[Lone Sentry: Recruitment of the Waffen-SS]
  [Lone Sentry: Photographs, Documents and Research on World War II]
Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Intel Articles by Subject

"Recruitment of the Waffen-SS" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following description of the German Waffen-SS is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 35, October 7, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Despite a general relaxation of requirements in the acceptance and induction of men for the German armed forces, rigid standards are reported to be maintained in the recruitment, within Germany, of that elite organization known as the Waffen-SS. Outside the German borders, however, standards are reported to have been lowered in the recruiting of Volksdeutsche (German-speaking persons domiciled outside Germany) and of non-Germans.

Because of this difference it is deemed advisable to consider Waffen-SS recruiting activities inside and outside Germany under separate headings:

a. Inside Germany

The basic conditions of recruitment are:

(1) A standard of physical fitness at least equal to that required by the Army.

(2) "Aryan ancestry" and National-Socialist beliefs. Standards of height vary for different units. For the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard (Leibstandarte) the minimum is 5 feet, 10 inches. For the ordinary SS divisions it is 5 feet, 7 inches, or for men under 21 years of age, 5 feet, 6 inches. For mountain troops, the minimum is 5 feet, 5 3/4 inches.

Recruits are accepted in four categories, as follows:

(a) Volunteers for the duration
(b) Volunteers for 4 1/2 years )
                               ) With the prospect of be-
                               ) coming non-commissioned
(c) Volunteers for 12 years    ) officers
(d) Officer candidates.

Age limits for volunteers for the duration are 17 to 45 years excepting that recruits for infantry, armored, and signal units must not be more than 25 years old. Enlistment for the 4 1/2 year period is restricted to men between 17 and 35 years of age and, for the 12 year period, to men between 17 and 23.

Officer candidates are classed either as "technical" or "active." Age limits for the latter are 17 to 23 years. Preference is given to Hitler Youth leaders, Party functionaries, and officials in organizations affiliated with the Party.

[Waffen-SS Officers]

An "active" officer candidate must serve a qualifying period of 12 months--six in a replacement training unit, six in a field unit--before going to one of the two SS officer training schools (SS-Junkerschulen). If he passes his preliminary tests there, he becomes an SS-Junker. When he is graduated, he becomes an SS-Standartenober-junker and is assigned to a unit. Promotion to Untersturmführer (2d lieutenant) follows upon the recommendation of his commanding officer to the head of the SS.

Technical officers undergo much the same kind of training except that after six months of general military training they are attached for three months to the arm of service they have chosen, to learn the practical side, following which there is a three-months theoretical course.

While the Hitler Youth organization is the main source of recruits for the Waffen-SS it must be remembered that the Youth group is equally the main recruiting source for the Wehrmacht. As the HJ (Hitler Youth) has been actually as well as legally compulsory since 1940, the number of boys leaving that organization each year is now practically equivalent to a whole annual age class. Of these a small proportion, probably between fifteen per cent and twenty per cent are accepted as Party members and not all of these have in the past joined the Waffen-SS.

Since the beginning of 1943 strenuous efforts have been made to induce boys of 16 and 17 to join the Waffen-SS. Propaganda stories concerning SS troops in action frequently appear in HJ publications; SS men are detailed, together with representatives of the Wehrmacht, as instructors in the boys' military camps. There is reason to believe that in many cases the pressure exerted on the youths to "volunteer" is tantamount to compulsory enlistment.

The Waffen-SS is not empowered to recruit from the Wehrmacht itself. Recruits already mustered for the Wehrmacht but not yet called up may volunteer for the Waffen-SS, but men who have been called to service or who are serving or who have served in the Wehrmacht, are, as a class, placed outside the range of SS recruiting. Also, men with technical training or qualifications fitting them for service in the Air Force or in the Navy are barred from applying to join the Waffen-SS as officer candidates. There is one modification to these general prohibitions. Officers, and presumably enlisted men also, may be permitted to transfer from the Wehrmacht to the Waffen-SS in exceptional cases and at the discretion of the High Command. But there is no reason to believe that such transfers occur frequently or have any vital bearing on the recruiting problem of the Waffen-SS.

It is evident that the Waffen-SS is finding increasing difficulty in getting enough recruits by the voluntary method to replace heavy battle casualties as well as to maintain the present rate of expansion.

b. Outside Germany

Methods of recruiting have varied in the different countries, but a broad difference is discernible in the appeals made to the Volksdeutsche, to whom the German government can speak with a show of national authority even when they are citizens of another state, and the other nationalities who must be induced to enter the Waffen-SS on grounds of local or European patriotism.

The main groups of Volksdeutsche outside the Greater Reich are in Hungary, Rumania, Croatia, and Slovakia. A report of January 1943 on the German minority in Hungary stated that 3,500 were serving in the Wehrmacht, 10,000 in the Hungarian militia, and 20,000 in the Waffen-SS. Of the 70,000 Volksdeutsche from Rumania in the German fighting services, a majority are said to be in the Waffen-SS. In Croatia complete conscription has been introduced and all physically fit German males from 17 to 35 years of age, not already serving or otherwise exempt, are being called up for service in the Waffen-SS. Similar action has been taken in Slovakia. These are the first clear cases of wholesale conscription for the SS, though it can scarcely be doubted that there has been much pressure, if not actual compulsion, among the other Volksdeutsche groups. Several thousand Volksdeutsche from Russia have also been absorbed into the Waffen-SS.

The original decision to raise non-German forces to serve with the Waffen-SS was based on the propaganda rather than on the fighting value of the "Germanic" volunteers. For this reason, apparently, the men were mostly organized in small national legions.

In Scandinavia and the occupied countries of the West, recruiting was done mostly by the local Nazi and Quisling parties; in the Baltic states it was done by the German-controlled governments; in the Balkans by German authorities in agreement with the governments concerned. In all these territories the Waffen-SS has obtained a virtual monopoly on recruiting for the German armed forces.

During the last six months, interesting changes have been noticed. With manpower becoming more important than propaganda, a larger element of compulsion has entered the recruiting campaigns, and at the same time the small, uneconomic legions are being reorganized into regiments and battalions, clearly intended to be incorporated into regular SS divisions.

In the occupied countries of Scandinavia and the West, the demand for recruits has been particularly noticeable since the early spring of 1943. The various Quisling leaders have addressed themselves especially to their followers, and demanded from them an offer of their services at the front as a test of their political integrity. The position has been most bluntly defined by the Senior SS and Police Leader, Rauter, in Holland. "It is quite obvious," he said in a speech in March, 1943, "that every SS man in his turn will have to experience battle on the East front. An SS man who thinks he cannot face this is not a true SS man and cannot become a leader. In principle, every SS man should apply for service at the front."

In Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania the recruiting campaign is more intense. Considerable governmental influence has been exerted to make young men, members of the Civil Defense Corps, and ex-soldiers join the Waffen-SS, or at least one of the auxiliary organizations of the Wehrmacht.

The head of the civil administration in Estonia recently told a gathering of Estonian SS legionaries that he was ordering all commissioned and noncommissioned officers of the former Estonian army, in conformity with their oath to defend the country, to join the SS legion, and that he was also contemplating the calling up of younger age-groups to bring the organization up to full strength. According to reports from various sources this was done and approximately 16,000 men were mobilized, the majority of whom seem destined either for the Estonian SS legion or for auxiliary service with the Wehrmacht.

The intensified drive for recruits in the occupied countries has been accompanied by a lowering of the physical and ideological standards demanded of them. The difference is best illustrated in Norway. In the original recruitment (1940-41) for SS-Regiment Nordland, men between 17 and 23, unmarried, Aryan, and of good physique, were invited to volunteer for one, two, or four years. In 1941 the upper age limit was raised to 40 years. In the present recruiting campaign for SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment Norge (replacing the Legion Norwegen), enlistment is open to all Norwegians between 17 and 45 years of age, whether married or single, with a minimum height of 5 feet, 5 inches.

In Latvia and Lithuania the recruiting notices ask for men between 17 and 45 years of age, Aryan, with no criminal records, and mentally and physically fit. This is probably now the general standard for the foreign SS recruits.

At the same time, less attention is being paid to the political and racial qualifications of recruits. Apart from the mass conscription of Croats and Estonians, there have been other indications that Nazi ideology is no longer regarded as an indispensable qualification. In Norway the advertisements for what are described as "peaceful Waffen-SS duties" inside the country assure prospective recruits that enlistment carries with it no political ties. An even greater tolerance has been shown in the Balkans, where a Croatian SS division has been formed of Catholic and Moslem Croats. The acceptance by the Waffen-SS of recruits who are neither Germans, "Aryans" nor Nazis and who are of a race and religion essentially alien to Europe, suggests that the original conception of "SS-Tauglichkeit" ("Aryan" ancestry and National-Socialist beliefs) has been abandoned.

It is clear that recruiting of Volksdeutsche and non-German elements for the Waffen-SS is mainly determined by the political situation in the countries concerned. Where the population is considered reliable the SS are prepared to do mass recruiting; where it is unreliable, a measure of selection is still deemed necessary. Hence with Volksdeutsche and the Baltic populations, among whom a considerable degree of pro-German or anti-Russian feeling may be reasonably expected, an amount of pressure has been used which is hardly distinguishable from general conscription. In Scandinavia and the Low Countries, where the population is in general anti-German and the Quisling governments are not firmly established, recruiting is voluntary and appeals mainly to those who have already taken sides with Germany. Finally, the Croatian division is purely an opportunist measure, exploiting the existing political and racial divisions in Yugoslavia.

The outstanding feature, however, is the difference between the SS recruiting inside and outside Germany and the consequent differences in kind between the various SS Divisions. That the SS will endeavor to guard against this dangerous dilution by providing the impressed or mercenary troops with German officers is almost certain. But even this cannot alter the fact that a potential source of disintegration has been introduced into the elite corps of National Socialism.

* Military branch of the Nazi Party "Elite Guard."


[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page

Web LoneSentry.com