WWII Axis: Featured Book
Listing of Waffen-SS Reenacting Units
The Waffen-SS... usually thought of with only hatred and loathing, was more than this. The Waffen-SS was an elite branch of the German military that fought at the front, much like the US. Marine Corps -- in fact, if you ask veterans why they joined the W-SS, they will usually tell you because they were the "fighters" and "tough" an "elite outfit."
The Waffen-SS (German for "Armed SS", literally "Weapons SS") was the combat arm of the Schuetzstaffel ("Protective Squadron") or SS. In contrast to the Wehrmacht, Germany's regular army, the Waffen-SS was a combat unit composed of volunteer troops with particularly strong personal commitments to Nazi ideology and initially selected on racial basis.
It was founded in Germany in 1939 after the SS was split into two units, but the title of Waffen-SS only became official on 2 March 1940. Although nominally under the leadership of Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler, a political and internal security appointee, the Waffen-SS saw action throughout the Second World War under de-facto operational control of the Wehrmacht. During the war it grew to 39 divisions, which served as elite combat troops alongside the regular army.
If you ask a Waffen-SS veteran WHY he joined, they, without fail, say "They were the fighters, like your Marine Corps!" and that is pretty much how they were regarded then. Now days, people have a different view of the Waffen-SS, but at that time, it was more that they were an elite.