Junker was a paramilitary Nazi rank that was used by the Schutzstaffel (SS) between the years of 1933 and 1945. The rank was a special position held by those aspiring for officer commissions in the armed wing of the SS, first known as the SS-Verfügungstruppe and later as the Waffen-SS.
The SS rank of Junker was an appointed position with an SS member required to enlist in the SS for at least six months to a year before consideration could be given for officer training. SS-Junker was also strictly a rank of the Verfügungstruppe and Waffen-SS and was not used by the Allgemeine-SS, or "General" SS.
This officer candidate system was to ensure that future SS officers had prior enlisted experiance and that there were no “direct appointments” in the Waffen-SS officer corps as was often the case in other SS branches such as the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst. Ample evidence exists, however, that certain SS members with “connections” could obtain an appointment as an SS-Junker without ever having served in the enlisted ranks or with only a few weeks of basic enlisted training before transferring to a Junkerschule.
Upon reaching the rank of SS-Standartenoberjunker, the SS-Officer Candidate would be permitted to display the silver chin strap of an SS officer and would be assigned to a field SS unit for final evaluation and field examination. Upon passing this final exam, the Standartenoberjunker would be promoted to the rank of SS-Untersturmführer usually in an elaborate ceremony.
The entire process for an SS-Junker to become an SS officer usually took between 18 to 24 months to complete. The SS had planned, once World War II had ended, to establish SS academies which would be four year institutions much like the present day United States service academies. As World War II progressed, however, the manpower needs of the Waffen-SS grew to such a level that SS officer candidates would undergo no more than 6 months training by 1945 and, in some cases, were directly commissioned in the field without ever having attended a Junkerschule.
Junker as a military rank ceased to exist in 1945 with the downfall of Nazi Germany and the end of the Second World War. The word Junker, however, continues to exist in Germany and has a variety of meanings.
Source: Wikipedia; Pictures courtesy of: U.S. National Archives.