The frightening emblem on the cover of this wooden box should be recognizable to anyone with even a passing interest in history. The SS or Schutzstaffel was one of the most powerful instruments of Nazi Germany’s murderous terror. This hand-carved cover was intended as a presentation box for a copy of Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler’s memoirs and the manifesto of the Nazi movement, that would traditionally have been given to an SS officer on the occasion of his wedding. Mein Kampf itself was dictated by Hitler–who couldn’t type–while in prison in 1924, after he tried to overthrow the government of the Weimar Republic in the unsuccessful “Beer Hall Putsch” of November 1923. This failed coup, and especially the memoirs, made Hitler a huge political star in Germany.
During the Nazi era every German home was required to have a copy of Mein Kampf in it somewhere. (How’s that for artificially inflating book sales?) The fact that Hitler and the Nazis insinuated themselves into the traditional ceremonies of marriage is an indication of how deep their reach was into the German state. SS weddings were a special ritual. They had to be performed by a superior officer, various items symbolic of German nationalism were required to be carried, and the bride and groom had to sign affidavits guaranteeing their “pure Aryan blood” going back to the 18th century. I researched the SS wedding rituals for a scene in my World War II spy serial The Armored Satchel, in which the main character Max, an Allied spy who is undercover pretending to be an SS officer, gets married. Everything about the SS is bizarre and frightening, so this was rather unpleasant research to do.
This artifact is on display in the Imperial War Museum in London, UK. It is one of the few artifacts I’ve showcased in this series that I have actually seen in person (though I didn’t take the picture).