The formation of the Waffen-SS

The period from 1936 to 1939

The Waffen-SS or the SS units were a part of the Himmler's empire but they should not be confused with other SS subdivisions and formations. The SS members who are familiar to us from Russian and Hollywood movies always wear black uniforms. In reality there was no link between the men in uniforms and the soldiers lying in the trenches. Black uniforms were worn by the members of the Allgemaine SS and the Höhere SS. They had no connection with the men in trenches. The uniforms of the Waffen-SS members were grayish or grayish green. The Waffen-SS probably got its nickname "the green SS" because of their uniform colour.

The formation of the Waffen-SS was not a quick and painless process, it happened through several stages.

Although Hitler trusted Himmler and on his approval all state's security powers were subordinated to the SS-Reichsführer (which gave Himmler the power over the whole country), the Führer had another opinion concerning the battle units than Himmler.

He had several substantial reasons for it.

First of all, Hitler was cautious when it came to private armies. The reason for this probably lies in his bad experience or in other words in the coup of the SA leader Röhm.

Secondly, Hitler did not wish to provoke the management of Wehrmacht, which was already envious of the SS because of its position in the state.

Hitler saw the role of the SS only in the war against the Soviet Union when the security and police forces of the SS set and order in the occupied countries. This is the reason why several units of the Waffen-SS were formed during the war. However, Himmler managed to put into practice his plan, although at first not in whole, to form the SS-Verfügunstruppe (which has been translated as the SS Dispositional Troops or later simply the SS units). In 1940 the organization was renamed to the Waffen-SS (some sources claim that this happened already at the end of 1939).

In connection with the formation of the Waffen-SS two legendary people arised: Paul Hausser, who during the years of 1936-1939 was the inspector of the SS-Verfügunstruppe, and Josef "Sepp" Dietrich, who was a longtime friend of Hitler's from the days of the street fights. These two heroes alongside with the creator of the volunteer units, Felix Steiner, have left an undying mark in the history of the Second World War. Unfortunately Estonian readers do not know much about Hausser and Dietrich. The Soviet Union's untrustworthy sources that have been available so far do not mention them much.

"Sepp" Dietrich formed the SS-Stabswache Berlin on March 17, 1933, after Hitler became the president of the Reich on January 30, 1933. This unit was formed to protect Hitler and at first it had 120 volunteers, but by September 1933 it already had 800 men. This unit became the renowned Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in 1934, in short it was called the LAH (Hitler gave a command to form it on December 14, 1934). Only men over 180 cm tall and with strong health were accepted. The barracks and training center of the LAH was situated in Lichterfelde, Berlin.

On Dietrich's command two LAH companies participated in the Night of the Long Knives. They were the ones who arrested Röhm and higher leaders of the SA and executed almost every leader of the organization.

The black full uniforms of the marching SS members that are known to us from documentaries came into use in 1935. The tall marching Hitler's "guardsmen" became the pride and joy of Germany.

After the formation of the LAH, Dietrich in 1936 planned to establish motorized units in Zossen and after two years the school of tank units in Wursdorf.

At the same time Hausser was busy developing the SS-Verfügunstruppe (SS-VT). Thanks to him several different units were formed and trained out of Wehrmacht. A lot of attention was paid to physical training and Estonian Legion members went through the same training when they were in Heidelager camp. The men were also trained to read the landscape very well and to be able to take cover. The most important thing was to deepen the feeling of togetherness of the officers and men and thus making them trust each other. Ideological training, loyalty and maintaining order were also important. The positive results of difficult training periods were seen in battles. Resistant and ideological fighters were able to withstand in bloody battles. It can be said that these men were the first ones to wear the spotted disguise clothes, the so-called "tigers' battle suit", and were armed with automatic weapons.

Many years of hard work resulted in having trained four motorized units with 8,000 to 9,000 men by 1939.

Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (a three battalion motorized infantry regiment, an artillery battalion and antitank defence and intelligence units. By the time of the Austrian Anschluss a reserve battalion was put on hold. LAH participated in taking over Austria on March 11, 1938, and taking over Czech on March 15, 1939).

1. SS-Standarte Deutchland (a four battalion motorized infantry regiment, an artillery unit, antitank defence and intelligence unit. Participated in the occupation of Sudetenland in 1938).

2. SS-Standarte Germania (has the same membership as the LAH. Participated in the occupation of Austria and Sudetenland in 1938).

3. SS-Standarte Der Führer (has the same membership as the LAH).

The whole SS-Verfügunstruppe had about 20,000 men by July 1939. The SS-VT inspection, sanitary units and the LAH were all situated in Berlin. The headquarters of the Deutschland was in Munich, while it had battalions in Ellwangen, Radolfzell and Dachau. Germania was in Hamburg, with battalions in Hamburg and Arolsen. Der Führer operated in Vienna, with battalions in Vienna, Graz and Klagenfurt. The SS-Pioner-Sturmbann (a pioneer battalion) was in Dresden and the SS Signal battalion (SS-Nachrichten Sturmbann) in Unna.

Himmler was in charge of six Totenkopf units in March 1935 (in translation the units name means Death's Head). Their leader was SS-Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke, who was a former imperial army’s treasurer. Eicke felt undying hostility towards professional officers whom he saw in the board of the SS-VT and his main goal was to change the SS-skull units to a counter force of the working class against political operative forces. By 1939 the SS-skull units had expanded so much that now had additional 5th TK-Standarte Dietrich Eckart, sanitary battalion, antitank educational company, motorized communication unit and partially motorized engineering unit. It is not known what Eicke might have been planning at that time, but his SS-TV had developed into a serious military organization.

In 1939 the whole SS had 240,000 men.

The eve of the Second World War had arrived.

Until 1940 the SS-units had been an organization of volunteers. During the war they started to mobilize more and more men into the organization. The SS, which was initially formed as a special unit, developed to be a mass army.