was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi
that was used by the Schutzstaffel
(SS) between the years of 1934
Translated as “Junior Squad Leader,”
the SS rank of Unterscharführer was
created after the Night
of the Long Knives
which caused a reorganization
of the SS and the creation of several new
ranks to separate the SS from the Sturmabteilung
The rank of Unterscharführer was
created from the older SA rank of Scharführer.
After 1934, an SS-Unterscharführer and SA-Scharführer
were considered equivalent positions; the rank of SS-Unterscharführer
was junior to SS-Scharführer and senior to the
rank of SS-Rottenführer.
Unterscharführer was the first
non-commissioned officer rank of the SS and was considered
the equivalent of an Unteroffizier in the German Wehrmacht.
Unterscharführer was also the most commonly held
NCO rank in the SS and the duties of those holding the
position were wide and extensive throughout the entirety
of the SS.
Within the Allgemeine-SS (General
SS), an Unterscharführer typically commanded squad
sized formations of seven to fifteen SS troopers. The
rank was also held commonly as an NCO staff position
and could be found in all of the Nazi security agencies
from the Gestapo, SD, and the Einsatzgruppen.
Within the Concentration
Camp service, those holding the rank
were often assigned to a position known as Blockführer,
which was a supervisory position overseeing order within
a prison barracks of a Concentration Camp. The position
of Blockführer is also of note in the Holocaust,
as it was typically Blockführeren in
charge of various Sonderkommando,
who performed the actual physical act of
gassing Jewish and other “undesirable” persons
of the Third
The Waffen-SS use of Unterscharführer
was as a junior squad commander, one of several attached
to company and platoon sized formations. The rank was
also considered the equivalent to the first Waffen-SS
Officer Candidate rank of SS-Junker.
Since the requirements of a battlefield
non-commissioned officer were higher than that expected
of an Unterscharführer in the General SS, those
aspiring this rank in the Waffen-SS were required to
undergo a screening and selection process before being
promoted. During this time the aspirant was known as
an Unterführer-Anwärter and, upon completion of required evaluations, trainings,
and passing a promotion board, the “Junior Leader
Candidate” would be promoted to the rank of Unterscharführer.
The insignia for Unterscharführer
consisted of a single button pip centered 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.
Most modern day rank comparisons list the rank of Unterscharführer
as equivalent to a Corporal in other military services,
but there is ample evidence that the rank held responsibilities
more befitting a Sergeant in some armies.
also made several appearances in culture
and modern films. The most notable is the
character of “Unterscharführer
Albert Hujar,” portrayed in the film Schindler's
List, who blindly obeys an order
to execute a defense woman when told: “Unterscharführer…shoot
her” by his superior Amon Göth.
Picture courtesy of: U.S.