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Reich Main Security Office


Reich Main Security Office

The SS flag. The RSHA was a branch main office of the SS.
Agency overview
Formed 27 September 1939
Preceding agencies
Dissolved 8 May 1945
Type Secret police
Jurisdiction Germany
Occupied Europe
Headquarters Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, Berlin
Employees 50,648 c. February 1944[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executives
Parent agency Ministry of the Interior (nominally)
Allgemeine SS
Child agencies

The Reich Main Security Office (Nazi Germany.


  • Formation 1
    • Role in the Holocaust 1.1
    • Senior SS officers in the RSHA 1.2
  • Organization 2
  • Gallery 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


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.[2] 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 the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo; "Secret State Police") and the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo; "Criminal Police").[3] 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").[3]

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 closer.[4]

Throughout the course of wartime expansion, the RSHA continued to grow at an enormous rate and was "repeatedly reorganized".[5] 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.[6] 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 SS-Obergruppenführer and General of Police Reinhard Heydrich, the first chief of the RSHA; they held the power of life and death for nearly every German and were essentially above the law.[7]

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 Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who headed the RSHA for the rest of World War II.[8] The RSHA acronym for its director was 'CSSD': Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (Chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service).[3]

Role in the Holocaust

The RSHA controlled the security services of Nazi Germany and the

List of books about Nazi Germany

  • Wiesenthal Centre – Reichssicherheitshauptamt

External links

  • Benz, Wolfgang. A Concise History of the Third Reich. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.
  • Bracher, Karl D. The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970.
  • Broszat, Martin. The Hitler State: The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich. Harlow: Longmans, 1981
  • Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.
  • Dülffer, Jost. Nazi Germany 1933-1945: Faith and Annihilation. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
  • 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, 2010.
  • Fischer, Klaus. Nazi Germany: A New History. New York: Continuum, 1995.
  • Gregor, Neil, ed. Nazism. (Oxford Readers). New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Hildebrand, Klaus. The Third Reich. London & New York: Routledge, 1986.
  • Hilberg, Raul (2003). The Destruction of the European Jews, Third Edition, Yale Univ. Press, 1961.
  • Höhne, Heinz:
    • Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf: Die Geschichte der SS. (original).
    • The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS. (Engl. edition of the above).
  • Leitz, Christian, ed. The Third Reich: The Essential Readings. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1999.
  • Longerich, Peter (2011). Heinrich Himmler: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Le Tissier, Tony (2010) [1999]. Race for the Reichstag: The 1945 Battle for Berlin. Pen and Sword.  
  • Lumsden, Robin (2002). A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine – SS, Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7110-2905-9.
  • Mazower, Mark. Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe. New York: Penguin, 2009.
  • McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923–1945, Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-906626-49-5.
  • Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (1946). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • Reitlinger, Gerald. The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-1945. New York: Da Capo Press, 1989.
  • Rich, Norman. Hitler's War Aims: Ideology, the Nazi State, and the Course of Expansion. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992.
  • Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Ballantine Books, 1988, [1961].
  • Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
  • Wildt, Michael (2002). Generation of the Unbound: The Leadership Corps of the Reich Security Main Office, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, (Engl., in original German, Hamburg: 2002). 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) (2003). Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1 and 2, Ulric Publishing. ISBN 0-9537577-5-7 and ISBN 0-9537577-6-5.
  • Williamson, David G. The Third Reich. 3rd edition. London: Longman Publishers, 2002.


  1. ^ Robert Gellately. The Gestapo and German Society. Retrieved 2 June 2009. 
  2. ^ Broszat (1981). The Hitler State: The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich, p. 270.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine–SS, pp. 83-84.
  4. ^ Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (Washington, DC: U.S. G.P.O., 1946), p. 92. Also see Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, GESTAPO AND SD in Yale University's AVALON Project at: (cited 9 September 2014)
  5. ^ Bracher (1970). The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism, p. 353.
  6. ^ Williamson (2002). The Third Reich, pp. 34-35.
  7. ^ Shirer (1988). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 373-374.
  8. ^ Rich, Norman (1992). Hitler's War Aims: Ideology, the Nazi State, and the Course of Expansion. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 49. 
  9. ^ Longerich, Peter. Heinrich Himmler: A Life, p. 470.
  10. ^ Mazower (2009). Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe, pp. 204-211.
  11. ^ Dülffer (2009). Nazi Germany 1933-1945: Faith and Annihilation, p. 157.
  12. ^ Hildebrand (1986). The Third Reich, p. 61.
  13. ^ Nürnberger Dokumente, NG-3104, as found in Bracher (1970), The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism, p. 426.
  14. ^ Bracher (1970), The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism, p. 427.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Burleigh (2001). The Third Reich: A New History, p. 599.
  17. ^ Bracher (1970), The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism, p. 428.
  18. ^ Hans Mommsen, "Cumulative Radicalization and Self-Destruction of the Nazi Regime", in Gregor, ed. Nazism (Oxford Readers), p. 193.
  19. ^ Reitlinger, Gerald. The SS, Alibi of a Nation, 1922–1945, p. 138.



See also


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.

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".

The 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 Ukraine.

  • 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 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 II, Administration, Law, and Finance, headed by SS-Standartenführer Dr. Hans Nockemann.

The organization at its simplest was divided into seven offices (German: Ämter):[3]

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'.[19]


  • Obersturmbannführer – 20%
  • Standartenführer – 15.2%
  • Oberführer – 15%
  • Brigadeführer – 11.5%
  • Gruppenführer – 7.4%
  • Obergruppenführer – 4.4%

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:[3]

Senior SS officers in the RSHA

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

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."[17] 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.[18]

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.[15] Not infrequently, commanders of Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommando units were also desk officers in Main Office 1 of the RSHA.[16]

According to German historian, Klaus Hildebrand, the RSHA was "particularly concerned with racial matters."[12] 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."[13] Besides blocking emigration, the RSHA, working with Adolf Eichmann's Reich Association of Jews in Germany, deliberately deceived 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.[14]


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