By a law instituted on November 9, 1935, Himmler has claimed for the SS not only the right, but the duty of fighting duels, whenever circumstances make it necessary.
After loyalty and honor comes obedience, which must be unlimited and unconditional. It is said that after the Prussian officer has sworn by his flag, he no longer has anything of his own. This tradition is continued by the SS. In the name of the Leader and of the National Socialist world view, one must be ready for anything, “even to sacrifice one’s pride, outer honors, and everything that may be personally dear and precious to us”: one must be able to abstain from action, when everything in us rebels and would like to force us to take action, just as one must be able to act at the slightest signal, even when one feels an aversion that seems insurmountable. Himmler considered this quality of absolute obedience as important not only in itself, but also in order to compensate for the keen sense of self and the irrepressible desire for freedom of Nordic and German man, characteristics that have been the cause of many of the calamities that have befallen him.
Other qualities required of the SS man are truthfulness, the ability to stick inflexibly to what has been thoughtfully and deliberately decided, complete uprightness, and of course, as a general foundation, a fighting spirit. In his speech in Magdeburg, June 12, 1937, on the occasion of a congregation of German nobility, Himmler stated that to each of these virtues, correspond a series of trials to which the SS are subjected, tests that complete the selection process. A candidate becomes a member of the Order of the SS when — after a trial period of a year and a half, after having taken the SS oath to the Führer and after having flawlessly completed both his military service and his “labor service” — he receives “the SS dagger of honor.”
Interestingly, according to a law enacted on November 9, 1936, every SS leader must ensure, under oath 1) that no applicant is admitted if he does not meet the relevant requirements, even if he be a son or relative; 2) that, in any given year, a quarter of the new members will not come from SS families or backgrounds. This is intended to prevent the SS from forming a kind of hereditary caste, in which other criteria prevail over actual qualifications; secondly, it aims to attract to the SS the right proportion of all the best elements, whatever their origin, so as to avoid having these elements form other groups detached from the central elite, as occurred, Himmler believes, in ancient Rome, when at a certain point the best blood was found outside of the Senate.
From what has been said about the characteristic qualities of the SS man, it will be clear that SS transcends the plane of a merely political body, realizing that of an Order in the ancient sense: and it is explicitly recognized that without the premise of a religiosity, of a purely spiritual point of reference, the aforementioned values of loyalty, honor, truth, and so on would be reduced to empty phrases and the unity of an Order bound by oath would be impossible. Hence, there is a third aspect of the SS, the spiritual one properly speaking.
In a brochure entitled “Fifty Questions and Answers for the SS Man,” after considering the wording of the solemn oath of loyalty and obedience, one asks, “Do you believe in a God, then?” — The answer is: “Yes, I believe in a sovereign God, and I consider the non-believer to be conceited, stupid, and unfit for us.” What is of interest here is less this generic profession of faith — made particularly vague out of respect for all religious faiths that do not interfere with politics — than the attempt to reawaken a precise form of spirituality, linked to the Nordic and, more generally Indo-Germanic tradition, endowing the SS with the character of a “shock troop of the National Socialist world view” — weltanschauliche Stosstrupp (Heydrich).
We mentioned earlier that the “return to origins” is an essential component of the attitude of the SS. This impulse takes concrete form in the so-called Ahnenerbe, a term that more or less means “ancestral heritage” and designates a special cultural organization of the SS. The main purpose of this institution is to re-establish contact between ancient traditions and the most conscious part of the elite involved in the rebirth of Germany; it starts from the premise that what arose unconsciously, as instinct, from the depths of the soul, is exposed to constant dangers and cannot be fully realized, if it is not protected by the strength of conscious spirit and of clear vision (Walther Wüst). Therefore, they aim to investigate “the Nordic Aryan spirit and actions,” to give “a living form to the results of this research,” and to transmit them to the German people.