The REICH MAIN SECURITY OFFICE (German : Reichssicherheitshauptamt
or RSHA) was an organization subordinate to
Heinrich Himmler in his
dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei (Chief of German Police)
Reichsführer-SS , the head of the Nazi Party's Schutzstaffel
(SS). The organization's stated duty was to fight all "enemies of the
Reich" inside and outside the borders of
Nazi Germany .
* 1 Formation
* 2 Organization
* 3 Role in the Holocaust
* 4 See also
* 5 Explanatory notes
* 6 References
* 6.1 Citations
* 6.2 Bibliography
* 7 Further reading
* 8 External links
The RSHA was created by Himmler on 27 September 1939. Himmler's
assumption of total control over all security and police forces in
Germany was the "crucial precondition" for the establishment and
growth of the SS state. He combined the Nazi Party's
Sicherheitsdienst (SD; SS intelligence service) with the
Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo; "Security Police"), which was nominally
under the Interior Ministry. The SiPo was composed of two
sub-departments, the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo; "Secret State
Police") and the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo; "Criminal Police"). The RSHA
was often abbreviated to "RSi-H" in correspondence to avoid confusion
SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (RuSHA; "SS Race and
The creation of the RSHA represented the formalization, at the top
level, of the relationship under which the SD served as the
intelligence agency for the security police. A similar coordination
existed in the local offices. Within Germany and areas which were
incorporated within the Reich for the purpose of civil administration,
local offices of the Gestapo, criminal police, and SD were formally
separate. They were subject to coordination by inspectors of the
security police and SD on the staffs of the local higher SS and police
leaders, however, and one of the principal functions of the local SD
units was to serve as the intelligence agency for the local Gestapo
units. In the occupied territories, the formal relationship between
local units of the Gestapo, criminal police, and SD was slightly
Throughout the course of wartime expansion, the RSHA continued to
grow at an enormous rate and was "repeatedly reorganized". Routine
reorganization did not change the tendency for centralization within
the Third Reich nor did it change the general trend for organizations
like the RHSA to develop direct relationships to Hitler, adhering to a
familiar National Socialist pattern of the leader-follower construct.
For the RSHA, its centrality within
Nazi Germany was pronounced since
departments like the
Gestapo (within the RSHA) were controlled by
Himmler and his immediate subordinate SS-
General of Police
Reinhard Heydrich ; they held the power of life and
death for nearly every German and were essentially above the law.
Reinhard Heydrich , the original chief of the RSHA, as an
Gruppenführer in August 1940
Heydrich remained the RSHA chief until he was assassinated in 1942 .
In January 1943, Himmler delegated the office to SS-Obergruppenführer
and General of Police
Ernst Kaltenbrunner , who headed the RSHA until
the end of
World War II
World War II in Europe. The head of the RSHA was also
known as the CSSD or Chef der
Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (Chief of
the Security Police and of the Security Service).
According to British author
Gerald Reitlinger , the RSHA 'became a
typical overblown bureaucracy... The complexity of RSHA was
unequalled... with at least a hundred sub-sections'.
The organization at its simplest was divided into seven offices
* AMT I, "Administration and Legal", originally headed by
Werner Best . In 1940, he was succeeded by
Bruno Streckenbach . In April 1944, Erich Ehrlinger
took over as department chief.
* AMT II, "Ideological Investigation", headed by SS-Brigadeführer
Franz Six .
* AMT III, "Spheres of German Life" or the Inland-SD , headed by
Otto Ohlendorf , was the SS information gathering
service for inside Germany. It also dealt with ethnic Germans outside
of Germany's prewar borders, and matters of culture .
* AMT IV, "Suppression of Opposition", formed from Abteilung II and
III of the Gestapa (better-known by the "sobriquet"
Gestapo ), headed
Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller . SS-
Eichmann , one of the main architects of the Holocaust , was head of
the Amt IV sub-department called Referat IV B4.
* AMT V, "Suppression of Crime" Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), originally
led by SS-
Arthur Nebe and later by SS-Oberführer
Friedrich Panzinger . This was the Criminal Police, which dealt with
non-political serious crimes, such as rape, murder, and arson. Amt V
was also known as the
Reichskriminalpolizeiamt (Reich Criminal Police
Department or RKPA).
* AMT VI, "Foreign Intelligence Service" or Ausland-SD , originally
led by SS-
Heinz Jost and later by SS-Brigadeführer
Walter Schellenberg .
* AMT VII, "Ideological Research and Evaluation" was a
reconstitution of AMT II overseen by SS-
Brigadeführer Professor Dr.
Franz Six . Later it was headed by SS-
Dittel . It was responsible for "ideological" tasks. These included
the creation of anti-semitic , anti-masonic propaganda, the sounding
of public opinion and monitoring of Nazi indoctrination by the public.
Gestapo (Amt IV) and Kripo (Amt V), together constituted the
Sicherheitspolizei ("Security Police") or SiPo. It was the SiPo that
did most of the work of rounding up Jews, Romani people and others
deemed to be enemies of the Reich, and deporting them to the
concentration and extermination camps in German Occupied Poland and
The RSHA also supplied security forces on an "as needed" basis to
local SS and Police Leaders . After the escape of prisoners from
Stalag Luft III in March 1944, for example, it was RSHA personnel who
facilitated the "
Stalag Luft III murders ".
During the earlier part of the fighting in the Soviet Union, the RSHA
also had operational control of certain
Waffen-SS units which Himmler
had withheld from the Army High Command (
OKH ); these units, the 1st
and 2nd SS Infantry Brigades and the
SS Cavalry Brigade , were formed
from former Standarten of the
Totenkopfverbände or concentration camp
service. Their role was not to serve in combat, except in emergencies,
but to carry out "police and security operations" in occupied
territories like the Einsatzgruppen.
ROLE IN THE HOLOCAUST
The RSHA controlled the security services of
Nazi Germany and the
Nazi Party (NSDAP). Its activities included intelligence-gathering,
criminal investigation, overseeing foreigners, monitoring public
opinion, and Nazi indoctrination. The RSHA was also "the central
office for the extra-judicial NS (National Socialist) measures of
terror and repression from the beginning of the war until 1945." The
list of "enemies" included Jews, Communists, Freemasons , pacifists,
and Christian activists. In addition to dealing with identified
enemies, the RSHA advocated expansionist policies for the Reich and
the Germanization of additional territory through settlement.
Generalplan Ost (General Plan East), which was the secret Nazi plan to
colonize Central and Eastern Europe exclusively with Germans,
displacing inhabitants in the process through genocide and ethnic
cleansing in order to obtain sufficient
Lebensraum , stemmed from
officials in the RSHA, among other Nazi organizations.
According to German historian, Klaus Hildebrand, the RSHA was
"particularly concerned with racial matters." An order issued by the
RSHA on 20 May 1941 overtly demonstrates its utter complicity for the
systematic extermination of Jews, namely since the order included
instructions to block emigration of any and all
Jews attempting to
leave Belgium or France as part of the "imminent
Final Solution of the
Jewish question." Besides blocking emigration, the RSHA, working with
Adolf Eichmann 's Reich Association of
Jews in Germany, deliberately
Jews still living in Germany and those of other countries by
promising them good living quarters, medical care, and food in
Theresienstadt (a concentration camp which was a way station to
extermination facilities like Auschwitz) if they turned over their
assets to the RSHA through a 'phony' home-purchase plan.
The RSHA also oversaw the
Einsatzgruppen , death squads that were
formed under the direction of Heydrich and operated by the SS.
Originally part of the SiPo, in September 1939 the operational control
Einsatzgruppen was taken over by the RSHA. When the units were
re-formed prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the men
Einsatzgruppen were recruited from the SD, Gestapo, Kripo,
Waffen-SS . The units followed the invasion forces of the
German Army into Eastern Europe. In its role as the national and NSDAP
security service, the RSHA coordinated activities among a number of
different agencies that had wide-ranging responsibilities within the
Reich. Not infrequently, commanders of
Einsatzkommando sub-units were also desk officers from the main office
of the RSHA. Historian
Raul Hilberg estimates that between 1941 and
Einsatzgruppen and related auxiliary troops killed more than
two million people, including 1.3 million Jews.
Part of the RSHA's efforts to encourage other nations (many of whom
were occupied by the Germans) to hand over their
Jews or entice them
into the arms of the Nazis, included coercing them by assigning Jewish
advisory officials, all of which was part and parcel to Eichmann's
goal of rounding up and transporting "
Jews from Slovakia and Hungary,
Croatia and Romania." Entry into the Second World War afforded the
RSHA the power to act as an intermediary in the areas extended far
beyond the Reich, which according to Hans Mommsen, lent itself to
solving "emergency situations" and the RHSA's radicalized destructive
goals like the Final Solution, were implemented thereupon with
bureaucratic methodical cruelty as its power expanded.
SS guards overseeing
Jews being rounded up in March 1943 during the
liquidation of the
Krakow Ghetto .
Display on bus stop at the former site of
Adolf Eichmann 's office in
Berlin on Kurfurstenstrasse 115 (now occupied by a hotel building).
After the foundation of the RSHA in September 1939, Eichmann became
director of RSHA sub-section (Referat) IV D 4 (Clearing Activities, or
Räumungsangelegenheiten) (1940), and, after March 1941, IV B 4
(Jewish Affairs, or Judenreferat). Both offices organized the
deportation of Jews. From this position, Eichmann played a central
role in the deportation of over 1.5 million
Jews from all over Europe
to Nazi killing centers.
* Glossary of
List of SS personnel
OVRA – Fascist Italy 's secret police , similar to the
SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA, the economic ">
* ^ Reichssicherheitshauptamt is variously translated as "Reich
Main Security Office", "Reich Security Main Office", "Reich Central
Security Main Office", "Reich Security Central Office", "Reich Head
Security Office", or "Reich Security Head Office".
* ^ Gellately, Robert (1991). The
Gestapo and German Society:
Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933-1945. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN
0-19-820297-0 . Retrieved June 20, 2009.
* ^ Broszat 1981 , p. 270.
* ^ Longerich 2012 , pp. 201, 469, 470.
* ^ McNab 2013 , p. 41.
* ^ Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (Washington, DC: U.S. G.P.O.,
1946), p. 92. Also see Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression,
Gestapo and SD
in AVALON Project, Yale University (retrieved 9 September 2014).
* ^ Bracher 1970 , p. 353.
* ^ Williamson 2002 , pp. 34, 35.
* ^ Shirer 1988 , pp. 373, 374.
* ^ Rich 1992 , p. 49.
* ^ Buchheim 1968 , p. 173.
* ^ A B C D Höhne 2001 , p. 256.
* ^ Reitlinger 1989 , p. 138.
* ^ Buchheim 1968 , pp. 172–187.
* ^ Weale 2012 , pp. 140–144.
* ^ Weale 2012 , p. 85.
* ^ Höhne 2001 , pp. 256–257.
* ^ "Adolf Eichmann: Timeline". US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Retrieved 23 December 2015.
* ^ A B Höhne 2001 , p. 257.
* ^ Friedlander 1997 , p. 55.
* ^ Buchheim 1968 , p. 174.
* ^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991 , p. 783.
* ^ Longerich 2012 , p. 470.
* ^ Mazower (2009). Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe,
* ^ Dülffer (2009).
Nazi Germany 1933-1945: Faith and
Annihilation, p. 157.
* ^ Hildebrand (1986). The Third Reich, p. 61.
* ^ Nürnberger Dokumente, NG-3104, as found in Bracher 1970 , p.
* ^ Bracher 1970 , p. 427.
* ^ Longerich 2010 , p. 185.
* ^ Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy," in
The Third Reich: The Essential Readings by Christian Leitz (Oxford:
Wiley-Blackwell, 1999), p. 86.
* ^ Burleigh (2001). The Third Reich: A New History, p. 599.
* ^ Rhodes (2002). Masters of Death: The SS-
Einsatzgruppen and the
Invention of the Holocaust, p. 257.
* ^ Bracher 1970 , p. 428.
* ^ Hans Mommsen, "Cumulative Radicalization and Self-Destruction
of the Nazi Regime", in Gregor, ed. Nazism (Oxford Readers), p. 193.
* ^ "Holocaust Encyclopedia: Adolf Eichmann". US Holocaust Memorial
Museum. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
* Benz, Wolfgang. A Concise History of the Third Reich. Berkeley,
CA: University of California Press, 2007.
* Bracher, Karl Dietrich (1970). The German Dictatorship: The
Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism. New York:
* Broszat, Martin (1981). The Hitler State: The Foundation and
Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich. Harlow:
Longmans. ISBN 978-0582489974 .
* Buchheim, Hans (1968). "The SS – Instrument of Domination". In
Krausnik, Helmut; Buchheim, Hans; Broszat, Martin; Jacobsen,
Hans-Adolf. Anatomy of the SS State. New York: Walker and Company.
ISBN 978-0-00211-026-6 .
* Burleigh, Michael . The Third Reich: A New History. New York: Hill
and Wang, 2001.
* Dülffer, Jost.
Nazi Germany 1933-1945: Faith and Annihilation.
London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
* Fischer, Klaus. Nazi Germany: A New History. New York: Continuum,
* Friedlander, Henry (1997). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From
Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN
* Gregor, Neil, ed. Nazism. (Oxford Readers). New York: Oxford
University Press, 2000.
* Hildebrand, Klaus. The Third Reich. London & New York: Routledge,
* Hilberg, Raul (2003). The Destruction of the European Jews, Third
Edition, Yale Univ. Press, 1961.
* Höhne, Heinz (2001). The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story
of Hitler’s SS. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0-14139-012-3 .
* Leitz, Christian, ed. The Third Reich: The Essential Readings.
Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1999.
* Longerich, Peter (2010). Holocaust: