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Old 07-09-2001, 07:33 AM
Knighted Vorpal Sword Knighted Vorpal Sword is offline
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What was the difference between the SS and the Gestapo in Nazi Germany? I always thought they were the same, but someone recently told me otherwise.
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Old 07-09-2001, 08:03 AM
Steve Wright Steve Wright is offline
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All this is AFAIR... The Gestapo (short for Geheime Staatspolizei, "secret state police") were, as the name implies, a police organization. The SS started off as Hitler's paramilitary bodyguard unit, and developed into a fully-fledged military organization, kind of separate-but-equal to the regular German army (actually, separate-but-superior, in the circumstances). Both had enforcement of the party line as part of their remit, and I would expect their actual operational roles overlapped in some areas... Hitler tended to work that way.
Old 07-09-2001, 10:32 AM
Enola Straight Enola Straight is offline
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The Gestapo was analagous to the FBI.
The SS was Analagous to the Navy SEALS.

Old 07-09-2001, 10:49 AM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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Originally posted by enolancooper
The Gestapo was analagous to the FBI.
The SS was Analagous to the Navy SEALS.

The Gestapo comparison works, but the SS was a lot larger than the Navy SEALS - we're talking hundreds of thousands of soldiers at its largest - and wasn't a super-duper special forces unit.

The SS was basically an army all its own with a real Nazi bend to it, which was sometimes better than the Wehrmacht (the regular army) and sometimes wasn't. Some SS divisions were just front-line combat divisions; others were simply packs of murderers whose job was to murder civilians after the regular army had conquered the territory (this was especially prevalent on the Eastern front.) Entire SS units were made up of Nazi lackeys of questionable military skills who were entirely dedicated to rounding up and shooting women and children, while others were made up of legitimate soldiers who fought the Allies. There really is no apt comparison to U.S. forces today.

Some of the confusion doubtlessly stems from the fact that the SS did do internal security work, especially in occupied territories, that was also the job of the Gestapo. I would not doubt that many people served with both organizations.
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Old 07-09-2001, 12:09 PM
bernse bernse is offline
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Just to try to clarify....

Basically the Gestapo was the internal security force... the "Secret Police". OT - The SD was another offshoot that was very feared as well.

The Waffen SS (armed SS) was more or less just another division of the armed forces. Just like how we now have Army/Navy/AF/Marines Germany had the Wehrmacht/luftwaffe/Navy/Waffen SS... more or less.

It is a bit more clouded though since the SS also had various offshoots like the "einsatzgruppen" that were the monsters that went around "obeying orders" and "mopped up" conquered areas by killing the unwanted civies.

But that is the "basics" of it if memory serves.
Old 07-10-2001, 02:14 AM
MEBuckner MEBuckner is offline
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As has already been stated, the SS started out as Hitler's bodyguard; it was originally a branch of the SA or "storm troopers", the Nazi Party's paramilitary street thugs. The SA's leadership was purged in the "Night of the Long Knives" in 1934 and the organization was never really very important after that; the SS was then split off into a separate organization, which grew to include its own army, the "Waffen-SS" or Armed SS, as well as the "Allgemeine-SS" or General SS. The Allgemeine-SS, through a division called the Reichssicherheitshauptamt(RSHA; Reich Security Head Office), came to control the entire German police and security apparatus: under the RSHA were the Ordnungspolizei or Order Police (regular beat cops) and the Sicherheitspolizei or Security Police; the Security Police were in turn subdivided into the Kriminalpolizei or Criminal Police (basically the plainclothes detectives, I believe) and (finally) the Geheime Staatspolizei or Secret State Police, better known by the notorious abbreviation of Gestapo. The RSHA also included the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) or Security Service, which was originally the SS intelligence apparatus.

Note that this is a somewhat oversimplified picture and things didn't start out this way. The Gestapo was originally the political police of the German state of Prussia (which made up most of Germany) and was founded by Goering (who was also head of the Luftwaffe or German Air Force), and it was only after various bureaucratic maneuverings by Himmler (the SS head) that police and security were centralized under his control. See Gestapo and SD Nuremberg Charges for a more detailed history.

But the short answer is that--eventually--the Gestapo was a branch of the SS (or rather a branch of a branch of a branch of a branch--a branch of the Security Police, which was a branch of the Reich Security Head Office, which was a branch of the General SS, which was one of the two branches of the SS as a whole).
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Old 07-10-2001, 11:04 AM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Britannica is your friend. For questions like this they can almost always be relied upon. Not only do you get free access to the Encyclopedia, but the associated Web search is the best I have seen in terms of relevance and precision. It is fabulous, and it is free.

Encyclopædia Britannica Article

abbreviation of Geheime Staatspolizei (German: “Secret State Police”) the political police of Nazi Germany. The Gestapo ruthlessly eliminated opposition to the Nazis within Germany and its occupied territories and was responsible for the roundup of Jews throughout Europe for deportation to extermination camps.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hermann Göring, then Prussian minister of the interior, detached the political and espionage units from the regular Prussian police, filled their ranks with thousands of Nazis, and, on April 26, 1933, reorganized them under his personal command as the Gestapo. Simultaneously, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, the Nazi paramilitary corps, together with his aide Reinhard Heydrich, similarly reorganized the police of Bavaria and the remaining German states. Himmler was given command over Göring's Gestapo in April 1934 and on June 17, 1936, was made German chief of police with the title of Reichsführer. Nominally under the Ministry of the Interior, Germany's police forces now were unified under Himmler as head of both the SS and the Gestapo.

In 1936 the Gestapo—led by Himmler's subordinate, Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller—was joined with the Kriminalpolizei (German: “Criminal Police”) under the umbrella of a new organization, the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo; “Security Police”). Under a 1939 SS reorganization, the Sipo was joined with the Sicherheitsdienst (“Security Service”), an SS intelligence department, to form the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (“Reich Security Central Office”) under Heydrich. In this bureaucratic maze, the functions of the Gestapo often overlapped with those of other security departments, with which the Gestapo had both to cooperate and compete.

The Gestapo operated without civil restraints. It had the authority of “preventative arrest,” and its actions were not subject to judicial appeal. Thousands of leftists, intellectuals, Jews, trade unionists, political clergy, and homosexuals simply disappeared into concentration camps after being arrested by the Gestapo. The political section could order prisoners to be murdered, tortured, or released. Together with the SS, the Gestapo managed the treatment of “inferior races,” such as Jews and Roma (Gypsies). During World War II the Gestapo suppressed partisan activities in the occupied territories and carried out reprisals against civilians. Gestapo members were included in the Einsatzgruppen (“deployment groups”), which were mobile death squads that followed the German regular army into Poland and Russia to kill Jews and other “undesirables.” Bureau IV B4 of the Gestapo, under Adolf Eichmann, organized the deportation of millions of Jews from other occupied countries to the extermination camps in Poland.


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