The Forms of Order

by Alfred Kotz

7 August 2004

[from SS Leadership Guide]

An order can wear many kinds of clothing. It can look friendly and immediately please. It can also be gray and simple or obvious and self-evident. An order can also be dressed so unattractively that it repels, or even so ugly that it provokes resistance and rejection. All that is possible. Therefore, an order must never wear a mask. Its face must be clear, clean and inalterably directed toward its goal.

If we put an order into a soldier's uniform, we initially call it a command. The command is the shortest form of an order. The command is bound to both -- the person who commands and the person who executes the command -- by a regulation. Both knew the regulations. Knowledge of regulations saves the superfluous. Any further word or explanation is unnecessary.

Whoever commands must limit himself to the correctness of the execution. Otherwise there is nothing to say, nothing at all. Fine expressions are not appropriate for us. They endanger the seriousness. Roaring is hence detestable. The enlisted man burns with desire to improve. You can tell him that in a reasonable manner, considerate and direct. The enlisted man should never get the slightest impression of being provoked or harassed. It's your fault if he gets such an idea.

Go far ahead of the front! Place yourself there! Know what you want! Now command! The execution will be like your command. But if you run around like a toad who doesn't know what he wants, then your helplessness and agitation become infectious. Then don't be surprised how your men squawk during the next break.

If you make a mistake, don't immediately get excited! If your knowledge of command speech fails you, then order the way that seems natural to you! Have your goal in front of your eyes and go ahead unerringly! Only the goal matters. The enlisted men know that, too, and they follow you.

Helpless figures at the front are the terror of all soldiers. If looks could kill!

Make your men listen by means of the loud opening order! Put your whole strength into the following execution order. You will be pleased by the smartness of your men. Don't forget half! If you order, "At Attention!", then don't go away without having commanded, "At ease!". Otherwise the men start to do so on their own. What else should they do? But their disobedience -- and what they did is indeed disobedience -- is your fault! Improve by command, not by placing in question! For example, don't say: "Heavens, whose stomach is sticking out!" You have asked, but you don't really want an answer. If you have a bright lad, he'll irritably shout, "Soldier X has his stomach out!" What do you want to do then? Probably you yell at him and thereby make a second mistake. Instead, you correct: "Soldier X, step back three centimeters!" and all complications are avoided. Otherwise seriousness is lost, because the matter is ridiculous. The purpose of the short order is undermined, and at the same time your authority, for if one laughs, they all laugh at you!

The order has a different expression if the seasoned soldier's training is lacking. For example, during a maneuver you want to secure and area. For the former officer or non-commissioned officer, the following order would suffice: "Place guards at the village exits there and there!" He repeats the order, marches off with his men and knows exactly what he must do.

If you send a green recruit, you must first explain the requirements to him. If you want your order to be properly executed, you will not only instruct him; rather you will also have to convince yourself that he has understood everything. It's possible that you do not fully understand a task placed on you. That could happen without endangering your position. Then find a comrade to whom you can entrust this task. Openly admit you must care for splendid comrades, but don't be a know-it-all. You dispatch a guard but don't bring him back, because you don't know the situation, and then reproach the man who naturally acts on his own accord and returns. Nothing can help now -- you've become impossible for these soldiers, even if thanks to their good, voluntary discipline they continue to obey you a thousand times.

The art of handling people does not lie in great problems. It's proven through the little things. The solution of the big problems emerges from these little things. Ignorance is not the same thing as stupidity. Nothing works against arrogance and stupidity, which however are often the same. Here's an example of what damage ignorance in these spheres can cause, something we've often seen in the barracks. A non-commissioned officer throws open the door to the enlisted men's room: " OOne of you can come to me!" The clever "old warriors" understand. They pull down their caps and disappear without a trace. An innocent lamb remains. A little while later the non-commissioned officer is back. "Ah, my son, why didn't you bother to come? Didn't I say that one should come? Come along!" First: this soldier gets punished. Second: At the next assembly it's report, exercise and aggravation! The "old warriors" stand there calmly. "He didn't say anything to me!" The result: one learns to shirk.

What should have been correct? Door opens: "Soldier X, come along! Do this and this!" The command is repeated and executed. The clear, precise order gave the other soldiers no cause for "discussion." Each carried on and there was no aggravation or complication.

When you command, then supervise the exact execution! Therefore take care not to command something that cannot be executed!

Do not command more than you can perform yourself! Therefore train as long as necessary so that the enlisted man knows exactly what he should do! His limbs can only execute what he has in his head. For example, at the command "at ease" he must automatically assume the correct position. If he does it right, you've saved later corrections.

An order can also have its fine points. In this regard, progress is conceivable. We must refrain from them, because another bond is necessary, namely a similar education and training. Conscription is not the essence of an order. A "request" from the regiment to a company is nothing other than an order. And the "please" of a commander to his officer results in obedience. Yes, in the final development a self-evident obedience is conceivable where the superior does not even have to speak and barely needs to make a gesture.

The better both parts are attuned to each other -- the more they share the same knowledge and will to serve the higher goal, the more both possess character values -- the happier is the relationship that gives the stamp to the order on the one side and the execution on the other. The superior officer merely needs to express his wish. Eventually, even this expression is not always necessary, because the other feels the intention and already views it as an order. In such cases the subordinate officer can be given free room for his own decisions and independent action. The precondition is, of course, to create security. Only whoever is secure in ordering -- and precisely knows the cause and effect -- educates toward certainty in obeying. Whoever is not completely certain in obedience forfeits the right to dominate the field in which he is supposed to command.

Although we base our observations on the world of soldiery, this doesn't mean we only wish to address soldiers, i.e., whose who bear weapons. We see what is valid everywhere. The essential points from these observations can be applied to all segments of the folk and to all aspects of life. Right down into the family, the law of command and obedience accompanies us. The child already receives orders; it already reads from the mother's voice whether it must obey or can delay or even avoid the order.

Mothers, too, easily make the mistake of overlooking things. They don't take the execution of their instructions seriously enough and then one day-make the painful realization that their children slide out of their control. It is not the task of the woman to command, but it is nonetheless her duty to force her will on her children, and in professional life we find many women who also command. Hence our soldier examples also apply to the German woman.


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