I can't find any good answers. The Waffen SS was more of a private army while the Wehrmacht was a national army I think. Except that the Waffen SS was given orders by the OKW just like the Heer and they didn't seem to be used in a different way than the Heer. I searched on the internet. What came up wasn't what I was searching for. I also have a book talking exclusively about the Waffen SS, but never talking about the differences with the Wehrmacht. Yes they are like "private" but they seem to have had the exact same role in the war. They were sent to battle like every other unit.

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    If you can't find any answers, where did you look? Different recruitment policies (almost to the end) led to different personnel; ties to the Allgemeine-SS added to that; they saw themselves as "more elite" than ordinary units which was true at times and false at other times. Voting to close as trivia. – o.m. Oct 7 '16 at 17:04
  • Yeah really helpful (sarcasm) – Sami Oct 7 '16 at 17:06
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    @Sami Trivial questions which can be easily looked up on Google are actually off-topic here. However, If you show your research in your question and pin-point exactly what part are you struggling with, it will make for a good question – NSNoob Oct 7 '16 at 17:42
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    Your question is salvageable, but is falling a bit short of the community standard. If you could add one or two more paragraphs outlining and linking to some specific research you will be on track for a solid question. – Pieter Geerkens Oct 7 '16 at 17:58
  • cf Was the Waffen-SS an elite force? – sds Jun 20 '17 at 13:31

The hierarchy between the Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht was quite similar -- as you pointed out, both were commanded by OKW. The main organizational difference was the recruitment source. The Wehrmacht drew recruits from German citizens, just as any other country's military would draw recruits from its citizens. The Waffen-SS drew recruits from the Allgemeine-SS (which had racial requirements on recruits) and ethnic Germans (though the Nazis weren't really able to maintain their racial purity ideals as the war progressed):

(2) Recruiting of foreigners. With the invasion of Russia in June 1941, German propagandists set themselves to the task of changing the whole aspect of the war from a national German affair to a "European war of liberation from Communism". In this way the Nazis were able to obtain a considerable number of volunteers from occupied and even neutral countries, who were organized in combat units of their own in German uniforms and under German training. The original policy was to incorporate racially related "Germanic" people, such as the Dutch and Scandinavians, into the Waffen-SS and non-Germanic people such as the Croats into the Army. When the failures in Russia and other increasing difficulties began to affect the morale of the foreigners, their "voluntary recruitment" became more and more a matter of compulsion and their service in separate national units had to be brought under more rigid supervision. The organization of such units, therefore, was turned over in increasing measure to the Waffen-SS, even in the case of racially non-Germanic elements.

Handbook on German Military Forces, U.S. War Department Technical Manual TM-E-431, 15 March 1945, Chapter 1: The German Military System. (source)

Some Waffen-SS units with notable recruitment sources include:

Because of its closer link to the Nazi Party the Waffen-SS was entrusted to act against internal and political enemies whereas the Wehrmacht was to focus on foreign enemies:

  1. Since the Wehrmacht is dedicated exclusively and solely for deployment against the external enemies of the Reich, the use of the Waffen-SS at home is in the full interests of both the country and the Armed Forces.

Michael Reynolds, Men of Steel: The Ardennes and Eastern Front 1944-45, p. 2 (source)

The Waffen-SS also had different uniforms and tended to receive priority on new/replacement troops and equipment because it was considered more of an elite force. Regarding the priority for troops, for example:

The German High Command has been particularly successful in placing the various types of men where they best fit, and in selecting those to serve as cannon fodder, who are told to hold out to the last man, while every effort is made to preserve the elite units, which now are almost entirely part of the Waffen-SS. The German soldier in these units is in a preferred category and is the backbone of the German Armed Forces.

Handbook on German Military Forces, U.S. War Department Technical Manual TM-E-431, 15 March 1945, Chapter 1: The German Military System.

Otherwise the Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht generally performed the same role during the war. Had Germany been victorious, the differences would have been more apparent after the war as the Waffen-SS would have continued to act against internal and political enemies whereas the Wehrmacht would have reverted to a normal peace-time role for a military force.

  • I downvote this. Wehrmacht was prohibited receiving foreign conscripts. It was only the Waffen-SS who received foreign citizens. – Anixx Oct 8 '16 at 0:40
  • @Anixx The sources I'm aware of suggest that the Wehrmacht used non-German foreign volunteers and conscripts. The one I've quoted says so and Wikipedia has an article listing Wehrmacht units composed of foreign volunteers and conscripts. If you can point me to a source for your assertion I'd be happy to incorporate it into my answer. Perhaps the foreign units were merely "attached" or under the command of the Wehrmacht without being formally added to it? – Null Oct 10 '16 at 16:40
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    yes. Most of them were organized by the SS, although not formally part of SS either. Nordic units and some other were included in SS proper, Asian units were organized by SS but had different status (only officers were SS members). All then were attached to Wehrmacht. – Anixx Oct 10 '16 at 21:26
  • @Anixx I removed my claim that the Wehrmacht received foreign conscripts. I'm still interested in your source that the Wehrmacht was prohibited from receiving foreign conscripts so that I can further improve my answer. – Null Oct 11 '16 at 15:18
  • @Null: I don't believe that the Wehrmacht refused foreign conscripts. There were many foreign military formations within the Wehrmacht i.e. "392. (kroatische) Infanterie-Division", "Kalmückisches Kavalleriekorps" or "Kroatische Legion" de.wikipedia.org/wiki/392._(kroatische)_Infanterie-Division de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalm%C3%BCckisches_Kavalleriekorps de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kroatische_Legion – wawa Nov 21 '16 at 12:23

If your question is only about their role, ignoring composition, selection, weapons, etc. I'd say that the sole role I can recall that was different compared to the Heer is their role as guards in concentration camps. Check here for further information.

  • The Waffen SS reported directly to Himmler and actually was organized as Hitler's Bodyguard. For an excellent History simply Google search the 8 part series "Hitler's Bodyguard." The Heer and the Wehr were in fact two different command structures with the Heer being pushed aside for the OKW after France. The OKW was the Army that invaded and took the entire Balkans, Greece and Crete and then quite dramatically had the "honor" of leading the Barbarossa Campaign against Soviet Russia. The Waffen SS became the "final defenders of the Reich" when the whole War went south. – Doctor Zhivago Oct 7 '16 at 19:27

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