The SS Sig Runes, worn on the right collar tab by all ranks

SS-Rank Table showing equivalents in the German, American and British Armies

(during the period 1939 to 1945 and intended for use with the website: Oradour-sur-Glane 10th June 1944)

Waffen-SS is the normal abbreviation of: Waffen-Schutzstaffel, or Armed Protection Squad: The Nazi-State Praetorian Guard.

(see note 2 below)

The SS Sig Runes, worn on the right collar tab by all ranks

Commissioned Officer Grades

SS Rank
(see notes 1 & 6 below)

Translation of SS Rank
(see note 3 below)

Wehrmacht Rank
(see note 4 below)

American Rank

British Rank





Monarch (The Monarch is an hereditary position, originally thought to be chosen by God and is thus neither elected nor appointed)

Der Oberste Führer der Schutz staffel. Der Führer Adolf Hitler

Supreme Leader of the Protection Squad. The Leader Adolf Hitler

Oberste Führer (Adolf Hitler)


Prime Minister

Reichs führer-SS

Empire-Leader of the SS






General-Feld marschall

General of the Army

Field Marshall

SS-Oberst gruppen führer


SS-Supreme Group Leader

General oberst



SS-Ober gruppen führer

SS-Senior Group Leader

General der Infanterie, der Artillerie etc.

Lieutenant General

Lieutenant General

SS-Gruppen führer

SS-Group Leader

General leutnant

Major General

Major General

SS-Brigade führer

SS-Brigade Leader

General major

Brigadier General


SS-Ober führer

SS-Senior Leader




SS-Standarten führer

SS-Standard Leader




SS-Ober sturm bann führer

SS-Senior Storm Command Leader

Oberst leutnant

Lieutenant Colonel

Lieutenant Colonel

SS-Sturm bann führer

SS-Storm Command Leader




SS-Haupt sturm führer

SS-Head Storm Leader

Haupt mann



SS-Ober sturm führer

SS-Senior Storm Leader

Ober leutnant

1st Lieutenant


SS-Unter sturm führer

SS-Under Storm Leader


2nd Lieutenant

2nd Lieutenant

Non-Commissioned Officer Grades (see Note 5 below)

SS-Sturm schar führer SS-Storm Company Leader Stabs feldwebel Sergeant Major Regimental Sergeant Major
SS-Standarten Ober junker SS-Standard Senior Officer Cadet Ober fähnrich None None
SS-Haupt schar führer SS-Head Company Leader Ober feldwebel Master Sergeant Battalion Sergeant Major
SS-Ober schar führer SS-Senior Company Leader Feldwebel Sergeant 1st Class Company Sergeant Major
SS-Standarten junker SS-Standard Officer Cadet Fähnrich None None
SS-Schar führer SS-Company Leader Unter feldwebel Staff Sergeant Platoon Sergeant Major
SS-Unter schar führer SS-Under Company Leader Unter offizier Sergeant Sergeant
SS-Rotten führer SS-Band Leader Ober gefreiter Corporal Corporal

Enlisted Man Grades

SS-Sturm mann SS-Storm Man Gefreiter None Lance Corporal
SS-Ober schütze SS-Head Private Ober schütze Private 1st Class None
SS-Schütze SS-Private Schütze Private Private


    Note 1) The term, "Reichsführer-SS" was applied to the head of the combined Waffen and Allgemeine-SS. The various Reichsführer-SS were: Julius Schreck 1925-26, Joseph Berchtold 1926-27, Erhard Heiden 1927-29, Heinrich Himmler 1929-45 and lastly Karl Hanke 1945. There was no direct equivalent to this position in any of the other combatant nations of the Second World War.

    Note 2) The above table shows what I believe to be the equivalent ranks in the different forces during the years 1939-45. It is not always easy to provide a direct equivalent between nations, or indeed between the SS and the rest of the Wehrmacht. The starting point rank, SS-Schütze, was the designation for the Infantry and depending on the actual unit, it could be different, for example, Kanonier for the Artillery. The SS-Ranks with, Junker in the title usually refers to non-commissioned Officers who were acting as Officer Cadets pending a definite promotion. During this time they could command troops in the field. A full and exhaustive Rank table would be quite complicated and involve many footnotes and additional explanation; the above is of necessity somewhat simplified.

    Note 3) It is sometimes difficult to render words and phrases from one language into another. An example is, Sturmbannführer. In modern German, Sturm means, Storm, or, Assault in the military sense. The word, Bann means a (magic) Spell and Führer, means a Leader or Guide. Clearly Sturmbannführer cannot be rendered as, Storm Spell (magic) Leader, so some further clarification is needed.

    German in the Middle Ages used the word Bann both on its own and in conjunction with others, to form words to denote authority and power. Examples are words such as, Banner, meaning a Banner or Flag and Heerbann meaning, Army Command (the power of a King to raise and command an Army). Modern English uses Bann, as in The Banns of Marriage, meaning the command from the minister in the church to the listening congregation to, "raise any cause or just impediment" to the forthcoming match.

    In Germany during the 1920's, the Sturm Abteilung, or SA (Storm Detachment) came into being as the street muscle of the Nazi Party. The SA formed themselves into, Companie, three to a Sturm and three, Stürme, into a Sturmbann. Thus a Sturmbannführer was a, Storm Command Leader, using Command in its noun sense, in the same way that a Colonel could refer to his Regiment as being his Command. Using the normal military grading structure equates a Sturmbann to a Battalion and thus a Sturmbannführer to a Major.

    Note 4) The term, Wehrmacht literally means, Armed Forces and covered all branches of the German Armed Forces such as: Heer, (Army), Kriegsmarine (Navy) and Luftwaffe (Air Force). The Waffen-SS were a part of the Heer (Army) section of the Wehrmacht. It is important to realise that the Waffen-SS were not a separate branch of the Wehrmacht that operated independently of the rest; they were an integral part of the whole. It is true that some sections of the Allgemeine-SS were only loosely under Heer (Army) control, for example the Ahnenerbe, which dealt with racial research, were neither fighting soldiers nor connected with the intelligence services of the Third Reich.

    Note 5) Unterführer was not an official rank of the SS, but was used to refer to all non-commissioned officer ranks. This term has been used in some of the Dortmund statements made, by various witnesses, for example that by Hauptsturmführer Kahn.

    Note 6) The spaces shown in the ranks above (such as, "SS-Ober sturm bann führer") are there to make them display properly on all viewing devices (from old Smartphones with narrow screens to widescreen PCs). These ranks would not have been written-down in this way during the Nazi era. For example, "SS-Ober sturm bann führer" would always have been written as, "SS-Obersturmbannführer"

    The translations given above are my own and I must bear any criticism for their interpretation.

    The above table is only intended for use with the website: Oradour-sur-Glane 10th June 1944 (the story of a massacre in France during WWII) and is offered as reference to anyone wishing to better understand the story of Oradour.

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© Michael Williams: 10 March 2000 ... revised 17 February 2017