Issue #34

The Waffen SS in Color

By Blaine Taylor

Even now, almost seven decades after the end of the Second World War, interest in what was undoubtedly the Third Reich’s most infamous armed forces branch—the Waffen (Armed) SS—remains high, with no expectation of that interest declining in the foreseeable future. Indeed, it’s a fair statement the infamy of the SS puts it on an equal footing—in terms of noteriety in popular culture—with the Roman Praetorian Guard, the Turkish Janissaries, the French Foreign Legion and Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.

That noteriety is even more remarkable when we consider the term “Waffen SS” was itself largely unknown at World War II’s outset. Even so, the organization then soon made a name for itself for ferocity and brutality on and off the battlefield. (By 1939 the more general term “SS” was already known around the world due to the attention lavished on those black-clad formations at the Nazi Party’s massive prewar rallies.) By the time of the hard-fought 1944 Normandy campaign, however, both the Western Allies and Soviets had a healthy respect for the “asphalt soldiers” in their fi eld gray and camouflage uniforms. (Along with the US Marine Corps, the Waffen SS were the only troops to regularly use the latter during the war.) Indeed, the two words most often used in official Allied communiqués to describe the SS units encountered in combat were “elite” and “fanatical.”


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