Thursday, September 1, 2011

The SS - Hitle's Instrument of Terror

Despite the fact that by the end of World War II the SS was a truly vast organisation, with branches that seemed to reach into almost every sphere of German life, and could boast a field Army of some of the most effective troops the world has ever seen, its beginnings were far from impressive. In its formative years, this most elite of the Nazi formations had been subordinated to, and often humiliatingly treated by, the common street louts of the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Party's Storm Troops. To fully appreciate how the dreaded Schutz Staffel (SS), Protection Squad, came about, as well as its conflict with the SA, it is necessary to go back in time to the years immediately preceding the outbreak of World War I and briefly consider the political situation then prevailing. By 1914, the Social Democratic Party in Germany was one of the largest political parties in Europe. However, although Germany had a parliament of elected members, it was in reality far from being a parliamentary democracy. The German Reichstag, in which the Social Democratic Party formed a considerable majority, had neither the power nor the influence to overrule the wishes of the Kaiser and his military staff, who ruled very much as they wished.