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

None

n/a

None

None


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)

President

Prime Minister

Reichs führer-SS


Empire-Leader of the SS
 

None

None

None


None
 

n/a

General-Feld marschall

General of the Army

Field Marshall


SS-Oberst gruppen führer
 

SS-Supreme Group Leader

General oberst

General

General

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

Brigadier

SS-Ober führer


SS-Senior Leader
 

None

None

None

SS-Standarten führer


SS-Standard Leader
 

Oberst

Colonel

Colonel

SS-Ober sturm bann führer


SS-Senior Storm Command Leader
 

Oberst leutnant

Lieutenant Colonel

Lieutenant Colonel

SS-Sturm bann führer


SS-Storm Command Leader
 

Major

Major

Major

SS-Haupt sturm führer


SS-Head Storm Leader
 

Haupt mann

Captain

Captain

SS-Ober sturm führer


SS-Senior Storm Leader
 

Ober leutnant

1st Lieutenant

Lieutenant


SS-Unter sturm führer
 

SS-Under Storm Leader

Leutnant

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 03 March 2017