SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Maria C. Horton

Article

THE EVOLUTION, STRUCTURE, & MEMBERSHIP OF THE RSHA

The Spirit of the Reich Security Main Office

THE EVOLUTION, STRUCTURE,

&

MEMBERSHIP OF THE RSHA

 Largely adapted from Michael Wildt’s article

‘The Spirit of the Reich Security Main Office’ first published in Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions

 Vol 6, Issue 3 (Dec 2005) pp 333-349)

 

The creation of a Political Police force was an early objective of National Socialism. Prussia was the largest state in Germany, including as it did the capital, Berlin, as well as other major cities. On 26 April 1933, Hermann Göring, initially acting as Prussian Minister of the Interior and then as Prussian Minister President, established the Secret State Police Office (Geheimes Staatspolizeiamt - Gestapa), which evolved into the Secret State Police (Geheime Staatspolizei - Gestapo). The Prussian police force had consisted of the uniformed or Order Police (Ordnungpolizei - Orpo) and the plain clothed Criminal Police (Kriminalpolizei – Kripo) which included the Political Police (Staatspolizei – Stapo). It was the political sections of the Kripo, together with the Stapo that were taken over and became the Gestapo, headed by Rudolf Diels.

Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler

At the same time as Göring was creating the Gestapo in Prussia, Heinrich Himmler was consolidating power as Police President of Bavaria, a position to which he had been appointed on 9 March 1933. Reinhard Heydrich occupied the position of chief of Department VI of the Bavarian Police, the political division. Heydrich was also head of the Security Service of the Reichsführer-SS (Sicherheitsdienst - SD), the intelligence branch of the SS, an office he had effectively created in 1931. The SD was intended to keep the opponents of the NSDAP under surveillance, to provide protection for the leadership and to fend off possible dangers from within the Party. As Himmler stated: "The SD will discover the enemies of the National Socialist concept and it will initiate countermeasures through the official police authorities." 

Throughout 1933-34, Himmler gradually gained control of all of the German States' police forces, except for that of Prussia, which remained under Göring's jurisdiction, until on 1 April 1934, Diels was removed as head of the Gestapo, signalling the accession of Himmler on 20 April as head of a unified national police force. Heydrich was appointed head of the Gestapo and immediately began a programme of drastic reorganisation.

With effect from the summer of 1934, the SD was declared the sole intelligence service of the Party. Whilst the other branches of the police were employees of the State, members of the SD were employed by the Party, which paid their salaries. Most senior Gestapo men were recruited from among professional police officers; in contrast, the SD attracted an elite of ambitious intellectuals – lawyers, economists, professors of political science and the like. Although Heydrich now controlled both the SD and the Gestapo there was considerable overlapping in the areas of responsibility of the two organisations. This could sometimes lead to bewildering conflicts of interests. The SD had a monopoly of political intelligence, whilst only the Gestapo had the authority to carry out arrests or interrogations and send people to concentration camps. But the Gestapo still carried out its own intelligence work, which it could only do with information supplied by the SD. Both the Gestapo and the SD were responsible for "churches, sects, other religious and ideological associations, pacifism, Jews, right-wing movements, other anti-State groups, economics and the press". 

Clearly, some kind of rationalisation was required in the interest of greater efficiency. This was achieved when on 17 June 1936, the Party post of the Reichsführer-SS was amalgamated with the government office of Chief of the German Police, providing Himmler with the title of Reichsführer-SS und Chef der Deutschen Polizei (RFSS u ChDtPol). Technically, Himmler was subordinate to Wilhelm Frick, the Minister of the Interior, but in practice he acknowledged only one superior – Adolf Hitler. The police were divided into two main branches: the `Main Office of the Security Police’, (Sicherheitspolizei – Sipo) headed by Heydrich, included the Gestapo and the Kripo. The `Main Office of General Police’ (Ordnungpolizei - Orpo) headed by Kurt Daluege was responsible for the Municipal Police (Schutzpolizei), the Rural Police (Gendarmerie) and Local Police (Gemeindepolizei).

Reinhard Heydrich

The final major reorganisation of the police occurred on 27 September 1939, when Himmler issued a decree creating the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt – RSHA), fusing the Sipo and SD, with Heydrich as head of the new organisation. Thus was created a monstrous bureaucracy that was to oppress and terrorise Europe. Heinrich Müller was placed in charge of the Gestapo, with Arthur Nebe as head of the Kripo. The headquarters of the RSHA were situated at the former Gestapo building at the Prinz-Albrecht-Straße 8 in Berlin, with other offices spread across the city and other branches located throughout Germany. Much to the displeasure of Heydrich, who wanted to control of all of the police forces, the Orpo remained outside of the ambit of the RSHA. 

The completed police state was now in place and ready to begin its campaign of wholesale atrocity and murder. Six Einsatzgruppen, numbering some 1,800-2,250 SD, Sipo and SS members, followed closely in the wake of the Wehrmacht as it invaded Poland. Selected by the RSHA, they were responsible for killing some 15,000 Jews and members of the Polish intelligentsia during the months following the invasion. With the commencement of `Unternehmen Barbarossa’ in June 1941, this figure was to be dwarfed by the activities of the four Einsatzgruppen and their assistants in eastern Poland and the Soviet Union.  

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/RSHA/rsha.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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