Nazi Germany’s secret police operated as the government’s mob to locate and destroy any political opponents of the new totalitarian regime. Under the aegis of Hermann Göring, appointed to minister of the interior of Prussia at the time of the Gestapo’s inception, the Gestapo, acronym of the Geheime Staatspolizei, established itself in 1939 Nazi Germany and occupied territories without civil or governmental restraints. (Gestapo)
In 1934, Hermann Göring handed over the Gestapo to Heinrich Himmler, who previously held positions as Chief of the SS and Director of Propaganda. Himmler commanded the Gestapo, comprised of the Prussian police and espionage units, until his death in 1945. Himmler integrated the criminal police with the Gestapo to form the State Security Police, commonly known as the Sipo, in 1939. (Gestapo) The first, most important task for the Gestapo involved the inception of the war itself. On August 31, the Gestapo staged an attack on a German radio station in Gleiwitz, Germany to give a reason for the Polish invasion. The Gestapo dressed prisoners from a concentration camp as Polish soldiers then executed them to suggest a realistic battle transpired. They placed their bodies around the radio station, while another SS unit masquerading as the Polish invaders created a radio broadcast stating their intention to invade Germany. The Gestapo fabricated the entire incident to encourage German nationality and fuel the German public with support for the planned ensuing invasion. (Shirer 518-20) With this, and twenty other border incidents, Hitler justified Germany’s invasion of Poland. “The Polish State has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired, and has appealed to arms . . . A series of violation of the frontier intolerable to a great Power, prove that Poland is no longer willing to respect the frontier of the Reich. In order to put an end to this lunacy, I have no other choice than to meet force with force form now on.” (Shirer 599)
During World War II, the Gestapo became the death squad for all enemies of state, and they employed numerous tactics. (Gestapo) One of such tactic involved seeking hidden Morse code communication posts. The Gestapo cut off power, block by block, until the signal broke off with it; when this happened, they raided the building in search for their target. (Lloyd 11) The Gestapo kept a strong presence in concentration camps, as they maintained the political sections, in which, the Gestapo could freely torture and kill any inmate. These killings included mass executions of captured soldiers and political enemies. The Gestapo also became involved in, and organized, The Final Solution, the Nazi’s plan for the systematic genocide of all European Jews. (Mueller 11) Reinhard Heydrich, the Chief of the SS in Berlin, became known as “the Hangman” from the mass executions he organized. After his assassination by a pair of Czech agents in Czechoslovakia, a special unit of the Gestapo exacted revenge for the fallen chief of police by killing all the males in the village of Lidice. (Reinhard) Under Adolf Eichmann’s control, a special unit of the Gestapo arranged the transportation system, usually being trains, for the Jews to Polish extermination camps. (Adolf) A mobile Gestapo unit made its presence known as an observational post in all Nazi occupied countries. (Mueller 11) The Gestapo also kept a presence in the Einsatzgruppen, another mobile secret police unit, which specialized in extermination of the Jews and “undesirables.” “Just outside Kiev, Ukraine, in the valley of Baby Yar, an Einsatzgruppe killed 33,771 Jews on September 28–29, 1941.” (Britannica) In total, the Einsatzgruppe killed nearly one million people over the course of World War II. (Holocaust)
When the war ended, the Nuremburg Trials began. This tribunal labeled several organizations, including the Gestapo, criminal organizations. This finding and the ensuing charges brought an end to the Gestapo, and anyone found as a part of this organization became liable for war crimes. (Nürnberg)
Works Cited Page
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“Holocaust.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2006.
Lloyd, Mark. The Guinness Book of Espionage. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.
Mueller. “Gestapo.” World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book Inc., 1998.
“Nürnberg Trials.”Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2006.
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Shirer, William. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York City: Simon & Shuster, 1960.