The Reich Main Security Office[notes 1] (German:
Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA) was an organization subordinate to
Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei
(Chief of German Police) and Reichsführer-SS, the head of the Nazi
Schutzstaffel (SS). The organization's stated duty was to
fight all "enemies of the Reich" inside and outside the borders of
3 Role in the Holocaust
4 See also
5 Explanatory notes
7 Further reading
8 External links
The RSHA was created by Himmler on 27 September 1939. Himmler's
assumption of total control over all security and police forces in
Germany was the "crucial precondition" for the establishment and
growth of the SS state. He combined the Nazi Party's
Sicherheitsdienst (SD; SS intelligence service) with 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"). The
RSHA was often abbreviated to "RSi-H" in correspondence to avoid
confusion with the
SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt
SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (RuSHA; "SS Race
and Settlement Office").
The creation of the RSHA represented the formalization, at the top
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. Within Germany and areas which were
incorporated within the Reich for the purpose of civil administration,
local offices of the Gestapo, criminal police, and SD were formally
separate. They were subject to coordination by inspectors of the
security police and SD on the staffs of the local higher SS and police
leaders, however, and 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
Throughout the course of wartime expansion, the RSHA continued to grow
at an enormous rate and was "repeatedly reorganized". Routine
reorganization did not change the tendency for centralization within
the Third Reich nor did it change the general trend for organizations
like the RHSA to develop direct relationships to Hitler, adhering to a
familiar National Socialist pattern of the leader-follower
construct. For the RSHA, its centrality within
Nazi Germany was
pronounced since departments like the
Gestapo (within the RSHA) were
controlled by Himmler and his immediate subordinate
Obergruppenführer and General of Police Reinhard Heydrich; they
held the power of life and death for nearly every German and were
essentially above the law.
Reinhard Heydrich, the original chief of the RSHA, as an
Gruppenführer in August 1940
Heydrich remained the RSHA chief until he was assassinated 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
World War II
World War II in Europe. 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).
According to British author Gerald Reitlinger, the RSHA 'became a
typical overblown bureaucracy... The complexity of RSHA was
unequalled... with at least a hundred sub-sections'.
The organization at its simplest was divided into seven offices
Amt I, "Administration and Legal", originally headed by
Gruppenführer Dr. Werner Best. In 1940, he was succeeded by
Brigadeführer Bruno Streckenbach. In April 1944, Erich Ehrlinger
took over as department chief.
Amt II, "Ideological Investigation", headed by SS-Brigadeführer
Professor Franz Six.
Amt III, "Spheres of German Life" or the Inland-SD, headed by
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, "Suppression of Opposition", formed from Abteilung II and III
of the Gestapa (better-known by the "sobriquet" Gestapo), headed
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, "Suppression of Crime" Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), originally led
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, "Foreign Intelligence Service" or Ausland-SD, originally led
Brigadeführer Heinz Jost and later by SS-Brigadeführer
Amt VII, "Ideological Research and Evaluation" was a reconstitution of
Amt II overseen by SS-
Brigadeführer Professor Dr. Franz Six.
Later it was headed 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.
Gestapo (Amt IV) and Kripo (Amt V), together constituted the
Sicherheitspolizei ("Security Police") or SiPo. It was the SiPo that
did most of the work of rounding up Jews, Romani people and others
deemed to be enemies of the Reich, and deporting them to the
concentration and extermination camps in German Occupied Poland and
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
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.
Role in the Holocaust
The RSHA controlled the security services of
Nazi Germany and the Nazi
Party (NSDAP). Its activities included intelligence-gathering,
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."
The list of "enemies" included Jews, Communists, Freemasons,
pacifists, and Christian activists. In addition to dealing with
identified enemies, the RSHA advocated expansionist policies for the
Reich and the Germanization of additional territory through
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.
According to German historian, Klaus Hildebrand, the RSHA was
"particularly concerned with racial matters." An order issued by
the RSHA on 20 May 1941 overtly demonstrates its utter complicity for
the systematic extermination of Jews, namely since the order included
instructions 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." Besides blocking emigration, the RSHA, working
with Adolf Eichmann's Reich Association of
Jews in Germany,
Jews still living in Germany and those of 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 'phony' home-purchase plan.
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
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. 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. Not infrequently, commanders of
Einsatzkommando sub-units were also desk officers from the main office
of the RSHA. Historian
Raul Hilberg estimates that between 1941
and 1945 the
Einsatzgruppen and related auxiliary troops killed more
than two million people, including 1.3 million Jews.
Part of the RSHA's efforts to encourage other nations (many of whom
were occupied by the Germans) to hand over their
Jews or entice them
into the arms of the Nazis, included coercing them by assigning Jewish
advisory officials, all of which was part and parcel to Eichmann's
goal of rounding up and transporting "
Jews from Slovakia and Hungary,
Croatia and Romania." Entry into the Second World War afforded the
RSHA the power to act as an intermediary in the areas extended far
beyond the Reich, which according to Hans Mommsen, lent itself to
solving "emergency situations" and the RHSA's radicalized destructive
goals like the Final Solution, were implemented thereupon with
bureaucratic methodical cruelty as its power expanded.
SS guards overseeing
Jews being rounded up in March 1943 during the
liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto.
Display on bus stop at the former site of Adolf Eichmann's office in
Berlin on Kurfurstenstrasse 115 (now occupied by a hotel building).
After the foundation of the RSHA in September 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 the deportation of over 1.5 million
Jews from all over Europe
to Nazi killing centers.
Glossary of Nazi Germany
List of SS personnel
OVRA – Fascist Italy's secret police, similar to the Gestapo
SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA, the economic &
administrative department of the SS)
Red Orchestra – RSHA operations against a wartime Soviet espionage
^ Reichssicherheitshauptamt is variously translated as "Reich Main
Security Office", "Reich Security Main Office", "Reich Central
Security Main Office", "Reich Security Central Office", "Reich Head
Security Office", or "Reich Security Head Office".
^ Gellately, Robert (1991). The
Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing
Racial Policy, 1933-1945. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
ISBN 0-19-820297-0. Retrieved June 20, 2009.
^ Broszat 1981, p. 270.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 201, 469, 470.
^ McNab 2013, p. 41.
^ Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (Washington, DC: U.S. G.P.O., 1946),
p. 92. Also see Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression,
Gestapo and SD in
AVALON Project, Yale University (retrieved 9 September 2014).
^ Bracher 1970, p. 353.
^ Williamson 2002, pp. 34, 35.
^ Shirer 1988, pp. 373, 374.
^ Rich 1992, p. 49.
^ Buchheim 1968, p. 173.
^ a b c d Höhne 2001, p. 256.
^ Reitlinger 1989, p. 138.
^ Buchheim 1968, pp. 172–187.
^ Weale 2012, pp. 140–144.
^ Weale 2012, p. 85.
^ Höhne 2001, pp. 256–257.
^ "Adolf Eichmann: Timeline". US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved
23 December 2015.
^ a b Höhne 2001, p. 257.
^ Friedlander 1997, p. 55.
^ Buchheim 1968, p. 174.
^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 783.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 470.
^ Mazower (2009). Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe, pp.
^ Dülffer (2009).
Nazi Germany 1933-1945: Faith and Annihilation, p.
^ Hildebrand (1986). The Third Reich, p. 61.
^ Nürnberger Dokumente, NG-3104, as found in Bracher 1970,
^ Bracher 1970, p. 427.
^ Longerich 2010, p. 185.
^ Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy," in The
Third Reich: The Essential Readings by Christian Leitz (Oxford:
Wiley-Blackwell, 1999), p. 86.
^ Burleigh (2001). The Third Reich: A New History, p. 599.
^ Rhodes (2002). Masters of Death: The SS-
Einsatzgruppen and the
Invention of the Holocaust, p. 257.
^ Bracher 1970, p. 428.
^ Hans Mommsen, "Cumulative Radicalization and Self-Destruction of the
Nazi Regime", in Gregor, ed. Nazism (Oxford Readers), p. 193.
^ "Holocaust Encyclopedia: Adolf Eichmann". US Holocaust Memorial
Museum. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
Benz, Wolfgang. A Concise History of the Third Reich. Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press, 2007.
Bracher, Karl Dietrich (1970). The German Dictatorship: The Origins,
Structure, and Effects of National Socialism. New York: Praeger.
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. Anatomy of the SS State. New York: Walker and Company.
Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. New York: Hill and
Nazi Germany 1933-1945: Faith and Annihilation.
London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
Fischer, Klaus. Nazi Germany: A New History. New York: Continuum,
Friedlander, Henry (1997). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From
Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Univ of North Carolina Press.
Gregor, Neil, ed. Nazism. (Oxford Readers). New York: Oxford
University Press, 2000.
Hildebrand, Klaus. The Third Reich. London & New York: Routledge,
Hilberg, Raul (2003). The Destruction of the European Jews, Third
Edition, Yale Univ. Press, 1961.
Höhne, Heinz (2001). The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of
Hitler’s SS. New York: Penguin Press.
Leitz, Christian, ed. The Third Reich: The Essential Readings. Oxford:
Longerich, Peter (2010). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of
the Jews. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Longerich, Peter (2012). Heinrich Himmler: A Life. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-959232-6.
Mazower, Mark. Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe. New
York: Penguin, 2009.
McNab, Chris (2013). Hitler's Elite: The SS 1939–45. Osprey.
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.
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-
the Invention of the Holocaust. New York: Vintage Books.
Rich, Norman (1992). Hitler's War Aims: Ideology, the Nazi State, and
the Course of Expansion. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Shirer, William L. (1988) . The Rise and Fall of the Third
Reich. New York: Ballantine Books.
Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster,
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. (2 vols.) New York: MacMillan Publishing.
Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin,
Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich in Power. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich at War. New York: Penguin, 2009
Wildt, Michael (2002). Generation of the Unbound: The Leadership Corps
of the Reich Security Main Office, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem.
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.
Williams, Max (2003). Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography. Vol. 2 Enigma.
Church Stretton: Ulric Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9537577-6-3.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to RSHA.
Wiesenthal Centre – Reichssicherheitshauptamt
SS and police leader
Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS
SS Main Office
Head Operational Office
Reich Main Security Office
Reich Main Security Office (RSHA)
Economics and Administration Office
Office of Race and Settlement (RuSHA)
Main Office for Ethnic Germans (VOMI)
Office of the Reich Commissioner for Germanic Resettlement (RKFDV)
Das Schwarze Korps
SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz
Police and security services
Regular uniform police (Orpo)
Criminal police (Kripo)
Secret State police (Gestapo)
State Security police (SiPo)
SS Security Service (SD)
SS-Begleitkommando des Führers
Belarusian Auxiliary Police
Latvian Police Battalions
Lithuanian Security Police
Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalions
Ukrainian Auxiliary Police
Estonian Auxiliary Police
Police Regiment Centre
SS Division Das Reich
SS Division Totenkopf
SS Polizei Division
SS Division Wiking
Foreign SS units
Germaansche SS in Nederland
Germaansche SS in Vlaanderen
Germanske SS Norge
S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A.
Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS
SS Sword of Honour
SS Honour Ring
SS Honor Dagger
Ranks, uniforms and insignia
Uniforms and insignia of the SS
Ranks and insignia of the Waffen-SS
Ranks and insignia of the Orpo
Corps colours of the Waffen-SS
Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos
Franz Walter Stahlecker
Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
Gustav Adolf Nosske
Karl Eberhard Schöngarth
Udo von Woyrsch
8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer
Schutzmannschaft (Belarusian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian,
Lithuanian Security Police
Burning of the Riga synagogues
Kaunas June 1941
Kaunas 29 October 1941
Ninth Fort November 1941
Gully of Petrushino
The Black Book
Special Prosecution Book-Poland (Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen)