During he Second World War the troops of the Waffen-SS were feared because of their ruthlessness, cruelty and fanatical battle-readiness. A myth was established around the Waffen-SS as a politically oriented elite corps which did not know any limits in their fighting for the national socialism. The Waffen-SS troops were unconditionally faithful to Adolf Hitler and to their leaders, which was emphasized by their motto: “Meine Ehre heisst Treue” [My honor is called faithfulness]. When after the war the facts about the Waffen-SS more and more replaced the myth, it appeared that the Waffen-SS was not at all the political elite troop that many had estimated it to be.
In this article the myth will be defaced and a picture will be presented of the development of the Waffen-SS into a heterogeneous organization in which many nationalities were fighting in service of the national socialistic system. It will be made clear that a unanimous judgment about the Waffen-SS cannot be made because the differences between the various units of the Waffen-SS were so significant. Next to that fact, the organization underwent so many changes in the course of its existence that a judgment about the Waffen-SS not only differs per unit but also in time.
This article has focused on the changes within this armed forces of the SS and its different units. Next to that, much attention has been paid to the various battles of the Waffen-SS and the war crimes that were committed by this organization. The article will mainly paint a general picture of the history of the Waffen-SS and will not enter into all details. The Waffen-SS was such a complex and multi sided organization that it would be impossible to present its comprehensive history.