Reichssicherheitsdienst

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Reich Security Service (RSD)
Reichssicherheitsdienst
Flag Schutzstaffel.svg
The RSD was a branch of the SS.
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1985-1205-502, Nürnberg, Luitpoldhalle, Reichsparteitag.jpg
RSD stand among dignitaries at the arrival of Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring in Nürnberg, 1936.
Agency overview
Formed 1933
Preceding agencies Führerschutzkommando
SS-Begleitkommando des Führers
Dissolved May 8, 1945
Type Security Service
Jurisdiction Germany Germany
Occupied Europe
Headquarters Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, Berlin
52°30′26″N 13°22′57″E / 52.50722°N 13.38250°E / 52.50722; 13.38250
Minister responsible Heinrich Himmler1931–1945, Reichsführer-SS
Agency executive SS-Gruppenführer Johann Rattenhuber (1933 - 1945)
Parent agency Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel

The Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD, lit. "Reich security service") was an SS security force of Nazi Germany. Originally the personal bodyguards of Adolf Hitler, it later provided men for the protection of other high-ranking leaders of the Nazi regime. The group, although similar in name, was completely separate from the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) which was the formal intelligence service for the SS, the Nazi Party and later Nazi Germany.

Its role also included personal security, investigation of assassination plots, surveillance of locations before the arrival of Nazi dignitaries and vetting buildings as well as guests. The RSD had the power to request assistance from any other SS organisations and take command of all Ordnungspolizei (order police) in its role protecting the Nazi functionaries.

Formation[edit]

The RSD was founded on 15 March 1933 as the Führerschutzkommando ("Führer protection command") under the command of then SS-Standartenführer Johann Rattenhuber.[1] His deputy was Peter Högl. Its original members were Bavarian criminal-police officers who were charged with protecting the Führer only while he was inside the borders of Bavaria. Since the small group was made up of Bavarian police officers, they could only operate within the area of their authority.[2] Hitler's protection outside Bavaria was already entrusted to an eight-member bodyguard called the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers which was founded in February 1932.[3]

Hitler wanted a home-grown close protection group while in Munich because this was the traditional birthplace of the Nazi Party and where any plots would therefore have added significance. In the spring of 1934, the Führerschutzkommando replaced the Begleitkommando for Hitler's overall protection throughout Germany.[2] In 1935 the Führerschutzkommando was made up of 17 police officers under Rattenhuber's command.[2] The group was officially renamed the Reichssicherheitsdienst (English: Reich Security Service; RSD) on 1 August 1935.[4] Himmler finally gained control over the RSD in October 1935. Although Himmler was officially named chief, Rattenhuber remained in command and took his orders for the most part from Hitler.[4] Himmler was given administrative control over the unit and the SS gained influnence over its members.[4]

As for the Begleitkommando des Führers, it was expanded and renamed the Führerbegleitkommando (Escort Command of the Führer; FBK).[3] The FBK continued under separate command until April 1945 and remained responsible for Hitler's personal protection.[5]

Pre-war role[edit]

In 1936 a resolution of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht gave members of the RSD the status of being Wehrmacht officers but with authority that included extra jurisdiction and privileges. It was then called the Reichssicherheitsdienst Gruppe Geheime Feldpolizei z. b. V (Reich Security Service Group Secret Field Police z. b. V). The group was technically on the staff of Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler with its personnel wearing the uniform of the SS with the SD diamond on their lower left sleeve. Those who were eligible to claim SS membership could join the RSD and all officers had to present proof that they were of German blood. In 1937 all RSD officers were made members of the SS.

Wartime operations[edit]

On the outbreak of World War II, the RSD protected Hitler and other leaders as they travelled around occupied Europe. As RSD chief, Rattenhuber was responsible for securing Hitler's field headquarters. In particular, a battalion guarded the Wolf's Lair near the town of Rastenburg, now Kętrzyn in Poland. Hitler first arrived at the Wolf's Lair on 23 June 1941 and departed for the last time on 20 November 1944. Overall, he spent over 800 days there during that three and half year period. Rattenhuber's deputy, Peter Högl was appointed Chief of Department 1 (responsible for the personal protection of Hitler).

In January 1945, Rattenhuber accompanied Hitler and his entourage into the bunker complex under the Reich Chancellery gardens in the central government sector of Berlin.[6] On 27 April, Högl was sent to find Himmler's liaison man in Berlin, SS-Gruppenführer and Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS Hermann Fegelein who had deserted his post at the bunker complex. Högl's squard found Fegelein who was brought back to the Führerbunker and later shot on 28 April. After Hitler committed suicide on 30 April, Rattenhuber and other RSD officers were captured by the Red Army in Berlin on 1 May 1945.[7] Rattenhuber served 10 years in prison before being released by the Soviets in 1955.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 288.
  2. ^ a b c Hoffmann 2000, p. 32.
  3. ^ a b Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 16, 287, 288.
  4. ^ a b c Hoffmann 2000, p. 36.
  5. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 16, 287, 293.
  6. ^ Beevor 2002, p. 139.
  7. ^ Beevor 2002, pp. 388–389.
Bibliography
  • Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin – The Downfall 1945. New York: Viking-Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-03041-5. 
  • Hoffmann, Peter (2000) [1979]. Hitler's Personal Security: Protecting the Führer 1921-1945. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-30680-947-7. 
  • Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999) [1995]. The Last Days of Hitler: The Legends, the Evidence, the Truth. Trans. Helmut Bögler. London: Brockhampton Press. ISBN 978-1-86019-902-8.