The Schutzstaffel, or SS, was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
- "Lay down your arms! In the name of the Reich! The S.A. is no more! This facility in now property of the S.S.!"
- ―An SS soldier to SA troopers[src]
When Adolf Hitler took control of the Nazi Party, the paramilitary organization known as the Sturmabteilung, or SA, was born. The primary focuses of the SA were protecting Nazi rallies, intimidating opposing political groups, and instigating violence against Jews. However, Hitler also needed a permanent guard unit to protect him. Thus, the Schutzstaffel, or SS, was born. Composed of the most loyal members of the SA, the SS was tasked initially with the protection of the Führer, although their mandate later massively expanded, including the operation of concentration camps; fielding combat units and extermination teams; acting as secret police and an intelligence agency; and scientific and occult research branches, among many other functions. The most prolific commanding officer of the SS was Heinrich Himmler, one of Nazism's most fanatical advocates.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, the SS grew in numbers. The next year, at the Deutsches Opernhaus in Berlin, Himmler met the German physicist Johann Schmidt. Himmler was interested in Schmidt's theory that the Norse gods of Viking legend could be more than a myth, and took him under his wing. Under Himmler's guidance and with the approval of the Führer, Schmidt founded his own branch of the SS. Known as HYDRA, it was tasked with the development of advanced weapons and technology for the Reich.
The same year, in order to gain support from the German Army for his regime, Hitler ordered the assassinations of almost all high-ranking officers of the SA, in what was to become known as the Night of the Long Knives. SS troops were tasked with carrying out the operation. HYDRA chief Johann Schmidt participated in this purge, personally killing the SA special weapons development officer Ernst Kaufmann during the seizure of the Kummersdorf facility. Himmler used the situation to transform the SS from a relatively limited SA branch to one of the largest and most powerful organizations in the Third Reich.
When Hitler sparked the beginning of World War II in 1939, the SS participated in the Nazi conquest of Europe. They aided the Wehrmacht in various battles, and provided security in conquered territory.
By the end of 1942, the tide of war had turned against the Nazis. When the Sicherheitsdienst learned that Schmidt had led an attack on Tønsberg, Norway, Hitler sent three SS officers to Schmidt's base to question him about HYDRA's activities. They were also to inquire about HYDRA's failures to deliver the weapons promised to the German Army.
During a tour of the base Schmidt gave his visitors, they were intrigued by the unusual uniforms and equipment used by the soldiers of HYDRA, but they were skeptical about Schmidt's claims that his weapons could destroy his enemies in a matter of hours, no matter how many forces they possessed. Although Schmidt showed them his Tesseract-powered cannon, they assumed he had gone insane when he claimed the power of the gods was what fueled his devices. When they saw Berlin marked as a target on Schmidt's map, they realized the HYDRA general was planning a coup. To silence them, Schmidt vaporized them all with the cannon he had just unveiled.
By March 1945, the SS General Werner Reinhardt was the commanding officer of a HYDRA Research Facility in Austria that housed dozens of artifacts. It served as a repository and laboratory to store and study them. These artifacts were delivered to the facility by many different agencies, including the Deutsches Afrikakorps. After Reinhardt learned about the Red Skull's apparent demise at the hands of Captain America, he ordered his men to evacuate the facility, planning was to escape with the artifacts and continue HYDRA's work.
However, just as his men handed him the Obelisk, the facility was attacked by a Strategic Scientific Reserve team led by Peggy Carter, Jim Morita, and Dum Dum Dugan. The facility was seized without a shot fired, and Reinhardt and all of his men were captured. Before he was taken away, Reinhardt warned Agent Carter that if one of HYDRA's heads was cut off, two more would grow in its place.
In late June 1945, the wife of the former commandant of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Ilse Koch, was arrested by the US Army. She was tortured by Vernon Masters in order to extract information that would be pertinent in the upcoming Nuremberg Trials. In the course of these trials, the SS was declared a criminal organization.
|Adolf Hitler||Oberste Führer der Schutzstaffel||Deceased|
|Unnamed HYDRA Officer||Obersturmführer||Deceased/HYDRA|
|Unnamed HYDRA Officer||Obersturmführer||Deceased/HYDRA|
The SS mostly used black and grey uniforms similar in design to those of the regular German Army. However, to distinguish themselves from other military forces of the Third Reich, they had their own system of ranks and insignia. The collars of many SS uniforms were decorated with the double-Sig rune patches, although there were exceptions. Their caps frequently had the Totenkopf (death's head) motif under the German Reichsadler badge. Some of them wore red Nazi armbands, but unlike those of the civilian members of the Nazi Party, their armbands had two black stripes, one above and one below the swastika.
- In reality, the SS was never in charge of the Weapons Testing Ground at Kummersdorf. That facility was controlled by the German Army until the end of World War II.