Reich: The Schutzstaffel-Awards
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The Order of the Knights of the SS
The highest honour for members of either branch of the SS is to be admitted into the Order of the Knights of the SS (KSS), which was officially founded at the Winter Solstice, RY000. The membership is restricted membership, and is solely in the gift of the Reichsführer-SS. In order of chivalric seniority, it ranks second only to the Order of the Black Eagle.
Originally, there were only twelve full Knights at any given time, plus the Reichsführer-SS. On Summer Solstice, RY130, however, a second circle of full Knights was instituted, to increase the highest level of membership of the Order to twenty-four individuals plus the RFSS. Since then, the two groups have been known as the Winter Circle and the Summer Circle, with the RFSS as a member of both. At the time of the expansion to include a second Circle, an exclusively-female “sister” organisation was also founded: the SS Order of the Dísir.
The Knights (the title Knight is used whether the individual is male or female) usually comprise a cross-section of the highest ranked officers within the SS and SD, at least one of whom in each Circle is a woman. These female Knights are also members of the Dísir.
The Order of the Knights of the SS is based at the Wewelsburg, and all 25 Knights have quarters in the Castle itself. The current roster is as follows:
|Knights of the Winter Circle
|Knights of the Summer Circle
|Silke von Halle
|Joscelin Kennard Berthelms
|Jorge von Raeder
|Sigmund Heusser Delatz
There are also a number of associate members of the Order: up to 52 individuals hold the rank of Companion (CSS), and there are up to 130 Members (MSS). These are not knighted, and are not admitted to the highest rites of the order, which are the preserve of the Knights alone. Companions who have held that title for more than seven years (Senior Companions) are, however, occasionally admitted to the lower rites of the Knights. All members of the Honour Guard are included among the Companions, with the exception of Schultz and Karsten. The order’s spiritual home, if that is the correct term, is at the Wewelsburg, on the outskirts of Bremen, and various other Companions and Members, who are permanently assigned to the castle, oversee and teach at the nearby SS-Schule Haus.
A secondary function of the Order is that it acts as the Honour Court for members of the SS – both Reichs-SS and Waffen-SS – who are accused of serious infractions which it is not appropriate for their commanding officers to deal with. Such Honour Courts are usually made up of a Knight or Companion, and two Members of the Order, although depending on the rank of the accused and the crimes for which they are being tried, the breakdown of membership of the Honour Court may vary. At least one member of the Honour Court must be of equal or higher rank or precedence than the defendant.
SS Service and Gallantry Awards
The SS-Ehrenring (Honour Ring)
This is the most common award within the SS. The Honour Ring is presented to officers and men who have displayed great valour or leadership skill in battle, while maintaining a clean disciplinary record. Award of the ring is in the gift of the Reichsführer-SS, although he will accept recommendations for recipients from his senior officers. The ring is gold, and decorated with a number of runic devices, including a stylised dagger, the SS sig-runes and runic symbols for kinship and family, and prosperity. The inside of the ring is engraved with the name of the bearer, and the date of presentation.
The SS-Ehrendolch (Honour Dagger)
All SS personnel are issued with a standard service dagger, which is black and silver with the SS motto engraved on the blade, and sig-runes and an eagle on the grip. It is usually worn in a plain black scabbard suspended from the belt by a single strap hanger. However, a more ornate version of the basic weapon, the Honour Dagger, can be presented for particularly meritorious service. The tracery on the blade is inlaid with silver, with the words “For service” and the date of presentation on the reverse of the blade. The runes for zeal/enthusiasm and kinship are inlaid in the hilt below the claws of the eagle, while the guard and pommel bear tracery of oak leaves. In everyday service these are worn in place of the standard dagger in a standard scabbard. With dress uniform, they are worn in a scabbard which is suspended by means of linked plates embossed with tyr (battle) runes, and there is a stylised version of the rune for faith inlaid in silver on the scabbard itself. As with the Ehrenring, award of the Ehrendolch is in the gift of the RFSS, but may be recommended by a senior officer.
When an individual is admitted as a Knight of the SS, they receive a new Honour Dagger with a revised motto on the blade: Unser Dienst am Meister – Our Sevice to the Master.
The SS-Ehrendegen (RFSS’s Sword of Honour)
All SS officers and NCOs are issued with a standard, straight-bladed sword, often with runes or insignia to indicate their area of service; or in a more traditional curved sabre style for the cavalry. However, a further award in the gift of the RFSS is the Ehrendegen. This is bestowed only on selected commanders and graduates of Bad Tölz, but can be won by personnel serving in both the Reichs-SS and the Waffen-SS. Usually, any award will be accompanied by a citation from the RFSS indicating why the holder earned the Erhendegen. There are far fewer of these in circulation than there are Ehrendolchen, although every Knight of the SS of either Circle is awarded the Ehrendegen on their confirmation.
The Schutzstaffel is the only branch of the Reich armed forces which awards honorary ranks, and all are awarded as officers, rather than NCOs. These are in the sole gift of the Reichsführer-SS, and are never awarded on the recommendation of others. They are used as gifts for political or financial support, or because Herzog Delatz wishes to reward a non-member of the Schutzstaffel for some other service rendered to SS, the State, or himself. Honorary rank insignia takes the form of a silver or platinum lapel pin with a stylised version of the equivalent standard insignia for that rank, and a form of uniform based on the usual SS ones minus the standard insignia has recently been introduced. No service dagger or regular uniform will be issued unless the honorary officer takes the field with the regular Kameraden. In everyday life, should an honorary officer be wearing his (or her) insignia, he has the right to demand the respect accorded to his rank from any SS personnel he encounters, and their assistance if required, although he cannot order such personnel into or out of battle. In addition, he can insist on priority treatment and attention from those organisations which accord such things to members of the Schutzstaffel. In return for these privileges, the RFSS reserves the right to ‘activate’ anyone to whom he has given honorary rank, bringing them into military service. This is very rarely done, but is not completely unheard of, one recent high-profile example being Oberstgruppenführer the Graf von Klieburg, who was (re)activated to full military service in May RY154.
When honorary officers are asked to undertake active service with SS troops, or should they enlist in the SS proper (Reichs-SS or Waffen-SS), they are accorded the responsibilities and privileges of a serving officer of the same rank, although in that situation they would be expected to put on regulation SS uniform. Honorary awards can technically be made at any commissioned rank, but the most common are Obersturmführer, Hauptsturmführer and occasionally Sturmbannführer. The only individuals to hold honorary commissions at general officer rank are Conrad Berthelmes (Hon. Gruppenführer and KSS) and Silke von Halle (Hon. Gruppenführer, High Priestess of the Church of Protection and KSS).