What was it like to live under Hitler’s lead? Who were the SS and the Gestapo? What was work like? What about leisure time? This article explains everything!
National and Local Government
Hitler’s main aim was to get people to follow him. He would achieve this mainly through propaganda – which was very successful, but for some of the time, some people continued to refuse Nazi ideas. They would be forced to accept them. Germany became a police state – which meant that the police had the power to do whatever they wanted – based up on the idea that they were doing something ‘good to the country’. Hitler developed several organisations to help enforce his terror.
The SS or Schutzstaffel were set up in 1925 as part of the SA. They were led by Henrich Himmler and were completely loyal to Hitler and would carry out any order. They were regarded as perfect examples of Aryan men.
The SS were eventually divided into three main sections…
- The SD or Sicherheitdienst were responsible for state security – meaning that their task was to deal with any enemies of the Nazis.
- The Waffen SS were units who fought alongside the army.
- The Death’s Head Units took control of the concentration camps.
The Gestapo (Gehemie Staatspolizei) were Hitler’s secret police. Under the administration of the SS the role of the Gestapo was to investigate and combat “all tendencies dangerous to the State”. The Gestapo spies affected the lives of many people living in Nazi Germany, including leader of the Confessing Church , Dietrich Bonhoeffer , who was murdered by the Gestapo in 1945. This was the problem faced by any churchman who tried to oppose the Nazis. Anything they wrote or said would be noted by the Gestapo.
The Gestapo could arrest anyone and send them to concentration camps without the need of a trial. They used informers to uncover any attempts to organise opposition. The Gestapo ended up becoming under SS control after Himmler’s deputy, Richard Heydrich became head of the Gestapo in 1936.
Since the SD and the Gestapo had the power to stick people in concentration camps without a trial, the courts could do very little to protect Germans. However, this was not the role of the courts. Jewish and female judges were forced to leave their jobs (both for reasons mentioned later) and were replaced with Nazi supporters. Very unfairly, any opponents of the Nazis would still be punished even if the did (rarely) manage to get a trial. By 1939, the courts had sentenced over 500 people to death and sent many others to the concentration camps.