TM-E 30-451 Handbook on German Military Forces

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Technical Manual, TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945. — Figures and illustrations are not reproduced, see source details. — As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. — Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



1. Introduction

The SS, or Schutzstaffel, is the Protective Guard of the National-Socialist Party (NSDAP). Officially an independent Gliederung (Branch) of the Party, led by Heinrich Himmler, it actually has a status and importance far exceeding those of the other branches and even those of the Party itself. From its original function of guarding the person of Party leaders and speakers, the SS developed even before the war, into a far-flung organization to protect the entire Nazi movement against all internal enemies. More recently, it has extended its influence and power into every conceivable aspect of German national life and has finally acquired a large measure of control over the Army itself. It is more than a state within a state; it is superior to both the Party and the government.

The rise of the SS has been gradual but unceasing. Because of its origin and its own experience as an underground organization, it has always understood how to combat systematically and unrelentingly any subversive activities in the Reich and in all occupied areas. It was by extension of its responsibility for internal political security that the SS first acquired control of the Secret State Police and later (in 1936) of the en-tire police forces of Germany. Quite naturally therefore, it was given the policing powers in most of the countries occupied by Germany during the war. It was also logical that the SS, as the elite corps of the Party, should take part in the march into Austria and Czechoslovakia along with the troops of the Army, and that it should furnish small contingents of trained men to fight in the Polish campaign in 1939. This led to the building up of the Waffen-SS, at first consisting of the equivalent of two or three divisions and finally growing to a substantial and favored branch of the armed forces of the nation. In 1943 the SS gained control of the powerful Ministry of the Interior, in which it had already constituted the most important group in the form of the police. During 1943 and 1944 the SS gained more and more influence in the Army itself, taking over successively control of political indoctrination, of the intelligence services, and of the whole replacement, training, and material procurement system.

Apart from these obvious acquisitions of power and authority, the SS has steadily extended its influence into many branches of German life which would seem, on the surface, to have little or nothing to do with its original or derived mission. High-ranking officers of the SS now occupy controlling positions in most of the central departments of the government, in regional and local administration, in heavy industry, finance, and commerce, and in cultural and charitable activities. Directly or indirectly the SS controls the training of youth in the Hitler Youth organization, the storm troops (SA), and most of the other Party organizations and activities.

The character and purposes of the SS would not be clear without reference to its mystical worship of the German "race". This is exemplified not only by the physical requirements for becoming an SS man, but also by a vast program of procreation propaganda, resettlement of populations, eradication of elements considered racially undesirable, genealogical research, and welfare. Typical of the SS is its insistence that the abbreviation of its title always be printed or typed as the runic symbol of victory and arbitrariness.

The development of SS power is intimately linked to the career of Heinrich Himmler. This seemingly unassuming and quiet-mannered man has obtained one important post after another until today more power is concentrated in his person than in any other man except Hitler. Indeed, his power is much more absolute than that of Hitler, since the latter's actions and decisions are necessarily influenced by various pressure groups within the Party, by consideration of public opinion, and by other outside forces.

Wherever Himmler has secured a position, he has taken the SS with him. His plurality of offices represents not merely a personal union of powers but the acquisition of successive fields for the extension and infiltration of SS influence. It is significant in this connection that in all his various capacities Himmler always uses his original title of Reichsführer-SS (abbreviated RF-SS). The SS is at once the basis and the instrument of Himmler's strength.

For this reason a description of the functions of the RF-SS is the most effective way of indicating the present position of the SS in Germany.


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