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The Waffen-SS ("Weapon-SS" or "Armed SS") was a military part of the SS and thus the NSDAP.

The SS was considered an elite unit and 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, including the Waffen-SS, to be problematic.

The units that may today be considered to have been Waffen-SS passed through several name and organizational changes. A high command for the Waffen-SS was created in 1940. It commanded what had earlier been SS-Verfügungstruppe units ("SS-Dispositional Troops", SS-VT) and certain military units intially formed from the SS organization for the concentration camps, SS-Totenkopfverbände ("SS-Death's Head Units", SS-TV). Both the SS-VT and SS-TV, and preceding organizations, were created soon after the NSDAP gained power and gradually expanded.

In 1940, the Waffen-SS started recruiting foreign volunteers.

Eventually, there were 38 Waffen-SS divisions.

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