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
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
Agency executive
Parent agency Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel

The Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD, lit. "Reich security service") was an SS security force of Nazi Germany. Originally, bodyguards for 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"; FSK) under the command of then SS-Standartenführer Johann Rattenhuber.[1] His deputy was Peter Högl.[2] Originally charged with protecting the Führer only while he was inside the borders of Bavaria, its members consisted of criminal-police detectives of the Bavarian police. Since the small group was made up of Bavarian police officers, they could only operate within the area of their authority.[3] Hitler's protection outside Bavaria was already entrusted to an eight-member bodyguard known as the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers which was founded on 29 February 1932.[4][5]

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 SS-Begleitkommando for Hitler's overall protection throughout Germany.[3] In 1935 the Führerschutzkommando was made up of 17 police officers under Rattenhuber's command.[3] The FSK was officially renamed the Reichssicherheitsdienst (Reich Security Service; RSD) on 1 August 1935.[6] 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.[6] Himmler was given administrative control over the unit and the SS gained influence over its members.[6]

As for the SS-Begleitkommando, it was expanded and became known as the Führerbegleitkommando (Escort Command of the Führer; FBK).[4] The FBK continued under separate command until April 1945 and remained responsible for Hitler's close personal protection.[7] For trips and public events the RSD and FBK worked together for security and protection. They still operated as two groups and used separate vehicles for these activities. At those occasions, Rattenhuber would be in overall command and the FBK chief, at the time, would act as his deputy.[8]

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 jurisdictional powers and privileges.[9] It was formally called the Reichssicherheitsdienst Gruppe Geheime Feldpolizei z. b. V (Reich Security Service Group Secret Field Police z. b. V). They were considered military police officers which were 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.[9] 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 breaking the link to the regular army.[9]

Wartime operations[edit]

On the outbreak of World War II, the RSD protected Hitler, along with other government and inner circle members as they travelled around occupied Europe.[2] By 1944, there were seventeen RSD units protecting the top leadership.[10]

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. Rattenhuber's deputy, Peter Högl was appointed Chief of RSD Department 1 (responsible for the personal protection of Hitler on a day-to-day basis during the war).[2] The Wolf's Lair had three security zones. Sperrkreis 1 (Security Zone 1) was located at the heart of the Wolf's Lair. Ringed by steel fencing and guarded by RSD and FBK men, it contained Hitler's bunker and ten other camouflaged bunkers built from 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) thick steel-reinforced concrete.[11] 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.[12]

By early 1945, Germany's military situation was on the verge of total collapse. In January 1945, Rattenhuber accompanied Hitler and his entourage into the bunker complex under the Reich Chancellery garden in the central government sector of Berlin.[13] To the Nazi leadership it was clear that the battle for Berlin, which started in April, would be the final battle of the war.[13] On 27 April 1945, Högl was sent out to find Himmler's liaison man, SS-Gruppenführer and Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS Hermann Fegelein who had deserted his post at the Führerbunker.[14] Fegelein was caught by the RSD squad in his Berlin apartment, wearing civilian clothes and preparing to flee to Sweden or Switzerland. He was carrying cash—German and foreign—and jewellery, some of which belonged to Eva Braun. Högl also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler's attempted peace negotiations with the western Allies.[15] Fegelein was brought back to the Führerbunker and shot on 28 April.[15] After Hitler committed suicide on 30 April, Rattenhuber and other RSD officers were captured by the Red Army in Berlin on 1 May 1945.[16] Rattenhuber served 10 years in prison before being released by the Soviets on 10 October 1955.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 288.
  2. ^ a b c Felton 2014, p. 23.
  3. ^ a b c Hoffmann 2000, p. 32.
  4. ^ a b Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 16, 287.
  5. ^ Hoffmann 2000, p. 48.
  6. ^ a b c Hoffmann 2000, p. 36.
  7. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 16, 287, 293.
  8. ^ Felton 2014, pp. 32, 33.
  9. ^ a b c Felton 2014, p. 18.
  10. ^ Felton 2014, p. 24.
  11. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 624, 792.
  12. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 624.
  13. ^ a b Beevor 2002, p. 139.
  14. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 942.
  15. ^ a b Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 277, 278.
  16. ^ Beevor 2002, pp. 388–389.
  17. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 286.
Bibliography
  • Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin – The Downfall 1945. New York: Viking-Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-03041-5. 
  • Felton, Mark (2014). Guarding Hitler: The Secret World of the Führer. London: Pen and Sword Military. ISBN 978-1-78159-305-9. 
  • 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. 
  • Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6.