Originally Posted by Lighthouse
Inglorious Bastards was on TV last night. It made me curious about how the German military interacted with the paramilitary branches, such as the SS. I don't see how a large industrial nation could operate functionally with two or three competing organizations. The Allies had military branches, but paramilitary organizations didn't play a role.
If an SS major encounters an Army colonel, would the ranks hold? Or would the SS guy have the edge because of its more political nature? Another curiousity were the odd symbols used by the Germans. Finally, from a sartorial standpoint, I'd have to give the edge to the German's sense of style. But this may not be a fair comparison, because uniforms seemed to all go camo or grey once combat began in earnest.
First, it's not particularly fair to call the SS a paramilitary group -- by the time of WWII they functioned as a full-fledged independent army with virtually equivalent resources to the regular German military.
One of the interesting things (from a historical perspective) about Nazi Germany is it had virtually no functioning government. As you pointed out, it was incredibly inefficient to have several large, competing 'groups' within a government, but that's actually the system that Hitler favored and promoted out of laziness and of fear of any one group gaining too much strength and challenging for power. At various points during the War, and the years leading up to the invasion of Poland, the Nazi leadership was dominated by power struggles, with Hitler occasionally intervening to take side with either the regular German Army or Himmler (who led the SS).
It's also important to understand the 'state' of the German military leadership by the start of WWII, and especially by the invasion of Russia in '41. By that time the German military leadership had been pretty much cowed -- they did what Hitler said without much protest, especially after his 'successes' in France and in the early months of the fighting on the Eastern front. Many of the generals were also personally indebted to Hitler, who would frequently hand out huge personal checks to his favored generals.
You're right in the sense that the chaos between competing military groups isn't particularly conducive to winning a battle, but it was moreso Hitler's personal interference that created chaos about the German military leadership -- SS and general army both. It wasn't as if there were entirely separate battle plans for SS and general army groups, instead most functioned within an integrated military leadership that fell under Hitler's greater authority. This greater authority is what doomed many of the German plans -- ie: his failure to allow a break out from Stalingrad, his decision to split his forces in Southern Russia to pursue simultaneous objectives, his decision to invest Leningrad, etc.