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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Schutzstaffel

The Schutzstaffel (SS), established in 1925, was the personal bodyguard of Adolf Hitler. Heinrich Himmler was in charge and he gradually expanded the SS, personally vetting applicants to ensure they conformed to the Nazi ideal of racial purity. Their uniform was all black, with a silver death's head cap badge.

As the power of the SS grew, SS men were in all the key government posts in Nazi Germany. In December 1940, Himmler established the Waffen SS. This new army grew rapidly, to a strength of over 150,000 men in 6 months.

SS Death's Head Units were in charge of concentration camp and the Waffen SS followed the German Army into the Soviet Union, killing Jews, gypsies and political opponents of the Nazi Party.

For these war crimes, a large number of the SS leaders were tried by an international war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945, and executed. The Schutzstaffel was declared a criminal organisation.