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.
Typically, a Waffen-SS member reaching the rank of Rottenführer could choose either to embark on the career path of an SS-non-commissioned officer or could apply to join the officer corps of the Waffen-SS. If choosing the later, an SS member was required to obtain a written recommendation from their commander and undergo a racial and political screening process to determine eligibility for commission as an SS officer. If accepted into the SS officer program, an SS member would be assigned to one of several Junkerschule and would be appointed to the rank of SS-Junker upon arrival. Situations did exist, however, where SS members would hold their previous enlisted rank while at the Junkerschule and only be appointed to the rank of SS-Junker after a probationary period had passed.
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.
The rank of SS-Junker was divided into four levels, those being Junker, Oberjunker, Standartenjunker, and Standartenoberjunker. The insignia for these ranks was identical to the ranks of the SS non-commissioned officer corps and promotion between the Junker ranks was dependent upon passing a variety of written, physical, and field exercise examinations while a student at the 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.