German Waffen SS
The SS (Schutzstaffel) first became active on 17th March 1933 and were led by Sepp Dietrich to form a personal guard to Adolf Hitler. This group of men formed the basis of an elite formation who swore an oath to the Fuhrer which placed them under his direct command.
This small group grew from being a lightly armed unit which was only strong enough to form a guard for Hitler, to being organised into the SS- Verfugungstruppe which subsequently was enlarged to form regiments.
Because the SS-VT were supposed to be armed by the army, they were the last to be issued with any new equipment, and by 1940 many SS units relied on captured weapons.
These units took part in the Polish campaign and although they proved to be lacking in military experience, they fought with tenacity and as a result suffered heavy casualties. By 1940 the SS-VT had grown into three divisions and was renamed the Waffen SS (Armed Schutzstaffel).
During the course of the war the SS grew to 38 divisions and contained just short of a million personnel. These divisions were in fact subordinate to the German army but contained their own command and control.