The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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The SS, the SD and the Gestapo

The persecution of the Jews in Germany, in the occupied  and
satellite countries was part of the official policy of the
Nazi State and Party. The official institutions of the
Reich, including the Foreign Ministry, the Propaganda
Ministry and even the Army, were utilized for the purpose.
But the chief tools created by the Nazi Party to dominate
Germany and to impose a reign of terror on the occupied
territories were three criminal organizations: the SS, the
SD and the Gestapo, to all three of which Eichmann belonged.

At its inception in 1921, the National-Socialist Party set
up the Storm Troopers, the Sturmabteilung (SA), which was
the executive arm of the propaganda machine. It was these
who spread the idea of Lebensraum - living space; these who
supplied the ruffians who instigated street brawls and
quarrels in saloons. When the Nazis took over the government
they were also used to suppress opponents and imprison them
in concentration camps.

The SS (Schutzstaffel) was set up in 1925 as the elite of
the SA. Its initial aim, at least formally, was to serve as
a personal guard for Hitler and other leaders; but very
quickly the SS was transformed into an instrument for
complete domination over the Party - later over the Reich,
and finally over the whole of conquered Europe. The SS was
an "order" set up for a special purpose. Its chief, Heinrich
Himmler, organized it with deliberate care, so that it might
be a powerful fist to strike and subjugate every opponent or
rebel. Hence, only picked men were accepted for service in
the organization; they were the choicest elite. When Himmler
was appointed Reichsfuehrer SS, that is, the director of the
organization, it had only 280 members. At the outbreak of
the War, it numbered about a quarter of a million, who
received military training and were organized in para-
military units. Later, Himmler set up the Armed SS (Waffen
SS), which were select military units to serve as
counterweight against the ordinary German Army, in case the
latter ever showed signs of faltering in its loyalty to the
Fuehrer. Thus Himmler created a powerful organization,
having its own army, with its own stores of weapons and
ammunition, an independent economy, and even separate laws
and its own judicial processes. These were the most faithful
of the faithful whose duty it was to fortify the rule of the
idol Hitler, and of Himmler, his high priest.

That satanic force which was Nazism constructed its own
instruments of rule with great thoroughness and fiendish
cunning. It also set up an internal Party organization
(Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfuehrers SS), known as the SD.
For external consumption, it was described as "the brain of
the Party of the State." But very soon it became an internal
espionage and detective organization which did not balk at
any means for achieving its purposes. Heydrich, who
organized and commanded that service, always contended: "One
must know as much as possible about people." For that
purpose a Party intelligence network was set up which
included confidential agents (V-Leute), ordinary agents
(A_Leute), informers (Z-Leute), casual employees (H_Leute),
and doubtful informants (U-Leute). They were happy to
receive any information whatsoever about economic
developments, social life, politics and, especially, about
the private lives of Party members. Heydrich wanted to know
every possible detail about the members of the Party and
their opponents, everything related to their character and
weaknesses; their hobbies and habits; scandals in which they
had been involved; their personal desires and love life; the
places they frequented; the expenditures and income of
industrial firms, the movements of bank deposits - in brief,
every item that might possibly be exploited, in one way or
another, against a man or an institution, especially if it
might be used as a threat for purposes of blackmail. All
this was patiently and thoroughly recorded in an enormous
personal filing system that used about 100,000 regularly
employed agents, detectives and informers. Nothing in the
most intimate lives of all the leaders of the Reich, and
afterwards of the leaders and administrators of the whole of
Europe, escaped the vigilance of the SD. Clearly, such an
instrument soon became a weapon of great strength.

When the Nazis came to power, a clash between the SS and the
SA was inevitable. Once Hitler had proclaimed that the two
pillars of his regime were the State and the Party, it was
clear that only one of the two Party organs could be the
central core of the Party pillar. Himmler had no difficulty
in defeating the SA, and the notorious purge of 1934 took
place, in which its leaders were assassinated. Himmler's
mastery over the Party was now absolute.

But in order to consolidate the regime, there was a need not
only for sources of information but also for means of
implementation. From 1936 on, Himmler became the supreme
chief of all branches of the German police, including
political and criminal. He set up a network of SS chiefs and
superior police officers who operated as his
representatives. The Security Police and the Gestapo were
under the command of Heydrich.

After the outbreak of World War II, Himmler divided the SS
into twelve head offices; one of these was the RSHA
(Reichssicherheitshauptamt) - the Head Office for Reich
Security - which thereafter was in charge of the police
forces. Its central function was the suppression of all
opposition, and its chief was Heydrich. Amt (Bureau) 4 was
the Gestapo, headed by Mueller. Within this was Section IVB4
- the Jewish Section, headed by Adolf Eichmann.

At the disposal of Himmler, as has been said, were also
actual military forces, including the Death's Head Units
(Totenkopfverbaende), which carried out the deeds of horror
in the concentration camps; the SS_Verfuegungstruppen, (the
bone-breakers of the opponents of the regime); and various
police units.
The SS expanded and developed into a distinct and
independent body which dominated the entire nervous system
of Nazi Germany. It was actually a state within the State,
independent with a central and decisive function. All
Himmler's opponents in the struggle for power and influence
in the Reich were doomed to failure. Hitler always supported
his "faithful Heinrich." Only occasionally did it seem that
Himmler himself was careful not to encroach upon the Army
proper and had to compromise and make concessions to
marshals and generals of the OKW (High Command of the Armed
Forces), many of whom despised him in their hearts and even
refused to allow him the rank of General. Yet even this
latter goal was achieved in 1944, when he was appointed
Supreme Commander of the Reserves (Ersatzheer).

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, whose
decision in this matter is binding upon us according to our
Law, stated the following in its judgment:

     "The creation of the RSHA represented the
     formalization, at the top level, of the relationship
     under which the SD served as the intelligence agency
     for the Security Police. A similar coordination existed
     in the local offices. Within Germany and the areas that
     were incorporated in the Reich for the purpose of civil
     administration, the local offices of the Gestapo,
     Criminal Police, and SD were formally separate. They
     were subject to coordination by inspectors of the
     Security Police and SD on the staffs of the local
     Higher SS and Police leaders, however, and one of the
     principal functions of the local SD units was to serve
     as the intelligence agency for the local Gestapo units.
     In the occupied territories the formal relationship
     between local units of the Gestapo, Criminal Police and
     SD was slightly closer. They were organized into local
     units of the Security Police and SD and were under the
     control of both the RSHA and of the Higher SS and
     Police Leader who was appointed by Himmler to serve on
     the staff of the occupying authority. Originally, one
     of the primary functions of the Gestapo was the
     prevention of any political opposition to the Nazi
     regime, a function which it performed with the
     assistance of the SD. The Gestapo and the SD also dealt
     with charges of treason and with questions related to
     the press, the Churches, and the Jews. As the Nazi
     programme of anti-Semitic persecution increased in
     intensity, the role played by these groups became
     increasingly important...
     "The Gestapo and the SD were used for purposes which
     were criminal under the Charter, involving the
     persecution and extermination of the Jews, brutalities
     and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the
     administration of occupied territories, the
     administration of the slave labour programme and the
     mistreatment and murder of prisoners of war. In dealing
     with the Gestapo the Tribunal includes all executive
     and administrative officials of Amt IV of the RSHA...
     "The Tribunal declares to be criminal within the
     meaning of the Charter the group composed of those
     members of the Gestapo and SD holding the positions
     enumerated in the preceding paragraph who became or
     remained members of the organization with knowledge
     that it was being used for the commission of acts
     declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter, or who
     were personally implicated as members of the
     organization in the commission of such crimes."{Trial
     of the Major War Criminals before the International
     Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 Nov. 1945-1 Oct. 1946,
     Vol. I, pp. 263, 267-268; and see Section 3 of the
     Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, 5710-
     1950 - Editor.}
And this is what the International Military Tribunal said
about the SS:

     "The SS was even a more general participant in the
     commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity...
     "The SS played a particularly significant role in the
     persecution of the Jews...
     "It is impossible to single out any one portion of the
     SS which was not involved in these criminal activities.
     The Allgemeine SS was an active participant in the
     persecution of the Jews and was used as a source of
     concentration camp guards. Units of the Waffen SS were
     directly involved in the killing of prisoners of war
     and the atrocities in occupied countries. It supplied
     personnel for the Einsatzgruppen (Special Operational
     Units) and had command over the concentration camp
     guards after its absorption of the Totenkopf SS, which
     originally controlled the system. Various SS Police
     units were also widely used in the atrocities in
     occupied countries and the extermination of the Jews
     there. The SS central organization supervised the
     activities of these various formations and was
     responsible for such special projects as the human
     experiments and "final solution" of the Jewish
     "In dealing with the SS the Tribunal includes all
     persons who had been officially accepted as members of
     the SS, including the members of the Allgemeine SS,
     members of the Waffen SS, members of the SS-
     Totenkopfverbaende and the members of any of the
     different police forces who were members of the SS.
     "The Tribunal declares to be criminal within the
     meaning of the Charter the group composed of those
     persons who had been officially accepted as members of
     the SS as enumerated in the preceding paragraph, who
     became or remained members of the organization with
     knowledge that it was being used for the commission of
     acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter or
     who were personally implicated as members of the
     organization in the commission of such crimes."{Ibid.,
     pp. 270, 271, 273.}

The SS set up all the concentration camps, work camps and
extermination centres. This organization which was branded
at the Nuremberg trials, was in fact an enormous conspiracy
for the execution of crime and horror without precedent.

In all the countries under German occupation, Himmler's
special representatives were at work, whether as high
officers of the SS and Police (Hoehere SS und
Polizeifuehrer) or direct representatives of the RSHA
(Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei - BdS).

In theory, these were subordinate to the regular occupation
regime, but in practice they acted on their own initiative
and were only subordinated to the occupation authorities as
a matter of form. This fact was a natural result of the very
nature of the totalitarian regime, which always gave great
power to the police, and especially the secret police; and
also of the military situation in the occupied territories,
where the regime used these forces to suppress all
opposition and to strengthen the institution of police rule.
The Reich Security Main Office, through the police officers,
was thus in control of all occupied areas.
After the outbreak of war with the Soviet Union, the SS was
given additional and special powers. On 17 July 1941, Hitler
ordered that security measures in all the occupation zones
in the East be executed by the Reichsfuehrer SS, who would
be entitled to issue orders to all other authorities. We
shall see later how Himmler used his enormous powers. In
Jewish matters, Adolf Eichmann was the executive arm of the
SS and of its cherished offspring - the RSHA.

A directive issued by Rosenberg, Minister for the eastern
occupation zones, was later found. It read:

     "In the light of a certain incident, I hereby forbid
     all civilian authorities in the eastern zone to take
     any active part in executions of any kind. The carrying
     out of executions, especially in connection with the
     extermination of the Jews, is the function of the
     Security Police and of the SD."

The first and principal means of repression used by the SS
was the concentration camps, in which were developed and
perfected systems of terror employing all the resources
available to modern technology. The Nazi, that romantic
mystic, the family man, who on the surface seemed to be a
loving husband to his wife and a merciful father to his
children, the lover of nature and living things, was
revealed in the concentration camps as a monster of insane
brutality, who did not hesitate to trample on human beings,
without blinking an eyelash, as if they were insects. One of
the shocking chapters in the story of Rudolf Hoess, the
Commandant of Auschwitz, is the part where he describes his
own tranquil family life at home: the education he gave his
sons, the affectionate regard for his wife - all this going
on just on the other side of the high-tension barbed-wire
fence of the terrible extermination camp, in which each and
every day, between five and ten thousand people were being
put to death, and sometimes even more.

The mere imprisonment of a man without a trial in which he
can try to prove his innocence, and without any indication
of when he may be released - that is terrible enough. But if
we add to this a regime of humiliation, forced labour,
beating, whippings, torture and hangings, we may understand
the terrible repressive power exercised by the Nazi
concentration camp.

The Gestapo had also learned well how to exploit all the
human frailties of their victims. They knew that starvation
and torture can break even strong men, that by means of
brutality and humiliation it is possible to efface the
divine image, leaving a man insensitive, inert, an obedient
robot who will do all he is told, even when he is ordered to
dig his own grave.

The Aryan opponent of the regime could repent and accept the
yoke of National Socialism. He could hope to be set free, to
be allowed to live, to regain his position in society. And
many did so, overwhelmed by the hypnotic force of Hitler and
his ever-growing power - for success has its own power of
persuasion. Only the Jew had no road to deliverance, for
every measure was carefully taken to break down his
opposition and bring him to a point where he no longer
believed in his very right to exist. On him too the hypnotic
supremacy of the victorious "Master Race" had its effect. In
addition, every means of humiliation was deliberately
employed to destroy his faith in himself. When a man is
whipped across his face, and he cannot react; when he is
deprived of food until he writhes with the pangs of hunger;
when men and women, boys and girls are given orders to
perform their excretory functions in full sight of one
another, like beasts; when women are made to run naked
before the guards; when morning and night executions by
shooting and hanging prove that the lives of Jews are
absolutely worthless; when killing and butchery take place
before your eyes for no reason at all, out of mere caprice
or for sport; when a score of times per day you are shown
that you are abandoned and defenceless, that your very life
depends on the mood of any one of the SS men that day -
under such circumstances it was not difficult to create a
condition in which most of these unfortunates, oppressed and
down-trodden were stripped of all faith and feeling, bereft
for the most part of any desire to go on living, their
supreme desire a speedy and painless death.

The prisoner in the concentration camp was finally brought
almost to the point where he could hardly distinguish any
longer between good and evil. He was reduced to a beast-like
state, almost entirely lacking in such human feelings as
sympathy, grief, or capacity to respond to misfortune.
During his labours in a slave camp, while working in the
concentration camp sewing-shop on a pile of plundered
clothing he had been ordered to clean and repair, a prisoner
might come across the clothes of his dead wife or children.
He would be shocked for a moment, but he would quickly
quench the glow in his eyes and carry on. He would not
shout, not go mad, not raise his fist against those who had
enslaved him, but would go on with his work, patching the
bullet-holes and removing the yellow badges of shame, so
that the clothing might be used, after repair, by the
murderers themselves.

The men of the Gestapo knew a great deal about the conquered
peoples and tried to fan the flames of hatred for the Jew
wherever they went, but they also understood very well where
and in what circles their work would reap its best reward.
The incitement to anti-Jewish pogroms was carried out
generally in the occupied zones of Eastern Europe and the
Baltic countries, where they could rely on the crude
anti_Semitism that prevailed in various circles to give them
a "scientific basis" and official support for acts of murder
and pillage. Here the hardened hooligans could rest assured
that the authorities were on their side. We shall submit to
the Court the  reports of the Einsatzgruppen, which tell of
their success in inciting some of the local population to
pogroms, but add that, since the riots had not yet
liquidated the Jews it would be necessary to go over to
methods of direct extermination.

The Gestapo also knew that the will to survive is a
primordiaal instinct, and they pressed it, too, into their
service. Having broken the spirits of all their victims,
they would select a few for special duties, or grant them
what seemed like authority. The overall extermination
programme was kept secret; as a result, it was possible to
suggest to a number of individuals privately, whether
expressly or by hints, that they would suffer no harm if
they obeyed orders or acted as informers, that if they did
what they were told, they might save their lives and those
of their families. In general, the method of using the
victim's own people against him was accepted. We shall
submit to you Gestapo orders to the effect that the
execution of hanging in concentration camps should be
entrusted to other prisoners of the same nationality as
those to be hanged, and that the executioners should be
given three cigarettes as wages.

The Nazis knew how to exploit for their purposes every human
weakness and biological need. They even had brothels opened
inside the concentration camps to which those who toed the
line were to be offered admittance. They were skilled in
lies and chicanery; they knew how to use every expedient to
deceive their victims. After every manhunt, in which
thousands and tens of thousands of Jews were sent to their
deaths and others would manage to escape or hide, a rumour
would be deliberately spread by the Nazis that this was the
last operation of the kind, that the survivors would no
longer be touched, that there would be no more transports.
And many individuals of the type that cling to any hope,
those who could not or would not believe that the fate of
all the Jews had indeed been sealed or who were exhausted
with hunger, misery and suffering, would venture out of
their hiding-places or return from the forests, only to be
captured by their persecutors in a new manhunt. The tiger
played with his victims at his own sweet will.

We shall find Jews among those carrying out Nazi orders, in
the Jewish police, in the Ghettoes and in the Councils of
Elders. Even at the entrance of the gas-chambers there were
Jews whose task was to calm the victims and persuade them
that they were merely going to the showers. This was one of
the most satanic aspects of the entire programme: to deaden
man's senses, to deprive them of all emotional and
intellectual vigour, to leave no more than a terrified and
lifeless robot so that it was possible to use the prisoners
in the camps themselves as part of the murder machine
against their own people, and the Gestapo could reduce to a
minimum the number of their own men in the camps. Of course,
at the end even these robots did not escape the cruel fate
of their people, and were put to death with their brethren.

It is extraordinary that even in the midst of this inferno
there were many Jews who succeeded in preserving the divine
image, and were not broken. There were also others. In this
trial will shall not deal with the Jews who carried out
orders, either the "kapos" or the members of the Councils of
Elders. This is not the trial of the victims, but the trial
of the destroyer.

Nor shall we enter into the problems of the course a Jewish
leader or public worker should have followed within the jaws
of the tiger: whether it should have been the way of
Edelstein who tried to organize the Theresienstadt Ghetto;
or that of Rumkowski, who hoped to save the Jews of Lodz by
obeying German orders and when he learned that he had been
deceived went of his own free will to Auschwitz; or the
methods of Kasztner, who tried to negotiate, and found a
tiny avenue of escape for a few people; or the course
adopted by Czerniakow, who poisoned himself when he saw that
the Nazis were demanding that he give them the Jews of
Warsaw to be sent to their death. This controversy has no
place in the present trial. I do not think that today we can
establish a book of rules for the proper behaviour of a
victim in his relations with the beast of prey, that we can
say how this or that leader in Warsaw, Budapest, Prague or
Vienna should have behaved - whether he should have tried to
save what he could, or to incite rebellion, or to cling to
every straw of hope for deliverance even when these hopes
had no foundation. We are all, of course, proud of the
Warsaw Ghetto, of the various instances of resistance and
rebellion, of the partisans and fighters who struck out at
the evil regime.    But this trial is not a tribunal at
which this problem can be clarified, and we shall leave it
to the historian of the Holocaust. Here Adolf Eichmann is on

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