SS Leadership Guide 
19 July 2004
Words to the Hitler Soldiers
15th Revised Edition -- published 1943
Preface to the 1st to 13th Edition -- first published 1934
The time of the blazing storm of steel in the First World War had a good side. Where shells burst, there was nobody who did not totally belong to us. Whoever had the desire and opportunity to shirk duty, because he was cowardly, was no longer among us.
Comrades, I know your yearning for everything to go forward. You don't want anybody to march in our ranks who falsifies our community. You yearn for what we once had in the company: a piece of home, a piece of the homeland. You yearn for a company commander of the same type as the front officer. And you fear that something might, very quietly and unnoticed, sneak in, something that is not in accord with our essence; you fear that one day it might be there and cannot be wiped away. You worry that we might not keep what we had when the going was rough. You are concerned that we might not preserve what we achieved with great effort under Hitler's victorious banner.
The time of the receding red flood also had a good side. We all knew what to think of each other. Here, too, nobody was there who did not totally belong to us.
How long has it been, actually, since we stood in one spot for five hours in the great Tennishalle metting-hall to see our Führer, who went from man to man and looked each one in the eye? Those in power had forced the comprades to remove their boots, because they were a danger to the state. But the comrades did not waiver. They stood barefoot even though it was winte. We had to hide our blue caps, because they were considered a "uniform" and banned. Outside were police, masses of police. Inside were huge, closely packed columns of silent, faithful men. Hunger brought many a man to his knees, but he did not walk away, unless the medics carried him off. All hearts there beat as one. There were no "ifs and buts."
What did Adolf Hitler tells us then? "My comrades, one thing I know for sure: There is no coward among you!" Those were blessed hours despite the discomfort. We knew that all who stood there belonged together in life and to the death.
Comrades, now you are filled with hope that it remains so. It must and it will remain so, if we stand together in the spirit of the front. We must simply take care together, each in his own place.
The man at the front did not fear death as much as the falseness of life: pretense, insolence, conceit and arrogance. The warrior who steps aside after he has done his share conceals all too easily the braggart as soon as the danger has passed. In 1918 we still sat in the bunkers. the inadequacy from the rear brought what had become unavoidable. All that still sits in our bones. We immediately feel the old fear and the old distrust as soon as something not genuine becomes visible.
But there is a huge difference between the times.
November 1918: We stood before the emergence of the poisonous bloom of parties and corruption. Thus began the decay of state, folk and nation. And -- a leader was lacking.
January 1933: We experienced the beginning of the end of the party system. Corruption and profiteering suddenly ceased. The state created a solid foundation for the reformation of folk and nation. The best sign of the difference between the years of misery and the new rise is our Führer.
We verify: The front is good, for we ourselves know who we are and what is going on, and the leadership is good. If there is something needing correction between these poles, then the Führer will master it just like he mastered division and laziness. The greatest task has been accomplished. We still look at Adolf Hitler with complete confidence, always and everywhere ready to help with full effort to finish his huge work and again and again to secure and defend this work with our lives.
This fact remains unalterable. Now let us become clear what must be done so that final victory is not unnecessarily expensive. We understand each other quickly when I simply describe the Führer's nature -- things that you have already so often felt and thought yourselves. What I relate are obvious truths, but still not everybody knows them.
Preface to the 14th Edition
"Leadership and Following" was not written with the intention of being something new. Serious work had already prepared the ground. The first draft reflected the training lessons for non-commissioned officers in my branch of the service. Our "revolutionary activities" were actually nothing other than the proof of superiority over the enemy: cleaner, more courageous and strong in our faith in Germany, in Adolf Hitler and his mission. Along the way many things were hard and unspeakably difficult for us, but whatever was difficult for us always becomes easier when we looked at the Führer. He was and remained, always and everywhere, an unparalleled example for us. What we endured was nothing in comparison to the burden that this man mastered. Whoever stood for him, who shared sacrifice and danger with us, was a comrade for life and in death: he was a Hitler soldier.
The Führer's strength again and again won over new followers -- from t he enemy or from those who hadn't cared. The number of Hitler soldiers grew and grew until the sun finally dawned on the day when not just our small band of Germans were Hitler soldiers, but the entire German folk.
"Leadership and Following," however, does not have to change its title because of that. This work remains aimed at Hitler soldiers. For we are all soldiers, soldiers of work or soldiers of arms. Today no decent German is an exception. We all want to be soldierly people, upright like soldiers, genuine and clear, honorable and knightly, hard if necessary, considerate and comradely among ourselves, and faithful to Germany to the death.
Ongoing successes are no coincidence. They emerge solely from teh values of character, from diligence and sacrifices. Creation of these values is the goal of education. Successes achieved by the whole are also successes for the members. Therefore, the members are obligated to submit to this education.
The examples in "Leadership and Following" almost always point into the world of soldiery, because duty and sacrifice find their highest demands there. Their use naturally applies to all other Germans, for the factory head as well as for the worker, for the scholar as well as for the student, for teacher and pupil, for mother and child. One thing is sure: Whatever we do is always but a weak thanks to the men who bled and gave everything for us.
When during the period of struggle, at the request of my comrades, I wrote down a short draft of this instruction, I intentionally did not write down everything I had said, so that the reader would have room to further develop the main ideas. In this new edition I have consciously filled some of these gaps, because "Leadership and Following" now has a much broader task and is no longer merely a class guideline, rather it is very often simply read. This is not meant to attack the old custom of reading aloud, because the spoken word is superior to the read word. Even in the current form there is enough room for individual style of presentation. The key points remain unchanged; they offer enough material for whoever seeks it.
The picture of the present is like a mosaic whose bright polish does not deny dark-colored stones. They remind us of what is still to be done. The past carries the seal of a mighty, heroic time. It is our task to prove ourselves worthy of it; it is our duty to use all our strength to meet the needs of the future.
The highest quality weapon is important; more important is that the best man operates the weapon; most important, however, is the indestructible unity of the folk, whose sons are not only the best soldiers, but also the best workers, who stand behind the soldiers.
To the highest man belongs the highest on earth: leadership and rule. The best should always lead. It's bad when it's otherwise; we know that from bitter experience. Each must employ his best values for the will of the Führer. These values, however, do not fall to any of us from the sky. They must be achieved and earned. We are not supermen. If we want to be the best -- and we must do so out of gratitude to those left behind in enemy soil -- then we must gladly accept the exertion requirerd by education, training and advanced training, so that when we must lead, we lead right, and so that we confidently follow, when we belong to the following.
Proper leading and proper following have been given an eternal monument by the time of iron: the heroic glory of the living and of the dead.
We are concerned with Germany, always with Germany. That must be anchored and said again and again. Otherwise we run the risk -- under the pressure of personal concerns -- of paying less attention to the great idea or even of forgetting that the individual is part of the whole, that his life only becomes a life when it becomes part of the higher entity of kind and language, of feeling and thought, of past, present and future of the folk.
An experience, which initially seemed very trivial, still occupies me. Years ago I took a Sunday excursion with my boy. The short train ride made such a deep impression on the little fellow that he asked me in Tegel: "Are we still in Germany?" At first we laughed about it. But then it dawned on me that the child didn't deserve to be laughed at on account of this question. Quite the contrary! He had started to form a concept of Germany. I have met folk comrades who have never in their life left their village. Many of our big-city children are the same. Even many of us who have fought for Greater Germany have remained rather provincial.
It is hard to free oneself from the bonds of the provincial. Each initially sees the world from the perspective formed by origin, social cirucumstances, intellectual level and occupation. Newspapers and radio have certainly helped to create change, but our concepts of Germany are not necessarily again and again distorted by local patriotism, if not by distrust and jealousy.
The positive results cannot yet be measured from the fact that now Germans are shown Germany, that German works whose wages never before enabled travel can now see how Germans live in other provinces. It is not just the strength through joy, rather also their strength through knowledge that our village, our city alone is not Germany, that we have a fatherland, big and magnificently beautiful, and that we are sons and daughters of a single, robust, industrious and ambitious folk.
The great events of the present fully shown the German men, who stand as soldiers on the crossroads of historical transformation, the essence and nature of the homeland. Even in the distance they can make countless comparisons. They will find that this country is beautiful. Or that nature blessed one region even more, because there are two harvests each year, and they will see that each person loves his homeland and considers it beautiful, even if it is ever so barren.
Just this thought, love of the homeland, already shows the right perspective. The German soldier does not only learn from books. He sees with his own eyes the monuments to the rise and fall of entire nations. He gets to know the proud, spotlessly clean people of the north and he sees in other lands that great nations have neither the strength nor the will to climb out of their poverty.
The living racial, cultural and social history constantly surrounds the warrior in foreign countries. He knows that he has a role in a huge transformation, unprecedented in world history. But his thoughts always return to Germany, of which he is rightly proud in comparison. Now it is easy for him to embrace the noble and clean. And he knows that the valuable must not only be preserved, but that the deeper meaning of life lies on the endless struggle for the better,
the search for the most beautiful, the fulfillment of the more noble.
He knows how very necessary such reflections on Germany are. This is immediately shown when you ask one of your followers who works for Germany back home what thoughts he has about the concept of Germany. Try it! Help the fellow by hinting at the answers to your questions through new formulations. Often it can only be a hint. But even this provides enough material for thought and education. You won't have time for an in-depth presentation.
But your encouragement achieves the valuable result of leading your comrade to the sources he all too easily overlooks, because they are too close to his path.
Question: Is Germany whatever is shown on a map with a colored border?
Answer: Did you stop vieweing the Saar as part of Germany when the borders shown on a map where different than they are today? Was it otherwise with Austria, the Sudetenland and Danzig?
Question: Are the landscapes, cities, villages, rivers, bridges, monuments and everything else that is visible within these borders Germany?
Answer: Do not German ships sail on foreign seas? Do not the achievements of technology proclaim throughout the whole world German ability, German spirit and German industriousness?
Question: Are the people of German kind and German tonque within German borders Germany?
Answer: Do not our countrymen who live among foreign peoples belong to us, to Germany?
Question: And if we now take together everything that belongs to us, and the German people wherever they may live, is all that together Germany?
Answer: Does not that belong to Germany which is of German origin, that which once was, all that which emerges in and around Germany in unbroken struggle, of which history reports so much that warns and obligates.
Question: Is Germany the German folk of the present, the folk that today lives and works?
Answer: Whence do we come? Would we even exist without those before us? And what would we be if our ancestors had not cared, fought and hoped for more than just themselves, but also for us? Who did more for Germany: the creators of the present or the many who labored before us?
Questions: Is Germany all of this? Past and present?
Answer: Do we not carry the seeds of new Becoming within us? Does not new life fulfill itself through us? Are we not the fathers, the parents of a coming generation? Does not our love and loyalty belong to it, our care and our duty? Who would wish something bad for his children?
Many things will be newly formed, newly established and newly created in Germany. Do not the works of the future also belong to Germany?
As a leader, ask your followers like this! When answering these questions he will feel his love grow for those who will come after him. This love will show him his duty toward those who will come after him. This love will show him his duty toward those who have not even been born yet. And it will be easier for him to recognize what he owes those whom now live, live and suffer at his side. It will be of decisive importance for his life to clarify that his children and their children will one day be that what he now is, that they will one day harvest what he now sows, just like we now pay the price for what was neglected before us, and how we can enjoy what our fathers and grandfathers created.
Germany is the sum of what was German and what will be German. We stand right in the middle of this. We only live our life when we feel reverence and thankfulness toward the people who went to their graves before us, and toward the works they left in our worthy hands, and if we are conscious of the high responsibility we bear toward coming German people and things.
Who among us would want to be cursed by our descendants?
Germany and the German nation are like a mighty storm that comes from the primeval past and continues into eternity.
The nation is an unbroken column, which marches there and then crosses the bridge connecting past and future. Even if only those standing and walking on this bridge are visible, even if only they think, feel, endeavor and create, nonetheless the Germans of the present alone are not the nation. To it also belong those lost in the vast distance on the other side as well as those coming from the distance who will one day step upon the bridge of the present.
Course and strength of this river, of this marching column depend on two great factors: on blood and soil. One or the other can dry up, if one is more fertile than the other. They depend on leadership and following, because the energy between them alone can overcome the danger that the soil is not as fertile as the blood or that the blood does not remain pure -- that is, dries up and foreign blood becomes master over the soil. Proper leadership alone gives the river a firm river bed and hence the invincible strength to secure its living space, the strength which would otherwise with deadly certainty dwindle senselessly into a thousand tiny streams.
The Front Soldier
War is the father of invention. A Greek wise man already said that more than two thousand years ago. It was like that in ancient times and it will probably be that way in the distant future, too. Much has been written about what the World War meant to the front soldier, but the final word will never be said. Experience shapes a man. The previously never suspected world of the horror of mud and filth, raining iron, blazing fires, wildly pounding blood, deprivation, hunger and thirst gave birth to the patrol leader, the assault group leader, the infantryman as the ruler in no man's land, the military engineer in bunkers, Richthofen, Bölcke and Immelman. This world and its bright lights also revealed its abominations. It lifted the brave to lofty heights; it made the heroes immortal. Whatever was small and pitiful melted in its furnace into nothingness. It was not the crushing force of the material battles that shook the front soldiers of the world war. From the height of his clarity he often looked down with a shudder at the abyss of human inadequacy, which gaped like a gorge next to the lofty towers of mighty accomplishment and splendid nobility.
He kept his eye for the contrasts after the cannon fell silent. He saw a great law in the fact that the proven warrior later, too, carried on the fight against evil, against everything hostile to the fatherland, wherever he met it, but also acted with goodness toward people and things wherever possible. It was so very necessary and so decisively important that this bearing did not perish. Such a way of acting cannot be commanded or forced by external measures. It can only be the expression of inner clarity and decency. To prevent the bad from happening, as essential as it may be, is no subsitute for the good that can be done. Compulsion does not encompass everything. One could often simply leave the good undone and nobody would say anything; one could be comfortable or tired or cowardly; one could avoid encroachments or violating jurisdictions, but for the man who has served his folk by risking his life a hundred times, there is no question about whether he will live his life so as to simply obey the law or whether he will do good even if nobody sees it, even if it takes effort or even if it becomes uncomfortably conspicuous.
How the war changed men cannot be portrayed. Each experienced that for himself. One fellow became a complainer and slave; the other became a hero and master. Every unit, however, that underwent the baptism of fire on the front got its own uniform mark, which nobody could escape.
The front never again let us go. Even later after the cannons had long fallen silent, we lived according to its law. That's why we find hurrah patriotism so disgusting. That's why we hate braggarts. That's why any kind of bureaucracy turns our stomach. That's why the crazy self-importance of people without personality makes us sick. That's why we are overcome with laughter when we see people frantically trying to make up for something they failed to have the courage to take care of earlier when the time was right. That's why we are repulsed by the way some people suck up to us after the rise to pwoer, who now put on an act to draw attention to themselves and their suitability for open positions.
The true front soldier has nothing to do with all that. He has become a unique type. His kind does not tolerate the half-hearted. For him it's about the "either-or," the clear "yes or no." The front separated two worlds: one of cowardice and wretchedness, and one of courage and the deed. The front soldier had stood in the great furnace of the nation. He saw the mass death of men. That burned out anything unmanly in him. That's why he would rather perish than become a slave.
He was always where the action was. Adolf Hitler, the front soldier, forced a decision in Germany. That's why front soldiers were his enthusiastic followers. That's why the armchair generals who prefer compromises to decisions hated him.
The soldier front strove unerringly for his goal. The thought on the goal determined the actions of each individual. Each acted just as the comrade in the same situation would act and each knew he could totally reply on the other. Any other bearing would be dishonorable and unworthy of the front soldier; unreliability would threaten not only the sure success, but also honor and life of the community. The behavior of the front soldier falls under sacred commandments, which are affirmed and fulfilled from the inside, from the depth of the soul. Disloyalty is alien to the man of the front.
The war taught us hard necessities, which we hadn't known at first. Due to this ignorance we made many mistakes; the greatest was that we had not deeply enough comprehended the seriousness of soldiery.
When we put on the uniform in peacetime, and after we overcame the unaccustomed, a colorful, active life began. Despite drill and compulsion our heads were still always full of notions. A maneuver was great game, a little romantic and a lot of fun in quarters and in bivouac. During assembly one eye still searched for blonde locks in the village. We didn't grasp the seriousness. We saw cannons fire. The thunder was magnificent!
But then came the sight of the first dead comrade! Oh, how did the terror of night watches grow, how did everything fall away from a man which was no longer solid on the grade between life and bottomless, flaming depth. How tiny did the Self become, how terrible, how horrible did the realization come: It is about the existence or non-existence of our folk!
The youngsters among us learned this seriousness! Tell them the full truth! Show them no sugarcoated pictures! A maimed man does not look nice. A leader and a follower must suffer immeasurably for a holy idea before it is fulfilled. Only whoever knows that and still stands by the flag passes the test of history, for he himself forms it. Teach the comrades this sacred seriousness so that they can complete what started with us! The pounding of the front hammered it into our soul. We will preserve it for the sake of everything that matters to Germany.
We who know the horror of war have never more earnestly yearned for anything other than the reason of nations avoids it. We have ridden through days of glorious victories and would have more easily believed in reason if we had been spared nights of deepest mourning and unspeakable shame. What happened to us made this clear to us: our passionate desire for peace could never mean that we would impotently bow to unreasonableness. We had for a while become unarmed, but we did not want to become dishonorable. God knows there was never a lack of good will and readiness to participate in an enduring peace. But if it was to be enduring, then it had to be based on justice. It had to give us our due.
Whoever has no instrument perishes in the concert of power. But even the listener who masters his instrument can distance himself from the disharmony surrounding him. Fate taught us the great lesson that strength, not weakness, maintains peace.
The greatest son of front soldiery, Adolf Hitler, drew the consequences from this realization. Within the German heart, as the seal of honor, remained the vow: Rather dead than slave!
From this spirit the Führer created the new Wehrmacht, and the nation followed him enthusiastically. What was accomplished during this rebuilding through devotion, loytalty, sacrifices and sweat was already a quiet victory, before unreasonableness made it necessary for the old front soldiers and their young comrades to again be called to arms.
We do not know whwat it will mean in the mirror of coming events that the military commander led his young Wehrmacht to lightning victories against a world full of enemies, to victories the likes of which history had never seen. Only later generations will be able to fully appreciate the service of the man who created a new German defense amidst a world of chaos to preserve the honor of the German folk and to create and secure and enduring, joyous peace.
We had often worried that front soldiery would die out, that with it would be buried things that people later on could no longer comprehend. We knew it was still about the existence or the non-existence of the German folk. Hence it was easy for us to maintain the bearing of the front soldier during peaceful work for folk and fatherland, to keep ourselves healthy and clean in mind and spirit, always ready for the day the Führer could again call us.
The teachings of front soldiery have not been bought at a senselessly high price, neither by our sacrifices nor by the precious blood of our fallen comrades. A young team has laready formed solid battalions behind us. And again as before we see how youngsters ripen to steel manhood in days. Our old front soldiery celebrates its re-emergence in the victories of the young comrades, in everyone's faith in the Führer of the Germans and in a joyous German future.
When the guns fall silent and the enemy is defeated in the land, when the warrior advances into the arena of new dangers, the work of the rear starts in the newly won territory. The front soldiers do not hold it in high esteem.
To the men who knew nothing other than resisting the enemy, the rear, its eessence, its task and its condition were intitially unknown. What we gradually heard and saw, however, left a bad taste in our mouth, even long after the war. Of course, the rear was necessary. But whence came the contrast, which we occasionally felt, especially at the end? Because the man of battle is silent about his experience, whereas the other tries to fill his hollowness with a big mouth! Because the torn, bruised, mud-caked front soldier found ironed uniforms and white collars in the safe rear area; because a pair of pants seemed much more imporant than the man wearing tall boots; because one avoided him; because the others wanted to be fine gentlemen. Often defeated eenmnies were better comrades for us than the people behind our third line were. When we returned to the homeland, they ripped off our cockades and shoulder-tabs. The rear had turned sour!
There was something else beside the rear: the homeland, which we loved more than anything, for which we were where we were. The rear ate into the homeland. Forces were at work, deformed forces that slowly alienated us from even this homeland: beer-room gossip, know-it-alls, shirkers, profiteers in the editorial rooms and the black market. All that melted into our concept of the rear. We became proud of our own world of struggle and of the title "front swine." There were some who wrinkled up their noses because the term was not fine enough for them, just like they also repulsed us.
But in all this contrast lurked a danger for our thought and feeling. We all too easily encapsulated ourselves and overlooked that even there, where we often justifiably viewed things with inner dislike -- there in that area that laid behind us spatially and spiritually -- there were still a lot of things that deserved respect, service and appriciation. In reality, we were not alone. In the rear there were actually many people yearning for clarity and truth, for honor and unity.
When this yearning finally found its fulfillment, we looked back with a shudder and realized that the Führer's New Order made a repetition of what had proven itself rotten in the rear impossible. Never again should the man of the front have to step back and notice with amazement that in the meanwhile the inferior has gained the upper hand.
In our concern for the new the rear also received justice. It was unavoidably necessary. It had taken care of our supply. The distrust of what was behind us had to cease. It was not the replacement's fault that he came later. It was up to us to help those who joined or wanted to join the front to shape up.
When those of us standing amidst the great struggle for the protection of German life today look back on our concern then, we see that it was indeed justified, but nonetheless very small. We have almost totally forgotten the rear of that time, simply because there isn't one anymore. Even the word has become strange to us.
Each war has its own face. The present one has seized the rear with its claws. Now peaceful cities, hundredds of kilometers behind the front, experience heavy artillerty fire, woman and children must flee bombs. Nobody can esccape the war anymore. It pulls everyone into its wake. Not just the soldier firing a round wages war.. Behind him follow the one who brings it to him. Behind that one is the one who manufactures it. Each is dependent on the diligence and readiness of the other. That certainly was the same in the past. But now there is no longer a rear with great comfort for the non-combatant. Each of us without exception stands in the service of Germany. We cannot choose this or that service because one is more interesting or more profitable than the other is. Here and there an individual might not like a position, perhaps beacuse there is too little variety. Then think about the man at the flak gun, who week after week stands at the gun searching for the enemy, who sees the same faces every day, who is chained to his stuffy bunker and in the end still has not seen an enemy. We also think about the men in the north. How long is the night there! And the soldiers are always on duty.
You, my conrade on lonely, monotonous duty, do not forget that your fate carries the silent heroism of the homeland! Often they are weak, but always-loyal hands, which for your sake never tire to labor for your sake. When your thoughts take you home, then they shouldn't overlook our brave women who spend the day at work for you and who care for their children in the late hours.
It's a common thoughtlessness for people to be dissatisfied with their work. They'd feel the same about another one! That's not what this is about. Any work we are called to do is service! If we view others and compare justly, we will find our service is not the hardest one. It is our sacred duty to help prevent the homeland in the rear from again becoming rotten.
If each does his work in a way so that he can be proud of himself, then victory will be ours.
Rearward service is necessary and honorable. It stretches from the sources of raw material to the last transportation means on the way to the front. Many hands contribute to the success of the fighting man. His glory is shared by the hearts of all who, making a total effort despite deprivation, help.
[more to come]