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Secret Police [GESTAPO]
Geheimes Staatspolizeiamt

The GESTAPO was the political police force of the Reich. Much of its personnel consisted of transferees from former political police forces of the States. Membership in the GESTAPO was voluntary, and it had a membership of about 40,000 or 50,000 in 1943-45. The GESTAPO was founded in April 1933 by Goering to serve as a political police force in Prussia. Himmler was named Deputy Chief of the GESTAPO in Prussia in 1934. The GESTAPO, through its great power of arrest and confinement to concentration camps without recourse to law, was the principal means for eliminating enemies of the Nazi regime.

The headquarters organization of the GESTAPO (Amt IV of the RSHA) was set up on a functional basis. In 1943 it contained five sub-sections. Section A dealt with opponents, sabotage, and protective service. Section B dealt with political churches, sects and Jews, and was subdivided into four offices, including B4, which was responsible for Jewish affairs, matters of evacuation, means of suppressing enemies of the people and State, dispossession of rights of German citizenship. (Eichmann was head of this office). Section C dealt with card files, protective custody, and matters of press and Party. Section D dealt with regions under greater German influence. Section E dealt with security. Section F dealt with passport matters and alien police.

Subordinate offices of the GESTAPO were established throughout the Reich and designated as Staats Polizeileitstellen or Staats Polizeistellen, depending upon the size of the office. These offices reported directly to the RSHA in Berlin but were subject to the supervision of Inspekteurs of the Security Police in the various provinces. In the occupied territories the regional offices of the GESTAPO were coordinated with the Criminal Police and the SD under Kommandeurs of the Security Police and SD.

The GESTAPO was one of the primary agencies for the persecution of the Jews. The persecution of the Jews under the Nazi regime is a story of increasingly severe treatment, beginning with restrictions, then seizure and spoliation of property, commitment to concentration camps, deportation, slave labor, and finally mass murder. The GESTAPO carried out mass murders of hundreds of thousands of civilians of occupied countries as a part of the Nazi program to exterminate political and racial undesirables ("Einsatz Groups"):

"The head of the Jewish section in the GESTAPO, and the man directly responsible for carrying out the mass extermination program against the Jews by the GESTAPO, Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann, estimated in his report to Himmler on the matter, that 2,000,000 Jews had been killed by shootings, mainly by the Einsatz Groups of the SIPO and SD during the campaign in the East. This did not include the estimated 4,000,000 sent by the GESTAPO for extermination in annihilation camps." [page 282]

During 1943 the program of mass murder carried out by the Einsatz Groups in the East was modified, and orders were issued to round up hundreds of thousands of persons for the armament industry.

The great power of the GESTAPO was "Schutzhaft" -- the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings on the theory of "protective custody." This power was based upon the law of 28 February 1933 which suspended the clauses of the Weimar Constitution guaranteeing civil liberties to the German people. The actions and orders of the GESTAPO were not subject to judicial review. Under the law of 30 November 1933 the only redress available was by appeal to the next higher authority within the GESTAPO itself.

The first concentration camps were established in 1933 at Dachau in Bavaria and at Oranienburg in Prussia. The GESTAPO was given by law the responsibility of administering the concentration camps. The reason assigned for the arrest and commitment of persons to concentration camps usually was that, according to the GESTAPO, the person endangered by his attitude the existence and security of the people and the State. Further specifications of grounds included such offenses as that of "working against the Greater German Reich with an illegal resistance organization," "being a Jew," "suspected of working for the detriment of the Reich," "being strongly suspected of aiding desertion," "because as a relative of a deserter he is expected to take advantage of every occasion to harm the German Reich," "refusal to work," "sexual intercourse with a Pole," "religious propaganda," "working against the Reich," "loafing on the job," or "defeatist statements." The most casual remark of a German citizen might bring him before the GESTAPO, where his fate and freedom were decided without recourse to law. In this government, in which the rule of law was replaced by a tyrannical rule of men, the GESTAPO was the primary instrumentality of oppression.




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