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The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office[1] or Reich Security Main Office[2] or Reich Security Head Office[3]) was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei (Chief of German Police) and Reichsf hrer-SS. The organization's stated duty was to fight all "enemies of the Reich" inside and outside the borders of Nazi Germany.



The RSHA was created by Reichsf hrer-SS Himmler on 27 September 1939 through the merger of the SS intelligence service the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) or Security Service, and the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) or Security Police which were nominally under the Interior Ministry. The SiPo was composed of the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo, Secret State Police) and the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo, Criminal Police).[4]

The first chief of the RSHA was SS-Obergruppenf hrer and General of Police Reinhard Heydrich until he was assassinated in 1942 (following a British-backed Czech operation). Following Heydrich's assassination, Himmler personally took over as acting chief of the RSHA, but in January 1943 delegated the office to SS-Obergruppenf hrer and General of Police Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who served as the head of the RSHA for the remainder of World War II.[5] The RSHA acronym for its director was 'CSSD': Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD ().[4]

The organization controlled the security service apparatus for the Reich and the Nazi Party. Its activities included intelligence-gathering, criminal investigation, overseeing foreigners, monitoring public opinion and Nazi indoctrination. Its stated duty was to find and eliminate the "enemies" of the Third Reich.[6] However, included within the list of "enemies" were Jews, Communists, Freemasons, pacifists and Christian activists.[7]

The RSHA also oversaw the Einsatzgruppen death squads that followed the invasion forces of the Wehrmacht Heer (German Army) into Eastern Europe. In its role as the nation's and NSDAP's security service, the RSHA coordinated activities among a number of different agencies that had wide-ranging responsibilities within Third Reich.

The RSHA was oftentimes abbreviated when part of correspondence as "RSi-H" so there would be no confusion with the SS department of RuSHA or SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (SS Race and Settlement Office).[4]

A high percentage of senior SS officers were attached to the RSHA and therefore it was a top heavy organization. For example, almost a quarter of all officers of the rank of SS-Sturmbannf hrer were part of the RSHA. Of all other SS offcier ranks, the RSHA had the following percentages[6]:

  • Obersturmbannf hrer - 20%
  • Standartenf hrer - 15.2%
  • Oberf hrer - 15%
  • Brigadef hrer - 11.5%
  • Gruppenf hrer - 7.4%
  • Obergruppenf hrer - 4.4%


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-sub sections'.[8]

The organization at its simplest was divided into seven offices ()[9]:

  • Amt II, Administration, Law, and Finance, headed by SS-Standartenf hrer Dr. Hans Nockemann.
  • Amt III, Inland-SD, headed by SS-Gruppenf hrer 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 V, Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), under SS-Gruppenf hrer Arthur Nebe. 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 VII, Written Records, overseen by SS-Brigadef hrer Professor Dr. Franz Six and later by SS-Obersturmbannf hrer Paul 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.

Amt IV, the Gestapo, and Amt V, the Kripo, together constituted the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) or SiPo. It was the SiPo that did most of the work in rounding up Jews, Romani People and other people deemed to be enemies of the Reich and deporting them to the concentration and extermination camps in German Occupied Poland and Ukraine.

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 Totenkopfverb nde 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.

Jews being rounded up in Krakow in March 1943. Jews being rounded up in Russia in July 1941.

See also


Further reading

  • Hilberg, Raul (2003). The Destruction of the European Jews, Third Edition, Yale Univ. Press, c1961.
  • H hne, Heinz:
    • Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf: Die Geschichte der SS. (original).
    • The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS. (Engl. edition of the above).
  • Lumsden, Robin (2002). A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine - SS, Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7110-2905-9.
  • McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923 1945, Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-906626-49-5.
  • Wildt, Michael (2002). Generation of the Unbound: The Leadership Corps of the Reich Security Main Office, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, (Engl., in original German, Hamburg: 2002). ISBN 965-308-162-4.
  • Williams, Max (2001) (2003). Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1 and 2, Ulric Publishing. ISBN 0-9537577-5-7 and ISBN 0-9537577-6-5.

External links

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