Sunday, 17 June 2012

On This Day in the Third Reich 1936

Heinrich Himmler is made Chief of German Police & empowered to unify control of police duties in Reich, with a position as State Secretary in the Interior Ministry. Himmler is responsible for legal matters concerning the press/carrying of arms/arms traffic/passports/personnel issues concerning police officials.

Reinhard Heydrich is placed in charge of the Sicherheitspolizei - Gestapo/criminal police/Security service and has complete control over committal & release of prisoners from concentration camps. Despite his best efforts Himmler refuses to give Heydrich control of the camps themselves, leaving them in the care of Theodore Eicke. Kurt Daluege was placed in charge of the uniformed police (Orpo) .From now on the police are infiltrated by members of the SchutzStaffel (SS), who take increasing numbers of posts. Many policemen join the SS.

Himmler was overlooked in the original handing out of posts to Nazi chieftains. From February 1933 until April 1934 Himmler gradually collected control of the political police in the Lander. With pressure from Hitler, Goering handed over de facto control of his Gestapo (Geheime Staats Polizei) to Himmler on 20th April 1934. This was in part pre-payment for the eradication of the Sturmabteilung (SA) as a potent political force. Himmler’s SS was subordinated to the head of the SA, an old crony of Hitler’s Ernst Rohm - a notorious homosexual and Himmler wanted autonomy for his SS.

Between them Himmler and Goering appear to have persuaded Hitler that Rohm and the SA were planning a pre-emptive strike on power. Rohm had made public his plans for the SA to take over defence of the Reich from the Reichswehr. In 1934 Hitler still needed the support of the army generals, who felt threatened by Rohm’s plans. The SA by this time numbered over 3 million members.

To many Germans the SA seemed out of control, with SA members attacking German citizen’s at will, happy to wear their uniforms while creating mayhem. On the 31st January members of the SA burst into the Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin & broke up an army officers’ celebration of the Kaiser's birthday.

Himmler with Rohm
There was conflict between Hitler and Rohm. Many of the SA believed in the socialism implicit in the name of the National Socialist party. They and Rohm believed in a ‘second’ revolution that Hitler had refused to contemplate. The result of the pressures, at the head of the Nazi state, was the downfall of Rohm and his SA during the Night of the Long Knives, engineered by Himmler and Goering. The SS took the lead role in the killings on 30th June 1934, ordered by Hitler. The SA survived, although Rohm did not, in a truncated form that never again held any real political power.

Himmler continued to build on his control of the political police, by working towards take-over of the ordinary police. The Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick (who was eventually to be replaced by Himmler in 1943) was also planning to take control of the German police. During the latter part of 1935 and the first half of 1936  Frick attempted to persuade Hitler to place him in control. It took a two pronged attack led by Himmler and Heydrich to persuade Hitler that his best interests would be served by giving control of security to his loyal Heinrich.

On the 22nd June Heydrich notified the Interior Ministry that Himmler had increased his demands to absorb a number of sections & desks in the ministry & consolidate complete control over police affairs. It was in this manner that power gradually became consolidated in Prinz Albrechtstrasse, where Himmler and Heydrich had taken up residence after April 1934.

The merging of roles of Reichsfuhrer SS & the Chief of German Police was significant in Himmler’s rise to take complete control of the German security apparatus. Control of and merging of the two organisations created a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The SS became synonymous with terror. The SS was to play major roles in the Austrian Anschluss in March 1938 and the incorporation of the Czech Sudetenland in October 1938 as well as the outright annexation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March the following year. By the time war broke out in September the core of the future Waffen SS was already blooded in the Czech take-over.

The name of the Gestapo resonates even today; though few people know of its head and the game changing death of Reinhard Heydrich, in June 1942. This led to the vengeful levelling of the Czech village of Lidice and the murder of its inhabitants; all a direct result of the events of 17th June 1936.


Hitler’s Enforcers – George Browder, Oxford University Press 1996
Foundations of the Nazi Police State – George Browder, University of Kentucky Press 2004

Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2011
Heinrich Himmler – Roger Manvell & Heinrich Fraenkel, Greenhill & Lionel Leventhal 2007

Himmler – Reichsfuhrer SS – Peter Padfield – Cassell & Co 2001

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