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A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military force, but which is not regarded as having the same status. The term uses the Greek prefix para- (expresses proximity), also seen in words such as paramedic.

The term paramilitary is subjective, depending on what is considered similar to a military force, and what status a force is considered to have. The nature of paramilitary forces therefore varies greatly according to the speaker and the context. For instance, in Northern Irelandmarker, paramilitary refers to any illegally armed group with a political purpose, but in Colombiamarker, paramilitary refers only to legally right-winged armed groups which do not combat the government (for example United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), while illegally left-winged armed groups rebelled against the government, such as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, are referred to as guerrilla.

Examples of paramilitaries

Depending on context, paramilitaries can include:

In history

  • Historically, in World War II, the Schutzstaffelmarker (SS, literally "Protective Eschelon" in German) and Sturmabteilungmarker (SA, "Storm detachment" or "Stormtroopers") of Nazi Germany were considered paramilitary forces, and were officially endorsed by the Nazi Party and its leader, Adolf Hitler. Before the war, the SA was essentially usurped by the SS after the Night of the Long Knives. The SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamtmarker (RSHA, "Reich Main Security Office"), Gestapomarker (secret police), Sicherheitsdienstmarker (SD, "security service"), and other law enforcement agencies subsequently fell under the auspices of the SS, and led to the SS having absolute control of the police and security forces, vastly empowering the Third Reich independently of the military. Other notable SS divisions include the SS-Totenkopfverbändemarker (SS-TV, roughly translated as "Death's Head brigade"), which was responsible for carrying out The Holocaust by operating concentration camps, labor camps, and death camps; and the Waffen-SS ("Armed SS"), the elite fighting arm of the SS that was attached to the Wehrmacht ("defence force" or "war effort"), alongside the Heer (German Army). Heinrich Himmler was the Reichsführer-SS, Minister of the Interior, and Chief of German Police, and thusly had complete control over the SS and all its subdivisions, subordinate only to Hitler, as the Führer and Supreme Commander. Himmler was also essentially the sole architect of the Final Solution, which resulted in the extermination of approximately 6 millions Jews and 5 million other minorities, such as Gypsies, Roma, homosexuals, the disabled, and others. The Heer had much contempt for the SS and were wary of a coup, a fear that was exploited in the failed July 20 plot to kill Hitler, executed by Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg. After the war, many SS and other Reich officials were tried for war crimes at the Nuremberg Trialsmarker, however, of the nearly 70,000 members of the SS implicated in war crimes, less than 2000 were tried in court. Officially, the SS and all of its subdivisions were permanently disbanded after the war and Himmler committed suicide in Allied custody, before questioning. However, the Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen (ODESSA, "Organization of the former SS members"), was formed in Argentinamarker to help other former SS officials evade prosecution by seeking refuge in Latin America. In modern times, there is no official successor organization to the SS, although several neo-Nazi groups claim inheritance.

See also


  1. Wiktionary definition
  2. BBC News website: Colombian civil conflict

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