The Secret State Police (Gestapo)

One of the first goals of the Nazi state was the creation of an effective political police force. Its purpose was to immediately neutralize political opponents and to serve as a further control of “enemies of the people and state.” In Prussia, Hermann Göring, initially acting interior minister, then minister president, established the Prussian Secret State Police Office on April 26, 1933, with its headquarters at Prinz-Albrecht-Straße 8. It was set up as an independent police authority to which the Secret State Police (Gestapo) was directly subordinate.

In April 1934, Heinrich Himmler became “Inspector” and deputy chief of the Prussian Gestapo and appointed Reinhard Heydrich as its head. Himmler had already successively taken control of the political police forces in nearly all of the non-Prussian states of Germany after which he centralized the work of all the Gestapo offices.

After his appointment as “Chief of German Police” on June 17, 1936, Himmler began reorganizing the remaining police force. The Security Police Main Office, headed by Heydrich, comprised the Gestapo and Criminal Investigation Police. The Order Police Main Office, headed by Kurt Daluege, included regular, rural and municipal police.

The National Socialist war of conquest and racial extermination after 1939 led to a rapid growth in the Gestapo’s personnel as well as in its sphere of duties and a lasting radicalization of Gestapo deployments. The Gestapo, under the leadership of Heinrich Müller, was responsible for implementing the so-called “final solution to the Jewish question,” which referred to the murders committed by the Einsatzgruppen (special mobile units) in Poland and the Soviet Union and to the deportation of the European Jews to extermination camps. The Gestapo also engaged in surveillance in the occupied territories and organized the ruthless suppression of resistance movements there. Within Germany, its chief tasks included the uncovering and destruction of German resistance and the surveillance of millions of forced laborers working in the German wartime economy.