Reich Security Main Office

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from RSHA)

Reich Security Main Office
Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA)
Flag for the Chief of the SiPo and SD
RSHA overview
Formed27 September 1939 (27 September 1939)
Preceding agencies
Dissolved8 May 1945 (8 May 1945)
Type • Secret police
 • Intelligence agency
Jurisdiction German Reich
Nazi Germany German-occupied Europe
HeadquartersPrinz-Albrecht-Straße 8, Berlin
52°30′26″N 13°22′57″E / 52.50722°N 13.38250°E / 52.50722; 13.38250
Employees50,648 (February 1944 est.)[1]
Minister responsible
RSHA executives
Parent RSHAMinistry of the Interior (nominally)
Allgemeine SS
Child agencies

The Reich Security Main Office[a] (German: Reichssicherheitshauptamt pronounced [ˈʁaɪ̯çsˌzɪçɐhaɪ̯t͡sˌhaʊ̯ptʔamt] , RSHA) was an organization under Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacity as Chef der Deutschen Polizei (Chief of German Police) and Reichsführer-SS, the head of the Nazi Party's Schutzstaffel (SS). The organization's stated duty was to fight all "enemies of the Reich" inside and outside the borders of Nazi Germany.

Formation and development[edit]

Himmler established the RSHA on 27 September 1939. His assumption of control over all security and police forces in Germany was a significant factor in the growth in power of the Nazi state.[2] With the formation of the RSHA, Himmler combined under one roof the Nazi Party's Sicherheitsdienst (SD; SS intelligence service) and the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo; "Security Police"), which was nominally under the Interior Ministry. The SiPo was composed of two sub-departments, the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo; "Secret State Police") and the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo; "Criminal Police").[3] In correspondence, the RSHA was often abbreviated to RSi-H[4] to avoid confusion with the SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (RuSHA; "SS Race and Settlement Office").

The creation of the RSHA represented the formalization, at the highest level, of the relationship under which the SD served as the intelligence agency for the security police. A similar coordination existed in the local offices, where the Gestapo, criminal police, and SD were formally separate offices. This coordination was carried out by inspectors on the staff of the local higher SS and police leaders. One of the principal functions of the local SD units was to serve as the intelligence agency for the local Gestapo units. In the occupied territories, the formal relationship between local units of the Gestapo, criminal police, and SD was slightly closer.[5]

The RSHA continued to grow at an enormous rate during World War II in Europe.[6] Routine reorganization of the RSHA did not change the tendency for centralization within Nazi Germany, nor did it change the general trend for organizations like the RSHA to develop direct relationships to Adolf Hitler, adhering to Nazi Germany's typical pattern of the leader-follower construct.[7] For the RSHA, centrality within Nazi Germany was pronounced since the organization completed the integration of government and Nazi Party offices as to intelligence gathering and security. Departments like the SD and Gestapo (within the RSHA) were controlled directly by Himmler and his immediate subordinate SS-Obergruppenführer and General of Police Reinhard Heydrich; the two held the power of life and death for nearly every German and were essentially above the law.[8][9]

Reinhard Heydrich, the original chief of the RSHA, as an SS-Gruppenführer in August 1940

Heydrich remained the RSHA chief until his assassination in 1942. In January 1943 Himmler delegated the office to SS-Obergruppenführer and General of Police Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who headed the RSHA until the end of the war in Europe.[10] The head of the RSHA was also known as the CSSD or Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (Chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service).[11][12]


The RSHA "became a typical overblown bureaucracy", wrote British author Gerald Reitlinger. "The complexity of RSHA was unequalled... with at least a hundred... sub-sub-sections, a modest camouflage of the fact that it handled the progressive extermination which Hitler planned for the ten million Jews of Europe".[13]


The organization at its simplest was divided into seven offices (Ämter):[14][15]


No. Portrait Chief of SiPo and SD Took office Left office Time in office Party
Reinhard Heydrich
Heydrich, ReinhardSS-Obergruppenführer
Reinhard Heydrich
27 September 19394 June 1942 †2 years, 250 daysNSDAP
Heinrich Himmler
Himmler, HeinrichReichsführer-SS
Heinrich Himmler
4 June 194230 January 1943240 daysNSDAP
Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Kaltenbrunner, ErnstSS-Obergruppenführer
Ernst Kaltenbrunner
30 January 194312 May 19452 years, 102 daysNSDAP

Role in the Holocaust[edit]

RSHA-controlled activities included gathering intelligence, criminal investigation, overseeing foreigners, monitoring public opinion, and Nazi indoctrination. The RSHA was also "the central office for the extra-judicial NS (National Socialist) measures of terror and repression from the beginning of the war until 1945".[22] The list of persecuted people included Jews, Communists, Freemasons, pacifists, and Christian activists.[23] In addition to dealing with identified enemies, the RSHA advocated expansionist policies for the Reich and the Germanization of additional territory through settlement.[24] Generalplan Ost (General Plan East), which was the secret Nazi plan to colonize Central and Eastern Europe exclusively with Germans, displacing inhabitants in the process through genocide and ethnic cleansing in order to obtain sufficient Lebensraum, stemmed from officials in the RSHA, among other Nazi organizations.[25]

In its role as the national and Nazi security service, the RSHA coordinated activities among various agencies with wide-ranging responsibilities within the Reich.[26] According to German historian, Klaus Hildebrand, the RSHA was "particularly concerned with racial matters".[27] Adolf Eichmann stated in 1937 that "the anger of the people expressed in riots [was] the most effective means to rob the Jews of a sense of security".[28] Entry into the Second World War afforded the RSHA the power to act as an intermediary in conquered or occupied territories, which according to Hans Mommsen, lent itself to implementing the extermination of Jewish populations in those places.[29] An order issued by the RSHA on 20 May 1941 to block emigration of any and all Jews attempting to leave Belgium or France as part of the "imminent Final Solution of the Jewish question" demonstrates its complicity for the systematic extermination of Jews.[30] Part of the RSHA's efforts to encourage occupied nations to hand over their Jews included coercing them by assigning Jewish advisory officials.[31] Working with Eichmann's Reich Association of Jews in Germany, they also deliberately deceived Jews still living in Germany and other countries by promising them good living quarters, medical care, and food in Theresienstadt (a concentration camp which was a way station to extermination facilities like Auschwitz) if they turned over their assets to the RSHA through a fictitious home-purchase plan.[32]

Oversight of Einsatzgruppen[edit]

The RSHA oversaw the Einsatzgruppen, death squads that were formed under the direction of Heydrich and operated by the SS. Originally part of the SiPo, in September 1939 the operational control of the Einsatzgruppen was taken over by the RSHA. When the units were re-formed prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the men of the Einsatzgruppen were recruited from the SD, Gestapo, Kripo, Orpo, and Waffen-SS. The units followed the invasion forces of the German Army into Eastern Europe.[33] Not infrequently, commanders of Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommando sub-units were also desk officers from the main office of the RSHA.[34] Historian Raul Hilberg estimates that between 1941 and 1945 the Einsatzgruppen, related agencies, and foreign auxiliary troops co-opted by the Nazis,[b] killed more than two million people, including 1.3 million Jews.[37]

Rosenstrasse protest and RSHA involvement[edit]

SS guards overseeing Jews being rounded up in March 1943 during the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto
Display on bus stop at the site of Adolf Eichmann's former office in Berlin at Kurfurstenstrasse 115 (now occupied by a hotel building). After the founding of the RSHA in 1939, Eichmann became director of RSHA sub-section (Referat) IV D 4 (Clearing Activities, or Räumungsangelegenheiten) (1940), and, after March 1941, IV B 4 (Jewish Affairs, or Judenreferat). Both offices organized the deportation of Jews. From this position, Eichmann played a central role in transporting over 1.5 million Jews from all over Europe to Nazi killing centers.[38]

As early as 1941, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels began to complain that large numbers of Jews had not been transported out of Germany because of their work in the armaments industry.[39] They were protected from deportation as they were considered to be irreplaceable labourers, and many were also married to Aryan Germans. These Jews believed that these factors ensured their safety. But by late 1942, Hitler and the RSHA were ready to rid Berlin of its remaining German Jews.[40] In September 1942, Hitler decided that these labourers would still be protected, but that they were to be sent out of the country. Meanwhile, Auschwitz administrators were lobbying the government to send them more armaments workers, as they had struck a bargain with the arms producer IG Farben to construct a camp specifically for arms development using slave labour.[41] As a result, the RSHA decreed the Fabrik-Aktion, an initiative to register all Jews working in armaments production. The primary targets of this action were Jews who were married to Aryans.[40]

The RSHA planned to remove all German Jews from Berlin in early 1943 (the deadline to deport these Jews was 28 February 1943, according to a diary entry Goebbels wrote in early February).[42] On 27 February 1943, the RSHA sent plainclothes Gestapo officials to arrest intermarried Jews and charge them with various crimes.[43] Around 2,000 intermarried Jewish men were taken to Rosenstrasse 2–4, where they were held.[44] Goebbels complained that many of the arrests had been "thwarted" by industrialists since some 4,000 Jews were expected to be detained.[45] Angry wives—as "Women of German blood"—began protesting against this action in front of the building on Rosenstrasse where the men were being held.[46] On 6 March, all but 25 of the intermarried Jews were released; the 25 still held were sent to Auschwitz.[47] On 8 March, RSHA head Ernst Kaltenbrunner told Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick that the deportations had been limited to Jews who were not intermarried.[48]

See also[edit]


Informational notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Reichssicherheitshauptamt is variously translated in sources as "Reich Security Main Office", "Reich Main Security Office", "Reich Central Security Main Office", "Reich Security Central Office", "Reich Head Security Office", or "Reich Security Head Office".
  2. ^ Hilberg outlines the participation of non-German auxiliaries assigned to the Order Police and Einsatzgruppen in these killing operations within his work, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe, 1933–1945.[35] He also discusses the overall complicity of non-German governments.[36]


  1. ^ Nachama 2010, p. 358.
  2. ^ Broszat 1981, p. 270.
  3. ^ Longerich 2012, pp. 201, 469, 470.
  4. ^ McNab 2013, p. 41.
  5. ^ Avalon Project–Yale University, Judgement: The Accused Organizations.
  6. ^ Bracher 1970, p. 353.
  7. ^ Williamson 2002, pp. 34, 35.
  8. ^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 782.
  9. ^ Shirer 1988, pp. 373, 374.
  10. ^ Rich 1992, p. 49.
  11. ^ Buchheim 1968, p. 173.
  12. ^ a b c d Höhne 2001, p. 256.
  13. ^ Reitlinger 1989, p. 138.
  14. ^ Buchheim 1968, pp. 172–187.
  15. ^ Weale 2012, pp. 140–144.
  16. ^ Weale 2012, p. 85.
  17. ^ Höhne 2001, pp. 256–257.
  18. ^ USHMM, Adolf Eichmann: Key Dates.
  19. ^ a b Höhne 2001, p. 257.
  20. ^ Friedlander 1997, p. 55.
  21. ^ Buchheim 1968, p. 174.
  22. ^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 783.
  23. ^ Longerich 2012, p. 470.
  24. ^ Mazower 2008, pp. 204–211.
  25. ^ Dülffer 2009, p. 157.
  26. ^ Jacobsen 1999, p. 86.
  27. ^ Hildebrand 1984, p. 61.
  28. ^ Stoltzfus 2016, p. 118.
  29. ^ Mommsen 2000, p. 193.
  30. ^ Bracher 1970, p. 426.
  31. ^ Bracher 1970, p. 428.
  32. ^ Bracher 1970, p. 427.
  33. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 185.
  34. ^ Burleigh 2000, p. 599.
  35. ^ Hilberg 1992, pp. 87–102.
  36. ^ Hilberg 1992, pp. 75–86.
  37. ^ Rhodes 2002, p. 257.
  38. ^ USHMM, Adolf Eichmann.
  39. ^ Schulle 2009, p. 159.
  40. ^ a b Schulle 2009, p. 160.
  41. ^ Stoltzfus 2016, p. 251.
  42. ^ Stoltzfus 2016, p. 252.
  43. ^ Schulle 2009, pp. 160–161.
  44. ^ Stoltzfus 2016, pp. 252, 297.
  45. ^ Schulle 2009, p. 161.
  46. ^ Schulle 2009, p. 164.
  47. ^ Stoltzfus 2016, pp. 255–256.
  48. ^ Stoltzfus 2016, p. 258.


  • Bracher, Karl Dietrich (1970). The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism. New York: Praeger. ASIN B001JZ4T16.
  • Broszat, Martin (1981). The Hitler State: The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich. Harlow: Longmans. ISBN 978-0582489974.
  • Buchheim, Hans (1968). "The SS – Instrument of Domination". In Krausnik, Helmut; Buchheim, Hans; Broszat, Martin; Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf (eds.). Anatomy of the SS State. New York: Walker and Company. ISBN 978-0-00211-026-6.
  • Burleigh, Michael (2000). The Third Reich: A New History. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 978-0-80909-325-0.
  • Dülffer, Jost (2009). Nazi Germany 1933–1945: Faith and Annihilation. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-34061-393-1.
  • Friedlander, Henry (1997). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0807846759.
  • Hilberg, Raul (1992). Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe, 1933–1945. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-8419-0910-5.
  • Hildebrand, Klaus (1984). The Third Reich. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-0494-3033-5.
  • Höhne, Heinz (2001). The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0-14139-012-3.
  • Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf (1999). "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933–1945". In Christian Leitz (ed.). The Third Reich: The Essential Readings. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-63120-700-9.
  • Longerich, Peter (2010). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280436-5.
  • Longerich, Peter (2012). Heinrich Himmler: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-959232-6.
  • Mazower, Mark (2008). Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe. New York; Toronto: Penguin. ISBN 978-1-59420-188-2.
  • McNab, Chris (2013). Hitler's Elite: The SS 1939–45. Osprey. ISBN 978-1-78200-088-4.
  • Mommsen, Hans (2000). "Cumulative Radicalization and Self-Destruction of the Nazi Regime". In Neil Gregor (ed.). Nazism. Oxford Readers. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19289-281-2.
  • Nachama, Andreas (2010). Topography of Terror: Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office on Wilhelm-and Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse – A Documentation. Berlin: Stiftung Topographie des Terrors. ISBN 978-3-94177-207-6.
  • Reitlinger, Gerald (1989). The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922–1945. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306803512.
  • Rhodes, Richard (2002). Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-375-70822-7.
  • Rich, Norman (1992). Hitler's War Aims: Ideology, the Nazi State, and the Course of Expansion. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 978-0393008029.
  • Schulle, Diana (2009). "The Rosenstrasse Protest". In Beate Meyer; Hermann Simon; Chana Schütz (eds.). Jews in Nazi Berlin: From Kristallnacht to Liberation. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-22652-157-2.
  • Shirer, William L. (1988) [1961]. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Stoltzfus, Nathan (2016). Hitler's Compromises: Coercion and Consensus in Nazi Germany. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-21750-6.
  • Weale, Adrian (2012). Army of Evil: A History of the SS. New York: Caliber Printing. ISBN 978-0451237910.
  • Williamson, David G. (2002). The Third Reich (3rd ed.). London: Longman. ISBN 978-0582368835.
  • Zentner, Christian; Bedürftig, Friedemann (1991). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: MacMillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-897500-6.


Further reading[edit]

  • Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin, 2005.
  • Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich in Power. New York: Penguin, 2006.
  • Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich at War. New York: Penguin, 2009 [2008].
  • Office of US Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality, ed. (1946). Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.
  • Wildt, Michael (2002). Generation of the Unbound: The Leadership Corps of the Reich Security Main Office, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. ISBN 965-308-162-4.
  • Wildt, Michael (2010). An Uncompromising Generation: The Nazi Leadership of the Reich Security Main Office. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Williams, Max (2001). Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography. Vol. 1 Road To War. Church Stretton: Ulric Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9537577-5-6.
  • Williams, Max (2003). Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography. Vol. 2 Enigma. Church Stretton: Ulric Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9537577-6-3.