With the defeat of Germany in 1918, a fully-fledged democratic society was introduced and the Weimar Constitution protected minorities against discrimination and fully enshrined human and civil rights. This did not completely satisfy the masses, as they felt their defeat greatly heightened their sense of paranoia. Many Germans simply refused to accept that their country had been defeated on the battlefield and preferred to believe that it had been brought about by internal enemies: pacifists, socialists and Jews. It was this situation that was the breeding ground of Nazism. Even before 1914, it was considered by many, the anti-Semites, that German Jewry would gradually disappear by natural wastage. German Jewry was more assimilated and sophisticated than their brethren in the east, and as such had small families and trends were towards even greater assimilation, secularisation, conversion and intermarriage.
It wasn't until the years between 1929 and 1933, when the rise of National Socialism took hold of the masses, that the seeds of the racial state were sown. The question arises, but will not be dealt with here, is why so many Germans voted for Hitler and his movement and put them into power? What we do know is that it resulted in the most catastrophic failure of democracy this century. Once in power, Hitler and his cohorts were able to bemuse the electorate with fuddled policies that camouflaged their real intent. It could be all things to all men. Parties of the left could not understand this Nazi phenomenon and retreated in panic, closing their doors behind them and sealing their fate. The middle Liberal middle classes were no better off; having endured war and defeat, the hyperinflation of 1923, and the Great Depression, they were confused and impotent to resist the unknown swirl of power that was contrary to the world as they saw it.
In the early 1920s Hitler had peddled his volkish racialist ideas accompanied with physical and verbal violence and anti-Semitism. In 1933 his racial theories were damped down as they served no useful purpose in the course of indoctrinating the people to his qualities as a serious leader and not an extreme
revolutionary. With his charismatic personality he was able to mesmerise and lead the masses down the path of National Socialism and to the Nazi Police state that was to engulf a nation.
The Police State
National Socialism was entirely indifferent towards the notion of a constitution. Germany was a state built on the Fuehrer principle: it was a Fuehrerstaat Fuehrer state. It is ironic, but this same principle was applied to the leadership in the Jewish ghettos.
The Fuehrer consciously refused to give the Third Reich a written constitution. It already had a new constitution in the sense that there was a political organisation of the German people in the Third Reich. This, however, found expression not in the charter, but in a series of fundamental laws, and above all in the fundamental concepts that had already acquired the force of common law.
This One-Party and One-Man State was encapsulated in the slogan: One Nation, One People, and One Leader ('Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Fuehrer') the Leader's will is supreme law ('der Wille des Fuehrers ist oberstes Gesetz'). This was National Socialist law, which Goering defined as responsibility of the subordinate to the superior; authority from the superior to the subordinate.
This dictum clearly emphasised that NS did not want to deprive the people of its right to self-determination; but believed that the will of the people was better represented by its own selection of its leaders. To this end, the NSP introduced many decrees, the most important of which was the suppression of all other parties.
Central to this dictatorship in 1933 was the demolition of civil and human rights and the rule of law, and the materialisation of the 'Volksgemeinschaft' (the 'people's community'). Germans were no longer citizens but 'Volksgenossen' (national comrades) to which the Jews were excluded. Hitler and his national socialists executed the disbanding of legislative acts and taking over unlimited discretionary powers in the order of the 'Fuehrerbefel', culminating in combining the High Offices of State for his own personal use within the principle of 'Fuerhrerprinzship', the leader principle on which all NS organisations were built. The Fuehrerbefel became the instrument of government by which most of the criminal activities of the later stages of the Third Reich were carried out.
Undisciplined behaviour of the SS in the mistreating of Jews and political agitators caused early friction between the police and party officials: Himmler, Rohm and Dr. Hans Frank. Once this local difficulty had been overcome, it paved the way for more open abuse and murder in the Dachau concentration camp on the outskirts of Munich.
Himmler was to make good use of this procedure in dealing with 'asocial elements' in 1937/8 by virtue of the authority given to him by Hitler. The Euthanasia campaign rested on authority given by Hitler as Head of the SS and Security Services which, as it materialised, was a dress rehearsal for a solution to the 'Jewish Question'. This ideological model for Genocide was based on the murder of mental patients and handicapped people regarded by the state as genetically flawed.
The Jews were already second-class citizens by dint of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which became the genesis of serious anti-Semitic attitudes. The principle of unequal citizenship was declared in the Second Nuremberg Law: 'Gesetz zur Regelung von Reichsburgerscahft und Staatszugehorigkeit' (9/15/1935). It gave people of German blood and political reliability the status of full citizenship (Reichsburger), whereas subjects of non-German blood are 'Staatsangehorig' who have no right to vote, to bear arms, or to acquire landed property. In practice, the law was of little consequence; anti-Semitic measures were never based on it.
The Evolving Security Apparatus: Sipo-SD
The abbreviation 'Nazi,' the acronym 'Gestapo,' and the initials 'SS,' are well known to us today. We ponder when we hear 'SD' and are even less uncertain when we hear the combination of 'Sipo-SD', even though Sipo-SD was at the centre of the National Socialist police state.
SD was not a police organization and it did not belong to a uniform police system or have police functions. It concerned itself only with discovering what public opinion was and although it reported the intentions of hostile factions within the state, it took no executive action. Any executive action against treasonable groups concerned the Gestapo. The SD as such was a Party organization and served the Party and the State in equal proportion. The Party, however, lacked confidence in the SD and the State did not issue orders to it. Within the Party Organization SD agents kept the Gauleiters (Civic Leaders) informed of the state of affairs but they were not actual members of their staffs.
The function, for instance, of their office was to ascertain the moods and reactions of the people towards measures taken by the Government. It received no orders from the Party leaders.
The SD may be divided into several sections which give a general overview of its compilation and purpose:
The functions of the SD can be further subdivided:
In addition the SD was primarily charged with solving (not hands on) the 'Jewish Question'.
The SD always retained its character as a Party organisation, as distinguished from the Gestapo, which was a State organisation. The 'Jewish Question' and all that came to surround it, was unequivocally in the hands of the SD. This is powerfully illustrated by the fact that the SD was the organisation that created the Einsatzgruppen (Operational Groups), the mobile killing squads which roamed the rear areas behind the advancing Wehrmacht, murdering over one million victims on the Eastern front by shootings. Later, when the policy changed, the victims were deported to the death camps, which paved the way for the near total destruction of the Jews of mainland Europe.
By 1939, with the police amalgamations, the SD made great strides in establishing its credentials as the foremost security service in the Reich. After the outbreak of war the SD quickly moved into Poland to help widen security operations in the occupied areas.
The Himmler-Heydrich-Executive (HHE) set up a Training School in Zakopane, and later at Bad Rabka, with the unwieldy title of Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD im GG Schule des Sicherheitspolizei. By the
outbreak of the German-Soviet war in 1941, the Sipo-SD had become an élite security and thoroughly politicised organisation.
The SD had its own organisation with an independent headquarters and posts established throughout the Reich and occupied territories. A membership of 3-4,000 professionals assisted by thousands of honorary members, known as 'V'-men ('Vertrauensmänner' = confidential agent/informer like Pieter Menten and Oskar Schindler), and by spies in other countries. The Abwehr, headed by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, was the military intelligence branch and did not become amalgamated with the SD until near the end of the war when Canaris was arrested and immediately executed for allegedly being involved in the 20th July 1944 bomb plot against Hitler.
The SD always managed to keep ahead of their military partners, as the transfer and general movement of their members within the Reich were relatively infrequent, whereas the turnover of troops and administrative officers in the military was more rapid. This was policy within the SD; wherever possible SD leaders remained in the same location. As a result, the SD was significantly better organised than everyone else, with knowledge and information about local situations and particular individuals. Following Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union), it was the only stable arm of the military in the Generalgouvernement.
The relationship between the Gestapo and the SD was sometimes ambiguous as measures in the Reich were carried out under the direction of the Gestapo assisted by the SD. Measures in the occupied regions were always under the leadership of the SD which was the most important link in the SS police machinery. It was a unique espionage and intelligence organisation spread over the entire territory, both in the 'Old Reich', as well as throughout occupied regions and countries.
Sipo: The term originated in the early years of the Nazi power in Germany. Germany, as a federal state, had a myriad of local and centralised police agencies, which often were un-coordinated and had overlapping jurisdictions. Himmler and Heydrich's grand plan was to fully absorb all the police and security apparatus into the structure of the SS. To this end, Himmler took command first of the Gestapo (itself developed from the Prussian Secret Police) and later of all the regular and criminal investigation police, assuming the title Chef der Deutschen Polizei (Chief of the German Police). As such he was
nominally subordinate to Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick, but in practice Himmler answered to no-one but Hitler.
In 1936, the state security police were consolidated and placed under the central command of Reinhard Heydrich, already chief of the party Sicherheitsdienst (SD), and named jointly Sicherheitspolizei. The idea was to fully identify the party agency (SD) with the state agency (Sipo). Most of the Sipo members were encouraged or volunteered to become members of the SS and many held a rank in both organisations. In practice, however, the SipoSD frequently came into jurisdictional and operational conflict with each other, due in large part to the fact that the Gestapo and Kripo had many experienced, professional policemen and investigators that considered the SD as an organisation of amateurs and often thought the SD a rather incompetent agency.
Furthermore, in 1936, the state police agencies in Germany were statutorily divided into the Ordnungspolizei (regular or order police) and the Sicherheitspolizei (state security police). The two police branches were commonly known as the Orpo and Sipo (Kripo and Gestapo combined), respectively.
In September 1939, with the founding of the SS's RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt), the Sicherheitspolizei as a functioning state agency ceased to exist as they were merged into the RSHA as separate departments. However, its terms survived in common usage within Nazi Germany.
Inspektor des Sicherheitspolizei und SD was used by local security force commanders in charge of SD, Gestapo, Kripo, and Orpo units. The Inspectors of the Security Police answered to both the RSHA and to local SS and Police Leaders. The term Sipo was also used figuratively to describe any security police forces of the RSHA.
Opposition Forces: Church and State
We now come to the heart of this racial state in dealing with all those outsiders who were opposed to it. Opposition was not to be tolerated and the machinery of the state had to be formed in dealing with those people labelled 'asocial' or 'racially unhygienic'. To these ends, the Nazi Regime turned to the 'Himmler-Heydrich-Executive' (HHE) and the forces at their disposal.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933 they fully intended to create a police state, the foundations of which had already been laid which they accomplished, surprisingly enough, with the acquiescence of the German people. The most pressing opposition, and the one most feared, was the Church. The conflict between Church and State was political rather than dogmatic. Hitler and other Nazi leaders had frequently declared that they were not interested in religious affairs. The Churches were deprived of political and social influence: institutions not connected with the service and ministerial duties were abolished and all YMCA buildings were taken over by Nazi welfare organisations.
On the whole, however, the Churches suffered less persecution than other independent organisations. By their co-operation in the co-ordination of German souls they remained generally unharmed. Despite the alienation of the Church, the government continued to collect taxes and pay minister's salaries, and the Roman Catholic Church concluded a concordat with the Nazi government. In truth, the Nazi government, once they had frightened the Churches into passive submission, more or less let them do their own thing as long as it suited them. Officers of the SS Security Services were barred from belonging to any church.
Nazi policy favoured the 'Deutsche Christen' denomination, which satisfied the requirements of the totalitarian State. This denomination denied the Old Testament's equal standing with the New Testament. It rejected the baptism of Jews, and maintained that each race understood divinity in its own way and rejected any international authority in matters of faith. To the opposers of this new State, the term 'Neuheiden' (new heathens) was coined to denote the various sects of religious new Order, including the German Race Movement, whose founder Ludendorff, author of the slogan 'Erlosung von Jesus Christus' (deliver us from Jesus Christ) who claimed: 'The experiencing of God according to our race character and the German approach to God, springing from racial heritage, keep the race soul healthy'
One sect, Rosenberg's German Faith Movement, was influential in the beginnings of the Nazi regime, due to the fact that socialist free-thinkers sought refuge in this organisation after their own communities had been suppressed. Removal of the radical leaders, however, deprived this movement of all importance in the new Police State of the Reich.
There was a subtle difference between a Police State and the SS-Nazi Police State (NPS) that was later to prevail under the leadership of the 'HHE'. It became clearly apparent from the coming to power of the Nazis in 1933, that a
tightening of the rules of law and order must be re-defined for the benefit of the 'New Order'.
The examination of the police detectives, other civil servants, and employees drawn into the Gestapo and the Kripo has revealed the complexity of the Security Police, Sipo. A few were indeed the sadistic sociopaths of popular imagery. The vast majority, however, were not. After several years of transformations, however, these more or less 'normal' men would manifest behaviour that made it difficult for their victims to distinguish them from the stereotype. Furthermore, all contributed in some way significantly to the horrors of the Third Reich.
'Industrialised' mass murder integral to the Final Solution was instigated and supervised by a relatively small group of politically motivated state and security functionaries. Although ultimately accomplished by a combination of expertise, there was a clear delineation of function and its progression may be divided into two quite separate elements. The first was in the euthanasia programme where the methodology for the extermination of groups of people was first perfected, and the perpetrators thereafter retained for subsequent duty within Action Reinhardt. The second element was the delegation of authority by the KdF (Hitler's Chancellery) to the RSHA to implement genocidal policies in areas outside of the death camps.
The Nazi 'New Order' with its visionary concepts was generally conducted openly and was answerable to the protocols of government. However, Action Reinhardt was an exception. This distinction is important for a basic understanding of the integral parts of the RSHA machine.
The catastrophic consequences of the Final Solution are of such a magnitude that it is difficult to comprehend how it was possible for such a small group of men to implement it so successfully. Of course, in the wider sense, a multitude of sympathetic or apathetic government personnel were also essential to its implementation, and indeed many were eager to rally around the Nazi flag.
Architects, Planners, Organisers and Perpetrators:
Architects and Planners: Fuehrer's Chancellery (KdF): Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler and SS-Lieutenant General Reinhardt Heydrich and associates: Himmler Heydrich Executive. Organisers: Sipo-und SD (Gestapo/Kripo and working SD).
Perpetrators: Police Leadership Globocnik's Reinhardt Organisation Ukrainian Guard Units.
With the reconstruction of the security services in 1936 as we have discussed, there were all manner of difficulties to overcome. In the early days, the SD had to contend with an identity crisis involving their image and acceptance by the public; it was a somewhat ramshackle organisation with no budget, borrowed typewriters, cardboard boxes for files and very few personnel. Winds of change were sweeping across Germany and many officials of all ranks who were considered to be politically unreliable were being purged. Others, who had shown their loyalty and commitment, were accepted for inclusion in the 'New Order'. In general, it was predictable that the Nazi State would adopt radical measures to improve the operational efficiency of the police and security agencies that were so central to its programme. High on the agenda of this radical thinking was the dispersal of 'old wood' officers who did not measure up to the outer reaches, bringing in convinced Nazis to replace them.
To most people, the SD was the guardian of Nazi policy and a despised and hated section of the security services, often referred to as the 'black power'. In occupied Poland and the Ukraine, the SD had become an unyielding octopus, with tentacles reaching to the outermost parts of the occupied territories. No one liked the SD; the Wehrmacht commanders cursed it and civilian government officials wrote poison-pen letters to Berlin about it. Yet, the SD was all-powerful. It is not known that anyone ever prevailed against it in the Generalgouvernement, or elsewhere. The Jewish Question and all that surrounded it, was emphatically in the hands of the SD.
Police in German Society
It is a generally agreed, under Western democratic principles, that a police force can only operate in a free society with the consent of the people. Prior to the ascent of the Nazis, the German police force was no exception to this principle
and had remained a fully professional and proud service from its inception. Throughout the Weimar Republic until the arrival of National Socialism in 1933, and the major reconstruction of all security services in 1936, the police strove to retain their independence as the guardians of civil law and public order. Yet a large majority of Schupo and Kripo officers secretly backed the Nazis long before 1933; they saw Nazism as the only authoritarian way of getting rid of the 'red menace' (communists) and solving Germany's internal problems and they welcomed the Nazi seizure of power.
To ensure both the police and public accepted the 'New Order', the State hierarchy formulated its own rules and regulations, which broke down many of the traditional boundaries of police and judicial power. To a hard-pressed police service, there were distinct advantages in these increased powers. For a start, it untied their hands from cumbersome ethics when negotiating the intricacies of criminal law and procedure. Search warrants, judges' rules for the interrogation of suspects and applications for bail were dispensed with complaints against the police were prohibited. Instead, executive search orders, and orders for arrest and detention without any proper legal grounds were introduced and freely applied; statutory appearances before the courts were replaced by orders for committal to the newly established concentration camps for indefinite periods. Consequently, the police were now outside the very law they had previously sworn to uphold and were overtly encouraged by Heydrich to act ruthlessly.
This new turn of events may not have been completely acceptable to every police officer, but the camaraderie and the subculture of the police service held them together through these initial draconian changes. Eventually, by gradual involvement, the police found themselves so deeply involved in their work for the Nazi state that there was little opportunity of escape. They found themselves caught up in events that they had no power to change. One has a clear view of the difficulties facing the professional police officer from interviews conducted in 1971 by Gitta Sereny with Franz Stangl, the former commandant of Sobibor and Treblinka death camps. Stangl, a native Austrian, exemplifies the pressure brought to bear on waverers.
The Sipo-SD, in its role as the main security service, was now the effective defender of the Party and State, and it was impressed on them that the Party was the State and the State the Party. Some disaffected career detectives did not welcome this all-embracing security system and consequently suffered from a
crisis of image and identity. They found themselves on the receiving end of SD penetration into their hitherto closely-guarded police culture, and struggled to resist Nazification and retain their professionalism and self-esteem. According to the Himmler dictum, the transfers between the SS, and Sipo-SD, were essential for an integrated Reich Security Service.
To the immense annoyance of long-established career detectives, the Gestapo, which they considered an inferior branch of the police service, plundered the ranks of the Kripo of its finest men. Further resentment was caused by the transfer of 'inadequate and inexperienced' officers from the Gestapo to normal detective duties in the Kripo; these were usually the poorly trained elements considered unfit even for Gestapo service. Such was the concern within the Kripo that these Gestapo misfits were not permitted to enter the service with the same rank. However, the Kripo were more receptive to Gestapo officers who had been rejected as 'politically unreliable'. The overall impression formed by the majority of Kripo officers was that these rejects from the Gestapo were arrogant and tended to lord it over fellow officers, considering themselves untouchable. As far as the Kripo were concerned, such men were fundamentally unsuitable for normal detective work.
The reorganisation resulted in many police officers becoming disillusioned and frustrated, and consequently seeking transfer or retirement rather than serve under the HHE 'umbrella'. This is perhaps the reason why several of the Kripo were encouraged to transfer to other agencies, one of which was the euthanasia programme (T4). These misgivings were fully understood by Heydrich who appreciated that his ideas would only be fully accepted by future generations of security personnel. Only later, when his policies had time to become established, would his vision of a fully integrated security apparatus be accomplished.
The era of the career detective was almost over with the introduction of career civil servants and academics of the higher social order the officer class, appointed from outside to senior command posts in the security services and police. The majority of Sipo-SD personnel who filled the lower ranks were of a lower social status and had a lower standard of education. Considerable emphasis was therefore placed on education and training which would continue throughout a candidate's career. Officer training lasted many months during which time the candidate would serve in all sections of the security offices, including Abwehr, Sipo-SD and Kripo, to obtain the necessary experience, earn the entitlement to wear the uniform and gain the respect of their subordinates.
The HHE maintained a tight control of Sipo-SD recruitment. A distinct disadvantage to joining or remaining in the Sipo-SD was Catholicism whose adherents were continually being purged. In the Sereny-Stangl interviews, it is interesting to note Stangl's observations on this point. Known to be a Catholic and of suspect loyalty to the Nazis, Stangl was targeted for demotion. After the police re-organisation of 1939, when he moved to Gestapo headquarters in Linz, he was re-designated from Kriminalbeamter (established Detective and Civil Servant with pension rights) to Kriminalassistent (temporary appointment with no pension rights). Stangl successfully challenged this realignment of rank and was reinstated with the rank of Kriminaloberassistent.
Having tried and failed to downgrade him, the establishment then attacked his religious views. As it was known that he was a regular churchgoer, Stangl was served with an official document to sign which confirmed that he was a 'Gottgläubiger' ('of no religious affiliation'), and that he had relinquished his religion and all further contacts with the Catholic Church. After some misgivings or so he claims Stangl signed as directed. By thus surrendering his religious principles to the Nazi creed, Stangl had compromised himself and was set on a slippery slope.
With the plundering of related agencies for recruits to the security services, it was initially accepted that some candidates would compromise the philosophy of the Sipo-SD. These elements, such as the rowdy uneducated members of the SA as well as the 'Old Guard', were therefore purged. To maintain the momentum of the recruitment drive, those who were physically sub-standard physically or unmilitary in demeanour were not automatically excluded from membership of the Sipo-SD. To emphasize the obsession with the notion of a pure German Volk, Himmler set genealogical requirements: Sipo SD non-commissioned officers and their wives were required to supply certified details of family blood lines going back to 1750. Refusal to comply or unacceptable results meant dismissal.
There was such a degree of overlap between the SS, SD and Sipo that it was often difficult to establish the difference; for example, although Eichmann was a Gestapo officer, he wore the SD uniform. Gestapo officers serving in Germany tended to wear civilian clothes while those serving in the occupied territories usually wore the SD uniform. With few differences, the colour of the uniforms was the regulation Wehrmacht 'Feldgrau' field-grey, the same as the Waffen-SS. The shirt was yellowish to indicate Nazi Party affiliation. A telltale sign of a
Sipo-SD officer was the high-brimmed field-grey cap with a black band bearing the silver 'Totenkopf', or Death's Head insignia.
Most of the personnel serving in the Einsatzgruppen, regardless of whether or not they were members of the SD, wore the full service uniform of the SS. Those who were actually SD men wore a small black diamond-shaped insignia, containing the letters 'SD' embroidered in silver, on the left sleeve. Those who had served in the Gestapo wore similar badges, but with a silver cord edging. The Sipo-SD held the mantle of leadership in the Einsatzgruppen in Poland and Russia, and in many wartime photographs of executions it is often difficult to differentiate between uniforms.
The Sipo-SD of the HHE would, at the end of the day, be the main arm responsible for the mass extermination of the Jewish people men, women and children. Many of these Jews would come from the towns and villages in Germany, where they had been part of the country's foundation. They had been resident for over a thousand years and their contribution to German life is immeasurable, especially in the aftermath of the First World War. Their contribution rebutted by the Nazi State, they were now to suffer ignominy of exclusion because of the 'Enabling Act', which not only excluded them from schools and universities, but also labelled them as foreigners within their own country. Jealously guarding their German culture, these Jews strove to contribute to the well-being of that nation and failed in the effort. 'The ordinary men' of Hitler's executioners, excelled.
The Idiosyncratic Language of the SS
Finally, to the outsider, of which I partly include myself; the German security service rank structure is not easy to fully grasp. I am prompted to conjure up some kind of example of comprehending the idiosyncratic difficulties:
'Within the police state, two men sit across a table in the same office. One man (Herr Smith) is the director of the company and pays the wages. The other man, Herr Brown, is a lowly office clerk with the same company. Both men are members of the SS. However, Herr Smith (the boss), holds the SS rank of SS-Scharfuehrer (Sergeant). Herr Brown, on the other hand, holds the rank of SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer (Lieutenant colonel). This anomaly may present some internal difficulties in any acrimonious exchange over future disputed office policy. Could be tricky!'
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