Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Degree Level





Hare, Laurence

Committee Member/Reader

Daily, Ruby

Committee Member/Second Reader

Condray, Kathleen

Committee Member/Third Reader

Hertzog, Jake


The military arm of the Nazi party, the Waffen SS, is an intense point of study by military historians. The Waffen SS are a well-documented force and are unique in their dual role as both a military and political elite. That dual role deserves analysis to better understand the dynamics of Nazi Germany and the evolution of its war machine. In this evolution the Waffen SS greatly expanded and as a result recruitment and volunteer numbers rose. The goal of this thesis is to examine how the Waffen SS who were known for their brutality could attract so many people for voluntary recruitment. The explanation of the ability of the SS to recruit was through an imperfect form of social mobility offered due to their elite status. The memoirs of SS veterans both German and non-German show a life of hardship as payment for their place in society. The hardship these veterans faced is supported by analyzing the combat records of various SS divisions and post-war analysis of the SS’s performance. These memoirs and historians’ analysis of the reasons why men joined the SS suggest that the SS sold itself as social mobility to young men in exchange for service in Hitler’s elite order. SS volunteers all had something to gain either through educational means, social status, employment, job security, or family benefits. All these gains impacted how the SS was able to recruit and the experience of their recruits.


Waffen SS, Nazi Germany, Social Mobility, Second World War