The SS is sometimes compared to the Roman Praetorian Guard and even the Japanese Samurai. Both comparisons are fundamentally misleading and grossly incorrect because Heinrich Himmler openly admitted that his SS was a reincarnation (of sorts) of the Teutonic Order. Himmler even adopted the colors of Teutonic Knights (black and white) as the primary colors of the SS (to which he added silver).
True, the SS was very different (to put it mildly) from the Teutonic Order (which, by the way, was banned and suppressed by the Nazis in 1939) and was much, much more than the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (the official name of the Teutonic Order). Nevertheless, to understand the SS (and its founder and leader Heinrich Himmler), one must understand the Teutonic Order.
The first obvious feature of the Teutonic Order that undoubtedly attracted Himmler was its common name in German. Actually, four of its common names in German – Deutscher Orden (official short name, literally “German Order“), Deutscher Ritterorden (“German Order of Knights“), Deutschherrenorden (“Order of the German Lords“) and Deutschritterorden (“Order of the German Knights“).
“Teutonic”, by the way, means “German” in Latin – the full official Latin name of the order is Ordo Domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum (Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus der Heiligen Maria in Jerusalem in German).
Heinrich Himmler could not care less about the origins of the Teutonic Order (except for the fact that it was comprised almost exclusively of German knights, soldiers and auxiliaries) – or about the first twenty or so years of its history.
Still, it is informative to note that the Teutonic Order was formed in 1992 in Acre (now a city in Israel) to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals.
Its members became known as the Teutonic Knights, and were a small voluntary and mercenary military force, serving as a crusading military unit for the protection of Christians in the Holy Land and the Baltics during the Middle Ages from marauding criminals, bandits, Muslims, etc.
Shortly after, the order became involved primarily in controlling the port tolls of Acre – at the time the key port of the Crusader States (Outremer). After Christian forces were defeated in the Middle East by the victorious Muslims, the Teutonic Order moved to Transylvania in 1211 to help defend the southeastern borders of the Kingdom of Hungary against the Cumans.
These activities of the order were much more relevant to Heinrich Himmler because this time the knights were tasked with protection of the Aryan (sort of) European Kingdom from the alien race (Cumans – also called Kipchaks – were a Turkic nomadic people).
But what really attracted Heinrich Himmler in the Teutonic Order (apart from its German nature, of course) was the leading role that its knights played in the Prussian Crusade of 1230-1274 – the project that was critically important for the formation of the German state and the German empire.