Totenkopfring der SS

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The official introduction took place by SS order of 10 April 10 1934. But Himmler had already awarded rings to high-ranking SS leaders on Christmas Eve in 1933 (e.g. Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski). The awards of the skull rings were announced in the daily newspapers until the first quarter of 1934, after which this was stopped. The exact date of foundation (Stiftungstag) was 9 November 1933.

The Totenkopfring der SS rune.png (Death's Head Ring of the SS; officially: SS-Ehrenring; English: SS Honour Ring) was from 1933 to 1945 a highly prized award of Heinrich Himmler's Schutzstaffel or SS with the death head of the German hussars (Husaren) and the Freikorps. Karl Maria Wiligut is also credited, although evidences are missing, for the design of the ring.


Early Engraved SS Honor Ring (SS-Ehrenring) or Skull Ring.jpg
The ring was at first presented to senior officers of the Old Guard (Alte Garde or Alte Kämpfer) who had displayed extraordinary valiance and leadership skill in battle. Later, as the entrance requirements of the undermanned SS were lowered, so were those of the Totenkopfring. It was soon available to any officer with 3 years service in the SS. The rune design of the ring reflects Himmler's interest for mythology and the occult. The skull (or Totenkopf) was the traditional symbol of the SS, taken from other German and Prussian military units of the past, The two Sieg (victory) runes represent the lightning flash runes of the Schutzstaffel, while the Hagal rune (also seen on the Julleuchter) represents the faith and camaraderie that was idealised by the leaders of the organisation. The Hakenkreuz or swastika was originally a rune meaning light and hope. However, the SS liked to portray this as another influential symbol of the power of the Aryan race. The Heilzeichen, on the rear of the ring, was a creation of the SS designers rather than a historical rune. It symbolises all the ideals of the SS, from camaraderie to their belief that SS men should sacrifice all for their brothers, as is emphasised by the SS motto “Give death and take death.” At the end of the war, Himmler, seeing the ring as a personification of all he believed, had all the remaining rings blast-sealed into a mountain near Wewelsburg, where one of his significant castles was situated. All rings were to be returned to the Reichsführer SS upon the bearer's death or when they left the SS. Around 14,500 rings are thought to be in existence today, and therefore are very rare, collectable items [...] Copies are widely available and are very affordable and convincing. The rings show the name of the bearer, the date of presentation, and a facsimile of Himmler's signature [...][1]

The ring is wreathed with oak leaves. Armanen runes appear prominently on the ring:

  • One Sig rune left and right of the skull framed by a triangle represent the power of the sun and conquering energy
  • A Hagal rune (framed by a hexagon) which represents the faith and camaraderie that was idealised by the leaders of the organisation. The esoteric meaning of the Hagal rune according to Guido von List: "Enclose the universe in you and you control the universe".
  • A Swastika (standing on the vertex) framed by a quadrat. The SS liked to portray the Swastika as another influential symbol of the power of the Aryan race.
  • The double runes on the rear of the ring framed by a circle were to be Heilszeichen (literally: signs of salvation) of the past. They were a creation of the SS designers rather than historical runes. They are a "gibor" rune plus a bind rune for "o" and "t". The bind rune was designed by Wiligut, and spells "Got" the Old High German word for God.

Gallery (Craig Gottlieb: The SS Totenkopf Ring)

See also