The Reichsführer-SS and his empire
The Secret State Police
The Security Service of the Reichsführer-SS
The Reich Security Main Office 

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  Between 1933 and 1945, the central institutions responsible for the repressive and criminal policies of National Socialism were located on the terrain of the Topography of Terror, situated between Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse (today Niederkirchnerstrasse), Wilhelmstrasse and Anhalter Strasse. Here, in close proximity to the traditional government district, the Secret State Police, the SS leadership and the Reich Security Main Office set up their offices: the administrative headquarters of the Secret State Police and the notorious Gestapo "house prison" were located at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8; the neighbouring Hotel Prinz Albrecht housed the offices of the SS Reich leadership; and the Security Service (SD) of the SS Reich leadership was established at Wilhelmstrasse 102. As of 1939, Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8 was also the address of the newly founded Reich Security Main Office. 

With the concentration of these institutions at one site, this area in effect became the government district of the National Socialist SS and Police State. This is where Himmler, Heydrich, Kaltenbrunner and their assistants had their desks. At this "site of the perpetrators", important decisions were made concerning the persecution of political opponents, the "Germanisation" of occupied territories in Poland and the Soviet Union, the murder of Soviet prisoners of war and the genocide of the European Jews. This is where the infamous Special Police Units (Einsatzgruppen) were assembled and where the "Wannsee Conference" was prepared. There is no other site where terror and murder were planned and organised on the same scale. 

In addition to organising and administrating these crimes, the staff and office directors of the RSHA were also directly involved in the extermination policy of the Special Police Units (Einsatzgruppen) in the occupied countries. 

  The Reichsführer-SS and his empire

 The most important tasks of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and his Protection Squad (SS) were:

 ´ The persecution and elimination of all political elements which the Nazis regarded as opponents;

 ´ The creation of a "racially pure" Germany, in particular through the systematic persecution and expulsion of the Jews, 

´ The acquisition by force of more "living space" (Lebensraum) and the establishment of a new European order based on race.

For police and intelligence matters, the Security Service (SD) and the Secret State Police (Gestapo), which had gradually been merged with the SS, were at the disposal of the Reichsführer-SS. 

Himmler created a concentration camp system, which was used to isolate and eliminate all people who had been declared "state" or "national enemies." In addition to political opponents, a large number of minorities and social fringe groups were also considered "enemies".

 What had begun as a system to secure power within Germany was expanded in 1939 to include the persecution and elimination of all perceived or actual political opponents throughout Europe. The SS participated in the campaigns of conquest and played a decisive role in the planning and execution of the concept of racial-political repression and annihilation. Special extermination camps were established to murder the "racial-political major enemy", the Jewish population in Europe. 

  The Secret State Police

 One of the first aims of the Nazi state was to establish a powerful political police. In Prussia, on April 26, 1933, Prime Minister Hermann Göring set up the "Secret State Police Office". Separated from the general police force and re-established as an independent agency, the Secret State Police was soon removed from the Ministry for Home Affairs and made directly answerable to the Prime Minister.

  As of May 1933, the Secret State Police Office was located at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The establishment of State Police branch offices throughout the Prussian government districts was directed from here.

  Having gradually taken charge of almost all of the political police forces in the non-Prussian states, in April 1934, Heinrich Himmler became "Inspector" and thus the de facto head of the Secret State Police. He appointed Reinhard Heydrich head of the Secret State Police in Berlin.

 Following his appointment as "Chief of the German Police" on June 17, 1936, Himmler re-organised the entire police force. The Security Police Main Office now comprised the Gestapo and the Criminal Investigation Division (Head: Reinhard Heydrich); the Order Police comprised the municipal, rural and local police forces (Head: Kurt Daluege). 

In 1933, between two and three hundred people worked for the Secret State Police Office; by 1942, the agency employed more than 1,100 people, 477 of whom were working directly on the Prinz Albrecht Terrain. 

  The Gestapo "House Prison"

  In the late summer of 1933, a prison was established at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8, in the cellar of the Secret State Police Office. The "house prison", with its 39 cells, served to confine prisoners whose interrogation was of particular interest to the Gestapo. For most prisoners, the "house prison" was a transit station on the way to other prisons and concentration camps of the SS State. 

  Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8 was particularly notorious for its brutal torture methods, which the Gestapo used to obtain desired information from prisoners. The victims were primarily Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, members of smaller socialist groups and resistance organisations, and others who refused to be repressed by the regime. 

  With the outbreak of World War II, a number of single resistance fighters, such as Georg Elser, and members of small resistance groups, such as Robert Havemann, were imprisoned at the Gestapo "house prison". Members of the resistance group Harnack/Schulze-Boysen (Rote Kapelle) were particularly well represented, as were various groups involved in the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler, ranging from Socialists and the Kreisau Circle to nationalist-conservative civil servants and officers. Prisoners from the German-occupied countries also spent time during the war in the "house prison" at the Gestapo headquarters. 

  The Security Service of the Reichsführer-SS
  In 1934, when Reinhard Heydrich became head of the Prussian Secret State Police Office, he had already been in charge of the "Security Service of the Reichsf*hrer-SS" (SD) for three years. This agency's job was to maintain surveillance over the activities of opponents to the NSDAP and to avert any danger posed to the Party. 

In 1934, the SD was declared the sole intelligence service of the Party; in 1937, responsibilities were divided between the Gestapo and SD. Heydrich, as head of both the Gestapo and SD, ensured that both institutions would work in close co-operation. 

  A network of informers (V-Leute) provided an influx of information to the SD headquarters at Wilhelmstrasse 102. From here, "Reports from the Reich" (Meldungen aus dem Reich) were compiled regularly, informing the party leadership in a relatively candid manner of the political situation in Germany, and, in particular, of the mood of the population. Surveillance of the Party had been officially forbidden by Himmler, but was nonetheless tolerated internally. 

  Another important task of the SD was covert intelligence operations in Germany and foreign countries. One well-known example is the feigned attack on the Gleiwitz radio station, through which the SD, in conjunction with the Gestapo, was able to provide Hitler with the pretext he needed to justify the invasion of Poland. 

Many SS leaders from the ranks of the SD later played an important role in the "final solution of the Jewish question", particularly as members of the Special Police Units (Einsatzgruppen) of the Security Police and the SD.

  The Reich Security Main Office (RSHA)

 With the establishment of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) on September 27, 1939, Himmler concentrated the state-run Security Police (Gestapo and Criminal Investigation Division) and the party-run Security Service into one institution. He appointed Reinhard Heydrich head of the RSHA. 

  This organisational restructuring meant neither the dissolution of the older departments nor their concentration in one area. The offices of the RSHA, which in 1942 employed more than 3,400 workers in Berlin, were spread out over the entire city. Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8 housed the administrative offices and served as the postal address of the RSHA. 

  An intricate network of agencies was placed under the command of the RSHA. In addition to the guard units of the concentration and extermination camps, the most feared instruments of the National Socialist policy of repression and annihilation were the Security Police (Gestapo and Criminal Investigation Division), the agencies of the Security Service and the police battalions of the Order Police. In the occupied territories, the Special Police Units (Einsatzgruppen) and commandos served as mobile headquarters, while the commanders of the Security police and SD and their subordinate units were stationary.

 With the RSHA, Himmler and Heydrich created a centre of National Socialist rule from which almost all the policies of persecution and extermination in the "Third Reich" were directed. 

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