2. THE ALLGEMEINE-SS

GENERAL ORGANISATION OF THE ALLGEMEINE-SS

During the period 1926–28, the SS-Oberleitung in Munich ran twelve local SS Staffeln, and oversaw six SS-Gau, as follows:

SS-Gau Berlin-Brandenburg, with 2 Staffeln

SS-Gau Franken, with 5 Staffeln

SS-Gau Niederbayern, with 3 Staffeln

SS-Gau Oberbayern, with 4 Staffeln

SS-Gau Rheinland-Süd, with 5 Staffeln

SS-Gau Sachsen, with 4 Staffeln

In theory, each party Gau should have had an SS-Gau but, in fact, only these six were actually set up, and many of their Staffeln dealt directly with the Oberleitung. A large number of early Staffeln were very short-lived.

By 1929–30, an SS-Oberstab had superseded the Oberleitung, and it was split into five distinct divisions, namely:

Abteilung I

Administration

Abteilung II

Personnel

Abteilung III

Finance

Abteilung IV

Security

Abteilung V

Race

Under the Oberstab were three SS-Oberführer, who ran their own areas, or Oberführerbereiche, as follows:

SS-Oberführerbereich Ost

SS-Brigade Berlin-Brandenburg, with 3 Standarten/7 Stürme

SS-Brigade Schlesien, with 4 Standarten/6 Stürme

SS-Brigade Ostpreussen, with 2 Standarten/6 Stürme

SS-Oberführerbereich West

SS-Brigade Rheinland-Nord, with 4 Standarten/10 Stürme

SS-Brigade Rheinland-Süd, with 4 Standarten/9 Stürme

SS-Brigade Südhannover-Braunschweig, with 3 Standarten/8 Stürme

SS-Brigade Hessen-Nassau, with 3 Standarten/9 Stürme

SS-Brigade Thüringen, with 2 Standarten/7 Stürme

SS-Oberführerbereich Süd

SS-Brigade Baden-Württemberg, with 1 Standarte/4 Stürme

SS-Brigade Franken, with 1 Standarte/3 Stürme

SS-Brigade Niederbayern, with 1 Standarte/3 Stürme

SS-Brigade Oberbayern-Süd, with 3 Standarten/8 Stürme

SS-Brigade Österreich, with 1 Standarte/3 Stürme

Again, in theory, every party Gau was supposed to have an SS-Brigade, each comprising several Standarten, in turn made up of around five Stürme. Since there were at this time thirty Gaue, the SS was obviously spread very thinly around the country. Most units were well under their ‘paper’ strengths.

Once Himmler had taken control of the SS, things moved apace. Between 1931 and 1933, the whole structure was altered again and again to cope with the increasing administrative and manpower demands placed on the SS command. Two new departments, the SD-Amt and Rasseamt, were established to oversee security and racial matters. A third, the SS-Amt, was the largest of all and was divided into five sections, namely:

I

Staff Office

II

Personnel

III

Administration

IV

Reserves

V

Medical

At the next level, the Oberführerbereiche were replaced by five SS-Gruppen, viz. Nord, Ost, Südost, West and Süd, containing fifty-eight Standarten.

Yet despite these internal arrangements, the SS of 1933 was still very much subordinate to the SA and its Stabschef or Chief of Staff, Ernst Röhm. The SS command structure was in no way an independent one, and the most senior SS leaders were all attached to the SA Supreme Command, the Oberste SA-Führung. Until the SS became a separate element in July 1934, Himmler ranked merely as an SS-Obergruppenführer who held the post, not the rank, of Reichsführer der SS. He was, therefore, on an equal footing with any of the other SS or SA generals and, theoretically at least, enjoyed no privileged position. Indeed, his lack of front-line experience during the First World War led to his being despised by many of the old campaigners, who looked upon him as a figure of fun who had weasled his way to the top. The leader of SS-Gruppe Ost, for example, SS-Gruppenführer Kurt Daluege of Stennes putsch fame, had by 1934 acquired considerable powers with Göring’s patronage and felt himself to be so strong that he refused to deal with anyone but Hitler and Röhm, and certainly not with ‘that Bavarian chicken-breeder Himmler’. He was by no means unique in his attitude. The fall of Röhm, however, altered the situation completely. Himmler’s elevation to the newly created rank of Reichsführer-SS, or RfSS, which set him above all others, suddenly made him untouchable.

image

Himmler and his Old Guard SS leaders in Munich, 1933.

So far as the armed SS units were concerned, Himmler was soon Reichsführer in name only, for the Leibstandarte, SS-VT and SS-TV came to be regarded not as being in the official employ of the party but as public services of the Reich, on the model of the army. Their expenses were charged to the state, and the Reich Finance Minister, Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk, maintained his impartiality in the allocation of national funds to the armed SS by consistently refusing Himmler’s offers of honorary SS rank. In contrast, the Allgemeine-SS always retained its political status as an independent Gliederung, or organisation, of the NSDAP and it was never maintained by the state. Its expenses were paid solely from party funds and its finances were ultimately controlled by the Reichsschatzmeister der NSDAP, or Party Treasurer, Franz Xaver Schwarz, who was renowned as a fist-grasping admin-istrator. However, Schwarz, a veteran of the Munich putsch, was also very close to Himmler, who made him the highest ranking General Officer in the whole SS, second on the seniority list only to the Reichsführer himself. Consequently, the party never actually exercised any close independent supervision over Allgemeine-SS funds. Through his contacts with big business and his mutual back-scratching exercises with Schwarz, Himmler ensured that the Allgemeine-SS got any cash it needed, often at the expense of other party branches such as the NSKK and NSFK. So the Allgemeine-SS, unlike the military side of the organisation, remained totally under the Reichsführer’s control until 1945, immune from outside state interference. Himmler’s position at the top of the Allgemeine-SS hierarchy was, therefore, unchallenged and his power unbridled by any potential financial constraints. As a result, the highest levels of the Allgemeine-SS organisation centred around him personally.

During the autumn of 1934, Himmler quickly went about the business of once again reorganising his high command structure. The Reichsführung-SS was set up as the supreme authority, comprising two staffs, the Kommandostab RfSS, which was an executive administrative staff at Himmler’s personal headquarters, and the Persönlicher Stab RfSS, a much larger and more loosely organised body consisting of a number of advisory officials including the heads of the main SS departments and certain other special offices. The fresh administrative burdens later imposed by the war made it necessary to create a much larger and more complex command structure than had sufficed during peacetime. By 1942, subject to Himmler’s controlling authority and that of the Reichsführung-SS, the day-to-day work of directing, organising and administering the SS was carried out by the eight main departments, or Hauptämter, listed below, each of which is duly covered in turn.

In addition, there were a number of minor offices and departments not of Hauptamt status.

The functions of the various Hauptämter were continually adapted to meet new exigencies and by far the greater part of their work during the 1939–45 period concerned the numerically superior Waffen-SS and the execution of SS policy in the occupied territories. There were ultimately a good many overlapping and conflicting interests as regards their various duties and jurisdictions. By 1945, the Hauptamt system had become a vast and complex network of intertwining bureaucratic empires, each vying for supremacy over the others and for the attention of their Reichsführer. Having said that, there is no doubt that they always functioned effectively, even if not efficiently. The spirit of competition between them, which Himmler actively encouraged, ensured that everything dealt with by each department was recorded, checked and double checked to avoid error. If another Hauptamt had an interest, it too would record, check and double check. The result was the most detailed system of manual files ever compiled, not just on the SS organisation but on every aspect of life in the Third Reich. The SS Personalhauptamt alone housed 150 million individual documents, and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt even maintained secret and potentially incriminating dossiers on Hitler himself and on all the other Nazi leaders, mostly compiled during the 1920s by the security police of the Weimar Republic, whose files were duly inherited by the SS. This attention to detail and ability to come up with all sorts of information gave the impression of an all-seeing, all-knowing command structure which ensured that, right up until the capitulation, the Reichsführung-SS and the SS Hauptämter successfully managed to control and administer the vast SS organisation. That was not an insignificant achievement, considering that, at its peak, the SS operated across an area from the Channel Islands to the Black Sea and from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean, with a generally hostile population.

THE SS HAUPTÄMTER

1.

Hauptamt Persönlicher Stab RfSS

– Himmler’s Personal Staff

2.

SS Hauptamt

– SS Central Office

3.

SS Führungshauptamt

– SS Operational HQ

4.

Reichssicherheitshauptamt

– Reich Central Security Office

5.

SS Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt

– SS Economic and Administrative Department

6.

SS Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt

– SS Race and Settlement Department

7.

Hauptamt SS Gericht

– SS Legal Department

8.

SS Personalhauptamt

– SS Personnel Department

As the core of the Reichsführung-SS, the Personal Staff of the Reichsführer-SS (Pers. Stab RfSS) had its main offices at 8 Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, Berlin. Its members were designated ‘i.P.St.’ (on the Personal Staff) and were subordinated directly to Himmler. As more and more high-ranking people inside and outside the SS sought to gain Himmler’s ear, the Personal Staff became the focus of influence in the SS command. It consisted of:

1.The heads of the SS Hauptämter, who were ex-officio members

2.SS officials in certain offices and departments integrated into the Pers. Stab

3.SS officials appointed or attached to the staff for special advisory or honorary purposes

Besides being an advisory and co-ordinating body, the Pers. Stab was responsible for all business in which the Reichsführer-SS was concerned that did not come into the province of any of the other SS Hauptämter. In addition, it liaised with government and party offices and controlled various financial and business dealings on Himmler’s behalf. The Chief of the Personal Staff was SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff, who served as Himmler’s adjutant from 1934. In 1943, ‘Wölfchen’ was also appointed Supreme SS and Police Commander in Italy, in effect military governor of the country, but he always retained his post as Chief of the Personal Staff and, with it, all the powers and disciplinary prerogatives of a Hauptamtschef.

Much of the administrative work generated by the Pers. Stab was processed through the Kommandostab RfSS which operated during the war on a mobile basis under the title Feldkommandostelle RfSS, or Field Headquarters of the Reichsführer-SS. It was by then organised like a military HQ and accompanied Himmler on his numerous tours of the occupied territories. Together with attached SS units including a signals section, an escort battalion and a flak detachment, the Feldkommandostelle eventually numbered over 3,000 men. Its special train, ‘Sonderzug Heinrich’, had fourteen carriages.

At various times, the following offices and departments were part of, or directly subordinated to, the Persönlicher Stab RfSS and they give a general idea of the extent of its interests and influence:

1.

Pressestelle RfSS (Press Office of the RfSS)

 

This office handled Himmler’s personal press relations and also advised him regarding official SS publications and publicity.

2.

Hauptabteilung Auszeichnungen und Orden (Main Section for Awards and Decorations)

 

This main section advised the RfSS on all awards of orders, medals and decorations to SS men.

3.

Dienststelle ‘Vierjahresplan’ (Office for the Four Year Plan)

 

This was a liaison office between the RfSS and the economic Four Year Plan under Göring, to deal with those aspects of the Plan which touched upon SS interests and activities.

4.

Abteilung Wirtschaftliche Hilfe (Section for Economic Assistance)

 

This section provided financial and other assistance to SS men who had suffered material loss during the period of the struggle for power. It also loaned money to SS officers to enable them to purchase items of uniform and equipment and, in some cases, liquidated debts incurred by SS members.

5.

Kulturreferat (Cultural Office)

 

This was responsible for the direction of the cultural activities of the SS, including the Nordland Verlag publishing house and the porcelain works at Allach.

6.

Abteilung für Kulturelle Forschung (Section for Cultural Research)

 

This section was concerned with the antiquarian and archaeological aspects of German history. It encouraged exped-itions, excavations and research to support with actual historical or archaeological evidence the Nazi account of early German history.

7.

Ahnenerbe- Forschungs- und Lehrgemeinschaft (Society for the Research and Teaching of Ancestral Heritage)

 

This society existed to promote genealogical and biological research.

8.

Hauptabteilung Lebensborn (Fountain of Life Main Section)

 

This main section liaised with the Lebensborn Society, which looked after the welfare of SS mothers and children.

In addition, the following special posts are examples of the types subordinated directly to Himmler. Those officers mentioned held the posts in 1944:

1.

SS Richter beim Pers. Stab RfSS (SS Legal Officer on the Staff of the RfSS)

 

SS-Standartenführer Horst Bender. Dealt with all legal and disciplinary matters coming to Himmler for a personal decision.

2.

Reichsarzt SS und Polizei (Chief SS and Police Medical Officer)

 

SS-Obergruppenführer Prof. Dr Ernst-Robert Grawitz. He was responsible for the general supervision of all the medical services of the SS and police, for medical research and training, and for the control and distribution of medical supplies and equipment.

3.

Chef Fernmeldewesen beim Pers. Stab RfSS (Chief of Communications on the Staff of the RfSS)

 

SS-Obergruppenführer Ernst Sachs. His function was to supervise the whole field of signals and communications in the SS and police.

4.

RfSS Pers. Stab Beauftragter für Jagd und Forstwesen (Representative for Hunting and Forestry on the Staff of the RfSS)

 

SS-Brigadeführer Hermann Müller. Müller was also President of the Reich Canine Society and Representative for Service Dogs (SS and Police) on the Pers. Stab.

In short then, all SS activities, and everything which affected the SS, came within the jurisdiction of the Hauptamt Persönlicher Stab RfSS.

The SS Hauptamt or SS-HA, the SS Central Office, was based at 7–11 Douglasstrasse, Berlin-Grünewald, and developed from the SS-Amt which, under SS-Gruppenführer Kurt Wittje, co-ordinated SS operations prior to 1935. It was the oldest of the SS main departments and its bare title of Hauptamt, without further qualification, indicated in itself the fundamental part it originally played in the administration of the SS. As late as 1940, under SS-Obergruppenführer August Heissmeyer, it maintained its supremacy. At that time there were still only three Hauptämter proper, the other two being the Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt. With the exception therefore of the specialist functions carried out by these two departments, the SS-HA was responsible for all the varied tasks involved in the general administration of the whole SS.

The expansion of the SS as a result of wartime mobilisation, however, made the multiplicity of functions converging on the SS-HA too great a burden for one department, and in August 1940 a major reorganisation of the central administration of the SS took place. Two existing SS-HA branches, the Personalamt (Personnel Office) and the SS Gericht (Legal Department) were detached and themselves raised to Hauptamt status, becoming the SS Personalhauptamt and the Hauptamt SS Gericht. In addition, two further Hauptämter were created, namely the SS Führungshauptamt and the SS Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt, by taking certain responsibilities away from the SS-HA. Several other functions of the SS-HA were also transferred or absorbed elsewhere, an example being the supervision of SS radio communications and signals which was taken over by the Chief of Communications on the Persönlicher Stab RfSS. The result of this reorganisation was that the SS-HA lost eight of its thirteen offices. At one stroke it was completely deprived of the commanding position it had previously enjoyed. The main importance still attaching to the SS-HA under its new chief, SS-Obergruppenführer Gottlob-Christian Berger, was its responsibility for recruitment and the maintenance of records on non-commissioned personnel.

The subsequent recovery of the SS-HA during 1941–45 was almost entirely due to the continued expansion of the Waffen-SS and the extension of the area of Allgemeine-SS influence into occupied territories. From 1941, the Waffen-SS increasingly recruited both individual Germanic volunteers and complete Germanic units from western Europe and Scandinavia. At the same time, efforts were made in Flanders, Holland, Norway and Denmark to raise native Allgemeine-SS formations, the so-called Germanic-SS, to assist in policing these countries. The reflection of this was the creation at the end of 1941 of the Germanische Leitstelle, or Germanic Liaison Office, of the SS-HA, which looked after the welfare of all members of Germanic races who came within the orbit of the SS. These included foreign students at German universities, foreign workers in German factories, and non-German members of the Allgemeine-SS proper. This aspect of the work of the SS-HA steadily expanded during the war and brought with it a number of allied duties and functions, including the setting up of public exhibitions geared towards the promotion of German culture in western Europe. In addition to these primary concerns, the SS Hauptamt also kept a general watching brief over propaganda, publications, education, sport and physical training for the whole SS and police.

The SS Operational Headquarters or Führungshauptamt (SS-FHA), under SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Jüttner, was located at 188 Kaiserallee, Berlin-Wilmersdorf. It grew from the Operations Department of the SS Hauptamt, becoming a separate entity in August 1940, and developed into the biggest of all the SS Hauptämter, with a staff of 40,000 in 1944. The reason for its rapid growth was the expansion of the Waffen-SS, which imposed a colossal administrative burden on the SS command for which there had been no parallel before the war. However, while the greater operational needs of the Waffen-SS made the administration of that branch by far the most important function of the SS-FHA, the latter was never intended to be the headquarters solely of the Waffen-SS. It was, in fact, the Operational HQ of the Gesamt-SS, or whole SS, and included as one of its departments the Allgemeine-SS Headquarters (Kommandoamt der Allgemeinen-SS) under SS-Gruppenführer Leo Petri, which was responsible for the control and operational deployment of the Allgemeine-SS as well as its general administration, supplies, training and mobilisation. All SS units which were not under the tactical command of the Wehrmacht in the field were entirely subordinated to the SS-FHA for both operational and administrative purposes. It organised the payment of wages and the supply of equipment, arms, ammunition and vehicles, as well as the maintenance and repair of stocks. The SS-FHA personnel branch was responsible for appointments, transfers and promotions, although questions affecting officer personnel were handled in conjunction with the SS Personalhauptamt, of which the chief of the SS-FHA personnel branch, SS-Obergruppenführer Kurt Knoblauch, was an ex-officio member. In addition, the SS-FHA co-ordinated the training of all SS formations and controlled a large number of training units, schools and camps, while its medical branch supervised SS hospitals. A Movement Control Officer at the SS-FHA was responsible for all matters affecting the transport of the SS and police, including rail, shipping and air transport, and the SS-FHA Field Post Department controlled SS Field post offices and mail censorship. The SS-FHA also oversaw a host of other miscellaneous SS activities, including military geology, war archives and dentistry.

The Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA, the Reich Central Security Office, was set up in September 1939 to bring together the security police forces of both the party and the state. Based at 8 Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, Berlin, it combined in one command structure the offices of the party-run Sicherheitsdienst or SD (the SS Security Service), and the state-run Sicherheitspolizei or Sipo (Security Police), which itself comprised the Kripo (Criminal Police) and Gestapo (Political Police). Although the RSHA was officially subordinated to Himmler, it quickly became the personal empire of its first chief, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, who used its vast resources of information and incriminating dossiers as bargaining counters in his power struggles with the other Nazi leaders until his assassination in 1942. His successor, SS-Obergruppenführer Dr Ernst Kaltenbrunner, a sinister-looking individual and old guard Austrian Nazi, was far less ambitious but still became one of the most feared men in the Third Reich. The RSHA was responsible for both domestic and foreign intelligence operations, espionage and counter-espionage, combatting political and common law crime, and sounding out public opinion on the Nazi régime.

The SS Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt or SS-WVHA, the SS Economic and Administrative Department, was formed in 1942. Based at 126–35 Unter den Eichen, Berlin-Lichterfelde, it was headed by SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl and dealt primarily with the concentration camp system and the financial administration of the SS. It controlled a large number of SS industrial and agricultural undertakings, organised the ‘in-house’ manufacture of supplies and equipment for SS use, and carried out SS housing and construction programmes.

The SS Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt or RuSHA, the SS Race and Settlement Department, achieved Hauptamt status on 30 January 1935, having grown from the SS Race and Settlement Office set up at the end of 1931 under SS-Obergruppenführer Richard Walther Darré. It was subsequently commanded by Günther Pancke, who later became Senior SS and Police Commander in Denmark, and finally by Richard Hildebrandt, and had its offices at 24 Hedemannstrasse, Berlin. RuSHA looked after the ideological and racial purity of all SS members. It was the authority for all matters of geneology, and issued lineage certificates and marriage permits within the SS. In addition, it was responsible for executing the policy of settling SS men, especially exservicemen, as colonists in the conquered eastern territories, and thus translated into practice the ‘Blood and Soil’ theories of Darré and the other SS racial teachers.

The Hauptamt SS Gericht or HA SS Gericht, the SS Legal Department, situated at 10 Karlstrasse, Munich, administered the disciplinary side of the special code of laws to which members of the SS and police were subject. It controlled the SS und Polizei Gerichte (SS and Police Courts) in the larger towns of Germany and the occupied countries, and the Strafvollzugslager der SS und Polizei (SS and Police Penal Camps) also came under its jurisdiction. The department was headed by SS-Gruppenführer Paul Scharfe until his death in 1942, when he was succeeded by SS-Obergruppenführer Franz Breithaupt. The Hauptamt SS Gericht was an extension of the older SS Gericht, an office which carried out on behalf of the Reichsführer-SS investigations within the ranks of the SS into disciplinary offences and infringements of the SS code of honour. It prepared and prosecuted cases and was responsible for the remission or reprieve of sentences. In addition, as supreme authority within the SS on matters of law and discipline, it was the channel of liaison between the SS and all other legal bodies of the state and party.

The SS Personalhauptamt, or SS Personnel Department, was based at 98–9 Wilmersdorferstrasse, Berlin-Charlottenburg and co-ordinated the work of the personnel branches of the various Hauptämter. It was the ultimate authority responsible for all questions of SS personnel, but its primary concern was with officers, as the SS Hauptamt retained records concerning NCOs and other ranks. The SS Personalhauptamt had two main offices, one for officer personnel and the other for officer replacements, and it regularly produced and updated the SS Seniority List, or Dienstaltersliste, which recorded details of every serving SS officer. The SS Personalhauptamt was commanded by SS-Obergruppenführer Walter Schmitt until 1942, and thereafter by SS-Obergruppenführer Maximilian von Herff.

In addition to the regular SS Hauptämter, there were a number of other smaller offices and departments which had their places in the SS command structure. The Hauptstelle der Hauptamt Ordnungspolizei was a department representing the uniformed civil police at Himmler’s headquarters. It advised the Reichsführer on all matters concerning the Ordnungspolizei. The Hauptamt Dienststelle Heissmeyer, an office attached to the staff of SS-Obergruppenführer August Heissmeyer in his capacity as the Senior SS and Police Commander for the Berlin District, was responsible for the supervision of the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten (NPEA or Napolas), the National Political Educational Institutes set up to train the future Germanic élite. The Stabshauptamt der Reichskommissar für die Festigung des deutschen Volkstums, or Hauptamt RKF, Himmler’s staff HQ in his capacity as Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of Germanism, was based at 142–3 Kurfürstendamm, Berlin and commanded by SS-Obergruppenführer Ulrich Greifelt. It had a general interest in all matters affecting the maintenance of the racial qualities of the German population and the protection and enlargement of the German race as a whole. Its principal activity was to promote settlement by Germans of the annexed eastern territories of the Reich. Finally, the Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle or VOMI, the Department for the Repatriation of Racial Germans, operated from offices at 29 Keithstrasse, Berlin and led by SS-Obergruppenführer Werner Lorenz. In contrast to the Hauptamt RKF, its main function was the organised return to the Reich of the descendants of older generations of German colonists and settlers in Russia and south-east Europe.

On a level immediately below the SS Hauptämter were the Oberabschnitte (Oa.) or Regions, the bases of Allgemeine-SS territorial organisation. Initially there were five Oberabschnitte, formed in 1932 from the existing SS Gruppen. By 1944, their number had risen to seventeen within Germany proper and each corresponded almost exactly to a Wehrkreis or Military District. The SS Regions were generally known by geographical names, but it was also customary to refer to them by the Roman numeral allocated to the corresponding Wehrkreis. Each Oberabschnitt was commanded by an SS-Obergruppenführer, Gruppenführer or Brigadeführer designated Führer des Oberabschnittes (F.Oa.). He was usually also Himmler’s representative at the military headquarters of the local Wehrkreis and, in addition, held the post of Höhere SS- und Polizeiführer or HSSPf, the Senior SS and Police Commander in the Region. In the few cases where the HSSPf was not the Führer of the corresponding Oberabschnitt it was because the latter, though filling some other active appointment, was allowed to retain the titular leadership of the Oa. on personal grounds. For example, during the war, SS-Obergruppenführer August Heissmeyer found himself appointed HSSPf for Oberabschnitt Spree as the nominal Führer of that Region, ‘Sepp’ Dietrich, was fully committed with the Waffen-SS on the battlefront.

Directly subordinated to the F.Oa. or HSSPf was the Stabsführer der Allgemeinen-SS (Allgemeine-SS Chief of Staff) who was responsible to him for the general conduct and control of the Allgemeine-SS within the Oa. The Regional Headquarters was staffed primarily by Hauptamtlicher Führer (full-time officers) together with a number of Nebenamtlich (part-time) or Ehrenamtlich (honorary) officials. The full-timers included the Leiter der Verwaltung or Verwal-tungsführer (Administrative Officer), the Oberabschnittsarzt (Medical Officer), the Oberabschnittsausbildungsf ührer (Training Officer), the Oberabschnit tspersonalchef (Personnel Officer) and the Nachrichtenführer (Signals Officer). Part-timers were generally below the rank of Sturmbannführer and were not paid for their services. The seventeen SS Oberabschnitte situated within Germany were named and numbered as follows:

Oberabschnitt

HQ

Wehrkreis

Alpenland

Salzburg

XVIII

Donau

Wien

XVII

Elbe

Dresden

IV

Fulda-Werra

Arolsen-Waldeck

IX

Main

Nürnberg

XIII

Mitte

Braunschweig

XI

Nordost

Königsberg

I

Nordsee

Hamburg

X

Ostsee

Stettin

II

Rhein-Westmark

Wiesbaden

XII

Spree

Berlin

III

Süd

München

VII

Südost

Breslau

VIII

Südwest

Stuttgart

V

Warthe

Posen

XXI

Weichsel

Danzig

XX

West

Düsseldorf

VI

There were no SS Oberabschnitte corresponding to Wehrkreise numbers XIV, XV, XVI and XIX.

image

Himmler, Wolff and SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Schmauser, Führer of Oberabschnitt Süd, inspecting men of the 34th SS Fuss-Standarte at Weilheim in December 1934.

In addition to these, there were six foreign Oberabschnitte which evolved during the war, as listed below:

Oberabschnitt

HQ

Region

Böhmen-Mähren

Prague

Czechoslovakia

Nord

Oslo

Norway

Nordwest

The Hague

Holland

Ost

Krakow

Poland

Ostland

Riga

Baltic States

Ukraine

Kiev

Ukraine

Of these six, only Oa. Böhmen-Mähren, which included the Sudetenland, existed long enough to develop an organisation strictly comparable to the Oberabschnitte inside Germany. Oa. Nord and Nordwest coordinated police operations and those of the relatively small contingents of Germanic-SS in Flanders, Holland, Norway and Denmark, while Oa. Ost, Ostland and Ukraine directed the miscellaneous security and anti-guerrilla forces in their respective areas.

Each SS Oberabschnitt in turn comprised an average of three Abschnitte or Districts, again distinguished by Roman numerals. They were also referred to by the names of the areas which they covered or by the location of their headquarters. The Abschnitt commander or Führer des Abschnittes (F.Ab.) was generally an officer of the rank of SS-Oberführer or Standartenführer. The first seven Abschnitte covered the entire Reich, and the eighth was for Austria. The ninth and succeeding Abschnitte made their appearance in 1932, along with Standarten with numbers in the upper forties. The Districts then grew commensurate with the expansion of the SS, and by 1944 the following Abschnitte were listed:

Abschnitt No.

District

I

München/Landshut/Ingolstadt

II

Dresden/Chemnitz/Plauen

III

Berlin-Steglitz

IV

Hannover/Braunschweig/Celle/Göttingen

V

Duisberg/Düsseldorf/Essen/Köln

VI

Breslau/Frankenstein/Glogau

VII

Königsberg/Insterburg/Elbing

VIII

Linz

IX

Würzburg/Nürnberg/Ansbach/Schweinfurt

X

Stuttgart/Tübingen/Ulm

XI

Koblenz/Trier/Darmstadt/Wiesbaden/Bingen

XII

Frankfurt (Oder)/Senftenberg

XIII

Stettin/Köslin/Schneidemühl

XIV

Oldenburg/Cuxhaven/Bremen

XV

Hamburg-Altona/Hamburg-Harburg

XVI

Dessau/Magdeburg/Stassfurt

XVII

Münster/Detmold/Bielefeld/Buer

XVIII

Halle (Saale)/Leipzig/Wittenberg

XIX

Karlsruhe

XX

Kiel/Flensburg

XXI

Hirschberg/Mährisch-Schönberg/Jägerndorf/Troppau

XXII

Allenstein/Memel/Zichenau

XXIII

Berlin-Wilmersdorf/Neuruppin/

 

Eberswalde/Potsdam

XXIV

Oppeln/Beuthen/Kattowitz

XXV

Dortmund/Bochum/Hagen

XXVI

Danzig/Zoppot/Marienwerder/Marienburg/Neustadt/Elbing

XXVII

Weimar/Gotha/Gera/Meiningen/Erfurt

XXVIII

Bayreuth/Regensburg/Bamberg

XXIX

Konstanz

XXX

Frankfurt (Main)/Kassel/Giessen

XXXI

Wien/Krems/Znaim

XXXII

Augsburg/Lindau

XXXIII

Schwerin/Greifswald

XXXIV

Saarbrücken/Kaiserslautern/Heidelberg

XXXV

Graz/Klagenfurt/Leoben

XXXVI

Salzburg/Innsbruck

XXXVII

Reichenberg/Trautenau/Brüx/Aussig

XXXVIII

Karlsbad/Eger/Asch

XXXIX

Brünn/Iglau/Prag

XXXX

Bromberg/Tuchel

XXXXI

Thorn/Kulm

XXXXII

Gnesen/Posen

XXXXIII

Litzmannstadt/Kalisch/Leslau

XXXXIV

Gumbinnen/Memel/Zichenau

XXXXV

Strassburg/Colmar

It will be noted that the expansion of SS membership in a few towns and cities resulted in their being split between two Abschnitte.

The organisation of the Allgemeine-SS in respect of formation below the level of the Abschnitte was on a more flexible unit, rather than territorial, basis, although each unit itself related to, or was recruited from, a particular area. The typical Abschnitt controlled an average of three SS Fuss-Standarten, the equivalent of foot or infantry regiments. As the name suggests, the Standarte was the standard unit of the Allgemeine-SS and had been firmly established as such by 1930, long before the SS regional system fully evolved. The earliest SS Standarten were terribly under-strength, and even in 1931 might comprise only 100 men. Numbers rose steadily, however, with ten new SS Standarten being formed in 1933 and a further fifty in 1934. By 1939, the average Fuss-Standarte comprised around 2,000 men, but corresponding numbers fell to around 1,600 in 1941 and 400 in 1944 due to Allgemeine-SS members being drafted into the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS. Each regiment was commanded by a Führer des Standartes (F.Sta.), who was assisted by a small staff and part-time headquarters unit. Depending on unit size, the regimental commander could be an SS-Standartenführer, Obersturmbannführer or Sturmbannführer. By 1943, it was common for two of the smaller adjacent Standarten to be placed together under a single acting commander.

image

SS men at Hamburg railway station, c. 1934–5. Both styles of death’s head are being worn on the cap during this transitional period. The runic collar patch of the man at the left denotes his membership of the Leibstandarte, while the others are from the 48th Standarte.

Standarten were numbered consecutively from 1 to 127. A select few also bore the names of celebrated SS men who had died, been killed during the ‘Kampfzeit’, been assassinated and so on, and such ‘honour titles’ were similarly extended to a number of Stürme or companies within certain Standarten. For example, the 6th Sturm of the 6th Standarte was called ‘Eduard Felsen’ in memory of its member killed in the street disorder on the night of the Reichstag fire, while the 90th Standarte was awarded the title ‘Franz Kutschera’ after the latter, one of its officers who rose to command the security police and SD in Poland, who was murdered by partisans on 1 February 1944. The table below lists all of the SS Fuss-Standarten with their regimental numbers and locations and, where applicable, Standarte or Sturm honour titles.

SS FUSS – STANDARTEN

Standarte No.

Location

Standarte Honour Title

Sturm Honour Title

1.

München

‘Julius Schreck’

  1. ‘Karl Ostberg’

     

  2. ‘Casella’

     

  5. ‘Hellinger’

     

10. ‘Karl Laforce’

2.

Frankfurt (Main)

 

  4. ‘Josef Bleser’

3.

Nürnberg

   

4.

Hamburg-Altona

   

5.

Luxemburg

   

6.

Berlin-Charlottenburg

 

  6. ‘Eduard Felsen’

     

  8. ‘Oskar Goll’

     

  9. ‘Kurt von der Ahe’

7.

Plauen

‘Friedrich Schlegel’

  3. ‘Paul Fressonke’

     

  6. ‘Paul Teubner’

8.

Hirschberg

   

9.

Stettin

   

10.

Kaiserslautern

   

11.

Wien

‘Planetta’

 

12.

Hannover

   

13.

Stuttgart

   

14.

Gotha

   

15.

Neuruppin

   

16.

Breslau

   

17.

Celle

   

18.

Königsberg

   

19.

Münster

   

20.

Düsseldorf

‘Fritz Weitzel’

  1. ‘Karl Vobis’

     

  3. ‘Kurt Hilmer’

     

  5. ‘Werner Hannemann’

     

11. ‘Friedrich Schreiber’

21.

Magdeburg

   

22.

Schwerin

‘Friedrich Graf von der Schulenburg’

 

23.

Beuthen

   

24.

Oldenburg

   

25.

Essen

 

  1. ‘Garthe’

     

  3. ‘Friedrich Karpinski’

     

  4. ‘Arnold Guse’

     

  5. ‘Leopold Paffrath’

26.

Halle (Saale)

 

  1. ‘Paul Berck’

27.

Frankfurt (Oder)

   

28.

Hamburg

 

  1. ‘Henry Kobert’

     

  9. ‘Hans Cyranka’

29.

Lindau

   

30.

Bochum

 

  1. ‘Fritz Borawski’

     

  3. ‘August Pfaff’

     

11. ‘Adolf Höh’

31.

Landshut

 

  4. ‘Faust’

     

12. ‘Andreas Zinkl’

32.

Heidelberg

   

33.

Darmstadt

   

34.

Weilheim

   

35.

Kassel

   

36.

Danzig

   

37.

Linz

   

38.

Graz

   

39.

Köslin

   

40.

Kiel

 

  1. ‘Radke’

     

  8. ‘Martens’

41.

Bayreuth

   

42.

Berlin

 

  4. ‘Fritz Schulz’

43.

Frankenstein

   

44.

Eberswalde

   

45.

Oppeln

   

46.

Dresden

   

47.

Jena

   

48.

Leipzig

 

  8. ‘Gutsche’

49.

Braunschweig

 

  1. ‘Gerhard Landmann’

50.

Flensburg

   

51.

Göttingen

   

52.

Krems

   

53.

Heide

   

54.

Landsberg (Warthe)

‘Seidel-Dittmarsch’

 

55.

Lüneburg

   

56.

Bamberg

   

57.

Meiningen

   

58.

Köln

 

  2. ‘Franz Müller’

59.

Dessau

‘Loeper’

 

60.

Insterburg

   

61.

Allenstein

   

62.

Karlsruhe

   

63.

Tübingen

   

64.

Berent

   

65.

Freiburg (Br.)

   

66.

Bartenstein

   

67.

Erfurt

 

12. ‘Fritz Beubler’

68.

Regensburg

   

69.

Hagen (Westf.)

   

70.

Glogau

   

71.

Elbing

 

  1. ‘Ernst Ludwig’

72.

Detmold

   

73.

Ansbach

   

74.

Greifswald

   

75.

Berlin

 

  8. ‘Edmund Behnke’

76.

Salzburg

   

77.

Schneidmühl

   

78.

Wiesbaden

   

79.

Ulm

   

80.

Berlin

   

81.

Würzburg

 

  2. ‘Hans Purps’

82.

Bielefeld

   

83.

Giessen

   

84.

Chemnitz

 

  4. ‘Grobe’

     

  9. ‘Steinbach’

     

11. ‘Ludwig Frisch’

85.

Saarbrücken

   

86.

Offenburg

   

87.

Innsbruck

   

88.

Bremen

   

89.

Wien

‘Holzweber’

 

90.

Klagenfurt

‘Franz Kutschera’

 

91.

Wittenberg

   

92.

Ingolstadt

   

93.

Koblenz

   

94.

Leoben

   

95.

Trautenau

   

96.

Brüx

   

97.

Eger

   

98.

Mährisch-Schönberg

   

99.

Znaim

   

100.

Reichenberg

   

101.

Saaz

   

102.

Jägerndorf

   

103.

Aussig

   

104.

Troppau

   

105.

Memel

   

106.

Augsburg

   

107.

Brünn

   

108.

Prag

   

109.

Posen

   

110.

Hohensalza

   

111.

Kolmar

   

112.

Litzmannstadt

   

113.

Kalisch

   

114.

Lesslau

   

115.

Zichenau

   

116.

Bromberg

   

117.

Konitz

   

118.

Pr. Stargard

   

119.

Graudenz

   

120.

Kulm

   

121.

Strasburg

   

122.

Strassburg

   

123.

Kolmar

   

124.

Scharley

   

125.

Metz

   

126.

Marburg/Drau

   

127.

Oslo

   

It will be noted that a few of the larger towns and cities had more than one Fuss-Standarte.

As well as the Fuss-Standarten, there were twenty-three Allgemeine-SS cavalry units of regimental size, the Reiterstandarten. Each comprised from five to eight Reiterstürme (cavalry companies), a Sanitätsreiterstaffel (medical squad) and a Trompeterkorps (trumpet corps). The Reiterstandarten were never concentrated in their HQ cities, the component companies usually being dispersed among smaller towns of the Abschnitte. They were always basically ceremonial in function, with a distinctly snobbish outlook, and were seldom if ever used to assist the Fuss-Standarten and police in domestic crowd control. The Inspector of SS Cavalry Training was the equestrian SS-Brigadeführer Christian Weber, one of the Old Guard Stosstrupp men and veteran of the Munich putsch. He set up the Main SS Cavalry School, or SS-Hauptreitschule, in Munich which was commanded by Hermann Fegelein until 1939. After the outbreak of war, the majority of members of the Reiterstandarten were conscripted into army cavalry units, or into the hastily mustered SS-Totenkopfreiterstandarten for front-line service. In 1941, the latter amalgamated to form the Waffen-SS Cavalry Brigade which by 1942 had expanded to become the SS-Kavallerie-Division, named ‘Florian Geyer’ in 1944. All of these formations were commanded during the various stages of their development by Fegelein, whose ever-strengthening position in Nazi circles culminated in his marriage on 3 June 1944 to Gretl Braun, sister of Hitler’s mistress. The Allgemeine-SS Reiter-standarten were numbered from 1 to 23, each number being prefixed by the letter ‘R’ to distinguish them from the Fuss-Standarten. Their headquarters were located as follows:

image

A kettle-drummer of the SS-Kavallerie-Division in October 1942. The drum cover was made from black velvet with heavy aluminium wire embroidery, and its design had remained unchanged since 1934.

Standarte No.

HQ

R.1

Insterburg

R.2

Danzig

R.3

Treuburg

R.4

Hamburg

R.5

Stettin

R.6

Düsseldorf

R.7

Berlin

R.8

Pelkum

R.9

Bremen

R.10

Arolsen

R.11

Breslau

R.12

Schwerin

R.13

Frankfurt (Main)

R.14

Stuttgart

R.15

München

R.16

Dresden

R.17

Regensburg

R.18

Wien

R.19

Graudenz

R.20

Tilsit

R.21

Hannover

R.22

Posen

R.23

Pirmasens

Several of these locations were former garrison towns of imperial cavalry regiments and, consequently, had excellent equestrian facilities. Moreover, many nationalist riding clubs were incorporated into the Allgemeine-SS ‘lock, stock and barrel’ during the 1930s, bringing with them their equestrian expertise. All this meant that the SS Reiterstandarten became the best cavalry formations in the Third Reich, surpassing even those of the army so far as ceremonial was concerned.

Each SS Standarte was composed of three active Sturmbanne or battalions, one Reserve-Sturmbann for men between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five, and a Musikzug or marching band. A Sturmbann was usually commanded by an SS-Sturmbannführer, assisted by an adjutant. The full peacetime strength of a Sturmbann ranged from 500 to 800 men and, as it was considered the basic tactical unit of the Allgemeine-SS, it was planned that the SS Sturmbann would be able to operate as an independent entity in times of strife or revolt. The three active Sturmbanne of a Standarte were numbered in Roman numerals from I to III, for example the third Sturmbann of the 41st Standarte was abbreviated ‘III/41’. The Reserve-Sturmbann was distinguished by the prefix ‘Res.’, in this case ‘Res./41’.

Each active Sturmbann was in turn composed of four Stürme or companies, a Sanitätsstaffel (medical squad) and a Spielmannzug (fife-and-drum corps). In 1930, few SS Stürme expanded beyond the original Staffel size of seven to fifteen men. By the mid-1930s, however, the full peacetime strength of a Sturm was 120 to 180 men, under an SS-Hauptsturmführer, Ober-sturmführer or Untersturmführer. During wartime, one of the four Stürme served locally as a Wachkompanie, or Guard Company, protecting bridges, important buildings and so on. Another stood by as a civil defence Alarmsturm, or Emergency Company, for use during air raids or ground attacks, and the remaining two were assigned to general patrol duties. A Reserve-Sturmbann generally comprised two Reserve-Stürme, numbered ‘Res.1’ and ‘Res.2’, and a Reserve-Sanitätsstaffel. Within each Standarte, the four Stürme of Sturmbann I were numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4. Those of Sturmbann II were numbered 5, 6, 7 and 8, while those of Sturmbann III were numbered 9, 10, 11 and 12. Thus the 1st Sturm of the 2nd Sturmbann of the 3rd Standarte, i.e. the 5th Sturm in the 3rd Standarte, would be referred to within the Standarte as ‘5/II’ and outwith the Standarte as ‘5/II/3’.

image

A detachment from an SS Fuss-Standarte, preceded by its band and traditional musicians’ ‘Schellenbaum’ or ‘Belltree’ standard, c. 1934.

Every Sturm was divided into three or four Truppen (platoons), each composed of three Scharen (sections). A Schar generally numbered ten to fifteen men and was used to patrol blocks of houses within cities and guard official buildings. The Schar itself comprised two or three Rotten (files), the smallest units of the Allgemeine-SS numbering about five men. Depending on their size, Truppen and Scharen were commanded by NCOs of the ranks between SS-Hauptscharführer and Unterscharführer, while Rotten were led by experienced enlisted men known as Rottenführer.

In addition to the regular SS infantry and cavalry units, there were a number of specialist formations intended to act in a support role. Each SS Oberabschnitt was assigned one Nachrichtensturmbann, or Signals Battalion, responsible for SS communications in the Region. These signals battalions were numbered consecutively from 1 to 19, in Arabic rather than Roman numerals, prefixed by the letters ‘Na.’. Their headquarters were located as follows:

image

An SS-Unterscharführer reservist, denoted by the ‘Reserve’ cuff title, c. 1937.

Sturmbann No.

HQ

Na.1

München

Na.2

Stuttgart

Na.3

Arolsen

Na.4

Düsseldorf

Na.5

Braunschweig

Na.6

Hamburg

Na.7

Königsberg

Na.8

Berlin

Na.9

Dresden

Na.10

Breslau

Na.11

Nürnberg

Na.12

Stettin

Na.13

Wiesbaden

Na.14

Wien

Na.16

Danzig

Na.17

Posen

Na.19

Prag

No records remain of the locations of Nachrichtensturmbanne nos 15 and 18.

Pioniersturmbanne or engineer battalions were again organic components of the Oberabschnitte, and were equipped to carry out emergency construction work such as road and bridge repairs, and maintenance of public utilities including gas, electricity, water and the like. Each Pioniersturmbann was numbered consecutively from 1 to 16, prefixed by the letters ‘Pi.’. Their headquarters were located as follows:

Sturmbann No.

HQ

Pi.1

München

Pi.2

Stuttgart

Pi.3

Arolsen

Pi.4

Köln

Pi.5

Harburg-Wilhelmsburg

Pi.6

Stettin

Pi.7

Königsberg

Pi.8

Berlin

Pi.9

Dresden

Pi.10

Breslau

Pi.11

Nürnberg

Pi.12

Magdeburg

Pi.13

Frankfurt (Main)

Pi.14

Wien

Pi.15

Salzburg

Pi.16

Danzig

image

NCOs of the SS-VT signals battalion in October 1935. All wear the ‘SS/lightning bolt’ collar patch, which from a distance looks like three Sig-Runes side by side, and the blank cuff title sported by personnel of this unit until the introduction of the ‘SS-Nachrichtensturmbann’ title in 1937.

The Röntgensturmbann SS-HA, or SS Hauptamt X-Ray Battalion, was formed by SS-Obersturmbannführer Konrad Perwitzschky and was later commanded by SS-Oberführer Dr Hans Holfelder, Professor of Medicine at the University of Frankfurt (Main). It comprised around 350 full-time SS men and toured all the Allgemeine-SS Oberabschnitte, carrying out routine health checks on SS personnel. It utilised portable X-ray equipment and was primarily employed to detect pulmonary diseases among factory workers who were also parttime SS members. The only unit of its kind in Germany, its services could be summoned in times of epidemic by any of the NSDAP Gauleiters and it also co-operated with local officials of the German Labour Front. During the war, the Röntgensturmbann was absorbed into the medical branch of the Waffen-SS.

In addition to the Röntgensturmbann and the Sanitätsstaffel attached to every Sturmbann, each Abschnitt contained at least one Sanitätssturm or medical company. A group of several such Stürme, or a single large Sturm, was often termed a Sanitätsabteilung (medical detachment). These units were referred to by the Roman numeral of the Abschnitt in which they were located.

The SS Kraftfahrstürme, or Motor Transport Companies, were composed of Staffeln, or squads, one Kraftfahrstaffel being allocated to each Abschnitt. They were responsible for the motorised transport of SS personnel within the district. In addition, a motorcycle company was at the disposal of each Oberabschnitt commander to be used for relaying urgent despatches. Kraft-fahrstürme were numbered from 1 to 19, prefixed by the letter ‘K’. The areas they covered are listed below:

Sturm No.

Area

K.1

München/Augsburg

K.2

Erfurt

K.3

Berlin/Senftenberg

K.4

Hamburg/Kiel/Bremen

K.5

Düsseldorf/Buer/Dortmund

K.6

Dresden/Chemnitz

K.7

Königsberg

K.8

Linz/Wien

K.9

Breslau

K.10

Stuttgart/Karlsruhe/Freiburg

K.11

Magdeburg/Hannover

K.12

Bamberg/Schweinfurt/Nürnberg

K.13

Schwerin/Stettin

K.14

Frankfurt (Main)/Wiesbaden/Pirmasens

K.15

Graz/Innsbruck

K.16

Danzig/Elbing

K.17

Posen/Litzmannstadt

K.19

Asch/Reichenberg/Brünn

No record remains of the location of Kraftfahrsturm no. 18.

The first SS-Fliegerstaffel, or SS Air Squadron, was formed in October 1931 at Munich. It was joined by SS-Fliegerstaffel Nürnberg-Furth nine months later, and both of these units were thereafter renamed SS-Fliegerstürme and consolidated into an SS-Fliegersturmbann under Eduard Ritter von Schleich, the famed ‘Black Knight’ of the First World War. The SS Air Squadrons were responsible for flying Hitler and other senior Nazi personalities around Germany, and they remained active until absorbed by the Deutscher Luftsport Verband (DLV), the forerunner of the Luftwaffe, in September 1933.

From 1935, each Oberabschnitt commander could form a Streifendienst, or Patrol Service, as and when required. Streifendienst units were fairly small and mobile and their members were specially selected from among the most reliable SS men. They patrolled areas temporarily out of bounds to SS personnel and policed the SS contingents at party rallies. During the annual 9 November celebrations in Munich, for example, only a few SS men in possession of specially issued passes valid for the day could enter the restricted areas around the Feldherrnhalle and Königsplatz where Hitler and his hierarchy congregated. It was the Streifendienst who checked these passes and ensured that no unauthorised SS ‘spectators’ slipped through. All members of a Streife wore a nickel-plated gorget bearing the legend ‘SS Streifendienst’ while on duty. This item of regalia was similar to that which identified the military police, and highlighted the fact that the Streifendienst was, in effect, an internal police force of the Allgemeine-SS.

Each Oberabschnitt contained a Sportabteilung, or Sports Detachment, which was responsible for the physical fitness of SS personnel. It also trained with the Hitler Youth and the Allgemeine-SS Reserve. From the outset, sports and physical fitness had been accorded a high priority by both the SA and SS, and indeed the earliest Nazi paramilitaries disguised their true identity by calling themselves Turn- und Sport-abteilungen, or Gymnastic and Sports Detachments. Prior to 1939, SS sports instructors were trained at the SA Sport School in Hamm, Westphalia, but after the occupation of Czechoslovakia an SS Reichssportschule was established at Prague. It duly ran courses for Oberabschnitt sports officers, and issued SS physical training manuals for the reference of all SS personnel.

In addition to the regular and specialist SS units, and the first-line reserve of those between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five, each Oberabschnitt also contained an independent Stammabteilung, or Supplementary Reserve Detachment, composed partly of unfit or older men over the age of forty-five, and partly of younger men whose duties to the state or party debarred them from taking an active part in the SS. For example, it was customary for fulltime regular police officers to be assigned to the Stammabteilung upon receiving SS membership. The Stammabteilung carried the name of the corresponding Oberabschnitt and was divided into Bezirke or sub-districts, each Bezirk working in conjunction with a Standarte and bearing the Arabic numeral of the latter. As their title indicated, these additional second-line reservists supplemented the rest of the Allgemeine-SS in the various functions where normal duty personnel and first-line reserves might be overtaxed, as in the case of large national parades and celebrations, or major disasters. They were readily distinguishable by the fact that a reverse colour scheme was employed on their uniform insignia, i.e. a light-grey background to collar patches and cuff titles with black or silver numbers and script. For a short time, members of the Stammabteilungen also wore light grey rather than black borders on their armbands.

SS Helferinnen, or Female SS Auxiliaries, were first recruited in 1942 to relieve male SS personnel who were more urgently needed at the front. During the war, German women were called to ‘do their bit’ in all spheres of life, and in this respect the SS was no exception, despite Himmler’s view that his Schutzstaffel was essentially an ‘Order of German Men’. As more and more SS men were conscripted, their work places were taken over by women. The designation SS Helferin was used only for those who had been accepted as SS members proper and trained at the Reichsschule-SS at Oberehnheim in Elsass, primarily for the communications branches of the Allgemeine-SS and Waffen-SS. All other female auxiliaries engaged by the SS, i.e. those who were not full SS members, were termed Kriegshelferinnen, or War Auxiliaries. Originally, the SS Oberabschnitte were responsible for recruiting SS Helferinnen, but in May 1944 that responsibility was transferred to the SS Hauptamt. Enrolment as an SS Helferin was on a voluntary basis. Official recruiting through newspaper advertisements, radio and cinema was forbidden, since careful selection was necessary. Close co-operation was maintained with the Reichsjugendführung and most of the recruiting was done through the Bund Deutscher Mädel or BDM, the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth. All women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five were eligible to apply. Upon enrolment, the applicant was interviewed by the Senior SS and Police Commander of the Oberabschnitt in which she resided, in the presence of the BDM Liaison Officer, and a medical examination took place the same day. Next, the applicant signed a statement declaring that she had not observed any signs of pregnancy or serious illness, as well as a statement of her racial suitability. No individual could be accepted until a thorough investigation into her family background had been completed by the Sicherheitsdienst. The Reichsschule-SS had the task of training the successful applicants as teleprinter operators, telephonists and wireless operators. Instruction was also given in domestic science so that SS Helferinnen would be capable of assuming responsibility for SS nurseries and similar establishments if and when necessary. Upon satisfactory completion of the course, the girls were presented with SS rune insignia to be worn on the left breast of their uniform, and were assigned in groups to the various headquarters of the SS in Germany, France, Luxembourg, Holland, Poland and Russia. During 1943 alone, 422 SS Helferinnen were trained at the Reichsschule.

The strict physical, mental and racial qualifications for entry into the SS meant that not all who desired to do so could become members. However, almost anyone who wished, for public or private reasons, to stand well with the new élite and who could afford to pay for the privilege were allowed to become Fördernde Mitglieder (FM), or Patron Members. The FM organisation developed as a fund-raising body during the mid-1920s, with Hitler himself holding FM membership no. 1. All Aryan Germans of both sexes were eligible to join, and NSDAP membership was not a necessary qualification. When accepted, each patron was presented with an FM membership book and badge, and bound himself or herself to pay a monthly subscription to SS funds. The contribution varied with the income of the member and could be as low as 1 Reichsmark. The money thus levied from bankers, industrialists, businessmen and shopkeepers strengthened the economic base of the SS, and at the same time the contacts secured in German society enlarged SS influence. The FM members themselves were promised the protection of the SS against ‘revolutionary tendencies’. In effect, the FM organisation became a sort of ‘old boys’ network’ through which members could secure business deals, promotion or employment, and in the Third Reich virtually replaced the outlawed Society of Freemasons. By 1935, there were 500,000 Fördernde Mitglieder and there were probably over 1 million in 1943. The practice of appointing selected members of the government or important public figures to high rank in the SS, as Ehrenführer or Honorary Officers, was a natural extension of the FM organisation. While these appointments had no functional significance, they bought for the SS even more extremely influential and well-placed allies who, once they had taken the SS oath in return for the right to wear the prestigious black uniform, suddenly found themselves bound to obey Himmler in terms of the SS discipline code.

The medium which united all these facets of the SS organisation, and kept them in touch with each other, was the SS-Presse. A magazine entitled Die Schutzstaffel was published as early as December 1926, but it was short-lived and it was not until 1935 that the Reichsführung-SS began to publish a weekly newspaper called Das Schwarze Korps or ‘The Black Corps’. Set up on Heydrich’s initiative and directed by SS-Standartenführer Gunter d’Alquen, descendant of a Huguenot family, it was printed by the NSDAP publishing house of Eher Verlag, Munich, and had its editorial offices at 88 Zimmerstrasse, Berlin. By 1939, circulation had reached 500,000 copies. Das Schwarze Korps was a sharply written paper, very neo-pagan, and specialised in the exposure of those the Reichsführung-SS considered social miscreants whom the courts could not reach. It was the only organ of the German press which was not censored and, although rigorously orthodox at the ideological level, was also the only newspaper that gave any indication of having a critical or nonconformist spirit. From its very first issue, the originality of Das Schwarze Korps was emphasised by its aggressiveness to the rest of Goebbels’ press. It took sides against leaders of the NSDAP, attacked ministers of state such as Alfred Rosenberg, who had been short-sighted enough to shun Himmler’s offers of honorary SS rank, and denounced inadequacies in the administration. Private enterprise and initiative were favoured by the paper because they aided progress, particularly in wartime. After 1939, the publicising of SS and police military heroes became an increasingly important feature, especially when d’Alquen was made commander of the SS War Correspondents’ Regiment and Kurt Eggers took over the paper. As the war progressed and the need grew for all sections of the régime to be seen to act as one, the old criticisms of the excesses of the party leaders disappeared. By 1944, Das Schwarze Korps and its sister paper for Patron Members, the FM-Zeitschrift, had degenerated from lively and controversial publications to propaganda sheets expounding the exploits of Waffen-SS soldiers on the battlefront. In this way, the path of the SS-Presse paralleled that of the entire SS organisation.

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