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To what extent was the SS a "state within a state"? How powerful was the SS?

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Introduction

To what extent was the SS a "state within a state"? How powerful was the SS? The role of the SS in Nazi Germany was very important. Many historians, such as Schoenbaum, have argued that Himmler created an organisation which, "potentially superseded the state and perhaps even the party as well." Its members were totally dedicated to the supreme virtues of Nazi ideology, loyalty and honour. They saw themselves as the protectors of the German way of life and the defenders of the people against agitators, the criminal classes and those they saw as being responsible for the Jewish-Bolshevik threat. They also saw it as their duty to supervise the process of gaining lebensraum or living space and the successful German colonisation of the newly acquired territories. However. Although it is true that the SS' power came from Hitler it is also true that the power of the SS lay in the fact that it was a symbol, of fear and terror. By 1941, the "SS state" was a reality. Schoenbaum said of it, "in one form or another the SS made foreign policy, military policy and agricultural policy." The power the SS gained began after The Night of the Long Knives in 1934. Himmler had demonstrated his loyalty to Hitler and thus gained his favour. This gave Himmler the "carte blanche" to create a racially pure SS empire. Himmler received preferential treatment. He had the pick of the cr�me of the German youth and the German army to use as he wished. ...read more.

Middle

Within a few years Himmler had organised a "Second Army" which took the form of the SS reserve troops, the core of the later Waffen-SS, which challenged the delicate balance of power between the political and the military powers in Germany. In the early years of its growth Himmler deceived army generals with its small size and this deceit was not realised until 1938, when the troops numbered 14 000, because it was under the belief that it only had police-like functions. However, by 1938 it was a military force, as many of the officers had been trained by former army NCOs. The loss of beck and Fritsch in 1938 removed two of the most significant opponents to the rise of Himmler's new force and the SS exploited this situation rapidly. Himmler gave the SS Reserve Troops a "mobile role as part of a wartime army" and later it developed into a full-time division. The Waffen-SS rapidly grew into a separate army, though it did not challenge the power of the Wehrmacht until 1943. Himmler created an elite, politicised warrior caste. He wanted the SS to supplant the army to take over the policy of lebensraum. However, this changes to become units of elite troops because the war starts earlier than expected. However, the Waffen-SS was a small part of the army. In 1941, it had just over 900 000 men, 1/10 of the army. As a response to the July bomb plot the leadership of the army was purged and by 1945, due to the war losses, the SS had become diluted losing its elitist standing. ...read more.

Conclusion

Thus he stressed even more the common ethic ideal in the education of young Nazi leaders, in order that they would be the glue which would keep the whole together. The SS had emerged during a period of political and social convulsions between 1933 and 1936 and Himmler was concerned that any stability might undermine the development of his organisation. However, domestic turmoil was soon replaced by external violence and, inevitably, then war, enabling the SS to continue to evolve and flourish. Indeed the outbreak of the war gave the SS a unique opportunity to maintain its momentum and even extend its influence beyond German borders. Thus the war became a condition sine qua non for the further evolution of the SS as envisaged by Himmler. By the end of the 1930's the influence of the SS was extensive and varied, but it had its limits. The old elites remained, apart from the police force, and this meant that the SS reached the limits of its power when it had to compete with old or new leadership groups without having Hitler's backing. The SS was also hampered by the fact that they were accountable to Hitler and if he disagreed with the policy they wanted to pursue then there was no way it would go ahead. Himmler had to compete with other Nazi officials to gain Hitler's favour, which he eventually did. Thus it is not surprising that Himmler reached the zenith of his power at a time when the German defeat was no longer in doubt. Kirsty Field 13C The SS - A State within a state? ...read more.

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