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Gestapo

Gestapo

ADRIENNE WILMOTH LERNER

The Geheime Staatspolizei, or Gestapo, a German secret police force, was created in 1933 after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. The Gestapo was created to help solidify Nazi control by identifying and arresting anti-Nazi agents in Germany. The agency was restructured several times during its twelve year history and was instrumental in perpetrating the Nazi deportation and destruction of European Jews during the Holocaust.

Hitler named Herman Göring the director of the Gestapo soon after its founding. Göring encouraged his officers to root out and arrest leftist sympathizers, especially communists, whom he considered a threat to the Nazi government. He also oversaw the Gestapo's enforcement of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws. In 1936, Heinrich Himmler, head of Hilter's special forces unit, the Schutzstaffel (SS), was given command of the Gestapo and the Kriminalpolizei, or Kripo.

In 1939, in the months prior to the beginning of the second world war, Hitler reorganized the German armies. The Gestapo was integrated, with the rest of the Nazi police and intelligence organizations, into the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RHSA) under the direction of Reinhard Heydrich. Though officially part of the Reich Security Central Office, the organization remained popularly known as the Gestapo.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, there were approximately 40,000 Gestapo agents in Germany. As the war progressed and the Nazis gained territory throughout Europe, the Gestapo swelled to employ over 150,000 informants, agents, and accessory personnel. Gestapo agents were charged with rooting out foreign agents and resistance fighters, but they also expanded their role as an internal police force. Gestapo agents and informants concentrated on finding suspected political dissidents of the Third Reich. Spying on citizens became pervasive, and the Gestapo encouraged people to turn in "suspect persons" to local authorities. While victims of the Gestapo were subject to both civil and criminal prosecution, the secret police themselves operated above the law. On February 10, 1936, the Nazi government officially decreed that the organization was not subject to judicial review. There were no legal restraints on detention of suspects, evidence collection, or police violence. This lack of legal restraint, paired with the Gestapo's tendency to attract and employ Nazi extremists and former criminals

in its ranks, permitted the brutality for which the force became infamous.

The Gestapo also aided intelligence work during the war, but the department was secondary to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), or Security Service. The department employed counter-intelligence agents, ciphers, and oversaw a vast network of informants in Allied countries. In the occupied territories, the Gestapo infiltrated partisan resistance groups. The organization also aided the massive Nazi propaganda campaign both before and during the war.

Intelligence, security, and police forces often over-lapped in jurisdiction during the Nazi regime. Several departments performed the same functions, and were often in conflict with each other. The Abwehr, the intelligence service under the direction of spymaster Wilhelm Canaris, negotiated an agreement with the SD about their respective roles. Despite the agreement, both organizations maintained their own network of spies and informants, and did not often coordinate their international operations. In 1943, Canaris and several other key members of the Abwehr joined the Resistance movement against the Nazi government. Canaris used the Abwehr intelligence network to leak secrets and troop positions to the Allies. The Gestapo investigated Canaris and the Abwehr, and in 1944, after a failed attempt to assassinate Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, liquidated the Abwehr intelligence service. Canaris and his followers were executed. The discovery of the July Plot to assassinate Hitler, and Canaris' spy ring was a key counter-intelligence victory for the Gestapo, SD, and RHSA.

The Gestapo, as well as its parent organization, the SS, aided the Einsatsgruppen, or mobile killing units, responsible for the massacre of nearly one million Jews during the Holocaust. Gestapo and SS members also tracked down refugees in hiding and policed ghettos and concentration camps. After the war at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, the Gestapo was named as one of the chief institutional perpetrators of the Holocaust.

The Gestapo was dissolved with the fall of the Third Reich in 1945.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Browder, George C. Hitler's Enforcers: The Gestapo and SS Security Service in the Nazi Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Gellately, Robert. The Gestapo and German Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

SEE ALSO

French Underground during World War II, Communication and Codes
Germany, Intelligence and Security
World War II

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Gestapo

GESTAPO

It was not long after the Anschluss of March 13, 1938, that the Nazis began to take an interest in the Jew Sigmund Freud. The number of "visits" to the Berggasse residence increased in frequency and were often accompanied by demands for money. One Tuesday evening, on March 22, Anna Freud was held "bei Gestapo" for questioning, which sealed her father's decision to leave Austria.

It has been suggested that "humor is a polite way of expressing despair" and it is not surprising that a number of jokes circulated in Austria at the time. One of them, attributed to Freud himself, has been frequently repeated ever since Ernest Jones reported it: "One of the conditions for being granted an exit visa was that he sign a document that ran as follows, 'I Prof. Freud, hereby confirm that after the Anschluss of Austria to the German Reich I have been treated by the German authorities and particularly the Gestapo with all the respect and consideration due to my scientific reputation, that I could live and work in full freedom, that I could continue to pursue my activities in every way I desired, that I found full support from all concerned in this respect, and that I have not the slightest reason for any complaint.' When the Nazi officer brought it along Freud had of course no compunction in signing it, but he asked if he might be allowed to add a sentence, which was: 'I can heartily recommend the Gestapo to anyone'" (Jones, 1957, p. 226).

This "story" has been repeated many times and commented on by those who treated it as genuine. Some commentators have reproached Freud for a "recommendation" they felt to be ambiguous; others admired his audacity. Eventually, some people ended up believing that Freud had actually added this sentence to the Nazi document.

It is hard to imagine that Freud, who was aware of the difficult and costly negotiations by the U. S. ambassador to France (William C. Bullitt), Marie Bonaparte, and Ernest Jones to obtain his visa, and who was responsible for the fate of his daughter and wife within the climate of the anti-Semitic hatred that had taken hold in Vienna, would have taken the risk of making a joke that in a matter of seconds might undo all their efforts. Moreover, he was depressed by the powerlessness resulting from his age and poor health, as he wrote in a letter to his son Ernst on May 12, 1938, "I am writing to you for no particular reason because here I am sitting inactive and helpless while Anna runs here and there coping with all the authorities, attending to all the business details" (letter number 297, p. 442). But his "official" biography maintained this fiction, and none of those close to Freud denied it, especially Anna Freud.

The original text of the statement was found during a 1989 public auction of documents concerning the emigration of Freud's family. It is a more sober statement, closer to the horrible truth of those years, than the theatrical version given by Jones, and more consistent with the customary bureaucratic indifference of the Nazi machine. It was written by Alfred Indra and signed by Freud, without any additions by him. It reads: "Erklarung. Ich bestätige gerne, dass bis heute den 4. Juni 1938, keinerlie Behelligung meiner Person oder meiner Hausgenossen vorgekommen ist. Behörden und Funtionäre der Partei sind mir und meinem Hausgenossen ständig korrekt und rücksickstvoll entgegentretten. Wien, den 4. Juni 1938. Prof. Dr. Sigm. Freud." (Declaration. I hereby confirm of my own free will that as of today, June 4, 1938, neither I nor those around me have been harassed. The authorities and representatives of the Party have always conducted themselves correctly and with restraint with me and with those around me. Vienna, June 4, 1938. Prof. Dr. Sigm. Freud.)

Freud's comment was most likely introduced to mask the anguish of his departurea form of black humor, which had close links, throughout Freud's life, with the tradition of Yiddish Witze, which were often also tinged with despair.

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Bettelheim, Bruno; Freud, (Jean Martin); Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag; Mitscherlich, Alexander.

Bibliography

Jones, Ernest. (1957). Sigmund Freud. Life and work. London: Hogarth.

Mijolla, Alain de. (1989). A sale in Vienna. Journal de l 'association internationale d 'histoire de la psychanalyse, 8.

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Gestapo

Gestapo the German secret police under Nazi rule. It ruthlessly suppressed opposition to the Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe and sent Jews and others to concentration camps. From 1936 it was headed by Heinrich Himmler. The name is German, from Geheime Staatspolizei ‘secret state police’.

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Gestapo

Ge·sta·po / gəˈstäpō/ the German secret police under Nazi rule. It ruthlessly suppressed opposition to the Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe and sent Jews and others to concentration camps. From 1936 it was headed by Heinrich Himmler.

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Gestapo

Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) State secret-police of Nazi Germany. Founded in 1933 by Goering, it became a powerful, national organization under Himmler from 1934, as an arm of the SS. With up to 50,000 members by 1945, the Gestapo and SS ran the concentration camps.

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Gestapo

Gestapo: see secret police.

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Gestapo

Gestapo •capo • Gestapo •Aleppo, depot •downtempo, tempo, uptempo •Expo •cheapo, Ipoh, peep-bo, repo •hippo •hypo, typo •oppo, topo, troppo •compo • Limpopo

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Gestapo

Gestapo (gɛˈstɑːpəʊ) Geheime Staatspolizei (German: secret state police; in Nazi Germany)

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