Who were the SS in Night?

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The SS, a shortened version of "Schutzstaffel," were the military wing of the Nazi Party. They were used to protect Hitler during rallies and were directly loyal to Hitler. To become part of the SS, people had to initially prove that their ancestry in Germany dated back to 1750 and...

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The SS, a shortened version of "Schutzstaffel," were the military wing of the Nazi Party. They were used to protect Hitler during rallies and were directly loyal to Hitler. To become part of the SS, people had to initially prove that their ancestry in Germany dated back to 1750 and that they had no Jewish ancestry. Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, led the SS to ascendancy over the rival SA. During the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, the leader of the SA, Ernst Rohm, was killed, and the power of the SS over the SA was complete. The SS became the force that controlled many of the concentration camps in Germany and Poland and that absorbed all police operations. The SS in some camps carried out the mass extermination of Jews and other prisoners.

In Night, the SS comprise the guards in the concentration camps. As soon as Elie and his family arrive at Birkenau, SS men, standing with machine guns, separate his family. He never sees his mother or sisters again. The SS men rule the camp and the extermination process with extreme barbarism. Elie is afraid of them and does not do anything to incur their wrath, including not protesting when they beat his father. 

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The SS, in general during World War Two and more specifically in Night, were a military arm of the Nazi party.  The initials "SS" stood for Schutzstaffel.  "Schutz" translates in English to "protection" and "staffel" translates to squadron; put together, this name translates to the "protection squadron."  

There were several arms of the SS, one of which was charged with overseeing the concentration camp system -- from the creation of, and policing of, ghettos to the transport of prisoners to concentration camps and then to the guarding of the camps themselves.  

After the war was over, many former SS soldiers were convicted of crimes against humanity.  The Nuremberg trials, a famous post-war tribunal, found that the SS had committed numerous criminal acts during the Nazi regime.

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