The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume II
Criminality of Groups and Organizations
The Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo) & Sicherheitsdienst
(Part 3 of 9)

C. Place of the GESTAPO and SD in the Conspiracy.

(1) Tasks and Methods of the GESTAPO. In the basic law of 10 February 1936, the GESTAPO was declared to have "the duty to investigate and to combat in the entire territory of the State, all tendencies dangerous to the State." The decree issued for the execution of said law gave the GESTAPO the authority to make police investigations in treason, espionage, and sabotage cases, and in other cases of criminal attacks on Party and State." (2107-PS, 2108-PS)

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In referring to the above law, the Nazi jurist, Dr. Werner Best, commented as follows:

"Not the State in its outward organic appearance but the tasks of the leadership in the sense of the National-Socialist idea is the object of protection." (2232-PS)

The duties of the GESTAPO were described in 1938 as follows, in an order published by the Party Chancery:

"To the GESTAPO has been entrusted the mission by the Fuehrer to watch over and to eliminate all enemies of the Party and the National Socialist State as well as all disintegrating forces of all kinds directed against both." (1723-PS)

In Das Archiv, January 1936, the duties of the GESTAPO were described in part as follows:

"Since the National Socialist revolution, all open struggle and all open opposition to the State and to the leadership of the State is forbidden, and a Secret State Police as a preventive instrument in the struggle against all dangers threatening the State is indissolubly bound up with the National Socialist Fuehrer-State." (1956-PS)

The successful accomplishment of this mission to strike down the political and ideological opponents of the Nazi conspiracy was stated in the official magazine of the SIPO and SD on 1 February 1943 in the following words:

"The Secret State Police by carrying out these tasks, contributed decisively to the fact that the National Socialist constructive work could be executed in the past ten years without any serious attempts of interference by the political enemies of the nation." (1680-PS)

The methods used by the GESTAPO were limited only by the results to be obtained.

"The duties of the political police and the necessary means for their performance are not chosen freely but are prescribed by the foe. Just like the operations of an army against the outward enemy and the means to fight this enemy cannot be prescribed, so the political police also must have a free hand in the choice of the means necessary at times to fight the attempts dangerous to the State." (2232-PS)

The GESTAPO was not restricted to the limitations of written law. The Nazi jurist, Dr. Werner Best, states:

"As long as the 'police' carries out the will of the leadership, it is acting legally." (1852-PS)

The GESTAPO was given the express power to take action outside the law in the occupied territories. The laws pertaining to the

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administration of Austria and the Sudetenland provided that the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police will take measures for the maintenance of security and order "even beyond the legal limitation otherwise laid down for this purpose." (1437-PS, 1438-PS)

The actions and orders of the GESTAPO were not subject to judicial review. The decision of the Prussian High Court of Administration on 2 May 1935 held that the status of the GESTAPO as a special police authority removed its orders from the jurisdiction of the Administrative Tribunals. The court said that under the law of 30 November 1933 the only redress available was by appeal to the next higher authority within the GESTAPO itself. (2347-PS)

The basic law of 10 February 1936 on the powers of the GESTAPO provided specifically in Section VII:

"Orders in matters of the Secret State Police are not subject to the review of the administrative courts.".(2107-PS)

Concerning the power of the GESTAPO to act outside the law, the Nazi jurist, Dr. Werner Best, states:

"It is no longer a question of law but a question of fate whether the will of the leadership lays down the 'right' rules, i.e., rules feasible and necessary for police action -- the 'police' law suitable for and beneficial to the people. Actual misuse of the legislative power by a people's leadership -- be it a harmful severity or weakness -- will, because of the violations of the 'laws of life,' be punished in history more surely by fate itself through misfortune, overthrow and ruin, than by a State Court of Justice." (1852-PS)

The great power of the GESTAPO was "Schutzhaft" -- the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings on the theory of "protective custody." This power was based upon the law of 28 February 1933 which suspended the clauses of the Weimar Constitution guaranteeing civil liberties to the German people, including Article 114 thereof, which provided that an abridgement of personal liberty was permissible only by authority of law. (2499-PS)

In April 1934 the Reich Minister of the Interior issued a decree (which was not made public) stating that in view of the stabilizing of the national situation it had become feasible to place restrictions upon the exercise of protective custody and providing for limitations upon its exercise. (L-301, 779-PS)

The Gestapo did not observe such limitations, and the practice of taking people into protective custody increased greatly in

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1934. The GESTAPO did not permit lawyers to represent persons taken into protective custody and, in one instance, counsel were themselves placed in protective custody for trying to represent clients. Civil employees were investigated and taken into protective custody by the GESTAPO without knowledge of their superiors. (775-PS)

As of 1 February 1938, the Reich Minister of the Interior rescinded previous decrees relating to protective custody, including the decree of 12 April 1934, and issued new regulations. These regulations provided that protective custody could be ordered:

"*** as a coercive measure of the Secret State Police against persons who endangered the security of the people and the State through their attitude, in order to counter all aspirations of enemies of the people and State";

that the GESTAPO had the exclusive right to order protective custody; that protective custody was to be executed in the State concentration camps; and that the GESTAPO, which authorized release from protective custody, would review individual cases once every three months. The Chief of the Secret Police was given authority to issue the necessary regulations. (1723-PS)

The importance of this power of protective custody was set forth in Das Archiv, 1936, in the following language:

"The most effective preventive measure is without doubt the withdrawal of freedom, which is covered in the form of protective custody, if it is to be feared that the free activity of the persons in question might endanger the security of the State in any way. While protective arrest of short duration is carried out in police and court prisons, the concentration camps under the Secret State Police admit those taken into protective custody who have to be withdrawn from public life for a longer time." (1956-PS)

The authority of the GESTAPO to administer the concentration camps was set forth in the decree to the basic law of 10 February 1936. (2108-PS)

Other methods used by the GESTAPO consisted of the dissolution of associations, prohibition and dissolution of assemblies and congregations, prohibition of publications of various kinds and so forth. (1956-PS)

(2) Tasks and Methods of the SD. The task of the SD, after it became the intelligence service for State and Party, was to obtain secret information concerning the actual and potential enemies of the Nazi leadership so that appropriate action could be taken to destroy or neutralize opposition. (1956-PS)

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The duties of the SD were stated by the Nazi jurist, Dr. Werner Best, as follows:

"As the intelligence service of the German National Socialist Labor Party, the Security Service has first of all the task of investigating and keeping a watch over all forces, events and facts which are of importance for the domination of the National Socialist idea and movement in German territory. With this task follows that duty laid down by the Reich Minister of the Interior -- the duty of supporting the Security Police -- which is fulfilled, so far as it goes, under State orders. In support of the tasks of the Security Police in securing the ranks of the German people against interference and destruction of any kind, the Security Service has to watch over every sphere of life of the German people with regard to the activities of inimical forces and the result of state and political measures, and to inform continually the competent State authorities and offices about the facts which have come to light Finally, it has to investigate politically and explore fundamentally the activities and connections of the great, ideological, arch-enemy of National Socialism and the German people, in order thereby to render possible a purposeful and effective fight against it." (1852-PS)

To accomplish this task, the SD created an organization of agents and informants operating out of various SD regional offices established throughout the Reich, and later in conjunction with the GESTAPO and Criminal Police throughout the occupied territories. The organization consisted of several hundred full-time agents whose work was supplemented by several thousand part-time informants. Informants were located in schools, shops, churches, and all other spheres of German life, operating under cover, and reporting any utterances or actions against the Nazi Party, State or leadership. (2614-PS)

The SD had direct and powerful influence in the selection of Nazi leaders. It investigated the loyalty and reliability of State officials, evaluating them by their complete devotion to Nazi ideology and the Hitler leadership. It secretly marked ballots and thereby discovered the identity of persons who cast "No" votes and "invalid" votes in the referenda. (2614-PS, R-142)

The SD worked closely with the GESTAPO. An article in the "Voelkischer Beobachter" published in Das Archiv, January 1936, stated:

"As the Secret State Police can not carry out, in addition to its primary executive tasks, this observation of the enemies

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of the state, to the extent necessary, there steps alongside to supplement it the Security Service of the Reichsleader of the SS, set up by the Deputy Fuehrer as the political intelligence service of the movement, which puts a large part of the forces of the movement mobilized by it into the service of the security of the state." (1956-PS)

(3) The Place of the GESTAPO and the SD in the Conspiracy. The GESTAPO was founded in April 1933 by Goering to serve as a political police force in Prussia. Goering instructed Diels, the first Deputy Chief of the GESTAPO, that his main task would be the elimination of political opponents of National Socialism and the fight against Communism. (2460-PS)

In "Aufbau Einer Nation," published in 1934, Goering said:

"For weeks I had been working personally on the reorganization and at last I alone and upon my own decision and my own reflection created the office of the Secret State Police. This instrument which is so feared by the enemies of the State, has contributed most to the fact that today there can no longer be talk of a Communist and Marxist danger in Germany and Prussia." (2344-PS)

So effective had the GESTAPO proven itself in combatting the political opposition to National Socialism by the fall of 1933 that Goering took over direct control of the GESTAPO (2105-PS). Goering's position as Chief of the GESTAPO in Prussia was recognized by Himmler even after he became Chief of the German Police in 193 (272-PS). Even as late as December 1938 Goering continued to exercise his direct control over the Prussian GESTAPO. (D-183)

Himmler was named Deputy Chief of the GESTAPO in Prussia in 1934. He used the GESTAPO, infused with new personnel recruited in large part from the SS, to carry out the Roehm purge of 30 June 1934. (2460-PS)

The GESTAPO, through its great power of arrest and confinement to concentration camps without recourse to law, was the principal means for eliminating enemies of the Nazi regime. Diels, the former Deputy Chief of the GESTAPO under Goering, declared:

"*** From (1934) on the GESTAPO is responsible for all deprivations of freedom and breaches of law and killings in the political field which took place without court verdict. Of primary importance among these was the shooting of numerous persons who had been committed to jails by the courts and then shot supposedly because of resistance. Many such

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cases were at that time published in the papers. For people guilty of immorality such illegal shootings became the rule. As for deprivation of freedom, there was no legal reason any more for protective custody orders after 1934, which had still been the case before that date, since from 1934 on the power of the totalitarian state was so stabilized that the arrest of a person for his own protection was only an excuse for arbitrary arrest -- without court verdict and without legal measures for him. 'The terroristic measures, which led to the development of the pure force system and punished to an increasing degree each critical remark and each impulse of freedom with the concentration camp, took on more and more arbitrary and cruel forms. The GESTAPO became the symbol of the regime of force."

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