The Waffen-SS was the combat arm of Germany's SS. The Waffen-SS was a group of combat units composed of volunteer troops, with its members selected both for their strong personal commitment to Nazi ideology and for their approved racial heritage.
Soldiers of Waffen-SS were known for their brutality. After the war, they were denied the benefits given to other members of the armed forces due to war crimes.
Starting in 1940 with the Wiking Division, the Waffen-SS created several units of foreign volunteers. By the end of war, nearly every European nation had been represented in one Waffen-SS unit or another.
Waffen-SS in The Man With the Iron Heart
Well known for its brutal nature and fanatical devotion to the Nazi cause, the Waffen-SS battled its enemies with a ferocity few could match during the course of World War II. Sworn to follow Adolf Hitler without question, the Waffen-SS fought on all fronts of the war as the Führer's personal shock troops. The organization publicly disbanded as the Allied powers conquered Germany in 1945, but its cause lived on as many members were drawn into the post-war organization known as the German Freedom Front, including its founder and first leader, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, and its second leader, SS-Standartenführer Joachim Peiper.
The survival of the Waffen-SS in the postwar world was thanks to Heydrich's growing belief that Germany was headed for defeat in World War II, and his ability to convince Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler of this likely outcome. Himmler quietly gave Heydrich's guerrilla warfare plan his full support, and the Waffen-SS assumed direct control of preparations for an organized, armed resistance against the occupation of Germany. Without Adolf Hitler's knowledge or permission, his personal military force worked tirelessly in secret to be ready to carry on after his death. Numerous valuable enlisted men and officers were pulled from Waffen-SS divisions engaged on the Eastern and Western fronts, and "disappeared" from all public record as Heydrich assembled his men. These men, with countless hardened combat veterans among them, were a priceless asset to the GFF.
Waffen-SS in The War That Came Early
Although they were Führer Adolf Hitler's personal bodyguard, units of the Waffen-SS joined the Wehrmacht in the winter assault through the Low Countries in the last weeks on 1938. Many in the Wehrmacht turned their noses up at the Waffen-SS, whom they derisively called the "Asphalt Soldiers". Regular Wehrmacht troopers couldn't understand the Waffen-SS rank structure, nor did they try to learn it, choosing to stay as far away from them as possible.
After the second coup against Hitler failed, the Waffen-SS increased its power, and started accompanying the Wehrmacht into battle. While officially serving as an aid to the Wehrmacht, these units were also watchful for defeatists and traitors. The Waffen-SS began receiving the best rations and equipment, creating a source of tension and jealousy between them and soldiers of the Wehrmacht.
After Hitler was assassinated by the Committee for the Salvation of the German Nation, in April, 1944 the Waffen-SS were part of the faction that remained loyal to the Nazi Party in the civil war that followed. Ultimately, the Committee prevailed and the Waffen-SS were suppressed.