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Oberstgruppenführer was (from 1942 to 1945) the highest commissioned SS rank with the exception of Reichsführer-SS, which was a special rank held by Heinrich Himmler. The rank was sometimes written as "Oberst-Gruppenführer" and has been translated in various British and American texts as “Colonel Group Leader” and also "Supreme Group Leader".

Oberstgruppenführer was considered the equivalent of a Colonel General (Generaloberst) in the Wehrmacht, which, in turn, is generally seen as the equivalent of full General in other armed forces.

First created in 1942, the Oberstgruppenführer rank was held by four men during the three years of its existence, of which only two held Waffen SS field commands. The rank of Oberstgruppenführer began entirely as a Waffen-SS rank, with the intent being to appoint to its holders the SS commanders of certain Panzer Armies. Appointments were at first delayed by the General Staff of the Wehrmacht, who did not want an SS General to hold that much power. In the spring of 1942, the first two appointments were at last issued on Adolf Hitler's personal authority. Of these, only one was a Waffen-SS appointment with the second one being a dual promotion within the Ordnungspolizeimarker, making Kurt Daluege a Generaloberst der Polizei at the same time. Daluege's rank was the only police promotion to this rank; speculation has been raised that Reinhard Heydrich would probably have eventually held this rank had he not been killed by partisans in June 1942.

The last two of the four Oberstgruppenführer promotions were made in 1944, one to a Waffen-SS General and the other as an honorary promotion within the Allgemeine-SSmarker. The Oberstgruppenführer rank was only ever worn on the field grey Waffen-SS uniform and there are no photographic records of the insignia ever being worn on the black ceremony jacket.

In all, the following individuals held this highest of SS ranks:

(und Generaloberst der Polizei) (und Panzer-Generaloberst der Waffen-SS) (und Generaloberst der Waffen-SS)

In 1944, Heinrich Himmler offered to appoint Albert Speer to the honorary rank of Oberstgruppenführer. Speer declined, not wishing to formally be subordinate to Himmler. Hermann Göring was also offered the rank in 1945, but refused to accept the position due to his dislike for Himmler. The successor to Himmler, Karl Hanke never held the rank of Oberstgruppenführer, but was appointed Reichsführer-SS from the lower grade of Obergruppenführer.

Those obtaining the rank of Oberstgruppenführer were also typically granted equivalent police or Waffen-SS General rank. Franz Xaver Schwarz, who held Ehrenführer (honorary) rank, was the only holder of the rank who was not granted equivalent police or Waffen-SS rank.

The rank Oberstgruppenführer has also appeared in fiction, and was depicted in Robert Harris's novel Fatherland, set in the 1960s in a parallel history where Germany had won the Second World War. In the novel, Arthur Nebe makes an appearance as an SS-Oberstgruppenführer while serving as commander of the Kriminalpolizeimarker. The insignia for Oberstgruppenführer is also worn by Ian McKellen as the dictator-king Richard III in the film adaptation of the play, set in 1930s Great Britain.


  1. Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer

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