Reichsführer

Reichsführer-SS

was a special SS rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945. Reichsführer-SS was a title from 1925 to 1933 and, after 1934, became the highest rank of the German Schutzstaffel (SS).

Definition

Reichsführer-SS was both a title and a rank. The title of Reichsführer was first created in 1926 by Joseph Berchtold. Berchtold's predecessor, Julius Schreck, never referred to himself as Reichsführer but the title was retroactively applied to him in later years. In 1929, Heinrich Himmler became Reichsführer-SS and referred to himself by his title instead of his regular SS rank. This set the precedent for the Commanding General of the SS to be called Reichsführer-SS.

In 1934, Himmler's title became an actual rank after the Night of the Long Knives.

From that point on, Reichsführer-SS became the highest rank of the SS and was considered the equivalent of a Generalfeldmarschall in the German Army.

There was never more than one Reichesführer-SS simultaneously in the SS, with Himmler holding the position as his personal title and rank from 1934 to 1945.

Office holders

In all, five people held the title of Reichsführer-SS during the twenty years of its existence. Three persons held the position as a title while two held the actual SS rank.

Karl Hanke, the last leader of the SS, was appointed to the position in April 1945, but not informed until early May. He was killed on June 8, 1945, while attempting to flee a Czech POW camp where he was being held.

Fiction references

The rank of Reichsführer-SS has also appeared in fiction with the following some of the more notable examples:

  • In the Robert Harris novel Fatherland, set in a parallel history where Germany won the Second World War, Reinhard Heydrich is depicted as having been promoted to the rank of Reichsführer-SS, after Himmler was mysteriously killed in a plane crash in the 1950s. While the novel dealt with Heydrich's assumption of the rank at some length, the HBO film adaptation gives little reference to this. In the film, the only indication of Heydrich as the Reichsführer-SS is a quick three-second shot of a non-speaking extra (intended to be Heydrich), seen wearing a grey SS uniform standing on a VIP platform with several German generals.
  • The Star Trek episode "Patterns of Force" depicts an alien planet where a historian has recreated Nazi Germany in an attempt to form a benign fascist government marked by efficiency without sadism. In the episode, during a speech given by John Gill, the Federation historian turned Führer, a top SS general is seen wearing the complete uniform and insignia of Reichsführer-SS. This character is not given a name in the episode, nor does he speak any dialogue.
  • Himmler appears as Reichsführer-SS, visiting a conquered Britain in November 1941, in the Len Deighton alternate history novel SS-GB.
  • In Harry Turtledove's novel Colonization: Second Contact Himmler is depicted as succeeding Hitler as Führer, and continuing to rule Nazi Germany in the 1960's.
  • In another of Harry Turtledove's novels In the Presence of Mine Enemies, one of the antagonists is the Reichsführer-SS Lothar Prützmann, who attempts to overthrow the new Führer, Heinz Buckliger.

Junior Rank
Oberstgruppenführer
SS rank
Reichsführer-SS
Senior Rank
Der Führer

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