Were Waffen SS 'Elite'?

Discussion in 'General' started by Dave55, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Cable TV history programs join 'Waffen SS' and 'elite' into a single phrase.

    Were they elite, whatever that means?.

    I haven't been able to find anything about their training except on Nazi Wannabe web sites that say they had a high washout rate.


  2. wowtank

    wowtank Very Senior Member

  3. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    This gets debated sooner or later on most WWII-oriented forums....and often results in many bannings in the process! :lol:

    The general outcome however is that the ONLY place where the W-SS was in any way "elite" WAS that esprit-de-corps and their own fanatical belief in their OWN abilities...which meant they held positions longer retreated last, and occasionally went back and retook lost positions and lines...

    Which of course most often ALSO led to higher casualty rates than equivalent Wehrmacht units! ;):p

    AND this naturally led to the other side-effect of that SELF-image....hubris, and the depths/excesses such as May 1940 that that can lead a so-called "elite" into ;)

    There was absolutely nothing different about their training...and in fact in many cases in the first half of the war were issued with "worse" weapons - with a range of "beute" re-issued hand and light weapons from conquered nations' armed forces! - than the rest of the Wehrmacht.

    Some have claimed they were issued with new types of equipment first....and this is commonly disproved; in fact, this is merely a natural side effect of those higher casualty and disruption rates....in that units having to be reformed virutally from scratch HAD to be equiped with whatever was coming NEW off the production lines at that moment! :lol::lol::lol:
  4. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    As far as I can judge it - the English language publications really like to add "elite", "crack" and all sort of such words to the German units as the Waffen SS. Same applies for the Afrikakorps.
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    This gets debated sooner or later on most WWII-oriented forums....and often results in many bannings in the process! :lol:

    Too right, it's cropped up here a few times in the dim and distant, to some bad feeling if I recall correctly.
    Far too much coverage in a 'Hitler's Elite SS' style by many publications and documentaries to my mind - it's become a rather lazy cliche for many that fails to address the realities unit by unit (if assessing 'eliteness' is something you can really do).

    Heimbrent's quite good on objective coverage of this stuff... myself and her once privately tried to define the 'elitron' as a measure of a given military organisation's fighting 'reputation' by web perception, but I think we both got the giggles in the end.
  6. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    LOL reminds me of Terry Pratchett's "Kingon" and Queenon" particles....
  7. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    From personal experience all the SS we came up against were tough as old boots
  8. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    I would say that the SS were trained in the main on the WWI Storm Trooper model and then some - the head of SS Training Gottlob Berger believed in the axiom train hard - fight easy - also the policy of meritocracy certainly helped the esprit de corps. natuarally as the war progressed the standard of training varied between the different formations but in the main was still good.
    Also the German policy of having junior officers or officer candidates pre-war serving as a ranker for a period certainly weeded out duds among officer candidates.
  9. AlexW

    AlexW Junior Member

    The 'Classic' first five divisions maybe. Difficult to pull apart though as they tended to be kept at, or close to, full strength etc.

    The rest...not so much e.g. formations like the 29. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS RONA (russische Nr.1) weren't even really combat worthy.

    But the fanboys never mention formations like this...
    von Poop likes this.
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I can't say I've come across any that I would call 'Elite' in France during 1940. I would go as far as to say many of the run of the mill BEF County battalions gave them a good hiding whilst heading for Dunkirk.
  11. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Yup, can't get more elite Aryan than this :D




    Time to knock some clich├ęs off :lol:

  12. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Whilst many people believe that the waffen SS were an elite troop, there were many other units on all sides that were considered very good soldiers.

    You only have to look at the Allied Airborne and German Airborne units, to name but two that in my estimation were all likely to raise the heartbeat of those facing them.

  13. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    None came tougher. Or more murderous, that the 12 SS Hitler Jugend. The Hitler Youth SS Panzer div.
  14. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Elite - "a small group of people within a larger group who have more power, social standing or talent than the rest of the group".

    That about sums up what all British Regiments/Corps/Coys/Btys/Plts think of themselves and probably what all armies think of themselves compared to the "others".

    At the begining of the war the SS were considered elite, but I go along with Drew, in that our county regts gave them a hard time whenever they met.

    Forming units of elite troops does have its drawbacks, as Napoleon found when transfering good soldiers from line regts to the Guard, depriving the bulk of his regts of their future potential leaders, but giving the old emperor a nice bit of protection. Thinking of it when they were eventually used, oh yes it was British county regts that gave it a drubbing.

    This occurred with probably the best division formed, that of the Lehr (training and demonstration troops), which was formed from NCOs who were been trained for promotion. This meant the Germans in Normandy had an excellent, dare I say an elite, division of both experience and initiative, but it denuded other Whermacht units of their skills, and after they'd had a good kicking, courtesy of more county Bns, there were no replacements of their calibre to be had anywhere else.
  15. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    I never knew there were so many Tommy Coopers in the SS, makes me laugh anyway!
  16. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    There is an interesting (now hard to find book) by the American historian Anthony Beaumont called Military Elites - he analyses the route from elite - to fashionable - to traditional very well. A good example would be the Rifle and Light Infantry Regiments of the Peninsula war who became 'fashionable' regiments during the Victorian era and lost their elite status en-route to some degree - The Black Mafia of the Rifles in the 60s and 70s gave way to the current elite of the SAS. The downside of eliteism is that some of the officers become ticket punchers en-route to high command.

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