|Abbreviation||SS, Security Squadron|
Julius Schreck (1925—1926)
Joseph Berchtold (1926—1927)
Erhard Heiden (1927—1929)
Heinrich Himmler (1929—1945)
Karl Hanke (1945)
The Schutzstaffel (German for "Protective Squadron" - or better Security Squadron), abbreviated "SS", which is written using runes as ϟϟ, was a large security and paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in Germany.
The SS was established in 1925 as a personal guard unit for Party leader Adolf Hitler.
Under the leadership of the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler between 1929 and 1945, the SS grew from a small paramilitary formation to become one of the largest and most powerful organizations in Germany. The Germans regarded the SS as an elite unit, the Party's "Praetorian Guard," with all SS personnel selected on the principles of racial purity and loyalty to Adolf Hitler and the Party.
In contrast to the black-uniformed Allgemeine SS, the political wing of the SS, the military wing, the Waffen-SS evolved into a second German army within the armed forces, operating in tandem with the regular army, the Heer. The Waffen-SS gained a reputation as outstanding soldiers of skills and bravery.
The SS was distinguished from the German military, NSDAP party, and German state officials by its own SS rank structure, SS unit insignia, and SS uniforms. The all-black SS uniform was designed by SS-Oberführer Prof. Dr. Karl Diebitsch and Walter Heck (graphic designer). The black SS uniform in the beginning was made by dress manufacturer Hugo Boss.
As the NSDAP grew in political power, some government functions such as law enforcement were absorbed into the SS, while some SS organizations became the de facto government agencies.
The Reich Main Security Office (German: Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA), was a subordinate organization of the SS. The RSHA was created by Heinrich Himmler on September 27, 1939 through the merger of the NSDAP's Sicherheitsdienst (SD; SS intelligence service) with the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo; "Security Police"), which was nominally under the Interior Ministry. The SiPo was composed of the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo; "Secret State Police") and the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo; "Criminal Police"). The first director of the RSHA was SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, who led the organization until his assassination on June 4, 1942 in Prague. SS-Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner replaced him for the remainder of World War II.
The SS Main Economic and Administrative Office (German: Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt, WVHA) was another subordinate organization of the SS. It was responsible for managing the finances, supply systems and business projects for the Allgemeine-SS. It was headed by Oswald Pohl.