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

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

Commissioned Officer Grades

SS Rank

Translation of SS Rank

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 Schutzstaffel. Der Führer Adolf Hitler Supreme Leader of the Protection Squad. The Leader Adolf Hitler Oberste Führer (Adolf Hitler) President Prime Minister
Reichsführer-SS Empire-Leader of the SS None None None
None n/a General-Feldmarschall General of the Army Field Marshall
SS-Oberstgruppenführer SS-Supreme Group Leader Generaloberst General General
SS-Obergruppenführer SS-Senior Group Leader General der Infanterie, der Artillerie etc. Lieutenant General Lieutenant General
SS-Gruppenführer SS-Group Leader Generalleutnant Major General Major General
SS-Brigadeführer SS-Brigade Leader Generalmajor Brigadier General Brigadier
SS-Oberführer SS-Senior Leader None None None
SS-Standartenführer SS-Standard Leader Oberst Colonel Colonel
SS-Obersturmbannführer SS-Senior Storm Command Leader Oberstleutnant Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel
SS-Sturmbannführer SS-Storm Command Leader Major Major Major
SS-Hauptsturmführer SS-Head Storm Leader Hauptmann Captain Captain
SS-Obersturmführer SS-Senior Storm Leader Oberleutnant 1st Lieutenant Lieutenant
SS-Untersturmführer SS-Under Storm Leader Leutnant 2nd Lieutenant 2nd Lieutenant

Non-Commissioned Officer Grades (see Note 5 below)

SS-Sturmscharführer SS-Storm Company Leader Stabsfeldwebel Sergeant Major Regimental Sergeant Major
SS-Standarten-Oberjunker SS-Standard Senior Officer Cadet Oberfähnrich None None
SS-Hauptscharführer SS-Head Company Leader Oberfeldwebel Master Sergeant Battalion Sergeant Major
SS-Oberscharführer SS-Senior Company Leader Feldwebel Sergeant 1st Class Company Sergeant Major
SS-Standartenjunker SS-Standard Officer Cadet Fähnrich None None
SS-Scharführer SS-Company Leader Unterfeldwebel Staff Sergeant Platoon Sergeant Major
SS-Unterscharführer SS-Under Company Leader Unteroffizier Sergeant Sergeant
SS-Rottenführer SS-Band Leader Obergefreiter Corporal Corporal

Enlisted Man Grades

SS-Sturmmann SS-Storm Man Gefreiter None Lance Corporal
SS-Oberschütze SS-Head Private Oberschütze 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.

    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 05 January 2017