SS vs. NKVD

Discussions on WW2 in Eastern Europe.
Volyn
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SS vs. NKVD

Post by Volyn » 17 Aug 2019 00:14

The SS and NKVD seem to have fulfilled almost identical roles for their respective governments - everything related to state security.

Both of these organizations operated paramilitary forces that were used in several battles on the Eastern Front, although they probably did not face each other directly on the battlefield. They were also led by seemingly mild-mannered, balding, bespectacled men with a flair for uniforms.

I came across this article that attempted to address the question of whether they met in battle or not:
https://www.quora.com/Did-the-SS-and-NK ... -look-like

A few questions for anyone who might know:

1. Did SS units ever fight NKVD units during the war?
2. Were the SS and NKVD really any different from each other (aside from their political ideology)?
3. Which organization would be considered better?

Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler - SS
Heinrich Himmler.jpg

Minister of Internal Affairs Lavrentiy Beria - NKVD
Lavrentiy Beria.jpg
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Stiltzkin
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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Stiltzkin » 17 Aug 2019 01:42

I guess you could say that it had a longer tradition.

From Zetterling and Frankson, "the drive on Moscow", ch.1
https://books.google.de/books?id=8vH8G_ ... &q&f=false
In some ways, the NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) can be regarded as Stalin’s equivalent to Hitler’s SS (Schutzstaffel, Protection Squadron), but the Soviet organization had a longer history under other names. The NKVD was commanded by Lavrenti Beria, who like Stalin originated from Georgia. The NKVD was the security service, but Beria’s realm also included armed forces, for example the border troops. Furthermore, NKVD officers were posted with every Red Army unit. The organization also ran the Gulag, the Soviet forced labor camp system.
The 242nd rifle Division for instance, attached to the 30th Army, replaced its personnel with NKVD border troops (1,500 officers and men).
Which organization would be considered better?
Considering the latter was much more proficient at hiding their crimes, Id say the NKVD. :D
The SS was probably financially superior to the NKVD, thus could train and equip their "troops" better.

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Art » 17 Aug 2019 08:56

One of my favorite questions. Ok, contrary to many myths there was little actual similarity between SS and NKVD troops. NKVD troops included
a) border guard
b) internal forces intended for various security and police tasks in the rear zone. In German military system these tasks were handled by landesschützen, security and police units.
With some exceptions armament of NKVD forces was limited to heavy infantry weapons (mortars, infantry and anti-tank guns). In no way they were equivalent to SS panzer or panzergrenadier divisions. Owing to critical situation especially in 1941 NKVD units were in many cases employed in the first line in role of normal infantry. But that was rather an emergency than a regular situation.
Then, it should be also added that NKVD troops were a part of the Soviet armed forces on official level. For example, the Soviet law on military service of 1939, article 4:
Armed forces of the Soviet Union consist of Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, Workers' and Peasants' Military Fleet, border and internal forces.
Unlike SS that started as a non-governmental paramilitary force.
In addition to regular forces NKVD also controlled various militarized and paramilitary organization throughout the war:
- police
- camp guards
- destroyer battalions (security militia)
- GUShOSDOR (road construction and maintenance organization)
- MPVO (air bombing protection guard)
etc

NKVD as a whole was in essence one of ministries of the Soviet Government which was a successor of the Russian Empire's MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and had many-many various functions and employed many-many various personnel and officials. Again, that's a difference from SS which was founded as a non-governmental organization. Actually by June 1941 NKVD was divided into two parts: People's Commissariat for State Security (NKGB) and NKVD proper, the issues of political police being handled by the first.

As for engagement between SS and NKVD troops: I believe there were some episodes for sure, but not very important and consequential.

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Yuri
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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Yuri » 17 Aug 2019 13:17

Art wrote:
17 Aug 2019 08:56
One of my favorite questions. Ok, contrary to many myths there was little actual similarity between SS and NKVD troops. NKVD troops included
a) border guard
b) internal forces intended for various security and police tasks in the rear zone. In German military system these tasks were handled by landesschützen, security and police units.
With some exceptions armament of NKVD forces was limited to heavy infantry weapons (mortars, infantry and anti-tank guns). In no way they were equivalent to SS panzer or panzergrenadier divisions. Owing to critical situation especially in 1941 NKVD units were in many cases employed in the first line in role of normal infantry. But that was rather an emergency than a regular situation.
Then, it should be also added that NKVD troops were a part of the Soviet armed forces on official level. For example, the Soviet law on military service of 1939, article 4:
Armed forces of the Soviet Union consist of Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, Workers' and Peasants' Military Fleet, border and internal forces.
Unlike SS that started as a non-governmental paramilitary force.
In addition to regular forces NKVD also controlled various militarized and paramilitary organization throughout the war:
- police
- camp guards
- destroyer battalions (security militia)
- GUShOSDOR (road construction and maintenance organization)
- MPVO (air bombing protection guard)
etc
Not mentioned one more important function is fire protection (fire Department).

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Yuri
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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Yuri » 17 Aug 2019 13:26

Stiltzkin wrote:
17 Aug 2019 01:42
I guess you could say that it had a longer tradition.

From Zetterling and Frankson, "the drive on Moscow", ch.1
https://books.google.de/books?id=8vH8G_ ... &q&f=false
In some ways, the NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) can be regarded as Stalin’s equivalent to Hitler’s SS (Schutzstaffel, Protection Squadron), but the Soviet organization had a longer history under other names. The NKVD was commanded by Lavrenti Beria, who like Stalin originated from Georgia. The NKVD was the security service, but Beria’s realm also included armed forces, for example the border troops. Furthermore, NKVD officers were posted with every Red Army unit. The organization also ran the Gulag, the Soviet forced labor camp system.
The 242nd rifle Division for instance, attached to the 30th Army, replaced its personnel with NKVD border troops (1,500 officers and men).
Which organization would be considered better?
Considering the latter was much more proficient at hiding their crimes, Id say the NKVD. :D
The SS was probably financially superior to the NKVD, thus could train and equip their "troops" better.
Comparing SS vs NKVD is the same as if you were comparing (CIA + FBI + police + fire Department + border guard + military police + military counterintelligence)/US + SOE(Special Operations Executive)/GB.
With regard to the war, it is correct to compare NKVD vs Abwehr and similar structures of armies of other European countries ...
EU vs SU_Stalin_NKVD.jpg
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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Stiltzkin » 17 Aug 2019 15:21

omparing SS vs NKVD is the same as if you were comparing (CIA + FBI + police + fire Department + border guard + military police + military counterintelligence)/US + SOE(Special Operations Executive)/GB.
With regard to the war, it is correct to compare NKVD vs Abwehr and similar structures of armies of other European countries ..
I never said that they were exactly the same, just that they possessed similar traits and a longer tradition (since Cheka). Both had a combat (at least by law the NKVD was part of the armed forces and ended up being assigned to Rifle Divisions), as well as a political role. Both were also assigned to roles in concentration camps (and both were guilty of commiting atrocities). Zetterling provided a summary that is actually quite consistent with Arts post (it was just not as thorough).
I agree that such a topic requires a significantly longer definition, though many are tunnel visioning on the SS Panzer formations, also ignoring the hierarchy.
To get a better overview and assess NKVD slices, we would need a strength comparison (totals to individual units from 41-45), or else it would remain unsubstantiated (the Muscovite reserve front in 1941 might be of particular interest).

As for your propagandistic picture: I can only interpret and dismiss this as a silly provocation. You can add the Soviet Union to the list when it supplied Nazi Germany with resources, while it was waging war against their neighbors and sitting under the British blockade. As for training centers for the "Reichswehr" (in the shadow of the Treaties of Versailles), which would later flow into the Nazi's military apparatus, as a foundation: Kazan (armoured forces), Lipetsk (airforces), Torski (chemical warfare, gas). 8O
Before you correct others make sure that your posts do not inherit any major flaws, an EU did not exist back then, nor were Norway and Switzerland ever a part of it. They were also long established arms manufacturers, selling to the highest bidder. Europe was an importer of resources and exported finished goods, selling it to the world.
Denmark, Norway and Czechoslovakia were under occupation and some limited number of extracted, fascist individuals hardly form the bulk of a nations population (these were already dwarfed by the troops the Soviets extracted out of Bulgaria or Poland and the Far East). In fact, Germany had one of the largest pro-Marxist movements in the 20s to 30s (especially in Berlin), which were to "link up with the revolutionary forces of Lenin to take over the system". :D
Sweden and Romania were also wary of Soviet expansionism (see the cases of interest in Moldavia/Bessarabia and the Isthmus as good examples).
Not to mention that more than 90% of the European Axis was made up of ethnic Germans (those who were actually employed at the front), while for Britain and the USSR, the values of their "core" manpower fluctuated around ~50% respectively, which refutes your statement. If your assertion is correct, then the Soviet Union must have faced an alliance with an aggregated population of over 160 million, which would have translated into almost thrice the amount of the troops they historically fielded. The Soviet Union was fighting a middle sized industrial nation (in the Anti-Hitler coalition or the "Tripartite"), whose despotic leadership controlled and leeched off the most developed parts of the world, just like the USSR would do post 45 in the annected territory. As for the issue of arms transfers: The USSR was one of the main suppliers of armaments to worldwide hot spots, e.g. destabilized and war torn nations and also more than a window shopper in the West:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/23488336?s ... b_contents
During the 1920s, the Soviet Union imported military technology from the more advanced West, at the same time; it enjoyed a technological and industral edge over its Asian neighbors [...]
https://www.jstor.org/stable/1174128?se ... b_contents
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10. ... ode=ceas19

The frequent and blatant attempts of Russian posters in this forum to whitewash Soviet crimes are just embarassing. :roll:
However it is good to leave the picture here, as it reflects the tone and undifferentiated education system of the Federation.

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Art » 17 Aug 2019 16:38

Stiltzkin wrote:
17 Aug 2019 15:21
at least by law the NKVD was part of the armed forces
NKVD military troops were the part of the armed forces, but not the NKVD as a whole.
ended up being assigned to Rifle Divisions
I guess, that is about NKVD's special section which didn't belong to the NKVD troops, but were rather a separate branch of the state security apparatus. Moreover, in the 1st half of 1943 they were given to Red Army and reorganized as SMERSH. Probably worth the add that it didn't have anything to do with James Bond's fictional SMERSH.
Again, the NKVD was a vast ministry in the Soviet government which included its own military force, state security apparatus, and police. In addition it also included plenty of other elements performing various functions with both uniformed and civil personnel. For example, local population offices which registered deaths, births and migration.

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Art » 17 Aug 2019 17:24

In general, the history of SS was a history of infiltration and amalgamation of party militia with originally secular German police and security apparatus. This history was very idiosyncratic, I would even say weird, and was probably unique to the German Nazism. This amalgamation was by no means complete: one could serve in the German police without being a member of SS. Hence the = sign put by the topic-starter between SS and German security and police agencies is not fully valid. History of Soviet security apparatus is a very different story since VChK, GPU, NKVD, NKGB etc were state agencies from the first days of their existence and were never anything else.
As for military organization the SS troops eventually became a battle force performing the same functions as the regular army. Which the NKVD troops were never supposed to be, they were simply forces meant for auxiliary tasks given to the NKVD, and their functions didn't overlap with the Red Army. I believe e.g. the Italian Blackshirts were closer to SS in their role of the "parallel" army.
Speaking generally the interwar period was a high time for powerful paramilitary forces usually with a right-wing nationalist agenda and frequently in symbiotic relations with the state. Blackshirts, the Iron Guard, Kaitseliit, Suojeluskunta, you name the others. I believe the SS should be viewed more in this context.

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Volyn » 17 Aug 2019 18:58

Thank you Art for the nuisances explaining the operational and historical differences between these groups.

The evolution of these groups from their inception until the end of the war have several notable commonalities. I think the main reason they deserve comparison is because of their responsibility for state security, it was almost absolute. Few state security agencies in history have also engaged in front-line combat, which they both did to one degree or another. Both groups were led by ambitious tyrants who were slavishly devoted to carrying out every order Hitler or Stalin issued no matter how self-destructive throughout their history. These forces also employed levels of ruthlessness that redefined the meaning of the word.

Therefore, it is also important to note the psychological affect that they instilled upon their own fellow-countrymen. Fear was the most powerful weapon employed by the SS and NKVD, and every soldier would know to avoid at all costs upsetting either; both killed fellow soldiers throughout the war for reasons real or imagined.

Aside from the SS race and height standards (which were relaxed over the course of the war), were there any similarities to the type of personnel that were recruited into either of these forces?

What was the expected treatment for NKVD officials that were captured while assigned to front-line units, were they affected by the Commissar Order?
2. The originators of barbaric, Asiatic methods of warfare are the political commissars. So immediate and unhesitatingly severe measures must be undertaken against them. They are therefore, when captured in battle, as a matter of routine to be dispatched by firearms.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commissar_Order

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Stiltzkin » 18 Aug 2019 03:38

NKVD military troops were the part of the armed forces, but not the NKVD as a whole.
Extraneous and in this case just comes down to semantics, as the OP wanted to assess combat capabilties. The SS was technically not a regular arm, yet it was designated as a fully functional and operational military unit. I would even question their autonomy. Russia for instance has similar organizations today, they are subordinated to the president, such as Cossacks and other paramilitaries (often, one of the worst type of scum). Overall the ultimate goal is just diversion and confusion, a common trait in such regimes. They also act as intimidators and overseers, the most loyal and devoted troops, an extended arm of the political party (Politruks).
I guess, that is about NKVD's special section which didn't belong to the NKVD troops,
They were assigned and carried weapons, comparable to Luftwaffe-Feld. Not all SS Divisions were equal, some were raised out of former police personnel and their performance relative to regular Wehrmacht Divisions was not superior, on the contrary. What is important here is that they were employed at the front, so this enables us to assess their performance. If we take the example of the 242nd, that would indicate that more than 15% of the replaced personnel in the Division were NKVD.

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Art » 18 Aug 2019 11:48

Volyn wrote:
17 Aug 2019 18:58
Therefore, it is also important to note the psychological affect that they instilled upon their own fellow-countrymen. Fear was the most powerful weapon employed by the SS and NKVD, and every soldier would know to avoid at all costs upsetting either; both killed fellow soldiers throughout the war for reasons real or imagined.
C'mon, what fellow soldiers were killed by the 182 NKVD Rifle Regiment guarding the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory and electric stations in Urals? You have an overly romantic and unrealistic idea about NKVD troops and their activities. Actually what they did was mostly a boring job of guarding railroads, factories, signal lines, garrisoning the cities, escorting POWs and guarding POWs camps, patrolling border lines etc. In Wehrmacht this unglamorous job was made by various elements which mostly didn't have anything to do with SS: Wach and Landesschützen units, security units, feldgendarmerie, factory guard etc. Only police units had somewhat ambivalent relations to SS. Those various units were frequently manned by soldiers of older ages or with limited physical fitness which underlines a unromantic character of their functions.
Only a smaller part of NKVD troops were employed in the immediate frontline zone with a mission of securing and patrolling the rear zone of the operational army*. This mission was mostly equivalent to what military police did in other armies. That naturally included capturing and arresting deserters and undisciplined soldiers, but again it the same things as military police is supposed to do in other armies. Cases of "killing fellow soldiers" during this police tasks must be rare and exotic, engagements against guerrilla forces (Baltic, Ukrainian, Polish) or against stray Axis troops left after defeats were far more common.
To summarize, the analogy between SS and NKVD troops is completely false. Similar troops in Wehrmacht were various elements which mostly didn't belong to SS.

And again, SS itself was not a security agency. It was a non-governmental party militia which became interwoven with state security agencies an fielded an army of its own. That was almost completely alien to Soviet experience, and as already said inter-war nationalist regimes in Europe provide more suitable analogies.

* in August 1945 out of 916 000 authorized strength of the NKVD troops 59 000 (or less than 7%) belonged to the operational army security troops.

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Volyn » 18 Aug 2019 14:50

I was hoping to highlight the commonalities of these two groups during the war from 1941 - 1945. Yes they are different in many instances, but they do have several points that are conspicuously similar, and they warrant a thread to discuss and clarify.
Art wrote:
18 Aug 2019 11:48
Volyn wrote:
17 Aug 2019 18:58
Therefore, it is also important to note the psychological affect that they instilled upon their own fellow-countrymen. Fear was the most powerful weapon employed by the SS and NKVD, and every soldier would know to avoid at all costs upsetting either; both killed fellow soldiers throughout the war for reasons real or imagined.
C'mon, what fellow soldiers were killed by the 182 NKVD Rifle Regiment guarding the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory and electric stations in Urals? You have an overly romantic and unrealistic idea about NKVD troops and their activities. Actually what they did was mostly a boring job of guarding railroads, factories, signal lines, garrisoning the cities, escorting POWs and guarding POWs camps, patrolling border lines etc.
This may have been the experience for the majority of NKVD regiments, however, were NKVD units used to enforce Order No. 227 as well? I do not mean to say that all of the NKVD were combat forces or even functioning in disciplinary roles, only that it did happen.

Most of the time their function would be boring, but the organization did instill fear among everyone (soldier and civilian) as a result of their reputation for what they were capable of, how can that be doubted? The psychology of fear was an instrument that Beria and Stalin used to great affect on their own forces and everyone else.
Art wrote:
18 Aug 2019 11:48

Only a smaller part of NKVD troops were employed in the immediate frontline zone with a mission of securing and patrolling the rear zone of the operational army*. This mission was mostly equivalent to what military police did in other armies. That naturally included capturing and arresting deserters and undisciplined soldiers, but again it the same things as military police is supposed to do in other armies. Cases of "killing fellow soldiers" during this police tasks must be rare and exotic, engagements against guerrilla forces (Baltic, Ukrainian, Polish) or against stray Axis troops left after defeats were far more common.
Did NKVD military officials preside over the disciplinary trials of Soviet soldiers? How many soldiers were executed by the NKVD due to retreat, "treason" or other "failures" in the performance of their duties?

The SS also killed "deserters" or other "defeatist" elements that were found in the military as the war turned against Germany, and it happened often enough for them to gain a reputation for it as well.
Stiltzkin wrote:
18 Aug 2019 03:38
What is important here is that they were employed at the front, so this enables us to assess their performance. If we take the example of the 242nd, that would indicate that more than 15% of the replaced personnel in the Division were NKVD.
A great example of NKVD fighting on the front, when was this?
Art wrote:
18 Aug 2019 11:48
To summarize, the analogy between SS and NKVD troops is completely false.
Agreed that they were not identical, however, they do have some interesting traits that can still be discussed for their similarities.
Art wrote:
18 Aug 2019 11:48
And again, SS itself was not a security agency.
The Sicherheitsdienst (SD) was the intelligence agency for the SS, along with the Gestapo and Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) they were all assigned to the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) under the command of Himmler and the SS. How it all worked is not important here, but their main purpose was to ensure the state's security which makes the SS the only real security agency for the Reich, and Himmler effectively controlled it all.

This was an evolution, so the SS did not start out in the same official manner as the NKVD, but in the end they both fulfill very similar roles for state security, intelligence and front line combat at different stages during the war. We can see that the SS became more involved in the actual battles at the front, while the NKVD reverted back to their normal role within the rear zone of operations as the war progressed. Yet NKVD officers were still present in front line units until the end of the war.
Art wrote:
18 Aug 2019 11:48
* in August 1945 out of 916 000 authorized strength of the NKVD troops 59 000 (or less than 7%) belonged to the operational army security troops.
This is still a sizable number, were they concentrated mostly in their own groups or were they spread around to other formations?

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Art » 18 Aug 2019 17:36

Ok, some less boring functions and units of the NKVD troops:

1) Special purpose group/special purpose motorized rifle brigade - essentially a Soviet commando units created with the start of the war for sabotage and intelligence mission behind the lines. About 3-4 thousand men drawn from various elements (NKVD organs, NKVD troops, police, volunteer sportsmen). In 1943 was transferred from the NKVD to NKGB where it was reorganized as special purpose detachment with two battalions.

2) Radio interception and cipher decoding units - taken from the Red Army in late 1942 with reorganization of the General Staff's intelligence directorate.

3) Governmental communications. In early 1943 NKVD was taken responsibility for maintenance, construction and operation of strategic signal communication lines. For which purpose it accepted a number of signal units from the Red Army which formed a separate branch of the NKVD troops. Just to make it clear: those guys were essentially signal units.

4) Sniping. NKVD troops trained snipers on a large scale, a part of the training program was a short-term tour on the front. Those tours involved thousands of snipers.

5) Somewhat related: an artillery tour. In winter 1943/44 artillery regiments of 1st and 2nd NKVD Motorized Rifle Divisions were temporarily grouped as a provisional artillery brigade which took part in action on the Volkhov Front near Novgorod.

6) Finally an exotic unit: a female volunteer rifle brigade was formed by the Red Army in late 1942 which was arguable the largest female military unit ever. In November 1943 it was transferred to the NKVD troops and was engaged in some not-so-interesting activity like patrolling and garrisoning in the Smolensk region.

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Stiltzkin » 19 Aug 2019 11:11

A great example of NKVD fighting on the front, when was this?
1941, they were used to refill Rifle Divisions and were assembled in the Kalinin Front area in late June, later employed in July and kept as a reserve. The Volokolamsk- Mozaishk - Kaluga line and Reserve front near Moscow are probably good candidates (at least 13,190 men in combat roles). Non-Divisional combat units also arrived in October (up to 3 Regiments), also one Regiment near Tula (156th). I do not know where the NKVD artillery was deployed, but it certainly existed, the notion that they weren't assigned any heavy weapons can be refuted (Artillery Btls.). The NKVD also had rail security Divisions.
10th NKVD RD action in 1942, Voronezh front. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_NKVD_Rifle_Division
OOB from Nafziger: https://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/CGSC/CARL/ ... 39RXAE.PDF
And again, SS itself was not a security agency.
It is literally in their name "Schutzstaffel" (protection or security squadron), perhaps even with some parallels to Praetorians.

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Re: SS vs. NKVD

Post by Art » 19 Aug 2019 19:39

Volyn wrote:
18 Aug 2019 14:50
The Sicherheitsdienst (SD) was the intelligence agency for the SS, along with the Gestapo and Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) they were all assigned to the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) under the command of Himmler and the SS.
Under command of Himmler as Reichsführer SS and top bras dominated by SS leaders but not fully equivalent to SS. A man could serve in the RSHA without being an SS member or having an SS rank. Similarly ordinary German police was also subordinated to Himmler and its regional divisions were commanded local SS leaders, but many its rank and files didn't belong to SS. Or on the other hand an ordinary member of Algemeine SS could be not a member of German security/police branch or could not be a state employee at all. That was a pretty bizarre situation of a party militia infiltrating state agencies without fully absorbing them or being fully absorbed into them.
Few state security agencies in history have also engaged in front-line combat
I don't agree with that. Of the most recent examples the Ukrainian National Guard played a prominent role in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine from 2015 and onward. UNG is organizationally a part of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. Generally speaking most of post-USSR republics had internal forces modeled after Soviet internal troops, which played larger or lesser role in various military conflicts after 1991.

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