The SS flag. The RSHA was a branch main office of the SS.
Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the RSHA, as an SS-Gruppenführer in August 1940.
|Formed||27 September 1939|
|Dissolved||8 May 1945|
|Employees||50,648 c. February 1944|
Ministry of the Interior (nominally)|
The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office or Reich Security Main Office or Reich Security Head Office) was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei (Chief of German Police) and Reichsführer-SS. The organization's stated duty was to fight all "enemies of the Reich" inside and outside the borders of Nazi Germany.
The RSHA was created by Reichsführer-SS Himmler on 27 September 1939. He combined the Sicherheitsdienst (SD; SS intelligence service) with the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo; "Security Police"), which was nominally under the Interior Ministry. The SiPo was composed of the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo; "Secret State Police") and the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo; "Criminal Police").
The first chief of the RSHA was SS-Obergruppenführer and General of Police Reinhard Heydrich until he was assassinated in 1942. Himmler then took personal control as acting chief of the RSHA. In January 1943, Himmler delegated the office to SS-Obergruppenführer and General of Police Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who headed the RSHA for the rest of World War II. The RSHA acronym for its director was 'CSSD': Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (Chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service). The RSHA controlled the security services of the Third Reich and the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Its activities included intelligence-gathering, criminal investigation, overseeing foreigners, monitoring public opinion, and Nazi indoctrination. Its stated duty was to find and eliminate the "enemies of the Reich". However, the list of "enemies" included Jews, Communists, Freemasons, pacifists, and Christian activists. The RSHA also oversaw the Einsatzgruppen, death squads that followed the invasion forces of the Wehrmacht Heer (German Army) into Eastern Europe. In its role as the national and NSDAP security service, the RSHA coordinated activities among a number of different agencies that had wide-ranging responsibilities within the Reich. The RSHA was often abbreviated to "RSi-H" in correspondence to avoid confusion with the SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (RuSHA; "SS Race and Settlement Office").
A high percentage of senior SS officers were attached to the RSHA and therefore it was a top-heavy organization. For example, almost a quarter of all officers of the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer served in the RSHA. Of all other SS officer ranks, the RSHA had the following percentages:
- Obersturmbannführer – 20%
- Standartenführer – 15.2%
- Oberführer – 15%
- Brigadeführer – 11.5%
- Gruppenführer – 7.4%
- Obergruppenführer – 4.4%
The organization at its simplest was divided into seven offices (German: Ämter):
- Amt I, Personnel and Organization, originally headed by SS-Gruppenführer Dr. Werner Best. In 1940, he was succeeded by SS-Brigadeführer Bruno Streckenbach. In April 1944, Erich Ehrlinger took over as department chief.
- Amt II, Administration, Law, and Finance, headed by SS-Standartenführer Dr. Hans Nockemann.
- Amt III, Inland-SD, headed by SS-Gruppenführer Otto Ohlendorf, was the SS information gathering service for inside Germany. It also dealt with ethnic Germans outside of Germany's prewar borders, and matters of culture.
- Amt IV, Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo), headed by SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller. SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, was head of the Amt IV sub-department called Referat IV B4.
- Amt V, Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), led by SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, and later by SS-Oberführer Friedrich Panzinger. This was the Criminal Police, which dealt with non-political serious crimes, such as rape, murder, and arson. Amt V was also known as the Reichskriminalpolizeiamt (Reich Criminal Police Department or RKPA).
- Amt VI, Ausland-SD, led by SS-Brigadeführer Heinz Jost, and later by SS-Brigadeführer Walter Schellenberg. This was the foreign intelligence service of the SS.
- Amt VII, Written Records, overseen by SS-Brigadeführer Professor Dr. Franz Six and later by SS-Obersturmbannführer Paul Dittel. It was responsible for "ideological" tasks. These included the creation of anti-semitic, anti-masonic propaganda, the sounding of public opinion and monitoring of Nazi indoctrination by the public.
Amt IV, the Gestapo, and Amt V, the Kripo, together constituted the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) or SiPo. It was the SiPo that did most of the work in rounding up Jews, Romani People and other people deemed to be enemies of the Reich and deporting them to the concentration and extermination camps in German Occupied Poland and Ukraine.
The RSHA also supplied security forces on an "as needed" basis to local SS and Police Leaders. After the escape of prisoners from Stalag Luft III in March 1944, for example, it was RSHA personnel who facilitated the "Stalag Luft III murders".
During the earlier part of the fighting in the Soviet Union, the RSHA also had operational control of certain Waffen-SS units which Himmler had withheld from the Army High Command (OKH); these units, the 1st and 2nd SS Infantry Brigades and the SS Cavalry Brigade, were formed from former Standarten of the Totenkopfverbände or concentration camp service. Their role was not to serve in combat, except in emergencies, but to carry out "police and security operations" in occupied territories like the Einsatzgruppen.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to RSHA.|
- Glossary of Nazi Germany
- List of SS personnel
- SIM – Fascist Italy's military intelligence service
- SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA, the economic & administrative department of the SS)
- Red Orchestra – RSHA operations against a wartime Soviet espionage ring.
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