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The Allgemeine SS (German for "General SS", literally "Universal SS") was the largest Schutzstaffelmarker (SS) paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany in terms of members. It was managed by the SS-Hauptamtmarker ( ). The Allgemeine SS was officially established in the autumn of 1934 to distinguish its members from the SS-Verfügungstruppe (which would later become the Waffen-SS) and the SS-Totenkopfverbändemarker (concentration camp guards).

Starting in 1939 units similar to the SS were formed in neighbouring countries, which were consolidated under the Leitstelle der germanischen SS ( ) from 1940 onwards.

Early years

The SS was created on April 4, 1925 and subordinated to the SA on November 1, 1926. It was thus a subunit of the SAmarker and the NSDAP. It was considered to be an elite organization by both party members and among the general population.

The main task of the SS was the personal protection of the Führer of the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler. As early as the winter of 1925 the SS consisted of approximately 1,000 members, but of this number there were barely 200 active members. Heinrich Himmler tried to separate the SS from the SA, and SA leaders generally had no authority over SS personnel from 1927 onwards. Himmler began to systematically develop and expand the SS. Many racketeers, habitual criminals, former members of the Freikorps, and Germans disappointed with the Weimar Republicmarker began to join the SS.

By December 1929, the number of active members had grown to 1,000. The SS grew so fast that on 29 January 1930, Himmler could announce to his former mentor Ernst Röhm, leader of the SAmarker, that:
The Schutzstaffel is growing, and will probably number 2,000 by the end of this quarter. From that point on the SS would be considered, therefore, de facto independent. By December of that same year, the SS had a membership of 2,727.
Himmler now looked to another source for recruits to the SS: the SA. Many former members of Röhm's Frontbann joined the SS. In 1926 it had been specified that the SS had to absolutely subordinate itself to the SA and with that every arbitrary action of the SS was prevented. With local recruitment, the SS members were obligated to owe loyalty to the respective SA leader. However, by this time numerous Unterführer of the SA had already gone over to Himmler's SS. Hitler assisted Himmler in his first great victory over the SA, by decreeing on November 7, 1930: "The task of the SS is first the practice of the police service within the party. No SA leader is entitled to give instructions to the SS!"

This order split the two organizations from each other, and confirmed thereby the de jure independence of the SS from the SA.

Formation and service

After the so-called Machtergreifung by the National Socialists, the SS began to expand into a massive organization: By March 1933 it included over 52,000 registered members. By December 1933 the SS had increased to over 204,000 members and Himmler ordered a temporary freeze on recruitment. Himmler ordered that, "no one else is taken on, from the end of 1933 to the end of 1935, who is not suited for the SS."

On 20 April 1934, Göring and Himmler agreed to put aside their differences (largely because of mutual hatred and growing dread of the SA or Sturmabteilung). Göring transferred his authority of the Gestapomarker over to Himmler, who was also named chief of all German police forces outside Prussia.

Beginning on June 30, 1934 the power of the SS was further cemented when both it and the Gestapo participated in the decapitating of the SA during the Night of the Long Knives. Over the next few days they either killed or arrested every major SA leader – above all Ernst Röhm. Himmler was later named the chief of all German police in June, 1936. Therein, the Gestapomarker was incorporated into the Sipomarker with the Kripo (Criminal Police). Heydrich was made head of the Sipo (Gestapo, Kripo) and continued as head of the SDmarker. In September 1939, the SD, Gestapo, and Kripo were unified under one office, the Reich Main Security Officemarker (RSHA) which was placed under Heydrich's control. Heinrich Müller was made chief of the Gestapo. RSHA men (such as in the SD) would have been considered Allgemeine SS members.

In August 1934, Himmler received permission from Hitler to form a new organisation from the SS Sonderkommandos and the Politischen Bereitschaften, the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT). This was a standing armed military force, which in war was to be subordinate to the Armed Forces, or Wehrmacht, but remained under Himmler's control in times of peace and under Hitler's personal control regardless. According to this restructure, the SS housed three different subordinate commands:

  1. the Allgemeine-SS,
  2. the SS-Verfügungstruppe
  3. the SS-Totenkopfverbändemarker

By December 1935 approximately 60,000 SS members had been purged from the SS. Himmler's "house cleaning" effectively ended the careers of those who were deemed to be opportunists, alcoholics, homosexuals or of uncertain racial status.

During this period the SS was reorganized, with the creation of the Allgemeine SS as a result. The new organization grew quickly achieving peak membership in 1938, with 485,000 members. At that time, of the 13,867 active SS-Führer only 1,144 or 8.3% did not belong to the NSDAP.

A second decree from Hitler on May 18, 1939 merged the Totenkopfverbände into the Allgemeinen-SS, adding 50,000 new members to the organization.

By August 1939 there were 485,000 members of the Allgemeine SS (including 180,000 men in the so-called "Reserve-Standarten"). Approximately 170,000 were called up for service in the Wehrmacht and 35,000 others into the Waffen-SS. Only the 100,000 full-time SS leaders in the main offices had been exempted from the military service. Here the actual history of the Allgemeine-SS ends, since the war would ensure that the Waffen-SS would completely eclipse the Allgemeine-SS, both in size and importance. But the main offices of the Allgemeine SS, which were originally only staff departments of the SS main office (the so-called Reichsführung-SS) responsible for the coordinating the day-to-day operations of the Allgemeine SS, were officially responsible for the members of the Waffen-SS also in the war years.

Hierarchy and Structure


Allgemeine-SS is a phrase which has been misconstrued both inadvertently and deliberately since WWII. Directly translated, it means "General-SS" with "general" meaning "main, regular, standard" etc. In 1939 Germany, it meant specifically:

  • Ordinary part-time volunteer members of SS regional units
  • Full-time officers and members of the main SS departments (SS-HA etc.)
  • Reserve, honorary or otherwise non-active SS members

By late 1940 the term was also used when referring to :

  • Germanische SSmarker : collaborationist organizations modeled after the SS in several Western European countries

Part-time SS (a.k.a. "Allgemeine-SS") units did voluntary drill, ideological instruction, marched in parades and provided security at various 1930's Nazi party rallies. Individuals would apply for membership to the SS, and after passing all the physical and "racial" requirements (i.e., German with no Jewish ancestry to 1750-1800), would receive an SS number.

The units were organized by Oberabschnitte (i.e., region) and Abschnitte (i.e., district). Each district contained a number of Standarten (i.e., regiments) and some even had reiterstandarten (cavalry units). Following is the basic rundown of the main SS offices, staffed by full-time SS men, in the late 1930s:

SS-Hauptamtmarker (SS-HA):

The SS Main Office was formed in 1935. In 1940 it was the largest of the SS departments until several other departments (e.g. the SS-FHA) were split off from it. The SS-HA was responsible for the selection and (non-military) training, education and indoctrination of SS recruits, including the volunteer SS.

Hauptamt SS-Gerichtmarker (HA SS-Gericht)

The SS legal department. The SS organization had its own penal codes and courts of law separate from the German legal system. The HA SS-Gericht handled disciplinary cases and complaints against the SS organization. It oversaw thirty subordinate SS & Police courts and processed special cases referred to it from RFSS Himmler.

SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamtmarker (RSHA)

Reich Main Security Office - formed in September 1939. The RSHA was responsible for the internal security of the Nazi state. Its departments included the SD (security service), the secret state police (Gestapo), and the criminal police (Kripo).

SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamtmarker (RuSHA)

Race and Settlement Department. Formed in 1931 under Nazi ideologue Walther Darré, the charter of the RuSHA was to maintain Aryan racial "purity" standards. Its staff consisted of white-coated "race examiners" (rassenprüfer) armed with calipers and charts to measure the "Aryan" characteristics of its unfortunate subjects. The Race and Settlement Department reviewed SS men's marriage requests to "biologicaly suitable" females and ran the Lebensborn network of SS maternity homes.

Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstellemarker (VOMI)

The Ethnic German Liaison Office. Founded in 1931 as Nazi Party department to coordinate Reich organizations and activities concerning the volkdeutsche and "racial nationalism," the SS gradually took over the organization. Became a main branch office in 1935.

Reichskommissar für die Festigung deutschen Volkstums (RKF or RKFDV)

Reich Commission for the Strengthening of Germanic Outposts. Formed in 1939, the RKDFV worked with the RuSHA, the SD and the VOMI in the program to resettle volksdutsche civilians expelled from Soviet territory into the Reich and also developed the plans to settle German "farmer-soldiers" in the occupied eastern territories.


The "German Ancestral Hertiage Society for the Study of Germanic PreHistory." Founded in 1935, the Ahnenerbe integrated into the SS in 1937. The Society "researched” various archeology projects based on Nazi ideology, most famously the 1930’s expedition into Tibet. The organization’s doctors and "specialists” drifted into crimes against humanity during the war.

Inspektion der Konzentrationslager (IKL):

First headed by "Papa" Eicke (mentioned above) it administered the first Nazi KZ such as Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, etc. The department was later dissolved with its personnel going into to SS-TV, the KZ administration duties passed onto the WHVA. The concentration camp guards officially became a separate unit known as the SS-Totenkopfverbändemarker (SS-TV).

SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamtmarker (SS-WVHA)

Oversaw SS economic and administrative departments, industrial/agricultural projects, finances and (later) oversaw the concentration camp system.

SS-Hauptamt Persönlicher Stab RFSS (HaPerStab)

Himmler's permanent personal staff under Karl Wolff (1936-44). It also included all matters that Himmler was involved that didn't fall into the direct area of another SS-Hauptamter.

SS Personalhauptamtmarker (SS PHA)

It dealt with all personnel matters. It was led by Walter Schmitt until 1942. Thereafter it was led by the RK Army Oberst Maximilian von Herff.

SS Führungshauptamtmarker (SS FHA)

It was the SS Operational HQ for the Waffen SS and its relations to the Allgemeine SS. It was headed was Hans Juttner.


The ranks of the Allgemeine SS, Waffen-SS, and SS-TV marker were traditionally based upon those of the SAmarker. Thus there were distinctly separate hierarchical subdivisions of the larger Waffen SS. Therefore a Brigadeführer (Brigadier General) of the Allgemeine SS might only be ranked as a Rottenführer (Lance Corporal) in the Waffen-SS. If this same SS member were an architectural engineer, then the SS-Hauptamtmarker would issue a third rank of Sonderführer (Lead Technical Specialist).

In 1944 the Allies began to separate Higher SS and Police Leaders (Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer) and SS oficialas bearing the Allgemeine rank of Brigadeführer or higher from regular POWs if captured.

Overlapping ranks

Multiple and overlapping commands were very commonplace. . . A man could hold one post while temporarily assigned to another and hold rank in the Allgemeine-SS, Waffen-SS and Polizei simultaneously. . . I'm thoroughly convinced even Berlin was not 100% sure who was in certain positions at exact points in time, confirmed by individual BDC records. - Mark Yeger, Allgemeine-SS

Total manpower

In 1945 the Gesamt-SS had over 840,000 members. From these 48,500 were members of the Allgemeine SS. Much of the remainder were 18,000 officers, 52,000 NCOs, and 600,000 enlisted members of the Waffen-SS and 130,000 police. SS membership numbers were formally lent to the members of the Waffen-SS of all ranks, while SS membership was also automatically lent to police officers.

See also


  1. Höhne, Heinz Der Orden . . ., pg 56-57: Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf, P. to 56-57 (The book has also been translated into English with the title The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS )
  2. Yerger, pg. 10. Yerger attempted to list all HSSPF, SSPF, Oberabschnitt, Abschnitt, and Standarten of the SS, plus maps, photos, and mini-biographies. The BDC was one of his sources. It was the Berlin Document Center, a US managed collection of captured nazi documents in Berlin. The collection is now part of the German Bundesarchiv.


  1. Andrew Mollo: A Pictorial History of the SS, 1923-1945 (ISBN 0-7128-2174-0)
  2. Robin Lumsden: The Allgemeine-SS, Vol. 266 (ISBN 1-85532-358-3)
  3. Heinz Hoehne: Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf, 1992, Weltbild-Verlag, (ISBN 3-89350-549-0)
  4. Heinz Hoehne: The Order of the Death's Head, 2001, Penguin, (ISBN 0141390123) (Translation of Der Orden. . . )
  5. Felix Steiner: Die Armee der Geächteten (ISBN 3-920722-10-8)
  6. Gordon Williamson: Die Waffen-SS 1933-1945. Ein Handbuch (ISBN 3-85492-706-1)
  7. Gordon Williamson: Die SS - Hitlers Instrument der Macht. Die Geschichte der SS von der Schutzstaffel bis zur Waffen-SS (ISBN 3-7043-6037-6)
  8. Hilde Kammer/Elisabeth Bartsch: Jugendlexikon Nationalsozialismus. Begriffe aus der Zeit der Gewaltherrschaft 1933-1945 (ISBN 3-499-16288-1)

External links

  • Photo of the Allgemeine SS uniform

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