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Astonishing Facts About The Gestapo That You May Not Have Known

Facts About The Gestapo You May Not Know
The torture and ill-treatment meted out to countless innocent people in Nazi Germany could not have been possible without the help and support of the Gestapo. Historyplex gives you some facts about the Gestapo which you may not have known.
Vrinda Varnekar
Last Updated: Jul 14, 2017
Did You Know?
The former regional headquarters of the Gestapo in Cologne, Germany, have been turned into a museum that documents the Gestapo's actions in Nazi Germany.
History has told us several painful tales of atrocities committed in the past, and of tyrannical, ruthless rulers, but few incidents have been as terrible as the Holocaust, and few dictators have been as cruel as Adolf Hitler. We're all aware of the torture that was meted out to innocent people based solely upon their race, and of the terrible concentration camps, as well as the morbid gas chambers.

However, was Hitler the only one behind all of this? Certainly, he may have played the most significant role in ensuring the killings of millions of Jews, disabled people, homosexuals, the unemployed, and people from other 'colored' ethnic groups. However, it wouldn't have been possible without the complete help and support of his most trusted organization―the Gestapo.
Facts About The Gestapo
► The term 'Gestapo' is actually an abbreviation of 'Geheime Staatspolizei', which in German means the 'Secret State Police'. The Gestapo was appointed the official secret state police of Nazi Germany as well as the German-occupied areas.
► The Gestapo was originally supposed to be named Geheimes Polizeiamt, which in German meant the Secret Police Office. However, the initials of this became GPA, which was very similar to the Russian secret police, GPU. Hence, this name was discarded.
► Though the Gestapo reported directly to Hitler, it wasn't him who originally established the organization. It was another high ranking Nazi official, Hermann Goring who came up with the idea of organizing a loyal police force in 1933. Hence, on April 26, 1933, the Geheime Staatspolizei, or the Gestapo, was born. Goring was appointed as the director, and Rudolf Diels was appointed as the commander.
► While Göring has been credited with suggesting the idea of the Gestapo to Hitler, some historians say that it was Rudolf Diels, a police officer working under Goring in Prussia who suggested the idea of a secret police force, which later on would become the Gestapo. However, this point is still debatable.
► The basic objective behind creating an organization such as the Gestapo was to help strengthen the Nazi rule by recognizing and arresting all anti-Nazi agents in Germany and the German-occupied areas. Göring freely encouraged his officers in the Gestapo to arrest communists and other leftist sympathizers, as well as anyone else who could be considered a threat to the Nazi government.
► As time passed, however, there was rising concern that may be Diels was not the right man to command an organization such as the Gestapo, because he was not 'ruthless enough' for carrying out such an important and authoritative job. Diels was removed from the post in 1934.
► After Diels, another high ranking Nazi official from Bavaria, Heinrich Himmler, was appointed as the commander of the Gestapo. However, for most of its 12-year existence, Heinrich Muller was responsible for leading the organization.
► The Gestapo consisted of several departments, with each department carrying out specific allotted responsibilities. The organization had five departments―from A to E, wherein A was responsible for dealing with the political opponents of the Nazi Party, B took care of churches and sects, C dealt with administration of the Party, D handled the jurisdiction for the occupied territories, and E was entrusted with counterintelligence.
► A significant number of members of the Gestapo were largely recruited from various police forces. Every Gestapo member, especially one working in a lower position, was not required to be a Nazi, and a lack of party loyalty was sometimes even overlooked. What was required, however, was special police skills and bureaucratic skills.
► Many of the members of the Gestapo were Nazi extremists and former criminals who were ruthless, barbaric, and thus perfect for the atrocities that the Nazi government expected them to commit against those arrested.
► The normal judicial process was not applicable to the Gestapo, as they were answerable only to Hitler. This organization had the complete liberty of acting as jury and judge, had its own courts, and often took their own decisions to execute someone who they felt was 'guilty' of treason, or who posed a threat to the Nazi regime.
► In February 1936, an official decree stated that the Gestapo was not answerable to the judiciary. The Nazi government declared that the Gestapo had no legal restrictions regarding the arrests, detention, treatment, and even execution of the so-called-suspects which were basically Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists, and members of other minority ethnic groups. Without any restrictions, the Gestapo earned a reputation for being brutal with its methods.
► The Gestapo could not have succeeded in its efforts without the help and support from civilians. The Gestapo encouraged civilian German people to report any 'suspicious' person to the local police, who would then take care of the supposed looming threat.
► Just before the Second World War, Hitler ordered a re-organization of his armies. The Gestapo, along with the other organizations, was integrated into the RHSA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt). However, it continued to be popularly known as the Gestapo, despite now being an official part of the Reich Security Central Office.
► At the beginning of World War II, the number of Gestapo agents was about 40,000 in Germany. As the war progressed and Germany began to occupy the rest of Europe, the number of Gestapo agents, informants, and members increased to over 150,000.
► In World War II, the Gestapo had two main objectives. One was to identify and exterminate Jews and people belonging to other 'undesirable' races, while the second was to take care of any outside resistance effectively.
► The Gestapo made its methods of dealing with suspects very public, so as to spread fear about the organization in the minds of civilians. Every now and then, the Gestapo made a show of taking a suspect to trial so as to show going through the legal process, and took their suspect to the much-feared People's Court where an execution sentence was mostly guaranteed.
► In the occupied regions of Europe, the Gestapo took help from extremists and those who supported Hitler and the Nazi regime. Help came from both individual as well as group levels, and several extremist groups helped the Gestapo round up Jews who had escaped arrests so far. In France and Poland, nationals played a huge role in the hunting down of resistance groups, opposition, as well as Jewish and people of other ethnic groups.
► The Gestapo hunted down and arrested anyone and everyone who went against Hitler and his regime. Even if the organization was tipped about someone having made a joke about Hitler, his regime, or any other important member of the Nazi government, he was arrested immediately and sent to a concentration camp.
► The Gestapo's methods of arrests were torturous. Whoever was considered a suspect was given about three minutes to say goodbye to his family, and to pack whatever it was he wanted to take with him. After those three minutes, he was taken to the nearest police cell where he had to sign the Form D-11 which said that you were agreeing to go to prison.
► Once the form was forcibly signed (those arrested were violently beaten until they signed their forms, or in some cases, the officers simply forged signatures) the suspect was sent to a concentration camp and made to stay there as long as the Gestapo felt was enough to teach the suspect a lesson.
► The men appointed to take care of the concentration camps were hard-headed, violent, savage, and sadistic people who subjected the inmates to regular flogging, with Jews being subjected to extra whipping than the other inmates. Scarce was an understatement when it came to food, drink, and hygiene facilities.
► The Gestapo was directly or indirectly responsible for the identification and deportation of over 10 million people (Jews and non-Jewish people included) to horrifying concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau, to name a few.
► At the concentration camps, the inmates were made to work in inhuman conditions without having enough food or water to keep them in a decent state. Hygiene was almost non-existent and men, women and children were often crammed together in small rooms. Countless people were killed everyday, either in the gas chambers, or due to illness that ravaged the concentration camps.
► The Gestapo often used a term known as Schutzhaft (protective custody), which was a euphemism for the power to arrest and imprison anyone without any sort of legal proceedings. The arrested people were forcibly made to sign their own Schutzhaftbefehl, a decree that said that the prisoner had himself requested imprisonment.
► Several prisoners taken this way by the Gestapo, both political and non-political, disappeared. They were never to be found after they were taken into custody. The Gestapo managed the killings of thousands of people this way, without having anything seem suspicious or apparent.
► The Gestapo wholly supported as well as aided the use of the mobile killing units (called Einsatzgruppen in German) which were responsible for the mass murder of an estimated 1 million Jewish people during the tragic Holocaust.
► The Gestapo also provided its men for work related to the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), to the SS, and other governmental work. In such cases, those men were removed from the Gestapo and were assigned under the authority of the SS. (Schutzstaffel)
► The Gestapo was generally extremely watchful about any personal attacks on Hitler or his close allies. Gestapo agents were known to disguise themselves as anti-Nazis and lure and kidnap spies or agents who worked for the opposition sides, thus keeping a thorough check on any plans made by the resisting groups.
► Despite their watchfulness, Gestapo agents were once caught unaware during an attack on Hitler which resulted in him escaping with minor injuries. This attack was actually an attempt to assassinate Hitler, known as Operation Valkyrie, by planting a bomb under a conference table. Several senior German officials were involved in this operation. However, they were soon overpowered and either shot or sent to concentration camps and executed.
► The church and its members, though most did not offer political resistance, were strongly against the racial discrimination and inhuman policies of the Nazi regime. It was the task of the Gestapo to keep a close watch on clergy members everywhere, as well as their communication with Vatican City. Clergy members were watched, suspected, arrested, deported to concentration camps, and tortured by the Gestapo.
► The image of the Gestapo men was perceived to be of one dressed in trench coats and hats, post the murder of the Chancellor of Germany before Hitler, by three men (presumably of the Gestapo) dressed in black trench coats and hats. Post integration into the RHSA, Gestapo agents were given gray uniforms similar to SS officers to avoid any more loss of Gestapo members, as sometimes SS officers mistakenly shot them thinking them to be civilians.
► The Gestapo headquarters were situated at 8 Prinz Albrecht Street in Berlin. The organization also maintained offices at all the Nazi concentration camps.
► The men working for the Gestapo were paid better than those who worked in the private sector. The lower level employees worked for about 1500 RMs (Reichsmark) a year, and the senior employees were paid anything up to about 11,000 RMs. The relatively good wages were an attraction for workers to choose to join the Gestapo rather than the private sector.
► Though the Gestapo was largely feared by civilians, not everyone gave in to the organization's threats. There was quite a lot of opposition against the Gestapo's tyranny especially from college students. However, the Gestapo wasted no time in quickly suppressing these opposing activities, and those who were found to be involved were brutally punished.
► After the war was over and the Gestapo was declared a criminal organization by the International Tribunal, the atrocities and crimes committed by its members were listed and a few arrests were made. However, the long-time head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Müller was never arrested. Some historians feel he escaped to South America, while some believe he was killed in battle.
► When World War II ended and Hitler had shot himself in his bunker, the Gestapo was scrutinized and declared as a criminal organization, with many of its members being subjected to trials and eventually appropriate punishments.
► When World War II ended and Hitler had shot himself in his bunker, the Gestapo was scrutinized and declared as a criminal organization, with many of its members being subjected to trials and eventually appropriate punishments.
► The Gestapo was officially dissolved on May 8, 1945.
What the mentality and attitude of the members of such a savage force must have been, we cannot imagine. Fear was the weapon used by the Gestapo the most―it was the fear of their actions that spread far and wide and made those against the Nazi regime keep their mouths shut for personal safety.