SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz

Main gates of the school, 1942

SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz was a Junker school, an officers’ training school for the Waffen-SS. The school was established in 1937 and constructed by Alois Degano, in the town of Bad Tölz which is about 30 miles south of Munich and the location was seemingly chosen because it had both good transport links and was in an inspiring location. The design and construction of the school was intended to impress the staff, students, visitors, and passers-by. A subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp was located in the town of Bad Tölz which provided labor for the SS-Junkerschule and the Zentralbauleitung (Central Administration Building). The School operated until the end of World War II in 1945. After the war, the former SS-Junkerschule was the base of the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group until 1991.


    • Active – 1934–1945
    • Branch – SS-VT / Waffen-SS
    • Role – SS Officer Training
    • Part Of – Schutzstaffel
    • Commanders
      – Lothar Debes – 1942–43.
      – Fritz Klingenberg – 1944–45.
      – Richard Schulze-Kossens – 1945.
      – Bernhard Dietsche -1945. 

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Early History

In 1934, the armed branch of the Schutzstaffel (SS) then known as the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), started to recruit officers into its ranks. The German Army and its Prussian heritage looked for officers of good breeding, who had at least graduated from secondary school. By contrast, the SS-VT offered men the chance to become an officer no matter what education they had received or their social standing.

In 1936, Himmler selected former Lieutenant General Paul Hausser to be appointed Inspector of the SS-VT with the rank of Brigadeführer, he set about transforming the SS-VT into a credible military force that equaled the regular army and transformed the officer selection system. The school was opened in 1936 by Adolf Hitler and would use the regular army training methods and used former army officers as instructors to train their potential officers to be combat effective. Because of their backgrounds, some of the cadets required basic training in non-military matters. The cadets were issued books on etiquette that contained instructions on table manners such as “Cutlery is held only in the fingers and not with the whole hand” and even the correct way to close a letter “Heil Hitler! yours sincerely XXXX”. Instruction was also given on Nazi ideology during lectures, with a mixture of athletics and military field exercises.

The SS spared no expense in building the school, the facilities included a football stadium surrounded by an athletics track; building dedicated to boxing, gymnastics, indoor ball games, a heated swimming pool, and a sauna. The instructors matched the facilities and at one time eight of the twelve coaches were the German National champions in their fields.


The officer candidates had to meet stringent requirements before being allowed into the officer schools; All SS officers had to be a minimum height of 5 foot 10 inches (5 ft 11″ for the Leibstandarte) and had to serve for at least six months to a year in the ranks prior to being considered for a place at the SS-Junkerschule. Typically, a Waffen-SS member reaching the rank of Rottenführer could choose either to embark on the career path of an SS-non-commissioned officer or could apply to join the officer corps of the Waffen-SS. If choosing the latter, he was required to obtain a written recommendation from their commander and undergo a racial and political screening process to determine eligibility for commission as an SS officer. If accepted into the SS officer program, an SS member would be assigned to the SS-Junkerschule and would be appointed to the rank of SS-Junker upon arrival. Situations did exist, however, where SS members would hold their previous enlisted rank while at the SS-Junkerschule and only be appointed to the rank of SS-Junker after a probationary period had passed. This officer candidate system was to ensure that future SS officers had prior enlisted experience and that there were no direct appointments in the Waffen-SS officer corps as was often the case in other SS branches such as the Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). However, about 150 Norwegians were directly appointed to the Waffen-SS officer corps on account of their training in Norway’s military. The underperformance by many of them eventually contributed to front-line Waffen-SS officers mandatory training at the Junkerschule, and 141 other Norwegians graduated from that training.

Cadets taking part in a classroom exercise in 1942/43.


Instruction at the school ranged from the playing of war games to studying Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Many Cadets had already served in the Hitler Youth and brought up under the Nazi propaganda machine. Nazi ideology was an important part of the curriculum and one Cadet in three was eliminated from the five-month course during examinations. One of the goals of the school was to produce fighting officers, and classes were given in assault tactics, which built on the mobile tactics introduced to the German Army at the end of World War I.

The School adjutant Felix Steiner is reported to have said: “We require a supple adaptable type of soldier, athletic of bearing and capable of more than the average endurance.”

The timetable of the School was as follows: tactics, terrain and map reading, combat training and weapons training, General practical service (weapons technology, shooting training, war exercises), religious education, military, SS and police, administration, physical training, weapons doctrine, pioneer teaching, current events, tank tactics, vehicle maintenance, sanitary engineering, air force doctrine.

38th SS Division

In March 1945, staff and students from the school were used to form the 38th SS Division Nibelungen. The Division never achieved anything near full division status but did actually see some combat. The 38th SS Division was at first named Junkerschule because of its formation from the members of the SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz. It was then renamed to Nibelungen from the medieval poem of the name Nibelungenlied made famous by Richard Wagner in his opera Ring des Nibelungen.

The division first saw action in the Landshut area of Upper Bavaria. The engagement was against American troops with the 38th actually overrunning a few American positions. The 38th then saw brief action in the Alps and Danube areas before surrendering to the Americans on 8 May 1945, in the area of the Bavarian Alps near Oberwössen, close to the Austrian border.


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