Monday, 17 October 2011

Nazi Police Structures: the War

The Reich Security Head Office (RSHA)

This was set up by Heydrich in 1939 to co-ordinate all police and security operations. It was originally divided into these six departments (with the departmental head in brackets)

I – Administration (Best)
II – Personnel & Ideology (Six)
III – SD: Home Intelligence (Ohlendorf)
IV – Gestapo (Muller)
V – Kripo (Nebe)
VI – SD: Foreign Intelligence (Jost)

Each department had its own divisions. Thus the Gestapo work was divided into IVA (Home Territories) and IVB (Foreign Territories). Eichmann was put in charge of department IVB4 (Gestapo: Foreign Territories: Jewish Affairs), and from 1942 became responsible for the rounding-up and deportation of Jews from all over Europe to the gas chambers in Poland. Only military intelligence (Abwehr) was outside Heydrich’s control.
In occupied Europe, the key official was the local Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPL), who had immense power. Globocnik, the HSSPL in Lublin, south Poland, seems to have begun the extermination of Jews in his territory without any reference to Frank, the nominal Governor of Poland. Similarly Rosenberg, the Governor of occupied Russia, had no control over the mass killings there. It can therefore be said that the SS-Police system increasingly functioned as a “state within a state”, beyond the control of the legal system or the other organs of government.

The Einsatzgruppen

These were “Hit Squads” organised by Heydrich to enter occupied countries behind the front-line troops and arrest or shoot anyone likely to cause trouble: Jews, Communists, clergy, community leaders etc. They were first used in Poland in 1939, but the most famous Einsatzgruppen were the four squads organised for the invasion of Russia in 1941. 3,000 men were assembled, drawn from the ranks of the police and the SS, and divided into four groups, A-D, to cover the entire front from the Baltic to the Ukraine. The commanders (from north to south) were Stahlecker, Nebe, Rasch and Ohlendorf. These men were not crude thugs: Stahlecker was an SS major-general drawn from section VIA of the RSHA; Artur Nebe, as we have seen, had been for the last few years head of the Criminal Police, Rasch had two university degrees and was thus nicknamed "Doctor Doctor", and Otto Ohlendorf was a very clever young man, aged just 34, who also held a senior post in the Economics Ministry. He was the only one of the four who survived to be executed as a war criminal.
It has been pointed out that 3,000 men are not physically capable of shooting millions of victims, and that really large-scale killing only began when Himmler assigned SS battalions to Russia for this purpose in autumn 1941. Local people, mostly Ukrainians or Lithuanians, were recruited to assist them, nicknamed "Hiwis" (helpers). By winter 1941 they had shot at least ½ million Jews and other enemies, including a great many women and children.

The day-to-day activities of the Einstazgruppen can be discovered on this website -

then follow the link to the Jager Report.
There you will find, spelt out in bare and terrifying detail, the day-to-day killings achieved by Stahlecker's Einstazgruppe A in the Baltic villages. To take one entry at random:-

23/8/41: Panevezys: 1,312 Jews, 4,603 Jewesses, 1,609 Jewish children

Numbers of Communists and the mentally ill were also killed. By the end of November 1941, Einsatzgruppe A could report a grand total of 133,346 killed.


The code name given to the "National Co-ordinating for Therapeutic and Medical Establishments" was "T4", after the organisation's address at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin. It was in fact the body supervising a programme to kill the mentally ill, which operated in Germany between 1939 and 1941. It was run by Philip Bouhler, head of the Nazi Party chancellery, and Dr Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal physician. About a dozen euthanasia centres were established in Germany, and some 20,000 victims were gassed with carbon monoxide or given lethal injections. The programme was supposed to be secret, but details soon leaked out, and it was abandoned in August 1941 after protests from the Catholic Archbishop of Munster. Many of the men who had operated T4, such as Christian Wirth and Franz Stangl, were then transferred to the campaign to gas the Jews, which began at the end of 1941. Historians have always speculated as to whether this was a deliberate "dry run" before starting the Holocaust.

(The next entry will deal with the concentration camps, and with the vexed question of when, if ever, Hitler gave the go-ahead for the Holocaust)

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