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The SS was responsible for the secret services and commanded the police. The atrocities committed by the SS, which saw themselves as an elite force, included the murder of millions of people in the concentration camps and numerous war crimes.
From Hitler's bodyguard to party police
The so-called staff guard is considered to be the nucleus of the SS. But the force that was loyal to Adolf Hitler only existed for a few weeks due to internal power struggles. Hitler took this as an opportunity to form a new organization, the "Shock Troop Adolf Hitler", from which the SS later emerged.
A total of 22 men belonged to this group, which was supposed to protect Adolf Hitler at his rallies at which he campaigned for the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). After Hitler tried unsuccessfully to put his party to power, the NSDAP was initially banned.
After the party was re-established in February 1925, Hitler initiated the formation of the SS. It was initially intended to protect party celebrities and the meetings and to recruit new members for the NSDAP.
The SS made public appearances for the first time in 1925. In the same year the local groups of the party were asked to organize their own protection squadrons. At that time, the SS had around 1,000 members. That changed with Heinrich Himmler, who was to make it the largest paramilitary organization in the Third Reich.
The SS under Himmler
The trained farmer Himmler made himself popular with Hitler primarily through his loyalty. He had joined the NSDAP in the mid-1920s and shortly thereafter rose to the party's deputy Reich propaganda leader. A little later he became deputy Reichsführer of the SS, and in 1929 he moved up to the top.
At this point in time, the SS was still subordinate to the Sturmabteilung (SA). Politically, Himmler's office was considered insignificant. But that changed quickly. Himmler quickly expanded the organization: in 1933 the SS already had more than 200,000 members.
Heinrich Himmler wanted to turn the Schutzstaffel into the elite troops of the Third Reich. True to the SS slogan "Your honor means loyalty", absolute loyalty to Hitler was the top priority.
In addition, the SS men - according to Himmler's ideas - were to embody the "Nordic race". SS members had to be at least six feet and were not allowed to have any Jewish ancestors. Those who wanted to belong also had to take several exams, including the Reich Sports Badge.
Another special feature was the marriage order. Only those who agreed to marry "solely on the basis of racial and hereditary health" were accepted. In order to strengthen the feeling of belonging, each new member was given the so-called SS dagger. SS men who had proven themselves were rewarded with the skull ring.
In addition, there was a transfiguring German cult, which Himmler had arbitrarily laid out. Solstice and July festivities were celebrated in the SS. All of these symbols and rituals contributed to the fact that the members of the Schutzstaffel actually felt like a kind of elite and were loyal to Adolf Hitler.
The structure of the SS
In the 1930s, the SS was initially used as party police. It should monitor opposing organizations and control the internal party opposition. After the National Socialists came to power in January 1933, 120 men were selected for the "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler". They should be exclusively responsible for guarding Adolf Hitler and report only to him.
At the same time, the "political readiness" formed, a kind of auxiliary police, which was responsible, among other things, for the protection of the SS leadership.
In 1931 Himmler initiated the "SS Race and Settlement Office". It was later converted into the "SS Race and Settlement Main Office" (RuSHA) and was one of a total of twelve SS main offices. The RuSHA issued, among other things, the marriage permits for SS members. The "Lebensborn" association, which was supposed to promote the birth rate of "racially desirable" children, was also part of this office.
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