The Schutzstaffel (German for "Protective Squadron"), abbreviated SS, which is written using runes as ϟϟ, was a large organization of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).
The SS was established in 1925, originally 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 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.
As the NSDAP grew in political power, some government functions, such as law enforcement, were absorbed into the SS, while some SS organizations became in practice government agencies.
The subordinate organizations of the SS passed through many name and organizational changes.
The military part, the Waffen-SS (often contrasted with the Allgemeine-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. During the war, many foreign volunteers fought for the Waffen-SS. See Foreign military volunteers and National Socialist Germany.
The SS Main Office (German: SS-Hauptamt) was the central command office of the SS until around 1940.
The Reich Main Security Office (German: Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA), was a subordinate organization of the SS. The RSHA was created by Heinrich Himmler in 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 in 1942. 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.
The SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) run the concentration camps, including the Holocaust camps. After 1940, it became a subordinate organization of the WVHA. Certain military units initially formed by the SS-TV later became part of the Waffen-SS.
Claimed involvement in crimes
The SS was considered an elite organization and was often used in propaganda by the NSDAP. Consequently, it was also a major target for anti-NSDAP propaganda, such as in Allied psychological warfare. This may make various claims regarding the SS to be problematic.
The SS, or more narrowly some part(s) of the SS, was allegedly involved in various crimes committed by National Socialist Germany. See National Socialist Germany revisionism and the articles linked there regarding revisionist criticisms.