Ordnungspolizei (German: [ˈʔɔɐ̯dnʊŋspoliˌt͡saɪ], Order
Police), abbreviated Orpo, were the uniformed police force in Nazi
Germany between 1936 and 1945. The Orpo organization was absorbed
into the Nazi monopoly on power after regional police jurisdiction was
removed in favor of the central Nazi government (Verreichlichung of
the police). The Orpo was under the administration of the Interior
Ministry, but headed by members of the
Schutzstaffel (SS) until the
end of World War II. Owing to their green uniforms, Orpo were also
referred to as Grüne Polizei (green police). The force was first
established as a centralized organisation uniting the municipal, city,
and rural uniformed police that had been organised on a state-by-state
Ordnungspolizei encompassed virtually all of Nazi Germany's
law-enforcement and emergency response organizations, including fire
brigades, coast guard, and civil defense. In the prewar period,
Heinrich Himmler and Kurt Daluege, chief of the Order
Police, cooperated in transforming the police force of the Weimar
Republic into militarised formations ready to serve the regime's aims
of conquest and racial annihilation.
Police troops were first formed
into battalion-sized formations for the invasion of Poland, where they
were deployed for security and policing purposes, also taking part in
executions and mass deportations. During World War II, the force
had the task of policing the civilian population of the conquered and
colonized countries beginning in spring 1940. Orpo's activities
escalated to genocide with the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation
Barbarossa. Twenty-three police battalions, formed into independent
regiments or attached to
Wehrmacht security divisions and
Einsatzgruppen, perpetrated mass murder in the
Holocaust and were
responsible for widespread crimes against humanity and genocide
targeting the civilian population (Soviets and Poles) and Jewish men,
women, and children.
2.1 Branches of police
2.2 Auxiliary Police
3.1 War in the east
5 Orpo and SS relations
6 Orpo legacy
7 See also
10 Further reading
Heinrich Himmler was named Chief of German
the Interior Ministry on 17 June 1936 after Hitler announced a decree
which was to "unify the control of police duties in the Reich".
Traditionally, law enforcement in
Germany had been a state and local
matter. In this role, Himmler was nominally subordinate to Interior
Minister Wilhelm Frick. However, the decree effectively subordinated
the police to the SS. Himmler gained authority as all of Germany's
uniformed law enforcement agencies were amalgamated into the new
Ordnungspolizei, whose main office became populated by officers of the
The police were divided into the
Ordnungspolizei (Orpo or regular
police) and the
Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo or security police), which
had been established in June 1936. The Orpo assumed duties of
regular uniformed law enforcement while the SiPo consisted of the
secret state police (Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapo) and criminal
investigation police (
Kriminalpolizei or Kripo). The Kriminalpolizei
was a corps of professional detectives involved in fighting crime and
the task of the
Gestapo was combating espionage and political dissent.
On 27 September 1939, the SS security service, the Sicherheitsdienst
(SD) and the SiPo were folded into the Reich Main Security Office
(Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA). The RSHA symbolized the close
connection between the SS (a party organization) and the police (a
Police played a central role in carrying out the Holocaust.
By "both career professionals and reservists, in both battalion
formations and precinct service" (Einzeldienst) through providing men
for the tasks involved.
The German Order
Police had grown to 244,500 men by mid-1940. The
Orpo was under the overall control of
Reichsführer-SS Himmler as
Chief of the German
Police in the Ministry of the Interior. It was
initially commanded by SS-
Polizei Kurt Daluege. In May 1943, Daluege had a massive heart attack
and was removed from duty. He was replaced by SS-Obergruppenführer
und General der
Waffen-SS und der Polizei Alfred Wünnenberg, who
served until the end of the war. By 1941, the Orpo had been divided
into the following offices covering every aspect of German law
The central command office of
Ordnungspolizei was located in Berlin.
From 1943 was considered a full SS-Headquarters command as well.
The Orpo main office consisted of Command Department (Kommandoamt),
responsible for finance, personnel and medical; Administrative
(Verwaltung) charged with pay, pensions and permits; Economic
(Wirtschaftsverwaltungsamt); Technical Emergency Service (Technische
Nothilfe); Fire Brigades Bureau (Feuerwehren); (Colonial Police
(Kolonialpolizei); and SS and
Police Technical Training Academy
(Technische SS-und Polizeiakademie).
Branches of police
Ordnungspolizei in Minsk, Reichskommissariat Ostland, Weißruthenien,
Administration (Verwaltungspolizei) was the administrative branch of
the Orpo and had overall command authority for all Orpo police
stations. The Verwaltungspolizei also was the central office for
record keeping and was the command authority for civilian law
enforcement groups, which included the Gesundheitspolizei (health
police), Gewerbepolizei (commercial or trade police), and the
Baupolizei (building police). In the main towns, Verwaltungspolizei,
Kriminalpolizei would be organised into a police
administration known as the Polizeipraesidium or Polizeidirektion,
which had authority over these police forces in the urban district.
State protection police (Schutzpolizei des Reiches), state uniformed
police in cities and most large towns, which included police-station
duties (Revierdienst) and barracked police units for riots and public
safety (Kasernierte Polizei).
Municipal protection police (Schutzpolizei der Gemeinden),
municipal uniformed police in smaller and some large towns. Although
fully integrated into the Ordnungspolizei-system, its police officers
were municipal civil servants. The civilian law enforcement in towns
with a municipal protection police was not done by the
Verwaltungspolizei, but by municipal civil servants. Until 1943 they
also had municipal criminal investigation departments, but that year,
all such departments with more than 10 detectives, were integrated
into the Kripo.
Gendarmerie (state rural police) were tasked with frontier law
enforcement to include small communities, rural districts, and
mountainous terrain. With the development of a network of motorways or
Autobahnen, motorized gendarmerie companies were set up in 1937 to
secure the traffic.
Traffic police (Verkehrspolizei) was the traffic-law enforcement
agency and road safety administration of Germany. The organization
patrolled Germany's roads (other than motorways which were controlled
by Motorized Gendarmerie) and responded to major accidents. The
Verkehrspolizei was also the primary escort service for high Nazi
leaders who traveled great distances by automobile.
Water police (Wasserschutzpolizei) was the equivalent of the coast
guard and river police. Tasked with the safety and security of
Germany's rivers, harbors, and inland waterways, the group also had
authority over the SS-Hafensicherungstruppen ("harbour security
troops") which were
Allgemeine-SS units assigned as port security
Fire police (Feuerschutzpolizei) consisted of all professional
fire departments under a national command structure.
The Orpo Hauptamt also had authority over the Freiwillige Feuerwehren,
the local volunteer civilian fire brigades. At the height of the
Second World War, in response to heavy bombing of Germany's cities,
Feuerschutzpolizei and Freiwillige Feuerwehren numbered
nearly two million members.
Air raid protection police (Luftschutzpolizei) was the civil
protection service in charge of air raid defence and rescue victims of
bombings in connection with the
Technische Nothilfe (Technical
Emergency Service) and the
Feuerschutzpolizei (professional fire
departments). Created as the Security and Assistance Service
(Sicherheits und Hilfsdienst) in 1935, it was renamed
Luftschutzpolizei in April 1942. The air raid network was supported by
Reichsluftschutzbund (Reich Association for Air Raid Precautions)
an organization controlled from 1935 by the Air Ministry under Hermann
Göring. The RLB set up an organization of air raid wardens who were
responsible for the safety of a building or a group of houses.
Technical Emergency Corps (Technische Nothilfe; TeNo) was a corps of
engineers, technicians and specialists in construction work. The TeNo
was created in 1919 to keep the public utilities and essential
industries running during the wave of strikes. From 1937, the TeNo
became a technical auxiliary corps of the police and was absorbed into
Orpo Hauptamt. By 1943, the TeNo had over 100,000 members.
Feuerwehren, volunteer fire departments, conscripted fire departments
and industrial fire departments were auxiliary police subordinate to
Radio protection (Funkschutz) was made up of SS and Orpo security
personnel assigned to protect German broadcasting stations from attack
and sabotage. The Funkschutz was also the primary investigating
service which detected illegal reception of foreign radio broadcasts.
Postschutz (Postal protection) comprised roughly 45,000 members and
was tasked with the security of Germany's Reichspost, which was
responsible not only for the mail but other communications media such
as the telephone and telegraph systems.
SS-Bahnschutz replaced the Railway police within the Reich territory
Factory protection police (Werkschutzpolizei) were the security guards
of Nazi Germany. Its personnel were civilians employed by industrial
enterprises, and typically were issued paramilitary uniforms.
Urban and rural emergency police (Stadt- und Landwacht) created in
1942 as a part-time police reserve. Abolished in 1945 with the
creation of the Volksturm.
Schutzmannschaft was the collaborationist auxiliary police in occupied
Railway protection police (Bahnschutzpolizei) was made up of full-time
and part-time police officers who were employees of the Reichsbahn
(state railway). The
Bahnschutzpolizei was tasked with railway safety
and also with preventing espionage and sabotage of railway property.
They were not subordinated to Hauptamt Ordnungspolizei, only the
Ordnungspolizei conducting a raid (razzia) in the Kraków ghetto,
Between 1939 and 1945, the
Ordnungspolizei maintained military
formations, trained and outfitted by the main police offices within
Germany. Specific duties varied widely from unit to unit and
from one year to another. Generally, the Order
Police were not
directly involved in frontline combat, except for Ardennes in May
1940, and the
Siege of Leningrad
Siege of Leningrad in 1941. The first 17 battalion
formations (the SS-Polizei-Bataillone) were deployed by Orpo in
September 1939 along with the
Wehrmacht army in the invasion of
Poland. The battalions guarded Polish prisoners of war behind the
German lines, and carried out expulsion of Poles from Reichsgaue under
the banner of Lebensraum. They also committed atrocities against
both the Catholic and the Jewish populations as part of those
"resettlement actions". After hostilities had ceased, the
battalions - such as Reserve
Police Battalion 101 - took up the role
of security forces, patrolling the perimeters of the Jewish ghettos in
German-occupied Poland (the internal ghetto security issues were
managed by the SS, SD, and the Criminal Police, in conjunction with
the Jewish ghetto administration).
Each battalion consisted of approximately 500 men armed with light
infantry weapons. In the East, each company also had a heavy
machine-gun detachment. Administratively, the
remained under the Chief of
Police Kurt Daluege, but operationally
they were under the authority of regional SS and
Police Leaders (SS-
und Polizeiführer), who reported up a separate chain of command
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The battalions were
used for various auxiliary duties, including the so-called
anti-partisan operations, support of combat troops, and construction
of defense works (i.e. Atlantic Wall). Some of them were focused
on traditional security roles as an occupying force, while others were
directly involved in actions designed to inflict terror and in the
ensuing Holocaust. While they were similar to Waffen-SS, they were
not part of the thirty-eight
Waffen-SS divisions, and should not be
confused with them, including the national 4th SS Polizei
Panzergrenadier Division. The battalions were originally numbered
in series from 1 to 325, but in February 1943 were renamed and
renumbered from 1 to about 37, to distinguish them from the
Schutzmannschaft auxiliary battalions recruited from local population
in German-occupied areas.
Police descending to the cellars on a "Jew-hunt" in Lublin,
December 1940. The
Lublin Ghetto was set up in March 1941
War in the east
Police Battalions operating both independently and in
conjunction with the Einsatzgruppen, became an integral part of the
Final Solution in the two years following the attack on the Soviet
positions in eastern Poland on 22 June 1941, commencing Operation
Barbarossa. The first mass killing of 3,000 Jews by the Battalion 309
occurred in occupied Białystok on 12 July 1941.
were part of the first and second wave of killings in 1941–42 in the
formerly Soviet-occupied eastern Poland and also during the killing
operations in the USSR proper, whether as part of
Police Regiments, or
as separate units reporting directly to the local SS and police
leader. They included the Reserve
Police Battalion 101 from
Hamburg, Battalion 133 of the Nürnberg Order Police, Battalions 45,
309 from Koln, and 316 from Bottrop-Oberhausen. Their murder
operations bore the brunt of the
Holocaust by bullet on the Eastern
Front. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, this latter
role was obscured both by the lack of court evidence and by deliberate
obfuscation, while most of the focus was on the better-known
Einsatzgruppen ("Operational groups") who reported to the
Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) under Reinhard Heydrich.
Police Battalions involved in direct killing operations were
responsible for at least 1 million deaths. Starting in 1941 the
Battalions and local Order
Police units helped to transport Jews from
the ghettos in both Poland and the USSR (and elsewhere in occupied
Europe) to the concentration and extermination camps, as well as
operations to hunt down and kill Jews outside the ghettos. The
Police were one of the two primary sources from which the
Einsatzgruppen drew personnel in accordance with manpower needs (the
other being the Waffen-SS).
In 1942, the majority of the police battalions were re-consolidated
into thirty SS and
Police Regiments. These formations were intended
for garrison security duty, anti-partisan functions, and to support
Waffen-SS units on the Eastern Front. Notably, the regular military
police of the
Wehrmacht (Feldgendarmerie) were separate from the
Main article: 4th SS Polizei Division
Troops from the SS
Police Battalions load Jews into boxcars at
France in January 1943.
The primary military arm of the
Ordnungspolizei was the SS Polizei
Panzergrenadier Division of the Waffen-SS. Mainly used
as a rear guard and reserve formation, the Polizei Division was
historically known as being undertrained and lacking in skilled combat
tactics. The division consisted of four police regiments composed of
Orpo personnel and was typically used to rotate police members into a
military situation, so as not to lose police personnel to the general
draft of the
Wehrmacht or to the full SS divisions of the regular
Very late in the war several Orpo SS-
Police regiments were transferred
Waffen-SS to form the 35th SS and
Police Grenadier Division.
Orpo and SS relations
By the start of the
Second World War
Second World War in 1939, the SS had effectively
gained complete operational control over the German Police, although
outwardly the SS and
Police still functioned as separate entities. The
Ordnungspolizei maintained its own system of insignia and Orpo ranks
as well as distinctive police uniforms. Under an SS directive known as
the "Rank Parity Decree", policemen were highly encouraged to join the
SS and, for those who did so, a special police insignia known as the
SS Membership Runes for Order
Police was worn on the breast pocket of
the police uniform.
In 1940, standard practice in the German
Police was to grant
equivalent SS rank to all police generals.
Police generals who were
members of the SS were referred to simultaneously by both rank titles
- for instance, a Generalleutnant in the
Police who was also an SS
member would be referred to as SS Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant
der Polizei. In 1942, SS membership became mandatory for police
generals, with SS collar insignia (overlaid on police green backing)
worn by all police officers ranked Generalmajor and above.
The distinction between the police and the SS had virtually
disappeared by 1943 with the creation of the SS and
which were consolidated from earlier police security battalions. SS
officers now routinely commanded police troops and police generals
serving in command of military troops were granted equivalent SS rank
in the Waffen-SS. In August 1944, when Himmler was appointed Chef des
Ersatzheeres (Chief of the Home Army), all police generals
automatically were granted
Waffen-SS rank because they had authority
over the prisoner-of-war camps.
Himmler's ultimate aim was to replace the regular police forces of
Germany with a combined racial/state protection corps
(Staatsschutzkorps) of pure SS units. Local law enforcement would be
undertaken by the
Allgemeine-SS with the
homeland-security and political-police functions.
At the close of the Second World War, the Orpo ceased to exist,
although many of its personnel continued with business as usual,
performing police services for the Allied occupation forces. The
traditions of the Orpo continued in East Germany, which maintained a
state police force (Volkspolizei) designed after the SS structures,
being based on a centralized system. In West Germany, the police were
decentralized again, as they had been before 1936, with each of the
new federal states (called Bundesländer) establishing its own police
force, the Landespolizei, each still exist today. Many Landespolizei
regulations, procedures, and even some uniforms, which are green, and
insignia, can be traced back to the pre-1936 forces.
Ranks and insignia of the Ordnungspolizei
Police Long Service Award
Glossary of Nazi Germany
Schutzmannschaft, auxiliary policemen raised from local populations in
Eastern Europe during World War II
Hilfspolizei, a type of German police unit
^ Burkhardt Müller-Hillebrandt: Das Heer (1933-1945), Vol. III Der
Zweifrontenkrieg, Mittler, Frankfurt am Main 1969, p. 322
^ a b c Struan Robertson. "The 1936 "Verreichlichung" of the Police".
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^ Showalter 2005, p. xiii.
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^ Weale 2012, pp. 140–144.
^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 783.
^ Browning, Nazi Policy, p. 143.
^ McKale 2011, p. 104.
^ a b c d Williamson, Gordon (2012). "Structure".
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^ McNab 2013, pp. 60, 61.
^ Goldhagen 1997, p. 204.
^ a b Browning 1998, p. 38.
^ Breitman, Richard, Official Secrets, Hill and Wang: NY, 1998, p 5
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^ a b c Williamson, Gordon (2004). The SS: Hitler's Instrument of
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^ Rossino, Alexander B., Hitler Strikes Poland, University of Kansas
Press: Lawrence, Kansas, 2003, pp 69–72, en passim.
^ Hillberg, p 81.
^ Browning 1992, p. 45 (72 in PDF).
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^ a b c United States War Department (1995) [March 1945]. Handbook on
German Military Forces. Louisiana State University Press.
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^ Browning 1998, pp. 11-12, 31-32.
^ Patrick Desbois (27 October 2008). "The Shooting of Jews in Ukraine:
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