The Waffen-SS was a military force of the Third Reich. It constituted the combat wing of the Schutzstaffel (Protective Squadron) or SS. The SS grew from a small paramilitary unit to a powerful force that served as the Third Reich’s elite force.
The Nuremberg Trials concluded that the SS were responsible for the vast majority of war crimes perpetrated under the Nazi regime, and condemned them as a criminal organisation. In particular the SS were charged with being the primary organization that carried out the holocaust. The SS were directly associated with the planning and administration of Nazi Germany's concentration camp system.
In 1942, the guard and administrative staff of all the concentration camps became full members of the Waffen-SS. By 1944, the concentration camps were fully integrated with the Waffen-SS. A practice developed of rotating SS members in and out of the camps, based on manpower needs, and to give assignments to wounded Waffen-SS officers and soldiers who could no longer serve in front-line combat duties. This rotation of personnel lies behind the argument that the entire SS knew of the concentration camps and the crimes committed therein.