One of the most interesting, significant and perhaps least known creations of the German National Socialist revolution is the so-called SS corps.
SS is an abbreviation of Schutz-Staffeln: the “black”corps of defense of the Third Reich. Just as the army — the Reichswehr — is the organ of the external defense of the State, the SS is its internal organ of defense. In this unique organization, the characteristics of an ancient Order, of a political elite, of a biological and heroic elite, of a bodyguard of the Leader, of a “state secret police” in a higher sense, and finally, of a group intended to realize and defend, in the most direct manner, the basic ideas of the National Socialist worldview, come together in an ordered synthesis. It consists of two hundred thousand men, united by an unbreakable oath of loyalty and honor, who see themselves — in the words of their leader, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler — as “a National Socialist Order of warriors.” They aspire to return to the origins: they strive to be a community in which the renewed contact with the original forces of their race and with the myths of the great primordial Nordic civilization forms the principle of a new, indomitable life; and in which the new feeling of blood establishes mysterious contacts with the ancestors and the dead, overcoming individualistic isolation and integrating the individual in the continuity of the race and a vital current that opens up new paths towards the future. The sacred symbols of pre-Christian Germanic antiquity are re-evoked: the “runes” are often to designate special divisions of the “black corps.”
It has become customary in Germany to designate various organizations with their acronyms (KdF, HJ, BdM, SA, etc.), but the abbreviation of the Schutz-Staffeln, SS, lent itself to a particularly significant transposition: due to the affinity of the two letters with the sign of the so-called “runes of victory” — Siegrunen — the latter have come to replace to the former. Today, the ancient Nordic “runes of victory,” with their zigzag marks, designate the SS on their uniforms, in quotations, in every circumstance. This is one of those cases in which modern man evokes the elemental — the true significance of which he only obscurely senses — drawing him into the premonition of a world where there are no longer “concepts” and “theories,” “values,” and “words,” but forces, powers, primordial meanings. The jagged zigzag signs of the “runes of victory” which are now the insignia of the SS uniform, are equivalent to the sign that, in ancient Egyptian symbolism, in the form of a scepter, designated the terrible solar power that consecrates and deifies the King and renders him invincible; through the allusion to lightning, they are also connected to the symbolism of the celestial force essentially used by the Olympian gods of the Aryan race in their perennial struggle against dark, titanic, telluric forces.
These are meanings which are now resurfacing in initial, confused intuitions, as, for example, when Himmler views the fight against Bolshevism as merely an episode in a perennial and almost metaphysical struggle, in which the forces of Aryan humanity clash with those of subhumanity. The SS, the bearer of the “runes of victory,” also takes upon itself the mission of being the principal anti-Bolshevik combat organization, conscious — in the words of Gruppenführer SS R. Heydrich, another leader of the “black corps” — of the tasks linked to the struggle not only against the visible enemy, but also against the invisible and masked enemy.
We will briefly touch upon the genesis of the SS. It originated in the so-called Stabswache created by National Socialism in March 1923, which then was followed by the “the Hitler assault troop,” or the Stosstrupp Hitler, which was made up of select militarily trained elements, put at the unconditional, personal disposition of the leader. Following the period during which the paramilitary organizations of the party were banned, a period during which the Stosstrupp Hitler went into latency, in the summer of 1925, the SS was created by Julius Schreck, a trusted collaborator of Hitler, and the current black uniform with a silver skull on the cap was introduced.
When, in January 6, 1929, Heinrich Himmler took command of this corps, it had only 270 men: but even then it developed an effective activity not only of external defense, but also of internal defense against dissident or dubious elements in the Party. By the time the movement had seized power, the “black corps” already counted one hundred thousand men. Its power, authority and prerogatives steadily increased, and it was definitively sanctioned in 1934. The SS were the organ mainly used by Hitler for the repressive measures taken in June 30, 1934, and in the liquidation of insurgent tendencies led by Ernst Röhm and von Schleicher. On the basis of the loyalty and merits demonstrated on that occasion, the SS, which until then was under the command of the SA (Sturmabteilungen, the “assault troops” in brown uniforms, of which Röhm was one of the main leaders), was turned into an independent organization, and completely entrusted with the role of “state secret police” or GSP (Geheimstaatspolizei). Its leader, Himmler, has the official title of “Führer of the SS and of the Reich and head of the German police.” With this, the SS became the most powerful organization of the party, connected directly to Hitler. One could say that it is the backbone of the movement, the organ that controls all of its parts and guarantees its security.
As for Germany in general, its other great pillar is the army, the Reichswehr, which, as we know, is not reducible to the merely military element, but has its own traditions and its own ideal, as well as direct connections with the nobility, especially the Prussian nobility. It is no exaggeration to say that, for the Germany of the future, the ways in which the relations between the SS and the Reichswehr will evolve will be of decisive importance: as for the remaining Nazi organizations, such as for example the Labour Front, or the SA, however important they may be, in this political regard and in the dynamics of the political forces that are decisive for the new Germany, they will always be marginal and subordinate.
Heinrich Himmler was responsible for the spiritual formation of the SS, the clarification of their duties and the defining of the principles and laws that must apply to them. The basic idea is the creation of a new elite, of a new nobility. Himmler asked himself who, in the ancient States, was prepared to give everything for their prince in order to defend him, sustain him and protect him, Himmler easily recognized that this function was always that of the nobility, of an elite, which was recognized as “noble” by that prince and his tradition. This nobility — which is the guarantor of the principle of sovereignty — when faced with the perils of capitalism and the enfeeblement brought on by nineteenth-century liberalism, had decayed, however, and in the post-war crisis proved to be no longer equal to its responsibilities.
The healthiest part of the nobility remained in the army, but as such it was essentially excluded from political struggle, since the army has executive functions and is responsible for external defense, functions that are independent of, if not indifferent to, the political form of the nation. It was therefore necessary to make the transition to an idea of an elite closely linked to the specific political idea of the new State, of an elite that is simultaneously political and military, once again the guarantor of the meaning and solidity of the national political order that had asserted itself through revolutionary means. This is the ideal genesis of the SS as the “revolutionary elite of the Third Reich.”
Its formation and organization are governed by biological-racist, ethical, and spiritual considerations.
Regarding the first point, Himmler starts from the premise that a people is capable of culture in the higher sense and of invincible resistance in the face of its enemies, to the precise extent that a sufficient quantity of Nordic blood flows in its veins. When this blood, from the prince to the peasant, is lacking, that people decays. For the construction of the new state and its elite, the selection and enhancement of the Nordic element will therefore play an essential part. In SS cadres, this selection takes place in two degrees.
The first degree is essentially biological. The SS admits all those of certain Aryan origin who, with respect to height, proportions, features, etc., are close to the pure Nordic type. They concede, of course, that, given the mixed state of all peoples, it is possible that in a physically Nordic type, character traits and forms of sensibility of a different race may be found; but they also assert that there is a greater likelihood of encountering Nordic qualities in a body of the Nordic type, than elsewhere. A further selection, moreover, is charged with the task of testing the candidate’s character. We also wish to emphasize that in the SS the Nordic-racist criterion is not restricted to the individual, but extends to a consideration of his family and his descendants. An SS man is not free to marry whomever he wishes. Under a law promulgated by Himmler in 1931, a special office must ascertain that the woman he has chosen will guarantee an offspring that conforms to the Nordic racial type. On this basis, the SS see themselves as a Sippenorden, i.e., as an “Order of the race,” and it is on this anti-individualistic basis, linked to blood, that they would like to develop. Already in the ability to submit to this law with regard to marriage, there is a first trial of a higher order, since it requires the candidate to prove that he is prepared to subordinate his purely personal feelings and passions to demands of a supra-individual order.
The second degree of the selection is based on the principle of affinities, as stated in the following words of Hitler: “When I ask something heroic, it is the heroic spirit that responds. But when I promise many benefits, to this chime of the bell, the mercantile spirit will answer.”
By asking for moral qualities that are attributed primarily to the Nordic race, one hopes to bring about a spontaneous, inner selection. Just as materials are subjected to “load tests,” so a man who aspires to be a member of the SS is placed in special situations, in which his racial qualities are supposed to manifest themselves.
Thus, we come to the ethical aspect of the SS. Let us now state what, according to Himmler, are the most important ethical qualities that are demanded. The first and most fundamental of all is loyalty: “everything can be forgiven,” says Himmler, “except betrayal.” Hitler himself, on the occasion of the events of June 30, 1934, gave the SS their slogan: “Man of the SS, your honor is loyalty” — in an obvious reference to the maxim of ancient German law: “All honor comes from loyalty.” Here, all types of loyalty are meant: loyalty, first of all, towards the Führer and the race, loyalty towards comrades and fidelity towards the maxims of decorum, honesty, and chivalry. And Himmler adds:
“One sins against loyalty and honor, not only when one offends one’s own honor or that of another SS man, but also and especially when one does not respect the honor of others, when one mocks things that are sacred to others or when one does not intervene manfully on behalf of those who are absent, on behalf of the weak and the defenseless. “
By a law instituted on November 9, 1935, Himmler has claimed for the SS not only the right, but the duty of fighting duels, whenever circumstances make it necessary.
After loyalty and honor comes obedience, which must be unlimited and unconditional. It is said that after the Prussian officer has sworn by his flag, he no longer has anything of his own. This tradition is continued by the SS. In the name of the Leader and of the National Socialist world view, one must be ready for anything, “even to sacrifice one’s pride, outer honors, and everything that may be personally dear and precious to us”: one must be able to abstain from action, when everything in us rebels and would like to force us to take action, just as one must be able to act at the slightest signal, even when one feels an aversion that seems insurmountable. Himmler considered this quality of absolute obedience as important not only in itself, but also in order to compensate for the keen sense of self and the irrepressible desire for freedom of Nordic and German man, characteristics that have been the cause of many of the calamities that have befallen him.
Other qualities required of the SS man are truthfulness, the ability to stick inflexibly to what has been thoughtfully and deliberately decided, complete uprightness, and of course, as a general foundation, a fighting spirit. In his speech in Magdeburg, June 12, 1937, on the occasion of a congregation of German nobility, Himmler stated that to each of these virtues, correspond a series of trials to which the SS are subjected, tests that complete the selection process. A candidate becomes a member of the Order of the SS when — after a trial period of a year and a half, after having taken the SS oath to the Führer and after having flawlessly completed both his military service and his “labor service” — he receives “the SS dagger of honor.”
Interestingly, according to a law enacted on November 9, 1936, every SS leader must ensure, under oath 1) that no applicant is admitted if he does not meet the relevant requirements, even if he be a son or relative; 2) that, in any given year, a quarter of the new members will not come from SS families or backgrounds. This is intended to prevent the SS from forming a kind of hereditary caste, in which other criteria prevail over actual qualifications; secondly, it aims to attract to the SS the right proportion of all the best elements, whatever their origin, so as to avoid having these elements form other groups detached from the central elite, as occurred, Himmler believes, in ancient Rome, when at a certain point the best blood was found outside of the Senate.
From what has been said about the characteristic qualities of the SS man, it will be clear that SS transcends the plane of a merely political body, realizing that of an Order in the ancient sense: and it is explicitly recognized that without the premise of a religiosity, of a purely spiritual point of reference, the aforementioned values of loyalty, honor, truth, and so on would be reduced to empty phrases and the unity of an Order bound by oath would be impossible. Hence, there is a third aspect of the SS, the spiritual one properly speaking.
In a brochure entitled “Fifty Questions and Answers for the SS Man,” after considering the wording of the solemn oath of loyalty and obedience, one asks, “Do you believe in a God, then?” — The answer is: “Yes, I believe in a sovereign God, and I consider the non-believer to be conceited, stupid, and unfit for us.” What is of interest here is less this generic profession of faith — made particularly vague out of respect for all religious faiths that do not interfere with politics — than the attempt to reawaken a precise form of spirituality, linked to the Nordic and, more generally Indo-Germanic tradition, endowing the SS with the character of a “shock troop of the National Socialist world view” — weltanschauliche Stosstrupp (Heydrich).
We mentioned earlier that the “return to origins” is an essential component of the attitude of the SS. This impulse takes concrete form in the so-called Ahnenerbe, a term that more or less means “ancestral heritage” and designates a special cultural organization of the SS. The main purpose of this institution is to re-establish contact between ancient traditions and the most conscious part of the elite involved in the rebirth of Germany; it starts from the premise that what arose unconsciously, as instinct, from the depths of the soul, is exposed to constant dangers and cannot be fully realized, if it is not protected by the strength of conscious spirit and of clear vision (Walther Wüst). Therefore, they aim to investigate “the Nordic Indo-Germanic spirit and actions,” to give “a living form to the results of this research,” and to transmit them to the German people.
In this regard, at least programmatically, the methods of “scientism” and rationalism are openly attacked and “naturalistic” interpretations of the ancient religions are rejected, while recognizing in myth and symbol the paths to a superior knowledge, to the point even of suspecting that so-called “objectivity” and “scientific accuracy” are the masks of the covert action of paralyzing and destructive forces (Heydrich). It is typical and very interesting that these SS leaders, who perform the most delicate and important political duties, who control the secret police of the German State and the bodyguard of the Führer and National Socialism, are at the same time men intensely interested in the world of symbols and ancient myths, men with whom one can discuss transcendent problems and the spiritual traditions of the origins. This is something that we have personally and repeatedly observed, and which has not been particularly encouraging, when we have considered the level of many Italian environments and a certain culture which the black shirts’ revolution has been unable to change; a culture, which even when it comes to that which is most sacred to us, like the the ancient Roman world, remains confined to the same patterns of a positivistic ignorance, decked out with academic conceitedness, which really belong to the Enlightenment and the rationalistic world of the previous century.
Still, since we wish to avoid being biased, we must remark that, with regard to this spiritual aspect of the SS, if the presence of a keen interest and suitable sensibility is incontestable, the same cannot always be said of their principles, if this term is taken in its true sense. When it comes to the reconstruction of the ancient traditional world, specious reference points are all too often used, and as a result, the meaning of many ideas is distorted and their scope limited, particularly as a consequence of a haste to draw political adaptations from them, and of the particularism of a certain racist-national attitude. These observations, moreover, apply in general to the various attempts made by the new Germany to integrate the National Socialist world view with a higher traditional and symbolic content: however, this must not lead us to make a overhasty judgment, since it is not easy, with regard to such matters, to get one’s bearings, and one cannot overnight destroy the deleterious effects of a wrong way of thinking and a false culture that have been those of Western man for several centuries. If, however, the SS — which is not a circle of “intellectuals,” but a body already firmly organized as an Order that controls one of Europe’s most powerful movements of renewal — will succeed in creating, from out of itself, an elite capable of actually realizing, with a solid knowledge of principles, the aspiration of a return to the origins, the importance of such a realization would be exceptional. At the first stage of such an integration in fact we would meet with forms of a spirituality and a civilization which, like that of the Ghibelline Middle Ages with its Orders of knights, already present a synthesis of the Nordic-Germanic and the Roman elements.
A further stage would bring us to the general Indo-Germanic primordial spirituality and its solar traditions; in other words, to the origin of all that — in the cycle in which we live, which may be the object of historical knowledge — we can consider to be civilization in the higher sense. Clearly, this means that an elite really capable of realizing something of that kind would be of value not only to their own nation, but also for all other Aryan peoples who are fighting the same enemy and have realized that this struggle cannot be truly decisive, unless it is integrated by an idea, by symbols and knowledge that are, ultimately, already metaphysical. While the Jewish-Communist press tries to depict the SS as a sort of GPU, we, considering these possibilities and in the hope that in the near future they will be, even only partially, realized, are instead inclined to see in the “black corps,” the guard of the revolution of the swastika, the men of the “rune of victory,” the “lightning rune,” and the skull symbolizing the oath of loyalty to the death, the seed of an Order in the higher, traditional sense, and hence of a spiritual solidarity that could become supranational. This would mean a unity capable of encompassing tested and similarly attuned nuclei of various nations, all of which would draw from the great heroic and metaphysical visions of Aryan and Nordic spirituality, together making up the front we need, when as today and in the imminent future, a decisive struggle is being waged against the tide of dark forces tied to the symbols of the various internationals.
1. With the recently established “Ordensburgen” or “Castles of the Order,” there has also been, within the framework of the “Front of Labor,” an attempt to create an elite and almost a “seminary” for those who in the future will hold political offices and, in general, positions of leadership. However, they do not constitute an organized body like the SS.
2. Characteristic statements by Himmler: “That which is possible in Japan, i.e., that a gold coin can remain on the ground without being picked up, must also be how things are among us.” Or this: one can forbid an SS man to drink alcohol. If he makes the promise to abstain, and then fails to keep his promise, “the only thing that remains for him is his pistol.” If he refuses to make the promise, he is expelled.
3. The president of the Ahnenerbe is the Sturmbannführer Walther Wüst. The organization oversees various publications, and its official organ is the monthly magazine Germanien, edited by Dr. J. O. Plassmann.