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The double-Sig Rune SS insignia.

The Loudspeaker.png Schutzstaffel  (info • help) (German for "Protection-Squadron"), abbreviated Runic 'SS' (Runic) or SS (Latin), was a large security and military organization of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) in Germany.

The SS was created in the 1920s as a personal-guard unit for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Heinrich Himmler led the SS from 1929 to 1945. During that time, the SS grew from a small paramilitary unit to one of the largest and most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany. The Nazis saw the SS as a special unit, the party's "Praetorian Guard." To be chosen for the SS, a person had to be racially "pure" and completely loyal to the Nazi party.

The SS had two different parts: the Allgemeine-SS (the political wing) and the Waffen-SS (the military wing). The Waffen-SS became a second German army within the German armed forces. It worked together with the regular German army, or Heer. The Waffen-SS became known for fierce fighting and brutality against civilians and prisoners of war. Its units helped crush the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, where Polish Jews tried to fight back against Nazi rule. Waffen-SS units also slaughtered U.S. prisoners of war near the Belgian town of Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

The SS was different from the German military, Nazi party, and German state officials because it had its own rank structure, insignia (emblems and marks of rank), and uniforms.

As the Nazi party gained more and more political power in Germany, it gave control of more important tasks (like law enforcement) to the SS. Many SS organizations became like government agencies. To maintain the Nazi party's political power, the SS was given authority to create and run the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the Nazi security and intelligence service, and the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo), or SS secret police. This meant that the SS was basically above the law, and could do whatever it chose to.

As the SS's leader, Heinrich Himmler used the SS to put the Final Solution into action. The SS Einsatzgruppen murdered many civilians, mostly Jews, in the countries occupied by Germany during World War II. The SS was in charge of creating and running concentration camps and extermination camps. In these camps, millions of inmates died from many causes, including murder, starvation, disease, freezing to death, and being experimented on by Nazi doctors. After the war, the judges at the Nuremberg Trials declared the SS a criminal organization responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.