Himmler’s Ring of Honour – A decoration the Nazis kept secret after the war

Nazi Germany had a number of secret or at least not very official rituals and symbols. The death’s-head ring was one of them. Thousands of them have been left undiscovered.

Totenkopfring de SS

The Totenkopfring, or death’s-head ring, earned its wearer honour and respect in the Nazi hierarchy. Not everyone had one. And whoever had it was a true Nazi. An exceptional decoration to which no one was automatically entitled and which elevated its bearer to a higher level in the Nazi hierarchy. At the same time, it was the first thing the Nazis threw away when they knew they were going to be captured, or after their supreme leader had „fallen heroically“ by his own hand. Officially, it was not a state decoration such as the famous Iron Cross or the classic military decorations awarded for courage and intrepidity in combat.

The very fact that it was not a medal, but a ring, decorated with a deer’s head, made it something special. Moreover, Heinrich Himmler had to personally approve the awarding of each ring, so that even with the greatest merit, if there was any personal animosity towards the award, the nominated individual would end up being ostracized. Thanks to the fact that around 20,000 of them were produced, quite a few have survived, and they were found even in the territory of the former Czechoslovakia; after all, the war ended a few days before the Prague Uprising broke out. So it is not surprising that the Nazis, who knew that the millennial empire would not live to see the middle of the 20th century, threw away the evidence of their loyalty and merit.

In addition to the distinctive skull, the ring was engraved with the name of the wearer, the date of the award and Himmler’s signature. The wearer must have had really high merit in the SS, the ring honoured devotion to the party and to Hitler himself.

At first glance, the jewellery does not deny its connection to pagan mythology, from which Hitler himself drew quite extensively. In addition to the skull, the outer side of the ring contained a bundle of oak leaves, the German national tree. This can be imagined in a similar way to the Czechs having a linden tree as their national tree, and the socialist crown coin even depicted a girl planting a linden tree. The recipient, whose name appeared after the letters „S.lb.“ (Seinem lieben), did not actually allow „my dear“ to buy rings here (except, of course, for the Nazi rules with which every recipient was familiar).

At the same time, after the war, they were a kind of „kiss of death“ for the recipient, in the exaggeration written. Who, apart from the secret organizations helping the Nazis in their post-war escapes, would want to have proof of close links with a criminal regime. The principle may remotely resemble the communist title of RSDr., which the communist cadres still alive today also prefer not to boast about. The rings were handmade by the goldsmiths of the Otto Gahr company in Munich.

Until death, yes, after death, no.

According to legend, Thor, one of the Germanic or Old Norse gods, was supposed to have a ring made of pure silver. Then, as well as the use of runes including the two „lightning bolts“ of the SS, the symbolism is undeniable. The awardee had to return the ring if disciplined against SS rules, as well as if he left the SS ranks. And even in the event of death. A fallen soldier was not allowed to be buried with the ring, on the contrary, the jewel had to be removed and handed over to the competent authorities. The only thing the widow could keep was the accompanying certificate for the award of the ring.


I’m rewarding you with an SS ring with a dead man’s skull on it. The ring symbolizes our loyalty to the Führer, our firm obedience and our brotherhood and comradeship. The death skull reminds us that we should be ready at any time to lay down our lives for the good of the German people. The runes placed exactly opposite the skull of the dead man are symbols of the prosperity of our past, which we will restore through National Socialism. The two Sig-Runs commemorate the name of our SS. The Swastika and the Hagall-Rune represent our unbreakable faith in the ultimate victory of our philosophy. The ring is covered with oak leaves from our traditional German tree. The ring with the death’s skull cannot be bought or sold and must never fall into the hands of anyone who is not authorized to wear it. If you leave the SS or die, the ring must be returned to the Reichsfuhrer-SS. The unauthorized production of a duplicate ring is prohibited and punishable by law. Always wear the ring with honour. H. Himmler

Treasure Still Unfound

The rings that were returned were kept at Wewelsburg Castle, however, it is clear that many SS officers who could have been proud of the ring fell and their rings never made it to Wewelsburg. As of January 1, 1945, there were 1,650 rings registered in the castle collection. The Schrein des Inhabers des Totenkopfringes (Shrine of the Ring Holders with the Death’s Skull) was built at the castle in memory of those who had received the award.

The castle, the shrine, the skull, the runes – is more evidence needed to show just how much the Nazis believed in the power of occult symbols and a touch of the uncanny, while cultivating an image of the privileged and the chosen? The search for, finding and ultimately, of course, losing the rings could be an interesting subject for the next installment of the adventures of Indiana Jones, the archaeologist who constantly encountered the Nazis in his stories.


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