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Flag Schutzstaffel.svg
The RSHA was under the administration of the SS.
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R98683, Reinhard Heydrich.jpg
Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the RSHA, as an SS-Gruppenführer in August 1940.
Agency overview
Formed September 22, 1939
Preceding agencies Sicherheitspolizei
Dissolved May 8, 1945
Jurisdiction Nazi Germany Germany
Occupied Europe
Headquarters Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, Berlin
52°30′26″N 13°22′57″E / 52.50722°N 13.3825°E / 52.50722; 13.3825
Employees 50,648 c. February 1944[1]
Minister responsible Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, (1939-1945)
Agency executives SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich 1939-1942, Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD
SS-Obergruppenführer Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner 1942-1945, Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD
Parent agency Ministry of the Interior (nominally); Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Allgemeine SS
Child agencies Gestapo

The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office or Reich Security Main Office[2]) was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his capacity 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 through the merger of SS intelligence service the Sicherheitsdienst (SD, or Security Service) and Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) 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 first chief of the RSHA was SS-Obergruppenführer and General of Police Reinhard Heydrich until he was assassinated in 1942 (following a British-backed Czech operation). He was replaced by SS-Obergruppenführer and General of Police Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner who served as the head of the RSHA for the remainder of World War II. The RSHA acronym for its director was 'CSSD': Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (English: Chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service).[4]

The organization controlled the security service apparatus for the Reich and the Nazi Party. Its activites 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 Third Reich.[5] However, included within the list of "enemies" were Jews, Romani people, the "racially undesirable" as well as Communists, Freemasons, pacifists and Christian activists.

The RSHA also oversaw the Einsatzgruppen death squads that followed the invasion forces of the German army into Eastern Europe. In its role as the nation's and NSDAP's security service, the RSHA coordinated activities among a number of different agencies that had wide-ranging responsibilities within Third Reich.

The RSHA was often times abbreviated when part of correspondence as "RSi-H" so there would be no confusion with the SS department of RuSHA or SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (SS Race and Settlement Office).[6]


British author, Gerald Reitlinger wrote in his book, The SS: Alibi of a Nation, that the RSHA 'became a typical overblown bureaucracy... The complexity of RSHA was unequalled... with at least a hundred sub-sub sections'.[7]

The organization at its simplest was divided into seven offices (German: Ämter)[[8]]:

  • 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 VII, Written Records, overseen by SS-Brigadeführer Professor Dr. Franz Six. 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 Security Police Sicherheitspolizei — 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.

Jews being rounded up in Krakow in March 1943.
Jews being rounded up in Russia in July 1941.

See also

Further reading

  • Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews, Third Edition, Yale Univ. Press, 2003, c1961.
  • 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).
  • Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine - SS, Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. 2001. ISBN 0-7110-2905-9.
  • Wildt, Michael. Generation of the Unbound: The Leadership Corps of the Reich Security Main Office, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2002 (Engl., in original German, Hamburg: 2002). ISBN 965-308-162-4.
  • Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1 and 2, Ulric Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-9537577-5-7.


External links

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