The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Accused Organisations:
The SS
(Part 6 of 10)

[Page 75]

Structure and Component Parts: The Prosecution has named Die Schutzstaffeln der Nationalsocialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei (commonly known as the SS) as an organisation which should be declared criminal. The portion of the Indictment dealing with the SS also includes Der Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfuehrer-SS (commonly known as the SD). This latter organisation, which was originally an intelligence branch of the SS, later became an important part of the organisation of Security Police and SD and is dealt with in the Tribunal's Judgment on the Gestapo.

[Page 76]

The SS was originally established by Hitler in 1925 as an elite section of the SA for political purposes under the pretext of protecting speakers at public meetings of the Nazi Party. After the Nazis had obtained power the SS was used to maintain order and control audiences at mass demonstrations and was given the additional duty of "internal security" by a decree of the Fuehrer. The SS played an important role at the time of the Roehm purge of 30th June, 1934, and, as a reward for its services, was made an independent unit of the Nazi Party shortly thereafter.

In 1929, when Himmler was first appointed as Reichs Fuehrer the SS consisted of 280 men who were regarded as especially trustworthy. In 1933, it was composed of 52,000 men drawn from all walks of life. The original formation of the SS was the Allgemeine SS, which by 1939 had grown to a corps of 240,000 men, organized on military lines into divisions and regiments. During the war its strength declined to well under 40,000.

The SS originally contained two other formations, the SS Verfuegungstruppe, a force consisting of SS members who volunteered for four years' armed service in lieu of compulsory service with the Army, and the SS Totenkopf Verbaende, special troops employed to guard concentration camps, which came under the control of the SS in 1934. The SS Verfuegungstruppe was organized as an armed unit to be employed with the Army in the event of mobilization. In the summer of 1939, the Verfuegungstruppe was equipped as a motorized division to form the nucleus of the forces which came to be known in 1940 as the Waffen SS. In that year the Waffen SS comprised 100,000 men, 56,000 coming from the Verfuegungstruppe and the rest from the Allgemeine SS and the Totenkopf Verbaende. At the end of the war it is estimated to have consisted of about 580,000 men and 40 divisions. The Waffen SS was under the tactical command of the Army, but was equipped and supplied through the administrative branches of the SS and under SS disciplinary control.

The SS Central Organisation had 12 main offices. The most important of these were the RSHA, which has already been discussed, the WVHA or Economic Administration Main Office which administered concentration camps along with its other duties, a Race and Settlement Office together with auxiliary offices for repatriation of racial Germans (Volksdeutschemittelstelle). The SS Central Organisation also had a legal office and the SS possessed its own legal system; and its personnel were under the jurisdiction of special courts. Also attached to the SS main offices was a research foundation known as the Experiments Ahnenerbe. The scientists attached to this organisation are stated to have been mainly honorary members of the SS. During the war an institute for military scientific research became attached to the Ahnenerbe which conducted extensive experiments involving the use of living human beings. An employee of this institute was a certain Dr. Rascher, who conducted these experiments with the full knowledge of the Ahnenerbe, which were subsidized and under the patronage of the Reichsfuehrer SS who was a trustee of the foundation.

Beginning in 1933 there was a gradual but thorough amalgamation of the police and SS. In 1936 Himmler, the Reichsfuehrer SS, became Chief of the German Police with authority over the regular uniformed police as well as the Security Police. Himmler established a system under which Higher SS and Police Leaders, appointed for each Wehrkreis, served as his personal representatives in coordinating the activities of the Order Police, Security Police and SD and Allgemeine SS within their jurisdictions. In 1939 the SS and police systems were coordinated by taking into the SS all officials of the Security and Order Police, at SS ranks equivalent to their rank in the police.

[Page 77]

Until 1940 the SS was an entirely voluntary organisation. After the formation of the Waffen SS in 1940 there was a gradually increasing number of conscripts into the Waffen SS. It appears that about a third of the total number of people joining the Waffen SS were conscripts, that the proportion of conscripts was higher at the end of the war than at the beginning, but that there continued to be a high proportion of volunteers until the end of the war.

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