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--Image-File Totenkopf2.gif

The SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) — the Skull or "Death's Head" Formations — were made up of Germany's camp guards. During World War II the SS-TV also provided troops for one of the first combat units of the Waffen-SS, the Totenkopfdivision, which eventually evolved into one of Germany's most formidable combat formations.


The SS-TV was established by SS-Brigadeführer Theodor Eicke to provide the personnel for the manning of the labour camps, such as Dachau (where the first unit was established), Sachsenhausen and Oranienburg, the town north of Berlin where Eicke's office had been established.

Following the Night of the Long Knives, a purge ordered by Adolf Hitler of potential political rivals in the Sturmabteilung (SA) in June 1934, Eicke – who had played a major role in that affair – was appointed as the Inspector of Labour Camps and Commander of SS guard formations (Inspekteur der Konzentrationslager und Führer der SS Wachverbände); he was also promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer.

On 29 March 1936, the Reichsführer-SS officially designated these units as the SS-Totenkopfverbände. The term Totenkopf, or "Death's Head", remained until the dissolution of the SS in 1945, although the nature of the organization had changed dramatically before and during the war.