The Police State

Central to the forceful methods the Nazi Party used was undoubtedly their creation of a Police State. The SS, or Schutzstaffeln, was formed in 1925 as an elite bodyguard, due to Hitler’s uncertainty regarding the loyalty of the SA, or Sturmabteilung. The SS had several functions, the first of these being as an internal security service. The SS police, the SD, worked in conjunction with the Gestapo to perform arrests and often interrogations by way of torture, and murder on citizens who were viewed as opponents of the regime. A separate sector, the Totenkopfverbande, or Death’s-head Unit, had the duty of guarding the concentration camps. The concentration camps were initially created in 1933 to hold political prisoners and opponents. The SS also provided elite troops who were fanatically loyal to the Führer to fight alongside the Wehrmacht. This meant that Germany, and more significantly, the Nazi Party, always had supporters in the army, meaning they were highly unlikely to face mutiny. Crucially, the SS were also in charge of the genocide against Jews, and this was furthered by their status as an example of “racial purity.” The Police system of Nazi Germany was extremely well organised, though it had many branches and subsections. Initially split into the SS and the Police, there were several further splits. The Police consisted of, of course, the regular Police, however, this also consisted of the Security Police, under which fell the Criminal Police and, more significantly, the Political Police, or Gestapo. It is no secret that the regime used extreme cruelty as a means of policing, and in fact, Hermann Göring stated that men who used firearms in their “duty” would benefit from his protection, as well as saying that those who failed in this “duty” would be punished. In 1936, all of the police powers were united under Heinrich Himmler as Chief of Police. This police force was answerable only to Hitler himself and as such, had considerable powers. It was, essentially, above the law, as its actions were not “open to review” by the administrative courts. Additionally, the Gestapo could arrest anyone without trial. These extensive powers placed the Gestapo in a strong position of almost boundless authority. If there was any doubt regarding a person’s loyalty or ability to fit into the Nazi regime, the Gestapo could punish them as they saw fit. To go against the Party was almost always fatal, and this certainly contributed to the “low profile” kept by many anti-Nazis. Alongside this went the atmosphere of fear which was prevalent in Nazi Germany. The country under Nazi rule was permeated with Nazi spies and informers, making it almost impossible to talk openly for fear of being overheard and harshly punished for any oppositional views. In this way, much of the potential opposition to the Nazi regime was suppressed, as it was extremely difficult to share any oppositional views. As such, little opposition was expressed, and this effect was further abetted by the terrible punishments of torture, interrogation and murder which were performed on those citizens who became outspoken. It is also possible to see how far the influence of the SS extended, as historian Andrew Boxer explains that the “network of concentration camps became the basis of a vast SS economic empire controlling enterprises involved in quarrying, brick-making, forestry, clothing, furniture and even soft drinks.” The SS in itself was far more than a barbaric police division; it was an institution. This is supported by historian Geoff Layton, who says that the SD system “not only preserved the Nazi regime by its brutal and repressive policies of law enforcement, but gradually extended its influence into the vital areas of military and economic affairs. In this way it became the key interest group in the Third Reich.”

The End

0 comments about this work Feed