Origins of the S.S. Totenkopf: The Anarcho-Nihilist Roots of the Mysterious Symbol

by Jonothon Boulter

The early ϟϟ was founded not by Himmler, but had an earlier intellectual origin from various Anarchist droite circles like the Black Sun. The Anarchist and Nihilist view of open-ended aims even influenced Hitler, who in Mein Kampf stated: ‘One may safely say that the strength of a movement and its right to existence can be developed only as long as it remains true to the principle that struggle is a necessary condition of its program and that its maximum strength will be reached only as soon as complete victory has been won. Therefore a movement must not strive to obtain successes that will only be immediate and transitory, but it must show a spirit of uncompromising perseverance in carrying through a long struggle which will secure for it a long period of inner growth.’

This being the basic concept, moral qualities usually displayed only in extreme situations become normal requirements of everyday life and accepted rules of behaviour ceased to be regarded as normal. This ethos postulated a continuous high-tension existence.

This was called ‘heroic realism’. The basic concept of heroic realism was propounded by Ernst Junger and the notion itself propagated by ϟϟ-Obergruppenfuehrer Werner Best. In 1930 Junger published a composite work Krieg und Krieger (‘Men and Warriors’) to which Friedrich Georg Junger, Ernst von Saloman, Friedrich Hielscher and Best contributed. Best’s theme was ‘War and the Law’. He described National Socialism as an attitude of mind capable of copying the realities of the world in which peace did not exist, where struggle and tension were the rule. Such an attitude of mind visualised no final solution since it knew that the whole of life, the dynamic of the cosmos, consisted of tension, struggle and unrest.

To quote Best: ‘From this recognition of the truth, this refusal to contemplate a definitive solution, must emerge a new moral code unrelated to the teleology of existing doctrines. Doctrines necessarily direct action towards a certain end and so lay down what that action should consist of. The unbending rules of orthodoxy prescribe what the individual is to do in each individual circumstance. The new moral code cannot lay down ‘what’ because it recognises no such thing. It is not directed towards a specific end and does not serve some purpose of fulfilment or completion. Every moment calls into question the events of its predecessor. No set of values for which we may at one time have fought can necessarily be regarded as positive or permanent. The yardstick of the new code of morality therefore is not its context, not ‘what’ but ‘how’. In other words the manner of achievement. The important point is not what we fight for but how we fight. The fight itself is essential and permanent, the aims of that fight are temporary and changeable.

‘There can therefore be no question of success in our fight. Desire for victory in the immediate impulse in any fight but victory is not the decisive or governing factor for those engaged in the struggle. Anyone can fight in the expectation that he will win or that ‘good cause’ will one day triumph.

‘Such a man believes in an ultimate aim and so the fight becomes tolerable to him. The criterion of the new mental attitude, on the other hand, is the acceptance of a fight in a lost position for a lost cause; the essence is to fight a good fight, whether it is for a good cause or whether it is successful matters little. Thus from a realistic acceptance of the truth will emerge a heroic code of morals. Consequently the attitude of mind which is the hallmark of National Socialism may be described as heroic realism.’ To be continued.