Untersturmführer was a paramilitary rank
of the German Schutzstaffel
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.
Untersturmführer was the first
commissioned SS officer rank, equivalent to a Second
Lieutenant in other military organizations. The insignia
consisted of a three silver pip collar patch with the
shoulder boards of an Army Leutnant. Because of the
emphasis the SS placed on the leadership of their organization,
obtaining the rank of Untersturmführer required
a screening and training process different from the
standard promotion system in the enlisted ranks.
In the early days of the SS, promotion
to Untersturmführer was simply a matter of course
as an SS member rose within the enlisted ranks to a
position where they were ready to assume the duties
of an officer. Untersturmführer was also occasionally
an appointed position, given to an SS member so that
they would be able to immediately begin as an officer
in the organization. This was typically the case in
security organizations, such as the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst (SD).
By 1938, the size and logistics of
the SS brought about the need for an established system
of becoming an SS officer with this system different
for both the Waffen-SS (military SS) and the general
mustering formations of the Allgemeine-SS.
Within the Allgemeine, or “General”
SS, promotion to the rank of Untersturmführer required
satisfactory service in the enlisted SS ranks with an
SS member holding the rank of Hauptscharführer
before consideration could be given for an officer’s
commission. Those so eligible were required to obtain
a recommendation from their SS chain of command followed
by submission of a document known as the Lebenslauf.
A resume of the SS member’s career, the Lebenslauf
stated why the SS member felt they should be commissioned
as an officer and gave, as evidence, a list of chronological
accomplishments both within the SS and before joining.
Following a racial and political background
check, the SS member’s service record would be
reviewed, with the Lebenslauf and all SS evaluations
screened by the SS Personnel Office (known as the SS
Personalhauptamt). If found eligible for promotion,
the potential SS officer’s name would be forwarded
Himmler for final approval of commission.
Between 1934 and 1938, Himmler personally
reviewed all candidates for promotion to the rank of
Untersturmführer. However, during the Second
World War, manpower constraints and logistics prevented
Himmler from screening all SS officer applicants and
the task typically fell to subordinates.
As the Waffen-SS was considered the
elite of the German Armed Forces, becoming an officer
in the organization was a difficult and time consuming
process. All candidates for commissions in the Waffen-SS
were required to attend SS-Junkerschulen which were
training academies established to train future officers
of the Waffen-SS. The most famous of these academies
was located at Bad Tölz, Bavaria .
To be admitted entry into an SS-Junkerschule
a prospective officer must have served in the enlisted
ranks of the Waffen-SS and must have been recommended
for a commission by his superiors. Those so recommended
were physically screened as well as politically and
racially investigated to ensure pure Germanic and Aryan
heritage. If approved for admittance to an SS-Junkerschule,
the SS member was appointed to the first of a series
of SS-Officer Candidate ranks which displayed the same
insignia as senior SS-non-commissioned officers.
Advancement through the SS officer
candidate ranks required passing physical screenings,
written examinations, and displaying military tactical
and leadership traits under observation. Upon reaching
the rank of Standartenoberjunker, an SS officer candidate
was permitted to wear the silver chin strap of an SS
officer, and was assigned to a field unit for final
field training and evaluation.
Upon completion of all training, the
SS officer candidate was incorporated (introduced) into
the SS officer corps in a special ceremony with officer
insignia and SS sword presented. The entire process
of training to become a Waffen-SS officer typically
required ten to sixteen months to complete.
As World War II drew to a close, and
losses within the armed forces began to rise, the strictness
of admission to the SS officer corps began to grow lax.
By 1945, it was a common occurrence for local Waffen-SS
field commanders to grant promotions to the rank of
Untersturmführer when battlefield manpower needs
required it. Within the Allgemeine-SS, in particular
the security forces of the RSHA, promotions to Untersturmführer
still required careful scrutiny and there were SS members
awaiting approval of commissions as late as April 1945.