Obergruppenführer ([ˈoːbɐɡʀʊpn̩fyːʀɐ], "senior group
leader") was a
Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in
1932 as a rank of the
Sturmabteilung (SA), and adopted by the
Schutzstaffel (SS) one year later. Until April 1942, it was the
highest commissioned SS rank, inferior only to Reichsführer-SS
Heinrich Himmler or RFSS, which was the internal SS-abbreviation for
Himmler) Translated as "senior group leader", the rank of
Obergruppenführer was senior to Gruppenführer. A similarly named
Untergruppenführer existed in the SA from 1929 to 1930 and as
a title until 1933. In April 1942, the new rank of
Gruppenführer was created which was above
Obergruppenführer and below Reichsführer-SS.
1 Creation and history
2 Promotion history
3 Rank usage
4 Rank insignia
5 See also
Creation and history
The rank of
Obergruppenführer was created in 1932 by
Ernst Röhm and
was intended as a senior most rank of the Nazi stormtroopers for use
by Röhm and his top SA generals. In its initial concept, the rank
was intended to be held by members of the Oberste SA-Führung (Supreme
SA Command) and also by veteran commanders of certain SA-Gruppen (SA
groups). Some of the early promotions to the rank included Ernst
Röhm, Viktor Lutze, Edmund Heines, August Schneidhüber, and Fritz
Ritter von Krausser.
The rank of SA-
Obergruppenführer was the most senior rank of the
Sturmabteilung until the spring of 1933, when Rohm made the title
Stabschef (SA Chief of Staff) into a rank and promoted
Also in the summer of 1933,
Heinrich Himmler was promoted by Adolf
Hitler to the newly created rank of SS-
Obergruppenführer with the
intent being to make Himmler the equivalent of the senior commanders
of the SA, to which the SS was still subordinated. Although Himmler
usually referred to himself as Reichsführer-SS, before the summer of
1934 this was simply a title for the SS commander, and not yet an
actual rank. Shortly after Himmler's promotion, Hitler further
promoted Franz Xaver Schwarz, with Himmler's date of rank backdated to
1 January 1933 in order to confirm his seniority as the top officer
within the SS. In September 1933, so as to prevent a power struggle
within the SS, Hitler further promoted
Kurt Daluege who commanded most
of the SS in the
Berlin region. Daluege's promotion was to avoid the
SS splitting into two separate entities, one based in Northern Germany
under Daluege and the other in
Bavaria under Himmler. This early SS
disunity became a non-issue after a common ground was found amongst SS
leaders in their general hatred of the SA.
Four men were promoted to SS-
Obergruppenführer in 1934, these being
Fritz Weitzel, Richard Walther Darré, Walter Buch, and Rudolf Hess.
Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives in July 1934,
Sepp Dietrich was
promoted to the rank, backdated to July 1933 in order to make him the
third most senior officer in the SS (after Himmler and Schwarz). Paul
Hausser, who was made an SS-
Obergruppenführer in 1941, further
received backdated rank to 1933 after his promotion to
Gruppenführer in 1944.
Udo von Woyrsch
Udo von Woyrsch and
Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger were promoted to
Obergruppenführer in 1935 while Josias, Hereditary Prince of
Waldeck and Pyrmont, and
Max Amann received the rank a year later
Karl von Eberstein
Karl von Eberstein and Philipp Bouhler. The year 1936 saw
several promotions to the rank, including
Friedrich Jeckeln who would
become one of the most infamous SS and police leaders on the Eastern
Front during World War II. The last pre-war promotion to the rank of
Obergruppenführer was in 1937 when Ernst-Heinrich Schmauser
received the rank. Upon the outbreak of World War II, there were
seventeen men who held the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer.
Promotions to SS-
Obergruppenführer by year
Heinrich Himmler, Franz Xaver Schwarz, Kurt Daluege
Fritz Weitzel, Richard Walther Darré, Walter Buch, Rudolf Hess, Sepp
Udo von Woyrsch, Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger
Josias, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont, Max Amann, Karl von Eberstein,
Philipp Bouhler, Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorff, Friedrich Jeckeln,
Werner Lorenz, August Heissmeyer
Joachim von Ribbentrop, Martin Bormann, Hans Lammers
Otto Dietrich, Reinhard Heydrich, Hans-Adolf Prützmann, Erich von dem
Bach-Zelewski, Wilhelm Rediess, Paul Hausser, Wilhelm Reinhard, Albert
Karl Kaufmann, Friedrich Hildebrandt, Karl Fiehler, Dietrich Klagges,
Paul Körner, Wilhelm Murr, Fritz Sauckel, Richard Hildebrandt,
Wilhelm Koppe, Theodor Berkelmann, Wilhelm Keppler, Karl Wolff, Josef
Bürkel, Arthur Greiser, Theodor Eicke, Emil Mazuw, Paul Scharfe,
Oswald Pohl, Walter Schmitt, Herbert Backe
Siegfried Taubert, Joachim Albrecht Eggeling, Ernst Wilhelm Bohle,
Konstantin von Neurath, Julius Schaub, Günther Pancke, Ernst
Kaltenbrunner, Konrad Henlein, Ernst Sachs, Karl Hermann Frank, August
Eigruber, Friedrich Rainer, Hugo Jury, Rudolf Querner, Friedrich
Alpers, Gottlob Berger, Otto Hofmann, Hanns Albin Rauter, Hans
Jüttner, Artur Phleps, Felix Steiner, Alfred Wünnenberg, Karl
Hartmann Lauterbacher, Karl Hanke, Ulrich Greifelt, Wilhelm Stuckart,
Otto Winkelmann, Hermann Höfle, Ernst-Robert Grawitz, Leonardo Conti,
Franz Breithaupt, Werner Best, Maximilian von Herff, Georg Keppler,
Walter Krüger, Karl Maria Demelhuber, Kurt Knoblauch (de), Curt
von Gottberg, Oskar Schwerk, Heinrich von Maur, Karl Wahl, Fritz
Wächtler, Jürgen von Kamptz, Erwin Rösener, Benno Martin, Gustav
Adolf Scheel, Paul Wegener, Karl Gutenberger, Carl Oberg, Wilhelm
Bittrich, Matthias Kleinheisterkamp, August Frank, Fritz Schlessmann,
During the Second World War, there were 88 promotions to the rank, of
which 22 were considered regular officers of the
Waffen-SS and the
rest members of the Allgemeine-SS. The first wartime promotions to
Obergruppenführer occurred in April 1940 when the rank was granted
to Joachim von Ribbentrop,
Martin Bormann and Hans Lammers; Otto
Dietrich was promoted a year later. All four promotions were honorary
SS ranks with the first promotion of an active SS officer occurring in
September 1941 when the rank was granted to Reinhard Heydrich. The
first wartime promotion of a
Waffen-SS officer was on 20 April 1942
Theodor Eicke was promoted to SS-
Obergruppenführer und General
Sepp Dietrich remained senior, having served as General
der SS-VT (SS-Verfügungstruppe) upon the outbreak of
World War II
World War II in
Two SS officers would be demoted from the rank of
Rudolf Hess and Wolf-Heinrich Graf von
Helldorff. Hess was stripped of his rank and expelled from both the SS
Nazi Party after his abortive flight to Scotland in 1941.
Helldorff was stricken from the SS rolls in 1944 after the 20 July
plot against Hitler. Helldorff was a unique case, in that his SS rank
had been bestowed for technical reasons in order to command the Berlin
Police. While holding SA membership, Helldorff was never actually an
SS member although for administrative purposes he held
SS rank and was
ranked as the 15th most senior SS officer.
A total of 106 men would eventually hold the rank of
Obergruppenführer with 97 such officers listed on the SS seniority
list in 1944. Several men with the rank of SS-Obergruppführer would
die during World War II; some of the more notable being Reinhard
Heydrich, Theodor Eicke, and Artur Phleps. The last promotion was made
in March 1945 to Hans Kammler.
The rank of
Obergruppenführer was used by four major paramilitary
groups of the Nazi Party, these being the SA, SS, National Socialist
Motor Corps, and National Socialist Flyers Corps. The rank would
remain the highest SS general officer rank until April 1942, when the
rank of SS-Oberst-
Gruppenführer was created.
Standard practice for SS generals serving as an SS and police leader,
as well as those senior SS personnel of the RSHA, was to hold dual
police rank as SS-
Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei.
Obergruppenführer und General der
Waffen-SS was the equivalent in
the armed SS; in 1944, most active SS generals received this
designation in order to command military troops during the last days
of the war. Approximately fifteen SS generals were ranked as
Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei und Waffen-SS.
Obergruppenführer was considered the highest rank of the
Allgemeine SS until April 1942; equivalent to a lieutenant general
(three-star general) in the American and British armies. It was
only outranked by Himmler's special rank of Reichsführer-SS. However,
within the Waffen-SS, the rank of SS-
Gruppenführer was equivalent to
a Generalleutnant, and an SS-
Obergruppenführer came to be considered
the equivalent of a General; holders were titled in full
Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS.
until April 1942
Allgemeine SS and Waffen-SS)
Allgemeine SS and Waffen-SS)
Junior rank OF-7
Senior rank OF-9
Corps colours (Waffen-SS)
Table of ranks and insignia of the Waffen-SS
^ Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess
^ a b McNab (II) 2009, p. 15.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 29, 30.
^ McNab (II) 2009, pp. 15, 16.
^ McNab 2009, p. 29.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 316.
^ Biondi 2000, p. 7.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 148.
^ Haskew 2011, p. 46.
Biondi, Robert (2000). SS Officers List: SS-
SS-Oberstgruppenführer (As of 30 January 1942). Schiffer Military
History Publishing. ISBN 978-0764310614.
Flaherty, T. H. (2004) . The Third Reich: The SS. Time-Life
Books, Inc. ISBN 1-84447-073-3.
Haskew, Michael (2011). The Wehrmacht. Amber Books Ltd.
Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton &
Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6.
McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923–1945. Amber Books Ltd.
McNab (II), Chris (2009). The Third Reich. Amber Books Ltd.
Yerger, Mark C. (1997). Allgemeine-SS: The Commands, Units and Leaders
of the General SS. Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
SS service records of Karl Wolff, Reinhard Heydrich, and Ernst
Kaltenbrunner: National Archives and Records Administration, College
Nazi Germany paramilitary
Nazi Party ranks
National Socialist Motor Corps
National Socialist Flyer