- The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Schutzstaffeln: SS-Wachverbände - SS Guard Units

The Double Runic Symbol of the Early SS

SS Guard Units

In the early days of the SS (Schutzstaffel), it was determined that a specialized unit was needed for the purpose of overseeing political prisoners opposed to the National Socialist cause.  Beginning in 1933, these prisoners were quickly organized into "labor camps" that included communists, criminals, and other people determined to be "undesirable" according to rising National Socialist political and racial views.  The first concentration camps held several thousand prisoners, however this number eventually grew to hundreds of thousands by the end of the Second World War.  The creation of a system of labor camps (later to become extermination camps) necessitated the formation of guard units to oversee their operations.  Within the SS, these responsibilities differed from those normally associated with security or the protection of key leaders1.

In the Spring of 1934 a number of concentration camps were put under the authority of Heinrich Himmler, who was also in charge of police security units in the various states within Germany.  On July 4, 1934, Heinrich Himmler appointed Theodor Eicke the commandant of the Dachau concentration camp.  As Inspector of Concentrations Camps and SS Guard Units (Inspekteur der Konzentrationslager und SS-Wachverbände), Eicke was quick to form units associated with guarding prisoners. These guard units later became known as Death's Head Units (SS-Totenkopf-verbände).

Eicke's role as inspectorate of concentration camps required that he come under the authority of the SS Main Office (SS-Hauptamt).  Men who served under his organization were trained in the usual SS military methods.  The equipment provided to these men were identical to those associated with other SS units save for specialized insignia that feature the Death's Head (Totenkopf) symbol.  Helmets issued to these men consisted of black painted M1916, M1917, M1918, and Austrian pattern helmets.  A specialized Death's Head insignia was used for a very short period of time prior to the introduction of standard SS decals used on both sides of the helmet.  Members of the the SS-Wachverbände were later issued standard M1935, M1940, and M1942 helmets configured in the same fashion as those of the Armed-SS (Waffen-SS).

1 The SS-Totenkopfverbände held the primary responsibility for overseeing prisoners held in the concentration camps.  Other SS units were assigned to administrative and military tasks outside the central concentration camp system.


Each section of is divided into separate Information Tracks that outline important details, facts, and historical notes pertaining to steel helmets used by the German Armed Forces during World War II.  

Information Tracks are organized by subject matter and their content is directly related to the service arm or organization to which each topic is related.  Topic areas that bridge one subject matter to another are cross linked within each Information Track.

This Information Track provides historical facts pertaining to steel helmets worn by the SS Guard Units (SS-Wachverbände) from 1933-1936.  Individual links related to this subject are outlined below.

    Primary Topics

Helmet Types 1933-1936

Helmet Insignia

    Related Topics
    Protection Units


SS-Heimwehr Danzig / Danzig Polizei

SS-Leibstandarte (LAH)

SS-Sicherheitspolizei (SD)

SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT)


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