Machinery of terror

Machinery of terror

The National Socialist terror apparatus consisted essentially of four complexes: the police, controlled by the SS; the concentration camp system, also controlled by the SS; the Security Service (SD) of the Reichsführer-SS Himmler; and the criminal justice system for political offenders. The main instruments of the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, Secret State Police) were "protective custody" and "special treatment". "Protective custody", which was predominantly carried out in a concentration camp, allowed indeterminate imprisonment without sentencing. "Special treatment" was the term that disguised the administratively ordered execution of prisoners. It was introduced at the beginning of the war. The police were now pursuers of law-breakers, they were judges, and they were executioners all rolled into one. The justice system for political offences included all the institutions of criminal justice, from the local courts to the Supreme Court of the German Reich. Special institutions were the Sondergerichte (Special Courts), created as early as 1933, and the Volksgerichtshof (People's Court) created in 1934. From 1933 to 1945 civil courts pronounced 16,650 death sentences, ca. 95% during the war. The military courts pronounced an additional ca. 25,000 death sentences. The number of victims of the police justice system is unknown. At the beginning of the war, the Gestapo, the criminal investigation police, and the Security Service were combined into the Reich Security Main Office. This became the central office for the war of annihilation. The so-called Senior SS and Police Officers were assigned to the occupied territories. With a minimum of bureaucracy they could draw upon all the divisions of the SS and police and hence became generals of the extermination war and organizers of the "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem".

Swearing-in ceremony of Adolf Hitler's SS-Leibstandarte
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The wording of the oath
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Political Police
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Reich Police
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The structure of the Security Service of the Reichsfuehrer SS (the SD)
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The concept of the enemy
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Concentration Camps
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Political judiciary
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The execution site in Berlin-Plötzensee prison
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The Reich Security Main Office
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SS and police in the occupied areas
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