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difference between SS and Waffen-SS

Discussions on all aspects of the SS and Polizei.
Long-time forum member and moderator Phil Nix (1938 - 2013) generously shared his knowledge and the results of his impressive research with the forum, and this section has therefore been renamed in his honour.
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difference between SS and Waffen-SS

Postby Ti.P on 11 Jan 2004 05:37

can someone tell me the difference between the Waffen-SS and the plain SS?

(theres probably a thread on thes somewhere, but i couldnt find it)
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Postby Phil Nix on 11 Jan 2004 10:13

The plain SS officially the 'Allgemeine SS" was the basis for all other parts of the organisation.
The Waffen SS was fomred from the Politische Bereitschaften (Political Readiness Squads) and it became the Military SS, the SS army. Members of the Waffen SS generally had to be members of the Allgemeine SS but members of the Allgemeine SS did not have to be members of the Waffen SS
This is a very simplified explanation
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Re: difference between SS and Waffen-SS

Postby wlvanbesien on 11 Jan 2004 18:06

Ti.P wrote:can someone tell me the difference between the Waffen-SS and the plain SS?

(theres probably a thread on thes somewhere, but i couldnt find it)


The SS was the Nazi party's private army. The Waffen-SS was the combat branch of the SS. They were the elite in the german army (though, technically, they weren't part of the german army). They made up roughly 10% of german infantry power and 25% of german armored power. The other branches of the SS were more gestapo like and were involved with war crimes and not front-line fighting.
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Postby |Handschar| on 17 Jan 2004 17:30

The SA were the original 'bodyguards' to Hitler, the SS was started as the Stabswache (guards) at the Berlin headquarters of the fuhrer. They expanded from there especially after the night of long knives (murder of Ernst Roehm and other head SA men in order to consolidate the power of the Heer, who was nervous that the SA was becoming too strong). The SS itself wasn't exclusively a military organization in the beginning, and the men were used for police duty and as guards. When war preparations began, the Waffen SS was formed as the SS-Verfugungstruppe, and later divided and grew into specific divisions.
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Re: difference between SS and Waffen-SS

Postby Timo on 17 Jan 2004 18:31

wlvanbesien wrote:They were the elite in the german army

... In what way "the elite"?
wlvanbesien wrote:They made up roughly 10% of german infantry power and 25% of german armored power.

...Can you detail these figures? What's your source for the 10% and 25% ?
wlvanbesien wrote:The other branches of the SS were more gestapo like and were involved with war crimes

...The Waffen-SS was also involved in war crimes, as was the Heer.

Regards,
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Postby Ti.P on 21 Jan 2004 02:41

thanks for the infor guys for the info.

Timo i know they didnt get the newest equipment and went downhill after the middle of the war.

More to the point would W-SS be employed in KZs?
Is there any estimation of how many would ahve been involved in war-crimes.
Would it be possible for W-SS members not to know about the KZs?

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Postby AGRAKAN on 22 Jan 2004 00:51

If I didn't misunderstand you, Ti.P (KZs=Concentration Camps?), as far as I know, the soldiers fightint in the front used to get a sort of break staying in the camps.

In my opinion, the comitted war crimes with civilians (specially Russians and Jews), because they also were SS and they considered themselves a superior race, but the allgemaine and concretely the Einzatzgruppen, formed by members of the different police: SIPO, KRIPO, SD (only these belonged to the SS)... were the big murderers. And of course, the two SS members: Himmler & Heydrich on the top.

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Postby Rob - wssob2 on 22 Jan 2004 04:42

More to the point would W-SS be employed in KZs?


KZ guard personnel were officially part of the W-SS from April 1941 onward.


Is there any estimation of how many would ahve been involved in war-crimes.


A general consensus would be that the average W-SS unit would be more likely to commit crimes either of passion, policy and/or ideology (which we would lump together all as "war crimes.") than the average Heer unit. However the reasons for this propensity varied from unit to unit and situation to situation.


Would it be possible for W-SS members not to know about the KZs?


Well, it would be impossible for any adult German living in 1933-45 not to know about the KZs, since they were common knowledge and discussed in the media. Given that several infamous KZ's (Dachau & Buchenwald spring immediately to mind) were part of larger SS military installations W-SS men would have closer access to the KZ system and thus more familiarity. Some W-SS men probably knew about the death camps like Auschwicz and the medical practices like the high altitude experiments on inmates at Dachau, but it seems that these kind of activities weren't openly discussed round the mess hall or barracks. Many of the rank and file W-SS guys probably had no idea about the whole KZ system chamber of horrors, but certainly the senior leadership had some idea, or could have found out if they wanted to. Many, of course, did not want to.
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Postby Timo on 22 Jan 2004 07:56

Venohr, SS AA 1, remembers an incident that took place in late 1943:
"Unser Zug rollt nach Westen. Es ist ein Blitztransport. Längere Aufenthalte sind nirgendwo vorgesehen; weder bei Tag noch bei Nacht. Beim Dauerskat beginnt das Rätselraten über unseren neuen Einsatzort. Als wir an Kiew vorbeifahren, erzählt Sturmmann Brandt, der vom 3. Zug zum Kartenspiel gekommen ist, hier seien 1941, nach dem ersten Vormarsch, an die 30.000 Juden vom SD erschossen worden. Allgemeines Gelächter. Kein Mensch glaubt ihm.

..."As we roll passed Kiew, Sturmmann Brandt, who came over from 3rd platoon for the card game, tells that during the first advance in 1941, 30,000 Jews were shot by the SD here. General laughter. Nobody believes him."

Hofer, SS AA 1, about their motivation to keep fighting the Russians without thinking (from his late 1941 diary) :
"Es ist nicht die weltanschauliche Schulung, die so ab und zu abgehalten wird, es sind nicht die Rassengesetze, es ist nicht die Errichtung von Konzentrationslagern - von deren Existenz wir natürlich wußten - es ist auch nicht der Rassenhochmut und die Intoleranz, die dazu führen, daß wir uns mit so bedenkenloser Hingabe dieser Sache verschreiben. Es sind ganz einfache Dinge, die uns berühren und mit denen wir sicher auch manipulierbar sind. Die Liebe zu unserem Land und seinen Menschen, der Glaube für eine gerechte Sache im Felde zu stehen - wie anders wäre es denn möglich, alles das, was man abverlangt, auch zu tragen."

..."It wasn't for the established concentration camps - of their existence we knew of course - and it wasn't racism or intolerance"

It seems to me that the common Waffen-SS member knew about the camps and believed in their pre-war purpose: to lock up people (Jews, communists, etc.) who they believed were a danger to "the German cause". However, those who were never a witness of the horror that surrounded the Einsatzgruppen or the "final solution" during the war, simply could not imagine the terrible truth.
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Postby nublu on 22 Jan 2004 09:42

Speaking on Waffen SS you should not forget that also foreign volunteers units were included in Waffen SS. And members of those units were mostly not involved in concentraition camp guarding etc.

Even more - for example in Latvia and Estonia was organised sort of mobilisation to Waffen SS units. So, it's even difficult to speak about "volunteers" in those cases.

rgrds

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Postby Phil Nix on 22 Jan 2004 11:45

nublu wrote:Speaking on Waffen SS you should not forget that also foreign volunteers units were included in Waffen SS. And members of those units were mostly not involved in concentraition camp guarding etc.

Even more - for example in Latvia and Estonia was organised sort of mobilisation to Waffen SS units. So, it's even difficult to speak about "volunteers" in those cases.

rgrds

Toomas

However a number of the guards at the death camps were Lithunaian
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Postby Ti.P on 23 Jan 2004 00:58

thanks a lot timo thats exactly the type of thing i was after.

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