3rd Waffen SS Totenkopf division collar tab set, hand embroidered.
The 3rd SS Panzer Division “Totenkopf” (3. SS-Panzerdivision “Totenkopf”) was one of 38 divisions of the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II. Its name, Totenkopf, is German for “death’s head” – the skull and crossbones symbol – and it is thus sometimes referred to as the Death’s Head Division. The division was formed through the expansion of Kampfgruppe Eicke, a battle group named – in keeping with German military practice – after its commander, Theodor Eicke. Most of the battle group’s personnel had been transferred to the Waffen SS from concentration camp guard units, which were known collectively as SS-Totenkopfverbände; others were former members of Selbstschutz: ethnic German militias that had committed war crimes in Poland.
The SS Division Totenkopf was formed in October 1939. The division had close ties to the camp service and its members. When first formed a total of 6,500 men from the SS-Totenkopfverbände (Camp SS) were transferred into the Totenkopf Division. The Totenkopf was initially formed from concentration camp guards of the 1st (Oberbayern), 2nd (Brandenburg) and 3rd (Thüringen) Standarten (regiments) of the SS-Totenkopfverbände, and men from the SS Heimwehr Danzig. Members of other SS militias were also transferred into the division in early 1940; these units had been involved in multiple massacres of Polish civilians, political leaders and prisoners of war. The division had officers from the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), of whom many had already seen action in Poland. The division was commanded by SS-Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke. At the time of the Battle of France, the division was equipped with ex-Czech weapons
.Regulations for the SS Collar Tab went through quite an evolution in just a short 16 year period. The first SS Collar Tabs were introduced in 1929 by Heinrich Himmler as part of the newly introduced SS uniform code. Initially, tabs were worn by both lower rank SS men and their senior leaders. Lower ranks would wear a rank tab as well as a numbered unit identification tab, with senior leaders wearing their rank tabs on both collars. In 1933 the well known “SS” runic tab was adopted by Hitler’s personal body guard detachment, the “Leibstandarte” or “LAH”. The LAH used this runic tab in lieu of the numerical unit identification tab to identify them as members of the elite unit protecting the “Führer”. In 1934 the runic “SS” tabs were again adopted for use by the early “SS-VT” units. This adoption eventually led to the wide spread use of SS runic tabs by German Divisions; the later non-German volunteer units would not be permitted to wear the runes, and bore their own unit designed patch instead. SS Collar tabs can be found in an extraordinary variety of numbers, designs, and piping’s depending on unit and rank, from hand-embroidered tabs worn by officers to mass produced embroidered and machine woven types that were used on combat uniforms.