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SS-Obersturmbannführer Manfred Schönfelder of the Waffen-SS
SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss at Auschwitz.

Obersturmbannführer was a paramilitary Nazi Party rank used by both the SA and the SS. It was created in May 1933 to fill the need for an additional field grade officer rank above Sturmbannführer as the SA expanded. It became an SS rank at the same time.[1] Translated as "senior assault (or storm) unit leader",[2] Obersturmbannführer was junior to Standartenführer and was the equivalent to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) in the German Army.[3] The insignia for Obersturmbannführer was four silver pips and a stripe, centered on the left collar of an SS/SA uniform.[4] The rank also displayed the shoulder boards of a Wehrmacht Oberstleutnant and was the highest SS/SA rank to display unit insignia on the opposite collar.[5]

Notable recipients

Amongst the more notorious holders of the rank of Obersturmbannführer were Rudolf Höss, Adolf Eichmann, Herbert Kappler, Joachim Peiper, and Otto Skorzeny. Höss was commandant of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, whilst Eichmann is generally regarded as a key architect of the Nazis' Endlösung (Final Solution) policy in which Auschwitz played so major a role. Herbert Kappler was the head of German police and security services (Oberbefehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD) in Rome who conducted the infamous Ardeatine massacre. Joachim Peiper was the commander of the eponymous Kampfgruppe responsible for the Malmedy massacre during the December 1944 Battle of the Bulge.[6]

Eichmann was promoted to Obersturmbannführer in 1940 and was listed as such in the minutes of the Wannsee Conference that began the Endlösung. During Eichmann's trial for war crimes in 1962, chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner drew attention to the significance and responsibility of Eichmann's Obersturmbannführer rank when, in response to Eichmann's claim that he was merely a clerk obeying orders, Hausner asked him, “Were you an Obersturmbannführer or an office girl?”[citation needed]

In Eichmann in Jerusalem, however, Hannah Arendt disputes the notion that Obersturmbannführer was a rank of significance, pointing out that Eichmann spent the war "dreaming" about promotion to Standartenführer. Arendt also points out that "... people like Eichmann, who had risen from the ranks, were never permitted to advance beyond a lieutenant colonel [i.e., the rank of Obersturmbannführer] except at the front."[7] Another who obtained the rank was Karl Küpfmüller, a German electrical engineer and post-war university lecturer in the fields of communications engineering, measurement and control technology, acoustics, information theory and theoretical electrical engineering.


Junior Rank
SS rank and SA rank
Senior Rank

See also


  1. McNab 2009, pp. 29, 30.
  2. McNab (II) 2009, p. 15.
  3. Yerger 1997, p. 236.
  4. Flaherty 2004, p. 148.
  5. Lumsden 2000, p. 110.
  6. Toland 1999, p. 382.
  7. Arendt 2006, p. 147.


  • Arendt, Hannah (2006). Eichmann in Jerusalem. Penguin Classics.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Flaherty, T. H. (2004) [1988]. The Third Reich: The SS. Time-Life Books, Inc. ISBN 1 84447 073 3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lumsden, Robin (2000). A Collector's Guide To: The Waffen–SS. Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7110-2285-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923–1945. Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-906626-49-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McNab (II), Chris (2009). The Third Reich. Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-906626-51-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Toland, John (1999). Battle: The Story of the Bulge. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-9437-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Yerger, Mark C. (1997). Allgemeine-SS: The Commands, Units and Leaders of the General SS. Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7643-0145-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>