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The Waffen-SS was formed as a subdivision of the regular SS (Schutzstaffel) corps in Nazi Germany in order to perform a wide variety of functions:
  1. Regular Troops (Verfügungstruppe) served as elite troops and fought alongside the regular Wehrmacht army
  2. Hitler's personal guard, the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH)

Later there were SS Freiwilligenverbände (volunteers) from countries and regions such as Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Belorussia, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Georgia, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, North Caucasus, Norway, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sudetenland, Sweden, Switzerland and the Ukraine.

The SS Order of Battle included numerous units ranging in size from small detachments to entire corps.

Examples are the SS Division Nordland, formed from Norwegian, Danish and Baltic volunteers; an SS Hitlerjugend Division (enlisted ranks were volunteers from the Hitlerjugend); and an SS Totenkopf Division, formed from excess guard detachments who had almost all died out by 1942 in the Valdai Hills of Russia (these were replaced by volunteers not affiliated with the concentration camps).

Until 1944, service in the Waffen-SS was voluntary. Beginning then, whole units were assigned to the Waffen-SS.