Ranks and insignia of the Waffen-SS

This table contains the final ranks and insignia of the Waffen-SS, which were in use from April 1942–45, in comparison to the Wehrmacht. The highest rank of the combined SS (Gesamt-SS) was that of Reichsführer-SS; however, there was no Waffen-SS equivalent to this position.


Rank insignia Designation
German / (English)
Equivalent to the Wehrmacht
Collar badge Shoulder strap and sleeve Sleeve
General ranks
SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer collar
SS Oberst-Gruppenführer h
SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer und Generaloberst der Waffen-SS
(SS-Supreme group leader and colonel general of the Waffen-SS)
Generaloberst (Wehrmacht) 8
SS-Obergruppenführer Collar Rank
SS Obergruppenführer h
General der Waffengattung-camo
SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS
(SS-Senior group leader and general of the Waffen-SS)
General ...
General (Wehrmacht) 1
SS-Gruppenführer Collar Rank
SS-Gruppenführer h
SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS
(SS-Group leader and lieutenant general of the Waffen-SS)
Generalleutnant (Wehrmacht)
SS-Brigadeführer Collar Rank
SS-Brigadeführer h
SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS
(SS-Brigadier leader and major general of the Waffen-SS)
Generalmajor (Wehrmacht)
Officer ranks
SS-Oberführer Collar Rank
Heer-Oberst h
(SS-Senior leader of the Waffen-SS)
No equivalent.
SS-Standartenführer Collar Rank
(SS-Standard leader (regiment sized unit))
Heer-Oberst h
Heer-Oberstleutnant h
(SS-Senior assault unit leader (battalion sized unit))
Heer-Oberstleutnant h
SS-Sturmbannfuehrer collar
Heer-Major h
(SS-Assault unit leader)
Heer-Major h
SS-Hauptsturmführer collar
SS-Hauptsturmführer h
(SS-Head assault leader (company sized sub unit))
Hauptmann Epaulette
SS-Obersturmführer h
(SS-Senior assault leader)
Oberleutnant Epaulette
SS-Untersturmführer h
(SS-Second/Junior assault leader)
Leutnant Epaulette
Non-Commissioned Officer ranks
SS-Sturmscharführer h
(SS-Assault platoon leader)
Heer-Stabsfeldwebel h
SS-Stabsscharführer was a specific appointment, comparable to "Company Sergeant Major". This position, usually nicknamed "Spiess" in the German armed forces, was held by experienced senior NCOs who had already reached the rank of SS-Hauptscharführer (OR-7) or SS-Oberscharführer (OR-6), rarely SS-Scharführer (OR-5). Appointment insignia: so-called "double piston rings" on both cuffs (of sleeves) on the uniform jacket and the overcoat.
(senior NCO, e.g. Hauptscharführer or Oberscharführer, seldom Scharführer)
(senior NCO e.g., Oberfeldwebel or Feldwebel, seldom Unterfeldwebel)
SS-Hauptscharführer h
(SS-Chief platoon leader)
(SS-Standartenoberjunker OA / Officer Aspirant)
Heer-Oberfeldwebel h
Fahnenjunker Oberfeldwebel OA / (Officer Aspirant)
Heer-Oberfähnrich h
SS-Oberscharführer h
(SS-Senior platoon leader)

(SS-Standartenjunker OA/ Officer Aspirant)

Heer-Feldwebel h
Fahnenjunker Feldwebel OA / (Officer Aspirant)
Heer-Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel h
SS-Scharführer h
(SS-Section leader)
(SS-Oberjunker / Offiziersanwärter)
Heer-Unterfeldwebel h
Fahnenjunker Unterfeldwebel OA / (Officer Aspirant)
Heer-Fahnenjunker-Unterfeldwebel h
SS-Unterscharführer h
(SS-Junior section leader)
(SS-Junker OA/ Officer Aspirant)
Heer-Unteroffizier h
Fahnenjunker Unteroffizier OA/ (Officer Aspirant)
Heer-Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier h
Enlisted men
No equivalent Stabsgefreiter Mannschaften Epaulette 1940
Rank insignia of Stabsgefreiter of the Wehrmacht.svg
Rank insignia of SS-Rottenführer of the Waffen-SS
Rank insignia of SS-Rottenführer of the Waffen-SS
(SS-Squad leader)
Obergefreiter Mannschaften Epaulette 1940

Rank insignia of Obergefreiter (over 6 years of service) of the Wehrmacht.svg Rank insignia of Obergefreiter (under 6 years of service) of the Wehrmacht.svg

Rank insignia of SS-Sturmmann of the Waffen-SS
Rank insignia of SS-Sturmmann of the Waffen-SS
(SS-Assault man/Storm trooper)
Gefreiter Mannschaften Epaulette 1940
Rank insignia of Gefreiter of the Wehrmacht.svg
SS-Mann, SS-Schuetze, SS-Oberschuetze collar
Rank insignia of Oberschütze of the Waffen-SS.svg
Rank insignia of Oberschütze of the Waffen-SS.svg
(SS-Senior rifleman)
Oberschütze Mannschaften Epaulette 1940
Rank insignia of Oberschütze of the Wehrmacht.svg
SS-Mann, SS-Schuetze, SS-Oberschuetze collar
no sleeve insignia SS-Schütze
Soldat, Schütze, Grenadier
Mannschaften Epaulette 1940
Volunteer to the service of the Waffen-SS Conscript or military volunteer who enlists and may become an NCO or Officer of the Wehrmacht
  • The color of the Kragenspiegel (collar badge) is  schwarz (black) in SS and NSKK,  cinnabar-red in the staff headquarters of the so-called "Motorobergruppen" (en: Senior motor groups) and independent groups,  carmine-red in higher staff headquarters of the NSKK.[1]
  • Details, conditions, and prerequisites for SS-Candidates, aspirant or volunteers for full membership to the Allgemeine SS (general SS) are described in the main articles SS-Bewerber (SS-applicant) and SS-Anwärter (SS-aspirant).

See also


  1. ^ Quotation as to: "Schlag nach!, Bibliographisches Institut AG., Leipzig, 1938, S.203"


  • Bedurftig, Friedemann, and Zenter, Christian. The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. 1985.
  • Cook, Stan and Bender, R. James. Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler – Volume One: Uniforms, Organization, & History. San Jose, CA: R. James Bender Publishing, 1994. ISBN 978-0-912138-55-8
  • Mollo, Andrew. Uniforms of the SS, Collected Edition Vol. 1–6. Motorbooks Intl. 1997. ISBN 978-1-85915-048-1
  • Personnel Service Records of the S.S., National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland

External links


Brigadeführer (German: [bʁiˈɡaːdəfyːʁɐ], "brigade leader") was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) that was used between the years of 1932 to 1945. It was mainly known for its use as an SS rank. As an SA rank, it was used after briefly being known as Untergruppenführer in late 1929 and 1930.

The rank was first created due to an expansion of the SS and assigned to those officers in command of SS-Brigaden. In 1933, the SS-Brigaden were changed in name to SS-Abschnitte; however, the rank of Brigadeführer remained the same.

Originally, Brigadeführer was considered the second general officer rank of the SS and ranked between Oberführer and Gruppenführer. This changed with the rise of the Waffen-SS and the Ordnungspolizei. In both of those organizations, Brigadeführer was the equivalent to a Generalmajor and ranked above an Oberst in the German Army or police. The rank of Generalmajor was the equivalent of brigadier general, a one-star general in the US Army.The insignia for Brigadeführer was at first two oak leaves and a silver pip, however was changed in April 1942 to a three oak leaf design after the creation of the rank SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer.Brigadeführer in the Waffen-SS or police also wore the shoulder insignia of a Generalmajor and were referred to as such after their SS rank (e.g. SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS und Polizei).

Corps colours (Waffen-SS)

Corps colours, or Troop-function colours (ge: "Waffenfarbe(n)") were traditional worn in the German Waffen-SS from 1938 until 1945 as discrimination criteria between several branches of service, corps, services, or troop functions. The corps colour was part of the piping, uniform gorget, shoulder strap. The scheme of colors to indicate troop types was similar to that of the German Army from 1935 to 1945. The colours appeared mainly on the piping around the shoulder boards showing a soldier’s rank.


Gruppenführer ([ˈɡʀʊpn̩.fyːʀɐ], "group leader") was an early paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party (NSDAP), first created in 1925 as a senior rank of the SA. Since then, the term Gruppenführer is also used for leaders of groups/teams of the police, fire departments, military and several other organizations.


Hauptscharführer ([ˈhaʊ̯pt.ʃaːɐ̯.fyːʀɐ] was a Nazi paramilitary rank which was used by the Schutzstaffel (SS) between the years of 1934 and 1945. The rank was the highest enlisted rank of the SS, with the exception of the special Waffen-SS rank of Sturmscharführer.Translated as "head (or chief) squad leader" (the equivalent of a Master sergeant), Hauptscharführer became an SS rank after a reorganization of the SS following the Night of the Long Knives. The first use of Hauptscharführer was in June 1934 when the rank replaced the older SA title of Obertruppführer.Within the Allgemeine-SS (general-SS), a Hauptscharführer was typically the head SS-non-commissioned officer of an SS-Sturm (company) or was a rank used by enlisted staff personnel assigned to an SS headquarters office or security agency (such as the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst; SD).

The rank of Hauptscharführer was also commonly used in the concentration camp service and could also be found as a rank of the Einsatzgruppen. The rank of SS-Hauptscharführer was senior to SS-Oberscharführer and junior to SS-Sturmscharführer, except in the General-SS where Hauptscharführer was immediately junior to rank of SS-Untersturmführer.In the Waffen-SS, Hauptscharführer was a rank bestowed upon company and battalion non-commissioned officers and was considered the second highest enlisted rank, below that of Sturmscharführer. Those holding the Waffen-SS rank of Hauptscharführer were typically also granted the title of Stabsscharführer, which was an appointment held by the senior SS non-commissioned officer of a company, battalion, or regiment.

The insignia for Hauptscharführer was two silver pips, with a silver stripe centred on a black collar patch. On field grey uniforms, the rank was worn with silver collar piping and the Wehrmacht shoulder boards of an Oberfeldwebel.


Hauptsturmführer ([ˈhaʊ̯pt.ʃtʊʁm.fyːʀɐ], "head storm leader") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was used in several Nazi organizations such as the SS, NSKK and the NSFK. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was a mid-level commander and had equivalent seniority to a captain (Hauptmann) in the German Army and also the equivalency of captain in foreign armies.The rank of Hauptsturmführer evolved from the older rank of Sturmhauptführer, created as a rank of the Sturmabteilung (SA). The SS used the rank of Sturmhauptführer from 1930 to 1934 at which time, following the Night of the Long Knives, the name of the rank was changed to Hauptsturmführer although the insignia remained the same. Sturmhauptführer remained an SA rank until 1945.Some of the most infamous SS members are known to have held the rank of Hauptsturmführer. Among them are Josef Mengele, the infamous doctor assigned to Auschwitz; Klaus Barbie, Gestapo Chief of Lyon; Joseph Kramer, commandant of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's assistant; and Amon Göth, who was sentenced to death and hanged for committing multiple waves of mass murder (liquidations of the ghettos at Tarnów and Kraków, the camp at Szebnie, the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, as portrayed in the film Schindler's List).

The insignia of Hauptsturmführer was three silver pips and two silver stripes on a black collar patch, worn opposite a unit insignia patch. On the field grey duty uniform, the shoulder boards of an army Hauptmann were also displayed. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was senior to the rank of Obersturmführer and junior to Sturmbannführer.


Oberführer ([ˈoːbɐ.fyːʀɐ], "senior leader") was an early paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) dating back to 1921. Translated as "senior leader", an Oberführer was typically a NSDAP member in charge of a group of paramilitary units in a particular geographical region. From 1921 to 1925, the phrase Oberführer was used as a title in the Sturmabteilung (SA), but became an actual SA rank after 1926.

Oberführer was also a rank of the Schutzstaffel (SS, at that time a branch of the SA), established in 1925 as Gauführer, a rank for SS officers in charge of SS personnel in the several Gaue throughout Germany; in 1928 the rank was renamed Oberführer, and used of the commanders of the three regional SS-Oberführerbereiche. In 1930, the SS was reorganized into SS-Gruppen and Brigaden, at which time Oberführer became subordinate to the higher rank of Brigadeführer. By 1932, Oberführer was an established rank of the SA, SS and NSKK.Oberführer wore two oak leaves on the uniform collar rank patch, along with the shoulder boards and lapels of a general officer. In 1938, the status of SS-Oberführer began to change with the rise of the SS-Verfügungstruppe which would later become the Waffen-SS. Since Brigadeführer was rated equal to a Generalmajor, and Standartenführer to an Oberst, Oberführer had no military equivalent and quickly became regarded as a senior colonel rank. This distinction continues in historical circles with most texts referring to Oberführer as a senior colonel rank while some others state it has a military equivalent to a British Army brigadier.


Oberscharführer ([ˈoːbɐ.ʃaːɐ̯.fyːʀɐ], "senior squad leader") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that existed between 1932 and 1945. Translated as "senior squad leader", Oberscharführer was first used as a rank of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and was created due to an expansion of the enlisted positions required by growing SA membership in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The SA rank of Oberscharführer was senior to Scharführer and junior to the rank of Truppführer.Since early ranks of the Schutzstaffel (SS) were identical to the ranks of SA, Oberscharführer was created as an SS rank at the same time the position was created within the SA. Initially, the rank of SS-Oberscharführer was equal to its SA counterpart; however, this changed in 1934 following the Night of the Long Knives.At that time, the SS rank system was reorganized and several new ranks established with older SA titles discontinued. The rank of SS-Oberscharführer was therefore "bumped up" and became equal to an SA-Truppführer. The insignia for the SS rank was changed, as well, becoming two silver collar pips in contrast to the SA insignia for Oberscharführer which was a single collar pip with silver stripe.Within the SA, an Oberscharführer was typically a squad leader, answering to a platoon non-commissioned officer. The responsibilities varied across a wider range in the SS, in particular between an Oberscharführer in the Allgemeine SS (general SS) and one holding the same position in the Waffen-SS (armed SS).

After 1938, when the SS adopted field grey uniforms as the standard duty attire, SS-Oberscharführer displayed the shoulder insignia of a Wehrmacht Feldwebel. The rank of SS-Oberscharführer was junior to SS-Hauptscharführer.


Oberschütze ([ˈoːbɐ.ʃʏʦə], "senior rifleman") was a German military rank first used in the Bavarian Army of the late 19th century.


Obersturmbannführer ([ˈoːbɐ.ʃtʊʁm.ban.fyːʀɐ], lit. "senior assault unit leader") was a paramilitary German Nazi Party (NSDAP) rank used by both the SA and the SS. It was created in May 1933 to fill the need for an additional rank above Sturmbannführer as the SA expanded. It became an SS rank at the same time. Translated as "senior assault (or storm) unit leader", Obersturmbannführer was junior to Standartenführer and was the equivalent to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) in the German Army. The insignia for Obersturmbannführer was four silver pips and a stripe, centered on the left collar of an SS/SA uniform. The rank also displayed the shoulder boards of an Oberstleutnant and was the highest SS/SA rank to display unit insignia on the opposite collar.


Obersturmführer ([ˈoːbɐ.ʃtʊʁm.fyːʀɐ], "senior storm leader") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was used in several Nazi organisations, such as the SA, SS, NSKK and the NSFK. The term is translated as "senior assault (or storm) leader".The rank of Obersturmführer was first created in 1932 as the result of an expansion of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the need for an additional rank in the officer corps. Obersturmführer also became an SS rank at that same time.An SA-Obersturmführer was typically a junior company commander in charge of fifty to a hundred men. Within the SS, the rank of Obersturmführer carried a wider range of occupations including staff aide, Gestapo officer, concentration camp supervisor, and Waffen-SS platoon commander. Within both the SS and SA, the rank of Obersturmführer was considered the equivalent of an Oberleutnant in the German Wehrmacht.The insignia for Obersturmführer was three silver pips and a silver stripe centered on a uniform collar patch. The rank was senior to an Untersturmführer (or Sturmführer in the SA) and junior to the rank of Hauptsturmführer.


Rottenführer (German: [ˈʁɔtn̩fyːʁɐ], "section leader") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in the year 1932. The rank of Rottenführer was used by several Nazi paramilitary groups, among them the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Schutzstaffel (SS) and was senior to the paramilitary rank of Sturmmann.The insignia for Rottenführer consisted of two double silver stripes on a bare collar patch. On field grey SS uniforms, the sleeve chevrons of an Obergefreiter (senior lance-corporal) were also worn.


SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer ([ˈoːbɐstˌɡʁʊpn̩fyːʁɐ]) was (from 1942 to 1945) the highest commissioned rank in the Schutzstaffel (SS), with the exception of Reichsführer-SS, held by SS commander Heinrich Himmler. The rank is translated as "Supreme group leader" and alternatively translated as "colonel group leader". The rank was correctly spelled Oberst-Gruppenführer to avoid confusion with the more junior rank of Obergruppenführer.


Scharführer ([ˈʃaːɐ̯.fyːʀɐ], "squad leader") was a title or rank used in early 20th Century German military terminology. In German, Schar was one term for the smallest sub-unit, equivalent to (for example) a "troop" , "squad", or "section". The word führer simply meant "leader".

The term Scharführer can be traced to World War I, when it was referred to a NCO in charge of several shock troopers, or other special forces soldiers.

It was, however, used far more widely by Nazi Party paramilitary organizations, between 1925 and 1945 and became strongly associated with them.


Standartenführer ([ʃtanˈdaʁtn̩.fyːʀɐ], "standard leader") was a Nazi Party (NSDAP) paramilitary rank that was used in several NSDAP organizations, such as the SA, SS, NSKK and the NSFK. First founded as a title in 1925, in 1928 the rank became one of the first commissioned NSDAP ranks and was bestowed upon those SA and SS officers who commanded units known as Standarten which were regiment-sized formations of between three hundred and five hundred men.

In 1929 the rank of Standartenführer was divided into two separate ranks known as Standartenführer (I) and Standartenführer (II). This concept was abandoned in 1930 when both the SA and SS expanded their rank systems to allow for more officer positions and thus the need for only a single Standartenführer rank. In 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, the rank of Standartenführer had been established as the highest field officer rank, lesser than that of Oberführer of the SS and SA. By the start of World War II, Standartenführer was widely spread as both an SS rank and a rank of the SA. In the Waffen-SS, the rank was considered the equivalent of an Oberst, a full colonel.The insignia for Standartenführer consisted of a single oak leaf displayed on both collars. Standartenführer was the first of the SS and SA ranks to display rank insignia on both collars, without the display of unit insignia. From 1938, newer SS uniforms featured the shoulder boards of a German Army Oberst (colonel) in addition to the oak leaf collar patches.


Sturmbannführer ([ˈʃtʊʁm.ban.fyːʀɐ], "assault unit leader") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank equivalent to major that was used in several Nazi organizations, such as the SA, SS, and the NSFK. Translated as "assault (or storm) unit leader" (Sturmbann being the SA and early SS equivalent to a battalion), the rank originated from German shock troop units of the First World War.

The SA title of Sturmbannführer was first established in 1921. In 1928, the title became an actual rank and was also one of the first established SS ranks. The insignia of a Sturmbannführer was four silver pips centered on a collar patch. The rank rated below Standartenführer until 1932, when Sturmbannführer became subordinate to the new rank of Obersturmbannführer. In the Waffen-SS, Sturmbannführer was considered equivalent to a major in the German Wehrmacht.The rank was held by Wernher von Braun, who developed the V-2 rocket, and later designed the Saturn V rocket for the U.S. space program. Also, Eberhard Heder, Otto Günsche, and war criminals, such as Otto Förschner, who was the commandant of Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp.


Sturmmann ([ˈʃtʊʁm.man], "storm man") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in the year 1921. The rank of Sturmmann was used by the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Schutzstaffel (SS).

The word originated during World War I when Sturmmann was a position held by soldiers in German pioneer assault companies, also known as "shock troops".


SS-Sturmscharführer ([ˈʃtʊʁm.ʃaːɐ̯.fyːʀɐ], "storm squad leader") was a Nazi rank of the Waffen-SS that existed between 1934 and 1945. The rank was the most senior enlisted rank in the Waffen-SS, the equivalent of a regimental sergeant major, in other military organizations.


Unterscharführer ([ˈʊntɐ.ʃaːɐ̯.fyːʀɐ], "junior squad leader") was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party used by the Schutzstaffel (SS) between 1934 and 1945. The SS rank was created after the Night of the Long Knives. That event caused an SS reorganisation and the creation of new ranks to separate the SS from the Sturmabteilung (SA).

The insignia was a button pip centred on a collar patch opposite an SS unit insignia collar badge. The field grey SS uniform displayed the rank with silver collar piping and the shoulder boards of an Unteroffizier. Rank comparisons list the rank of Unterscharführer as equivalent to a corporal in other services, but that the rank held responsibilities of a sergeant in some other armies.


Untersturmführer ([ˈʊntɐ.ʃtʊʁm.fyːʀɐ], "junior storm leader") was a paramilitary rank of the German Schutzstaffel (SS) first created in July 1934. The rank can trace its origins to the older SA rank of Sturmführer which had existed since the founding of the SA in 1921. The rank of Untersturmführer was senior to Hauptscharführer (or Sturmscharführer in the Waffen-SS) and junior to the rank of Obersturmführer.

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