Few military organizations or formations in history have evoked such fear, loathing, or grudging respect as the Waffen SS! Hitler’s elite private army, the Waffen SS, their role and history are highly controversial to this very day.
Formed originally in 1933 as a 120 man “commando” under Sepp Dietrich, the Waffen (meaning “Armed”, or “Fighting”) was created as the armed wing of the Nazi Party‘s Schutzstaffel (Protective Squad). It rapidly grew during the Second World War; and at its largest was 38 divisions, along with some ancillary formations. During its 12 year existence, the Waffen SS gained a reputation for ferocity, imagination, resilience, and tenacity second to none in the Second World War. Though under the operational control of the Wehrmacht (the German Armed Forces) command during the war, the SS were autonomous in every other way.
The Waffen SS began as the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) (SS Dispositional Troops); and this combat arm of the Nazi Party bore this name until August 1940, when Hitler in a speech gave the SS-VT its now name. Originally limited to Germans of impeccable “racial” background, by 1941 the Waffen SS had sold itself to young men across Western Europe as the tip-of-the-spear in the “crusade” against world-wide communism. Volunteers from all over Europe swelled its ranks; as idealistic (if misguided) young men enlisted to defend western civilizations from “the godless hordes of communism”.
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