The Waffen-SS were the armed units of the Schutzstaffel, better known as the SS. The SS were the protective guards of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) - or the "Nazis." Many soldiers in the Waffen-SS distinguished themselves in combat, and in a small number of cases, became notorious for their atrocities.
Of all the German organizations during WWII, the SS is by far the most infamous - and the least understood amongst average historians. The SS was in fact not a monolithic "Black Corps" of goose stepping Gestapo men, as is often depicted in popular media and in many third rate historical works. The SS was in reality a complex political and military organization made up of three separate and distinct branches, all related but equally unique in their functions and goals. The Allgemeine-SS (General SS) was the main branch of this overwhelmingly complex organization, and it served a politicial and administrative role. The SS-Totenkopfverbande (SS Deaths Head Organization) and later, the Waffen-SS (Armed SS), were the other two branches that made up the structure of the SS. The Waffen-SS, formed in 1940, was the true military formation of the larger SS, and as such, it is the main focus of this section. Formed from the SS-Verfungstruppe after the Campaign in France in 1940, the Waffen-SS would become an elite military formation of nearly 600,000 men by the time WWII was over. Its units would spearhead some of the most crucial battles of WWII while its men would shoulder some of the most difficult and daunting combat opertations of all the units in the German military. The Waffen-SS is sometimes thought of as the 4th branch of the German Wehrmacht (Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine) as in the field it came under the direct tactical control of the OKW, although this notion is technically incorrect as strategic control remained within the hands of the SS. To this day the actions of the Waffen-SS and its former members are vilified for ultimately being a part of the larger structure of the political Allgemeine-SS, regardless of the fact that the Waffen-SS was a front line combat organization.
Tags: World war 2, WW2, Waffen SS, SS, Totenkopfverbande, Hitler, Nazis, National socialists, military, police, Armed SS, military, Allies, axis, himmler, holocaust, war crimes, Europe, Wehrmacht, elite units, 4th branch
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