The Gestapo and its significant roles in Nazi Germany
Gestapo constituted the endorsed secret police of Nazi Germany as well as the other countries that were occupied by the German in Europe during the world war II. According to Delarue (35), the secret unit was created in 1933 by Hermann Goring, having combined the several security police agencies to form one organized unit to secure the interest of the regime. Other than Germany, the agency served in other countries such as Poland, Belgium, and France (Delarue, 187, 233). The Gestapo was immensely successful, owing to the strict and forceful methods applied to solidify Nazi control over the German populace by recognizing, arresting and incarcerating anti-Nazi groups and individuals in Germany. According to Delarue (1), the agency was reorganized severally, to enable it to perform efficiently and without respect to the rule of law, during its history of twelve years. It was instrumental in executing many of the plans, thought to be useful by the Nazi regime to enable it full fill its intended goals.
Rudolf Diels was appointed as the first commander of the agency up to 1934 (Delarue, 58). However, Goring took over and advised Hitler to extend the unit’s authority all over Germany. Goring was doing so to circumvent the conventional law, which held that, law enforcement was mainly local and state matter. Finally, Goring failed in his mission to nationalize the agency and thus passed it to Heinrich Himmler (Delarue, 42). Though extensively spread throughout the country and in the conquered countries such as Poland, their headquarters were based in Berlin (Loeffel, 26). Gestapo brutally eliminated any hostility to the Nazis both in Germany and other occupied territories, working in collaboration with the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), a special security service (Delarue, 1). While the unit was not an official police force in Germany, during Second World War, Gestapo operated under the direct orders of Heinrich Himmler, who by then headed the entire police units in the interior Nazi Germany.
The unit performed without regard to regular judicial process in that it had its courts that judged, decided the outcome and frequently executed orders. The main item of power for the agency was protective custody, a synonym for imprisoning individuals without having them undergo judicial proceedings (Delarue, 44). Gestapo principally violated the rule of law in that they could not respect or regard constitutional matters. The secret police unit could go to the extent of disregarding some of the rules that were established by the Nazi Germany. Individuals tried and acquitted by the courts could be apprehended again by the Gestapo and incarcerated (Bendersky, 103). After Germany defeated and occupied Poland in1939, Gestapo extended its activities outside Germany territory. The agency appeared invincible and unreachable, often operating through fear (Loeffel, 23). It was able to lead and consolidate its power reach and strength through faulty assessment, hampering operational effectiveness and transparency as well as organizing highly secretive underground resistance.
The general public had mixed responses to the establishment of Gestapo. Some accommodated while others collaborated or just complied with the agency activities. However, the agency faced resistance from individuals of religious dissent, students and the general public (Delarue, 48). In a bureaucratic society, where several agencies had unspecified functions, Gestapo duties often overlapped with the duties of other security bodies. In such as case, Gestapo chose to either cooperate or compete. The later was the most probable option because the agency neither had legal duties nor operated under the specific code of law or ethics. The agency was small in size, approximately 32,000 staffs by the end of 1944 (Delarue, (35). It relied heavily on extensive accusations from the local German populace, which enabled it to conduct, often biased, investigations. The Gestapo operated without civil restrictions in that it could arrest without any question or limitation.
Gestapo was initially bestowed with the responsibility of hunting individuals and groups that were seen as a threat to Nazi Germany. According to Loeffel (24), Gestapo was to arrest, interrogate and incarcerate such individuals or groups to allow the proliferation of the Nazi Germany local and foreign policy. Nazi Germany led by Hitler, often guided by the dominant, occupation and extremist policies, would not have prevailed without suppressing significant critics through informally run agencies. Gestapo arrested thousands of intellectuals, leftists, Jews, political clergy, trade unionists, Communists, Jehovah Witnesses and homosexuals and took them to concentration camps and local jails (Delarue, 72). The political wing of the agency could quickly give orders for released execution or tortured prisoners. Through collaborating with SS officers, the Gestapo succeeded in mistreating inferior races including Roma (Gypsies) and Jews, often regarded as enemies of the regime (Delarue, 249). During the Second World War, the agency suppressed anybody with contrary opinion or activities in the territories that they occupied and extensively carried out unlawful retaliation against civilians without clemency.
Gestapo spread all over Germany and occupied territories, in the early 1940s, in that everybody knew that Gestapo was everywhere in Germany as well as other territories like France and Poland. They could seize anyone who was trying to resist the activities of the Nazi Germany with assistance from public denunciations. According to Loeffel, (15) the agency created fear in the entire country in that anybody could report anyone to the agency in that nobody could be trusted fully in Germany and beyond. Fear spread fast because the Gestapo did not use lawful but utilized forceful and dishonest means to deal with their victim. As such, everybody feared that they would be apprehended, roughly interrogated, tortured, killed or sent to the concentration camp (Loeffel, 29). The methods of handling their victims were adequately publicized to ensure that everybody opposed to the regime or held different opinion feared being apprehended. Individuals were to be entirely loyal to the state and its policies, whatever they meant, and the information was spread that everybody was to be unswervingly loyal to the state. Gestapo sometimes felt the need to have individuals tried through Volksgericht, the people’s court (Delarue, 8). In this court, though guided by people’s opinions, almost resembled death sentence especially if the presiding judge was a loyal member of Nazi Germany.
As the war progressed, the role of the agency also expanded, depending on the demands of the war effort. Many of the victims of the war were captured and transported by Einsatzgruppen, or The Task Force to the concentration camps (Delarue, 253). Many members of the Gestapo were involved in the deployment groups, like Einsatzgruppen. Einsatzgruppen was a mobile death squadron that trailed the German regular army into Russia, Poland and other conquered European territories killing Jews and other individuals that were seen as resistance to the Nazi Germany. Many of these victims, mostly Jews, were transported from the country of origin to extermination camps in Poland and Germany. Close to the end of the year 1940, many of the Jews that lived in Eastern Europe were moved in ghettos and concentration camps, and thus there was the need for the agency that would run these ghettos (Loeffel, 23). Gestapo was found to be the most appropriate group to handle this responsibility. The agency was vested with the responsibility of supervising and guarding the ghettos. While supervising, they would impose forced labor, deny basic needs to the inhabitants, including food and medicine. These acts caused starvation leading to terminal disease, with the intention of ensuring that inhabitants were devastated leading to death. When Nazi Germany invaded Russia in the year 1941, the authorities ordered the killing of entire Jews community of Europe using gas chambers (Delarue, 247). Gestapo was directed to oversee the movement of the members of the Jews community to the camps modified explicitly for the mass murder program.
In this new task, Gestapo maximized their deliberated cruelty by subjecting victims to violent threats, suffering, which ultimately killed many victims (Loeffel, 36). This plan was part of the premeditated plan of eliminating all individuals that were seen as the threat to the regime. Various units had taught torture techniques and other techniques that dehumanized their victims including subjecting victims to unethical practices such as traumatic injuries (Loeffel, 32). During tenure, killing and subjecting to unethical practices, the Gestapo functioned without any limitations from the civil authority, such that its members would not be subjected to trial for committing unnecessary practices being members of police forces. This unlimited authority practiced by members of Gestapo units enabled them to work without restriction because there were no consequences that they would face for their actions in the future. Correspondingly, in the year 1936, the Nazi government authoritatively announced that the agency would not subject to legal review. Consequently, units operated with impunity while dispensing their duties because they had no legal restraints regarding detention of victims (Delarue, (17). According to Loeffel (21), the reason was that they would not be subjected to review over the use of police violence because they were not guided and regulated by the law. Lack of constitutional restraint enabled Gestapo to entice, engage and employ Nazi extremists and many former criminals.
- Bendersky, Joseph W. A Concise History of Nazi Germany, 2013. Print.
- Delarue, Jacques. The History of the Gestapo. Barnsley: Frontline, 2008. Print.
- Loeffel, Robert. Family Punishment in Nazi Germany: Sippenhaft, Terror and Myth. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Internet resource.
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