Gestapo - formation and functions

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[img] Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring during the official transfer of authority for the Gestapo in Berlin, 1934.

  • Formation and Leadership:

    • Established in 1933 by Hermann Göring, the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo) amalgamated Prussia's political police agencies into a unified entity.
    • In 1934, Heinrich Himmler assumed control as the head of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Chief of German Police, thereby overseeing the Gestapo.
  • Organizational Structure:

    • Initially a Prussian state agency, the Gestapo transformed into a national force under the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) and later became Amt 4 of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA).
    • Aligned with the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), it operated as a sister organization within the Nazi security apparatus.
  • Atrocities and Targets:

    • The Gestapo perpetrated extensive atrocities, targeting political opponents, ideological dissenters, criminals, the Sinti and Roma population, handicapped individuals, homosexuals, and prominently, Jews.
    • Arrested individuals often faced extrajudicial detention, and the Night and Fog Decree (Nacht und Nebel) facilitated the disappearance of political prisoners.
  • Operational Dynamics:

    • Despite its relatively modest size and surveillance capacity, the Gestapo proved highly effective, owing to the active reporting of ordinary Germans on their compatriots.
    • Notably, the Gestapo played a pivotal role in the Holocaust during World War II.
  • Post-War Accountability:

    • Following World War II, the Gestapo was designated a criminal organization by the International Military Tribunal (IMT) during the Nuremberg trials.
    • Several high-ranking Gestapo members were sentenced to death, marking the legal condemnation of the organization's heinous actions.