A Death Korps Commissar is a Commissar of the Imperial Guard who serves as a political officer in the regiments of the Death Korps of Krieg that hail from the devastated, post-apocalytic Death World of Krieg in the Segmentum Tempestus. Like all Imperial Commissars, they are tasked with the maintenance of the morale of the Death Korps' troops during military campaigns, often in the face of staggering casualties. The Death Korps Commissar is empowered to use any means necessary to ensure the loyalty and moral purity of his or her charges, and is regarded with a mixture of fear and admiration by regular Guardsmen. Commissars are present in Death Korps regiments as mandated by Departmento Munitorum regulations, being the only non-Krieg natives to serve in the Death Korps. Due to the relatively low rates of infraction and morale problems among Death Korps regiments, these Commissars more often find themselves employed in reining in the Death Korps' often excessive zeal, and act as tactical advisors rather than enforcers of discipline.
Commissars assigned to a Death Korps regiment are often well placed to become a voice of restraint for Death Korps officers, reinforcing the wider strategic goals of the campaign over the exigencies of short-term victories by preventing the expenditure of men and materiel that might be needed later. In theatres of war where Death Korps regiments must fight alongside other Imperial formations, Commissars attached to Death Korps regiments' command staff also find it prudent to act as a liaison between regimental commands where needed, as well as keeping a sharp eye on any acrimony between the Death Korps and other Imperial Guardsmen deployed to the same areas so that it does not become a problem. In order to prevent potential difficulties from arising, the individual Commissars assigned by the Commissariat to Death Korps regiments have a tendency to be more politically-minded or diplomatic than most, and often go on to serve with other troublesome regiments such as those composed of Feral Worlders or forces raised on Ecclesiarchy worlds where religious fanaticism runs high. As Krieg guardsmen and officers never remove their rebreather units, Death Korps Commissars -- as non-Krieg natives -- often have a calming effect on allies, being literally the only friendly face amongst their regiments.
Commissars serving within a Krieg regiment are charged with protecting the regimental banner, the regiment's most precious artefact. These banners serve as a symbol of a regiment's long service to the Emperor, bearing a history of the regiment's many campaigns. Whilst few men in a Krieg siege regiment have a long life expectancy, the banner will see service in every campaign.
An Ensign is a junior Krieg officer who has been chosen to carry the regimental or company banner. It is considered a great honour to be chosen and marks the officer as one with the potential to rise to the highest ranks within the regiment. The rank of Ensign carriers a short term of service, so an officer will not be expected to act as the banner bearer for long before being moved on to a combat command with a frontline platoon or a Death Rider squadron. An Ensign often accompanies his regiment's Commissar wherever he goes on the battlefield, so that the regimental banner can serve as a rallying point and act as an inspiration to the men and women of the regiment.
Regardless of which regiment of the Imperial Guard a Commissar serves with, his or her uniform remains the same. Whilst some degree of personalisation is acceptable, all Imperial Commissars wear the distinctive black dress uniform, black overcoat and tall, high-peaked cap. Additionally, all Commissars' uniforms must be black. This distinctive uniform marks them out on the battlefield as a figure of authority and inspiration. A senior Commissar, such as a Commissar-General, will have a heavily decorated and braided uniform, as befits their elite rank. Many Commissars frown upon such ostentation and prefer a more puritanical, unadorned appearance. A Commissar's uniform will often bear decorations from previous campaigns and postings, as well as honours awarded for their own acts of personal bravery. A silver gorget is a mark of long service.
Commissars are allowed a wide degree of choice when it comes to the personal weapons they carry into battle. Many expect to lead from the front and carry Power Weapons, Power Fists or Plasma Pistols. When assigned to a regimental headquarters, a Commissar is not expected to lead men in combat, so they usually keep their personal weaponry very basic, including a Chainsword or Power Sword and a Laspistol. The Laspistol is used by the Commissar to carry out any instances of summary execution for derelictions of duty by the troops under his command. Amongst the fanatical Guardsmen of the Death Korps regiments, such actions are rare indeed. Should a Commissar-General feel that it is absolutely necessary, he possesses the authority required to remove his regiment's commanding officer from his post and take over command of the entire regiment himself.
Notable Death Korp of Krieg Commissars
- Commissar-General Maugh - Commissar-General Maugh was the senior Commissariat officer during nearly the entire Siege of Vraks-campaign, having closely worked with Marechal Kagori on Vraks itself. As the Siege of Vraks was nearing its bloody conclusion, the Commissar-General decided to bolster the morale of the 143rd Siege Regiment that was charged with the first attack on the Curtain Wall, last obstacle before Vrak’s Citadel itself. Designated the Battle for Gate 579-459, the courageous Commissar stepped into his personal Leman Russ Battle Tank, Landwaster, to command the advance from the front. Supported by two Titans from Legio Astorum, the advance made good progress under cover from a heavy barrage unleashed by the Death Korps, until the attack ran into a counter-attack. Passing through the gate, spider-legged daemon-engines, armoured units and infantry charged at the 143rd Siege Regiment. A shot penetrated the Landwaster’s armour, killing the loader and gunner and missing the Commissar-General by a small margin. Quickly clambering out of his stricken tank, the Commissar-General exited the turret moments before Landwaster’s ammunitions caught fire and detonated, the explosion sending Maugh flying and wounding him in the shoulder by lodging a piece of shrapnel in it. Having lost his communicator, the Commissar-General ignored that Chaos Space Marines were been closing on his position, and Khornate Terminators of the Skulltakers were emerging from the dust of the battlefield. Weakened by blood-loss, caked in mud and scorched by the explosion of his Leman Russ, the Commissar-General tried to defend himself but was easily vanquished and killed by the towering Astartes. Yet he didn’t scream or beg for mercy, but was resolute upon his death as he stared defiantly at the face of his killer until his skull was pulverised by the enemy’s Power Fist.
- Commissar Costellin - Commissar Costellin’s post with the 186th Death Korps Infantry Regiment lasted for more than 30 years, and would see him fight alongside his regiment during the Dask Campaign and the Loss of Hieronymous Theta. Costellin is one of the very few non-natives that has been granted permission by the Administratum to tread the surface of Krieg itself, witnessing with his own eyes the world that gave birth to the Death Korps. Despite his years of experience, his relations with officers and guardsmen alike were cold. Costellin was still unsettled about the textbook conformity of the Death Korp and its lack of human interaction. Nevertheless, with his insight on the Krieg mentality, he served as a distinguished liaison officer for his regiment, particularly on Hieronymous Theta. Arduous reader of the wisdom of the almost legendary Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Costellin was perhaps the first officer to recognise the threat emerging on Hieronymous Theta as of Necron-nature, which implies that his accreditation level was high enough to have gained knowledge on the matter. Increasingly ill at ease with the sacrificial tendencies of the Krieg and clearly harbouring some misgivings towards Segmentum authorities for withholding information regarding the true nature of the menace they now faced, Costellin nevertheless acted in the interest of his regiment by liaising with Hieronymous Theta’s Planetary Governor and PDF-Command. His working relation with the acting Colonel of the 186th Regiment was tense at best, matters only degrading after Colonel 186’s execution of the Governor and the general conviction of the Krieg commanders that the Necrons could be vanquished by attritional warfare. Yet Costellin never took his concerns to his military hierarchy. After leading a daring raid into Hieronymous City to destroy a power generatorium, he was one of the few to return wounded but alive. Having witnessed the Necrons on the backfoot and with the very real chance of Imperial victory, it is somehow a mystery why Costellin asked for transfer to another regiment on the eve of the final battle. Granted the honor of bearing one of the Death Korps most sacred relics - a bone-fragment of Colonel Jurten - into battle, he was waylaid by human renegades that had turned to venerating the Necrons as "Iron Gods". Having already lost one of his Gorgons, Commissar Costellin tried to negotiate the surrender of these human renegades. Believing him taken hostage, Colonel 186 ordered a covert assault on the heretics during which Commissar Costellin was shot -- presumably by the heretics. His wound proved too grievous to be treated by the onrushing Quartermaster, who instead reverently retrieved the sacred relic and left the Commissar to his fate.
- Commissar Mannheim - Commissar Mannheim was attached to the 42nd Krieg Infantry Regiment during the Campaign on Dask, and present during Necron awakening on Hieronymous Theta.
- Imperial Armour Volume Five - The Siege of Vraks - Part One, pg. 90
- Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks - Part Two, pg. 38-39
- Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three, pg. 21, 27
- Dead Men Walking (Novel) by Steve Lyons