SS Officers - History - Development

Development

Between 1925 and 1929, the SS was considered merely a small Gruppe of the SA and numbered no more than 1,000 personnel; by 1929 that number was down to 280. After SS commander Erhard Heiden resigned, Hitler appointed Himmler to the position of Reichsführer-SS in January 1929. By the end of 1932, the SS had 52,000 members. By the end of the next year, it had over 209,000 members. Himmler's expansion of the SS was based on models from other groups, such as the Knights Templar and the Italian Blackshirts. According to SS-Obergruppenführer and General of the Waffen-SS, Karl Wolff, it was also based on the model from the Society of Jesus of absolute obedience to the Pope. A motto of the SS was "Treu, Tapfer, Gehorsam" ("Loyalty, Valiance, Obedience").

Before 1929, the SS wore the same brown uniform as the SA, with the exception of a black tie and a black cap with a Totenkopf ("death's head") skull and bones symbol on it. In that year Himmler extended the black colour to include breeches, boots, belts, and armband edges; and in 1932 they adopted the all-black uniform, designed by Prof. Diebitsch and Walter Heck. In 1936 an "earth-grey" uniform was issued. The Waffen ("armed") SS wore a field-grey (feldgrau) uniform similar to the regular army, or Heer. During the war, Waffen-SS units wore a wide range of items printed with camouflage patterns (such as Platanenmuster, Erbsenmuster, captured Italian Telo Mimetico, etc.), while their feldgrau uniforms became largely indistinguishable from those of the Heer, save for the insignia. In 1945, the SS adopted the Leibermuster disruptive camouflage pattern that inspired many forms of modern battle dress, although it was not widely issued before the end of the war.

Their official motto was "Meine Ehre heißt Treue" ("My Honour is Loyalty"). The SS rank system was unique in that it did not copy the terms and ranks used by the Wehrmacht's branches (Heer ("army"), Luftwaffe ("air force"), and Kriegsmarine ("navy")), but instead used the ranks established by the post-World War I Freikorps and taken over by the SA. This was mainly done to establish the SS as being independent from the Wehrmacht, although SS ranks did generally have equivalents in the other services.

Himmler, together with his right-hand man, Reinhard Heydrich, consolidated the power of the organization. In 1931 Himmler gave Heydrich the assignment to build an intelligence and security service inside the SS, which became the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). By the time the war began, the number of members rose to 250,000, and the Waffen-SS was formed in August 1940, expanding the earlier armed SS troops who had fought in Poland and France in 1939–40, to serve alongside the Wehrmacht, Germany's regular armed forces. Himmler also received control of the Gestapo in 1934, and, that same year, Hitler had given the SS jurisdiction over all concentration camps. In the wake of the plot against Hitler's life by a group of regular military generals in July 1944, the Führer came to distrust his regular military, putting ever more trust in the SS, particularly Himmler, who had acted against the plotters and their families. This attitude of Hitler's was further shown at the very end of the war, when he refused to station himself in the OKW bunker in Berlin, claiming that he did not "trust the strength of army concrete", however the true reason was probably that he feared another generals' plot and so chose to stay in his own headquarters, surrounded by an apparently more loyal SS retinue.

Read more about this topic:  SS Officers, History

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