What is an SS officer?

The SS

*Note. SS stands for Schutzstaffel. Literally it means 'protective squad', but it should be left untranslated as SS.

The SS was originally set up as Hitler's personal bodyguard and was a sub-division of the SA (brownshirts, stormtroopers). In 1934 it became fully independent of the SA and was commanded by Himmler (with Heydrich as his deputy). It became the core of Nazi terror apparatus and ran the concentration camps and by about 1936 assumed control of the entire terror apparatus.

In the late 1930s, various additional SS units were set up as a kind of supplementary army alongside the main German army, which some of the top Nazis didn't quite trust. This SS "army" was called the "Waffen-SS" and was distinct from the "Totenkopfverbaende" ("Death's Head Units") that ran the concentration camps.

All sections of the SS liked to look on themselves as an elite ... During World War 2 the SS accepted foreign volunteers as the German regular army wasn't keen on accepting foreigners. So there were, for example, Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Bosnian Muslim and other SS units.

In general, the SS had a reputation for fanatical devotion to Nazism. It was officially ranked as racially one notch above ordinary Germans ...!

Like all larger military outfits, the SS had officers, NCOs and ordinary soldiers.

Note that the SS had its own designation for ranks. These almost entirely avoided rank designations borrowed from foreign languages, so for example, the SS equivalent of a "Major" was a "Sturmbannf�hrer" a full "General" was an "Obergruppenf�hrer" and so on.

Joncey

See the Related Link for "Wikipedia: SS Ranks" to the bottom for the answer.