehrmacht, but military-trained men
at the disposal of the Führer. At the time of war, the SS-VT were to
be placed at the disposal of the army.
2 Early operations
3 Development of the Waffen-SS
LSSAH troops undergo a drill inspection in Berlin, November 1938.
The SS-VT, was formed on 24 September 1934 from a merger of various
Nazi and paramilitary formations such as the SS
(SS-Sonderkommandos) and the Headquarters Guard (SS-Stabswache)
units. The SS-VT was to be made up of three regiments modeled on
the infantry regiments of the German Army (Heer) and according to
their regulations. Each regiment would contain three battalions, a
motorcycle company and mortar company. The unit was officially
SS-Verfügungstruppe ("Dispositional troops", i.e. troops
at the personal disposal of the Führer). The men were to be
volunteers who had completed their service in the Reichsarbeitsdienst
(RAD; Reich Labour Service).
The existence of the
SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) was publicly
declared on 16 March 1935 by Hitler in a speech at the Reichstag.
The SS-VT had to depend on the German Army for its supply of weapons
and military training, and they had control of the recruiting system
through local draft boards responsible for assigning conscripts to the
different branches of the
Wehrmacht to meet quotas set by the German
High Command (Oberkommando der
Wehrmacht or OKW in German). The SS was
given the lowest priority for recruits, thereby limiting its size.
In 1936, Himmler selected former Lieutenant General
Paul Hausser to be
Inspector of the SS-VT with the rank of Brigadefuhrer. Hausser worked
to transform the SS-VT into a credible military force that was a match
for the regular army. The SS-VT trained alongside Hitler's
personal body guard the Leibstandarte SS
Adolf Hitler (LSSAH), which
had also been formed from the SS-
Stabswache and SS-Sonderkommando
Berlin. The LSSAH under the command of Josef "Sepp" Dietrich continued
to serve exclusively as a personal protection unit for Hitler and an
honor guard during this timeframe.
By 1937 the SS was divided into three branches: the Allgemeine-SS
(General SS), the SS-Verfügungstruppe, and the SS-Totenkopfverbände
(SS-TV) which administered the concentration camps. On 17 August
1938 Hitler decreed, that the SS military formations were to be placed
at the "disposal" of the army in time of war. Hitler stated at
Himmler's request, that service in the SS-VT qualified to fulfill
military service obligations. Further, units of the SS-TV would,
during time of war, be used as reserves for the SS-VT. This
would over the course of the war lead to a constant flux of men
Waffen-SS and the Nazi concentration camps.
The military formations under Himmler's command on 1 September 1939
consisted of several subgroups:
Hitler's bodyguard unit, the Leibstandarte SS
Adolf Hitler (LSSAH)
under Sepp Dietrich.
The Inspectorate of Verfügungstruppe under Paul Hausser, which
commanded the Deutschland, Germania and Der
Concentration Camps Inspectorate
Concentration Camps Inspectorate (Inspektion der
Konzentrationslager) under Theodor Eicke, which fielded four
militarized Death's-Head Standarten comprising camp guards of the
SS-Totenkopfverbände. The SS-Totenkopf Division was initially
formed from concentration camp guards of the Standarten (regiments) of
the SS-TV and the
SS Heimwehr Danzig
SS Heimwehr Danzig in October 1939. It was then
folded into the
Waffen-SS in August 1940. These troops wore the
SS-TV skull and crossbones rather than the SS-VT "SS" runes.
There were in addition combat-trained non-SS police units of
Obergruppenführer Kurt Daluege's
Ordnungspolizei which reported to
Himmler in his capacity as Chief of German Police. For the 1940
campaigns these also would be formed into a division, which would be
Waffen-SS control in January 1941 and merged into it in
SS-VT in full marching order, 1935
Elements of the SS-VT served with the
Wehrmacht during the occupation
of the Sudetenland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. For those
operations, the SS-VT was under the command of the army. The SS-VT
also formed an Artillery Regiment during this time-frame which was
used to fill the gaps in a number of army units for those events.
The SS-VT regiments Deutschland and Germania along with the
Leibstandarte participated in the invasion of Poland, with Der Führer
(recruited in Austria after the Anschluss) in reserve at Prague. In
September 1939, a combined unit of SS-VT and Heer (army) troops
conducted operations jointly as
Panzer Division Kempf during the
invasion of Poland. It fought alongside army units at Rozan,
Łomża and Kmiczyn. The division was disbanded near the
Polish city of
Nidzica on 7 October 1939.
In spite of the swift military victory over Poland in September 1939,
events during the invasion of Poland raised doubts over the combat
effectiveness of the SS-VT. The OKW or Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
(High Command of the Armed Forces) reported that the SS-VT units took
unnecessary risks and had a higher casualty rate than the army.
They also stated that the SS-VT was poorly trained and its officers
unsuitable for combat command. As an example, OKW noted that the
Leibstandarte had to be rescued by an army regiment after becoming
Pabianice by the Poles. In its defence, the SS
insisted that it had been hampered by having to fight piecemeal
instead of as one formation, and was improperly equipped by the army
to carry out its objectives. Himmler insisted that the SS-VT should be
allowed to fight in its own formations under its own commanders, while
the OKW tried to have the SS-VT disbanded altogether. Hitler was
unwilling to upset either the army or Himmler, and chose a third path.
He ordered that the SS-VT form its own divisions but that the
divisions would be under army command.
In addition, Eicke's SS-TV field forces were not military, and during
the invasion of Poland, "[t]heir...capabilities were employed instead
in terrorizing the civilian population through acts that included
hunting down straggling Polish soldiers, confiscating agricultural
produce and livestock, and torturing and murdering large numbers of
Polish political leaders, aristocrats, businessmen, priests,
intellectuals, and Jews." Further, members of the Leibstandarte
also committed atrocities in numerous towns, including the murder of
50 Polish Jews in
Błonie and the massacre of 200 civilians, including
children, who were machine gunned in Złoczew. Shootings also took
place in Bolesławiec, Torzeniec, Goworowo, Mława, and
Development of the Waffen-SS
In October 1939 the SS-VT regiments, Deutschland, Germania and Der
Führer, were organized into the
SS-Verfügungs-Division with Paul
Hausser as commander. The LSSAH was expanded into a motorized
In addition, the armed but ill-trained Totenkopfstandarten; together
SS Heimwehr Danzig
SS Heimwehr Danzig were organized into the Totenkopf-Division
under Eicke's command in October 1939. A further division, the
Polizei-Division, was created from the Ordnungspolizei. These
formations took part in combat training while under army commands in
preparation for Operation
Fall Gelb against the Low Countries and
France in 1940.
Elements of both the SS-VT and the LSSAH participated in the ground
invasion of the Battle of the Netherlands. In the five-day
campaign, the LSSAH linked up with army units and airborne troops
after a number of clashes with Dutch defenders. After the
surrender of Rotterdam, the LSSAH left for the Hague, which they
reached on 15 May, after capturing 3,500 Dutch soldiers as prisoners
On 16 May, the SS Totenkopf Division was ordered to France and was
attached to army divisions which formed the northern "spearhead" of
attack. In France, the SS Totenkopf was involved in the only
Allied tank attack in the Battle of France. On 21 May units of the 1st
Army Tank Brigade, supported by the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry
Division, took part in the Battle of Arras. The SS Totenkopf was
overrun, finding their standard anti-tank gun, the 3.7 cm PaK 36, was
no match for the British Matilda tank.
After the Dutch surrender, the LSSAH was moved south to France. On
24 May the LSSAH, along with the SS-VT division were positioned to
hold the perimeter around
Dunkirk and reduce the size of the pocket
containing the encircled British Expeditionary Force and French
forces. On 27 May, a unit from the Totenkopf, the 4 Company,
committed the Le Paradis massacre, where 97 captured men of the 2nd
Royal Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment were machine gunned after
surrendering, with survivors finished off with bayonets. Two men
survived. By 28 May the SS-Leibstandarte had taken the village of
Wormhout, 10 miles (16 km) from Dunkirk. There, soldiers of the
2nd Battalion were responsible for the Wormhoudt massacre, where 80
British and French soldiers were murdered after they surrendered.
After the close of the Battle of France, the SS-VT was officially
Waffen-SS in a speech made by
Adolf Hitler on 19 July
1940. Himmler also gained approval for the
Waffen-SS to form its
own high command, the Kommandoamt der
Office) within the
SS-Führungshauptamt (FHA), which was created in
August 1940 under Gruppenführer Hans Jüttner. The Totenkopf
Division, together with the independent Totenkopf-Standarten were
transferred to FHA control. Further that same month, SS
Gottlob Berger approached Himmler with a plan to
recruit volunteers in the conquered territories from the ethnic German
and Germanic populations. At first Hitler had doubts about recruiting
foreigners, but he was persuaded by Himmler and Berger. He gave
approval for a new division to be formed from foreign nationals with
December 1940, Baltic states
In December 1940 the Germania Regiment was removed from the
Verfügungs-Division and used to form the cadre of a new division,
SS-Division Germania. It was made up of mostly "Nordic" volunteers
from the newly conquered territories, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch and
Flemings. By the start of 1941, Germania was renamed Wiking with
command given to then
Brigadeführer Felix Steiner, the former
commander of the SS-VT regiment Deutschland. The
Verfügungs-Division was also renamed Reich (in 1942 Das Reich).
The Polizei division was brought under
The Leibstandarte was expanded to a division for Operation
Waffen-SS divisions were assigned numbers much later in the
war these first formations, Leibstandarte, Das Reich, Totenkopf,
Polizei and Wiking were recognized as SS divisions 1 through 5.
^ Reynolds 1997, pp. 1–3.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 144.
^ Mollo 1991, p. 3.
^ Stein 1984, p. 9.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 145.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 146.
^ Windrow & Burn 1992, pp. 7–8.
^ Cook & Bender 1994, pp. 8, 9, 12, 17, 19.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 4–8.
^ Organisationsbuch der NSDAP, 3rd Ed. (1937) p. 424
^ a b Stein 1984, p. 23.
^ a b Flaherty 2004, p. 148.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 23, 33.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 5–7.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 27, 28, 33, 34.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 32–35.
^ Mollo 1991, p. 4.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 25–27.
^ a b c d Flaherty 2004, p. 149.
^ a b Sydnor 1990, pp. 37, 44.
^ Rossino 2003, pp. 114, 159–161.
^ Stein 1984, p. 32.
^ Flaherty 2004, pp. 149–151.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 61–65.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 61, 62.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 154.
^ Stein 1984, p. 66.
^ Harman 1980, p. 100.
^ Stein 1984, p. 65.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 65–69.
^ Cooper 2004.
^ Weale 2012, pp. 251–253.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 156.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 97–103.
^ Flaherty 2004, pp. 160, 161.
^ Stein 1984, p. 103.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 160.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 103, 104.
^ Stein 1984, p. 104.
^ The Polizei division members continued to wear Ordnungspolizei
insignia and it did not include "SS" in its name.
^ Stein 1984, p. 118.
^ Stein 1984, p. 302.
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Normandy. Spellmount. ISBN 1-873376-90-1.
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War 1939–1945. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Sydnor, Charles W. (1990) . Soldiers of Destruction: The SS
Death's Head Division, 1933–1945. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
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Weale, Adrian (2012). Army of Evil: A History of the SS. New York:
Caliber Printing. ISBN 978-0-451-23791-0.
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Osprey. ISBN 0-85045-425-5.
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
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SS Division Das Reich
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Foreign SS units
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SS Sword of Honour
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Ranks, uniforms and insignia
Uniforms and insignia of the SS
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