[ shoots-shtah-fuhl ]
/ ˈʃʊtsˌʃtɑ fəl /
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noun German.
an elite military unit of the Nazi party that served as Hitler's bodyguard and as a special police force. Abbreviation: SS
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Origin of Schutzstaffel

Literally, “defense echelon”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What was the Schutzstaffel?

The Schutzstaffel, abbreviated to SS, was a Nazi military unit that originally served as Adolf Hitler’s bodyguards. The Schutzstaffel had many responsibilities, including managing the concentration camps and serving as elite military units.

The Schutzstaffel was created by Adolf Hitler, the ruler of Germany from 1933 to 1945. The Schutzstaffel supervised the German concentration camps and secret police (the Gestapo) and were directly responsible for many other atrocities committed during World War II. Because of this, the Schutzstaffel is often remembered as the most powerful and notorious division of the Nazi party.

Why is Schutzstaffel important?

Schutzstaffel is German for “protection squad” and its original purpose was to serve as personal bodyguards for Hitler and other leaders of Hitler’s Nazi party.

At first consisting only of eight men, the Schutzstaffel eventually grew to a membership of hundreds of thousands and played a direct role in many of the events of World War II. The SS eventually had the authority to execute policies or activities that were normally illegal according to German law, such as murdering Hitler’s political or ideological enemies, overseeing the concentration camps, murdering prisoners of war, and many other war crimes.

At the end of World War II, the Schutzstaffel was officially named a criminal organization during the Nuremberg Trials. The Schutzstaffel has remained one of the most hated organizations in the modern era, and SS members were hunted down and killed even decades after the war ended.

Did you know … ?

Adolf Eichmann, a Schutzstaffel officer and planner of the Holocaust, is the only person to ever recieve the death penalty in Isreal. Eichmann was abducted from Argentina by Isreali officials in 1960 and executed in 1961 following a brief, controversial trial in Israel.

What are real-life examples of Schutzstaffel?

This photograph shows members of the Schutzstaffel marching during a rally:

United State Holocaust History Museum (USHMM.org)

Outside of insensitive or offensive commentary, the Schutzstaffel is most often mentioned in a historical context or to hyperbolically compare something to it.


What other words are related to Schutzstaffel?

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

The Schutzstaffel was a group of elite soldiers who were involved in the concentration camps, among other duties.

British Dictionary definitions for Schutzstaffel

/ German (ˈʃʊtsʃtafəl) /

noun plural -feln (-fəln)
See SS
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012