Waffen-SS Infantry 1939-45
– two letters which are forever seared onto the history of the twentieth century. From a small cadre of 200 men charged with guarding Hitler at early Nazi rallies, the SS grew to a membership of millions.The SS (short for
or Defense Squad) was actually comprised of a number of organizations,with various responsibilities:
or General SS, composed of full- and part-time, inactive and honourary members;
or Security Division (SD), initially the Nazi party's intelligence-gatheringwing, was later absorbed into the
or State Security Police (Gestapo), whichbecame responsible for internal state security. The SS was also put in charge of Germany's police.
or Death's Head units, initially responsible for prisons, then theconcentration and extermination camps;
the Waffen-SS.The Waffen-SS grew to a nominal strength of over 800,000 men in some 38 divisions by 1945. Moresignificantly, it made up a quarter of Germany's tank troops and almost a third of its mechanized forces.Initially looked down upon by the professionals of the Heer, they rose to become the German Army's"fire-brigade", committed as the spearhead of attack or the last line of defense. Romanticized by a few,vilified by most, the Waffen-SS is probably
most-studied military formation in the history of thetwentieth century.
The symbols chosen by the SS were both intentional and unintentional. The SS collar runes weresupposed to symbolize Germany's Nordic roots. The Death's Head, besides its obvious graveyardmenace, was the badge of four vanished regiments of the Kaiser's army. The cuff titles symbolize battlehonours won by England's German Legion during the Napoleonic wars (though this claim is spurious atbest). The service dress of the Waffen-SS divisions was broadly similar to that of the Wehrmacht, butwith a wholly different range of insignia and with certain detail differences of cut and design.At the beginning of the war, the so-called "peacetime" tunic was widely worn. It wasPage 1of 195-ssinf 11/9/2003http://www.angelfire.com/sk3/uniformss/ssinfantry.html