Policing the Nazi State 

When people think of policing and intelligence within the Nazi state, people often narrow it down to the SS and the Gestapo. But there were other institutions and often we misunderstand the roles of the organisations that we know. This is for a number of reasons, often there was overlap between the groups, but also up until it was consolidated under Himmler, there were a lot of power struggles between the groups and those in charge of them.

The policing and security groups focussed mostly on fear, violence, and intimidation, which was maintained through a complex network of groups that operated at different levels of society. These groups were tasked with maintaining law and order, suppressing dissent, and enforcing Nazi ideology.

This is a brief overview of some of them. Please bear in mind this is very brief and that each group had aspects that will not be covered. If you have an interest in this please research this more from trusted resources.

Created after the Versailles Treaty, in which one of the conditions meant no intelligence organisation would be run by the Germans, the Adwehr was branded as a civilian based group. This dramatically changed as Hitler came into power, when tt became a key part of the strategy for the German expansion through Europe

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, led the organization from 1935 to 1944, he was a smart, cunning and talented intelligence officer. But the role needed someone who could navigate German politics. In public he supported the Nazi regime, but he also worked to undermine Hitler's authority and even collaborated with resistance movements. This duality was to be reflected in nature of the Adwehr and its approach during World War II.

The Adwehr's intelligence-gathering capabilities were good, and they played a significant role in several critical military operations. Their expertise in signals intelligence (SIGINT) and code-breaking enabled them to extract valuable information from enemy communications. Moreover, they effectively utilized human intelligence (HUMINT) networks to gather sensitive data from occupied territories, helping progress Germany's war efforts.

Despite its achievements, the Adwehr faced several internal challenges, including ideological divisions and mistrust within the organization. Canaris's disloyalty and scheming eventually lead to his execution in 1945. By then the Adwehr's power was following the German military's fortunes. After the war, the department was disbanded and its staff were put on trial.

The Kripo were the criminal detective branch of the police. They operated similarly to how detectives would today, investigating crimes within Germany. They were origianlly created in 1902, by the German Empire in order to modernise it's policing.

With the advent of the Weimar Republic, the Kripo faced new challenges, including the rise of organized crime and political extremism. In between the 1st and 2nd World War, was a time of unrest for the public. It tested the Kripo's capabilities as it sought to navigate the changing society.

During the war, the Kripo was basically taken over by the regime. Members either changed with the times or found other jobs. Their mission expanded to include political surveillance, persecution, and suppression of perceived enemies of the state. They worked closely with the Gestapo (secret state police) and the SS. The Kripo actively participated in the systematic persecution and genocide of millions, particularly targeting Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and other marginalized groups.

The Kripo also conducted investigations and implemented policies that targeted individuals based on their race, religion, or political beliefs, contributing to the enforcement of discriminatory laws and policies. As well as playing a significant role in investigating and suppressing resistance and opposition within Germany and occupied territories. It became the thing that it had been designed to police against.

Kripo leaders and some officers faced charges at the Nuremburg trials.

The SiPo's primary function was to suppress opposition, maintain internal security, and enforce Nazi ideology through surveillance, investigation, and brutal repression. Working in tandem with the SS and other Nazi organizations, the SiPo played a central role in implementing Hitler's totalitarian regime and carrying out its policies of persecution and genocide.

Through a network of informants, secret police officers, and spies, the SiPo infiltrated all levels of society, fostering an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. Their actions extended beyond Germany's borders, as they were actively involved in enforcing Nazi rule in occupied territories during World War II, often resorting to extreme measures to quash resistance and dissent.

In 1939 the SiPo was formally disbanded as it was absorbed into the Reich Security Main Office along with many other aspects of the Reich security. But informally many of its members worked along the same lines within the other departments and also similar tactics would be used in the later death squads that were active during the final solution.

After the war, the Nuremberg Trials brought SiPo leaders to justice for their crimes against humanity, exposing their involvement in the atrocities of the war.

The SD were the intelligence group in the SS. Led by Reinhard Heydrich, the SD's primary objectives were to gather intelligence, suppress dissent, and eliminate perceived enemies of the state. Employing an extensive network of informants and surveillance apparatus, the SD infiltrated various aspects of German society, instilling fear and enforcing compliance with Nazi doctrine.

One of the SD's most harmful functions was the dissemination of propaganda and indoctrination, using every available means to mould public opinion and promote the Nazi ideology of racial superiority and anti-Semitism. By controlling information and manipulating narratives, the SD contributed significantly to the consolidation of power by the Nazi regime.

The SD played a central role in orchestrating the systematic persecution and extermination of millions of innocent individuals during the Holocaust. Their active involvement in implementing the "Final Solution" underscored the agency's ruthlessness and moral depravity.

At the end of the war all its surviving leaders were tried at Nuremburg

The Gestapo is one of the symbols of the cruelty when people think of Nazi Germany. They were the secret State Police and although they spread such fear around Germany, it is suprising how few agents there where to monitor the country. But the way they had been set up and the propaganda that surrounded what they did, meant the general public did not realise this and therefore helped by becoming informants themselves.

The Gestapo relied on a vast network of informants to identify potential threats to the Nazi regime. These informants were often ordinary citizens who were motivated by a sense of loyalty to the Nazi cause, fear of reprisals, or financial incentives. But sometimes, these weren't the only motivations for the public. Some people would report neighbours, if they wanted their house or a wife, if a husband wanted to leave. Due to this a great deal of time was involved in investigating accusations.

The Gestapo would also conduct surveillance operations to monitor the activities of potential suspects. Once a suspect was identified, the Gestapo would move swiftly to arrest and detain them. Suspects were often held in Gestapo prisons, where they were subjected to harsh conditions, rounds of torture and generally brutal treatment.

The Gestapo ended up being headed by Heinrich Himmler, who also served as the head of the SS. It operated outside the bounds of the legal system (Not that there really was one for the Nazi regime), and its agents were granted powers to arrest and detain anyone suspected of opposing the Nazi regime. The Gestapo was known for its brutal interrogation techniques, which often involved torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse. At the end of the war all its surviving members were tried at Nuremburg

The SS became a vast organisation, encompassing many of areas mentioned on this page. It started as party security and expanded as the Nazi party did.

Himmler had his eye on taking total control of the policing for the Reich. Taking on the SS he slowly expanded, bringing on board the intelligencs agencies, the police and eventually the camp system as the army and SS moved its way across Europe.

The SS proactively developed its leaders to be brutal to those people that were not deemed to be of the right racial pedigree. They were the groups of leaders and the guards who committed some of the most horrific atrocities on there mission to eliminate those deemed undesirable. The SS were involved in every aspect of the final solution and some of the massacres tha toccurred, both inside and outside the concentration camp system.

It seemed the worse they were the more they were celebrated. The SS were literally a law unto themselves. By the end of the war those leaders that were still alive, faced convictions at the Nuremburg trials, with charges including Crimes against Humanity for their part in massacres and the holocaust.

The Sturmabteilung, otherwise known as the Brownshirts, were basically thugs under the guise of a paramilitary group. Made up of unemployed and disenfranchised, they bullied, looted and were violent when required in order to help the Nazi Party rise to power. At the height of their power it is estimated that there were approximately 2 million members.

The leadership of the SA, particularly Röhm, had ambitions to challenge the power of the regular German army, the Wehrmacht. This led to internal tensions within the Nazi party, culminating in the infamous "Night of the Long Knives" in 1934, where Hitler ordered the execution of Röhm and other SA leaders to consolidate his authority and remove perceived threats.

Following the purge, the SA's role shifted, and it became increasingly subservient to the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the Nazi regime's broader aims. While the SA retained a significant presence during public events and rallies, it lost much of its political power and autonomy.

Throughout its existence, the SA remained an instrument of Nazi conformity and served to enforce the party's ideological principles and maintain control over the German population. However, its significance diminished further as World War II approached, and the SS rose to prominence.