This book was originally written in 1962 as the History of the Gestapo (in French) by French author Jacques Delarue. Much of the book is taken up with the history of other organizations such as the SA, SS, Abwehr, SD, and RSHA. In essence the author attempts to wrap all these organizations (except the Abwehr) up in his treatise and by so doing loses focus on the Gestapo for an in-depth study, if indeed that was his original intention.
For the reader looking for new material in this work, he should be advised that there is none since the original date of publication. In addition, on almost every subject covered in this book, there is a superior work now out that goes into much greater depth and is more definitive than this. For the Gestapo, Butler's work would be recommended, although it is not the last word.
Nonetheless, for someone unfamiliar with the repressive Nazi sub-organizations, this book would work as a reasonable introduction. The author follows the Gestapo and its personnel in France somewhat more closely than elsewhere, but even in this limited area the author fail to provide sufficient coverage. Werner Best is given seven references in the Index, none of which are pages containing his name (he is developed lightly on page 132), and Klaus Barbie fails to appear at all.
The author spends a great deal of time on external events such as general affairs concerning Hitler's actions, military and political developments, the Stauffenberg attempt on Hitler's life and various resistance activities. Here the author's prejudices overwhelm the reader -- he has no use for the German officer corps and dismisses the officers in the July 20th plot as cowardly, and indulges in speculation concerning their motives which he also disparages. Only in his portrayal of personalities does the author have truly something to offer, and his sketch of Heydrich is worth reading to understand the type of person attracted to the dark side (assuming that it has a light side) of the Nazi regime.
In short, if you have never read a book on the Gestapo, then, OK, read this one for starters, but always keep in mind that some of the author's information is severely dated, sometimes not completely accurate, has been extended and enhanced, and invariably much more completely analyzed in other works than here. If you already know a fair amount concerning the Gestapo, SS, SD, etc, then pass on Delarue's work for something more contemporary and detailed.
on April 23, 2010
This book was originally written in the late 1950s (reportedly 1955 in its original French version and translated in 1962 into English) and as such, must be viewed in the prism of the times, when memories were fresh. The book does have a French orientation with respect to Gestapo activities in occupied France and does gloss over the activities in the East where the extermination camps and Einsatzgruppen activities took place. Still, it is a useful edition and offers insights into the flawed characters that composed the Nazi milieu and became the instrument of repression throughout occupied Europe. Himmler, Heydrich, Kaltenbrunner; all deviant individuals with deep flaws; but no less important are the individuals who reported to them, exhibited unquestioning obedience, and carried out their orders: Schellenberg, Muller, Knochen, Eichmann, Ohlendorf, Hoess, and so on. Since that time other, larger, better, more comprehensive and balanced texts have emerged on the subject but this book is still worth a read for the insights it offers into the personalities of the Third Reich. The depiction of Kaltenbrunner, a lawyer who was a seven-foot tall brute, with dueling scars on his face and an ogre-like appearance, and his drinking (a bottle of cognac a day) and smoking (80 to 100 cigarettes a day) is particularly illuminating (and frightening); even Himmler feared him. So, too, are the tensions that played out between Heydrich, who appears to have been the anointed one, prior to his assassination, and Himmler in the first half of 1942. Himmler's accumulation of power after Heydrich's death is also covered. The collapse of the Third Reich and the cowardice displayed by these men in the face of an Allied occupation is chronicled as well.
on April 3, 2012
The Gestapo was published in France in 1962. Jacques Delarue is the author. He was a member of the French Resistance. In this book he briefly recounts his imprisonment by the Nazis in a terrible French cell in a page. . Many of his friends were executed by thge Nazis. Delarue is a brave man and a fine writer.
The Gestapo was ghd Secret State Police of Nazi Germany (Geheime Staatspolizi.) This horrific instrument of terror was begun by Hermann Goering one of Hitler's right hand thugs. It later came under the hegemony of Heinrich Himmler the cruel head of the SS and Gestapo. The Gestapo controlled all police functions in the Reich. Delarue spares no details as he examines the Gestapo and its many agencies designed to exterminate the Jews from Europe; control the German people through terror and infiltrate enemy nations through the use of espionage and spying activities. The Gestapo tortured and murdered millions of people in the name of the Fuehrer Adolf Hitler and his criminal regime.
The book has many cogent quotations about this infamous time in human history. Among them:
"The best recruiting agents of the Party were the soldiers. They also formed the cadres of the S.A. transformed by Roehm into a veritable army which very soon threatened the government and exceeded the Reichswehr itself in numbers and power."-p. 6
"By the spring of 1934 sixty-five thousand Germans had left their country...They fled from an insidious terror which now bore a name; the Gestapo."-p. 23
"...there is very little doubt that the Reichstag fire was lit by the S.A. on it's initiative and at the instigation of Goebbels, the author of the plan, with the complicity of Goering,without whom it would have been impossible."-p. 53. The reviewer notes that this assertion has been challenged by later historians.
"His subordinates would say later that Himmler never meted out praise or blame...He loved secrecy; he impressed it deeply in his creations, making it an absolute rule, any violation being punished with exceptional severity and sometimes with death."p. 68
"...from the age of ten, the young German was subjected to a continual obsessive barrage of Nazi propaganda and ideology."-p. 80
"The task of the Gestapo was to prevent all discussion of Nazi dogma, to eliminate by no matter what means the opponents, even those who dared to doubt the excellence of the regime."-p. 84
"...the two classic elements of Nazi action; terrorism and police inquisition for the liquidation of opponents."p. 161
"Born in violence,nourished upon crimes and horror for twelve years, Nazism slowly collapsed in ruins and blood, dragging a whole nation down in its death throes."-p. 336
While outdated the book has become a classic in the study of the Gestapo. It is flawed but is a vaulable additon to the immense literature on Nazi Germany. It provides a good introduction to the hellish existence of those persons forced to live under the boot of Nazi rule.
Nazism left 50 million dead in a ruined Europe after Hitler became Chancellor on 1/30/33. (Hindenburg had thought to constrain Hitler by giving him von Papen as Vice-Chancellor and von Blomberg as Minister for War - those 'barriers' were soon swept away.) Police forces across Germany were purged. Three months later Dachau opened - 'welcoming' political dissidents. Within a few months, unions, all other political parties, and even independent organizations for arts, sports, or youth were all disbanded or absorbed by Nazi organizations. Germany's legal system was neutered by making the Gestapo self-regulating; the police were also removed from legal oversight. Mere suspicion became sufficient for arrest.
At the beginning, police/internal spying activity control was hotly contested between Goering, Himmler, and Roehm. Goering had been embarrassed in the van der Lubbe trial (Reichstag fire), and was soon appointed Minister for Air and began taking a less active interest in police affairs. His initial reluctance to do so had been overcome by finding that Himmler was a stalwart ally against Roehm. Himmler set about filling vacancies as they occurred with supporters. At the time Himmler took over, there were 52,000 members of the S.S., compared to 4.5 million S.A. under Roehm's orders. Himmler's S.S. men, however, included being the Chancellery guard. Thus Himmler knew of everyone visiting the Fuehrer, and every incident and conversation. S.S. members were authorized to kill anyone for any reason at any time.
Himmler had already begun a systematic attack on the S.A. and Roehm - like Goering, he reported the excesses in the S.A. camps. It was not the methods that shocked him, but the disorderly manner in which the S.A. (unemployed former soldiers acting as thugs) operated. Roehm created conflict with the German military - he wanted to be placed in command, Hitler did not want to antagonize that group. March 1933 brought S.S. competing camps and at the beginning of 1934 Himmler contrived that all camps were run and guarded by S.S. alone. To accomplish this he created a new branch of the S.S. (Death's Head regiments) charged exclusively with guarding the camps. Thousands charged with no crimes and given no trail were arrested - acceptance of this fait accompli allowed progressive extension of Nazi methods w/o regard to legality.
Himmler and Goering eventually eliminated rival Roehm by publicizing his earlier criticisms of Hitler, adding falsified evidence. Hitler himself arrested Roehm and had him arrested and then executed. The 'Night of Long Knives' established Hitler as the only leader of the Germans. Between 6/30/1934 and 7/2 leading figures of the Nazi Party left-wing, along with prominent conservative anti-Nazis were murdered. Most killings were carried out by the SS and the Gestapo - the final toll may have been in the hundreds.
All Germans were put under surveillance and terror became the means of governance. Detachments of Gestapo accompanied the first wave of troops into occupied countries. The Gestapo was responsible for all executions and deportations. Resistance fighters were sent to concentration camps to die by work - providing free labor to the Reich. The Gestapo's task was to prevent all discussion of Nazi dogma and eliminate opponents of the regime. While still clandestine, the S.S. had carefully filed records of Party enemies - including political and professional activities, family, friends, home address and possible hideouts, and passions. Not a minister, general or anyone else dared raise his voice. Germany became a gigantic torture chamber. New entrants had to belong to the Party, and Party approval was required for promotion. The S.D. unit confined itself to gathering information, while the Gestapo carried out arrests, interrogations, searches, etc. Blockleiters were responsible for 40-60 homes. For anyone, failing to send in a denunciation was considered an act of hostility.
The Gestapo was divided into sections - one dealt with political opponents, another focused on former members of philosophic or religious bodies, a third supervised strict application of the first anti-Semitic measures, another fought 'saboteurs' (the least sign of laziness or a work error qualified as 'sabotage'). The Gestapo played a role in the Saar returning to the Fatherland (90.36% favored in a January, 1935 vote) - it became known that opponents would be considered as traitors. Two months later, Hitler announced the creation of the Luftwaffe - 36 aircraft in 1932, 9,000 in 1939. At about the same time, conscription was restored, and the composition of the Army fixed at half a million men. Secrecy was the rule, even in the Gestapo - violators shot for violating the 'patriotic duty of silence.' This continued to the very end, even when Germany's loss was seen as inevitable.
German military leaders paid little attention to Himmler's police machine in June, 1936 because they were busy enjoying the first fruits of revenge. On March of 1936, Hitler denounced the Locarno Treaty and reoccupied the Rhineland demilitarized zone. Troops entering the Rhineland had strict orders to retire in the face of any French opposition, however slight - a setback then would have dealt a serious blow to Hitler's prestige.
Himmler wanted to decapitate the Army General Staff as a means of ensuring total loyalty. One was shunted aside as a result of the scandal of marrying a former prostitute. A second was subsequently also deposed via a scandal - this time trumped up. Thirteen other generals were relieved of command, 44 others transferred or retired in February, 1938. Shortly thereafter the Wehrmacht crossed into Austria - the resulting celebrations made it impossible for military leaders to make a case.
Each factory formed a Party cell - replacing the unions, the press also had an appointed leader, and medical etc. professions (including the Red Cross) also were placed under S.S. control. Between 1933 and 1937, 40% of professors were purged; a Gestapo member controlled each research institutes. Jews living in neighboring countries were spied on and constantly followed. Telephones were tapped, especially calls to/from abroad, and microphones and tape recorders installed in the homes of suspects.
Elections 3/5/33 occurred against a backdrop of 7 million unemployed (about 1 worker out of 3), a Reichstag fire falsely blamed on Communists, a roundup of thousands accused of being Communists, and a gigantic propaganda machine organized by Goebbels. The Nazis obtained only 44% of the votes - not enough for a majority, but 'inviting' the 81 Communist delegates not to sit (on pain of arrest, possible death), the Nazis reached 52% of the votes. Goering was elected President. April 1, Hitler proclaimed a boycott of Jewish products and stores.
March 23, 1933, Goering opened the first session of the new Reichstag - amnesty was proclaimed for crimes 'committed with patriotic intentions' (by the Nazis), followed by a 6/23 law annulling previous sentences against Nazis. Governors were replaced by the most trustworthy Nazis. On April 26, 1933 a State police office was established in each district of Prussia. All officials were requested to supervise employees of the State and report those making criticisms, and a similar order soon covered workers as well.
By spring of 1934, 65,000 Germans had left - mostly scientists, artists, writers, and professors who illegally crossed the border seeking asylum abroad.
German military leaders were unafraid of war - only being dragged into one with insufficient training and staffing. The S.S. was ordered to see that only people of pure German blood lived in the occupied areas. Non-Germans and Jews found themselves expropriated of their goods, homes, and lands, then sent to concentration camps. The lucky ones were forced to become farm workers, home servants, or sent to work in armament factories. In 1940 Auschwitz was opened, others followed at Maidanek and Treblinka.
on December 15, 2015
I have often wondered how an entire society could be subdued or seduced to support a maniac and an incompetent strategist like Adolph Hitler, and this book has explained better than many I've read in the past. Like a disease process, the Gestapo has so saturated German society, was so thoroughly networked to control the press that no organized protest was possible. Discussion about the dinner table was not safe. Abuse was unpunished and treachery was rewarded. The Gestapo's power and authority was beyond challenge in the courts, and accountable to so few that the German people were enmeshed in a net from which they could not criticize, protest or rebel without harsh consequence. It is a study in the corruption of a nation. Again we are reminded, what is "legal" is not necessarily "moral".
on May 4, 2015
I had some difficulty deciding on the rating for this book. I would give it a "4" for content and information, but only a "3" for ease of understanding. There is a lot of information here: so much, in fact, that it is easy to get lost in the details. Some of the difficulty certainly comes from the translation, as some sentences/paragraphs are confusing to read. However, the sheer volume of information can be overwhelming. I got lost in the "alphabet-soup" of different levels of officials - SS, SA, SD; Waffen SS, Totenkopfe Regiment; SSDP, SSS; RSHA, SIPO, KRIPO, ORPO; and many more organizations. There are so many organizations - law enforcement, political, intelligence, extermination, torture, etc - that the reader is left with the impression that almost all German citizens were in one or another government agency. However, The author lays it all out in detail, explaining the functions of each organization, areas of authority and responsibility, name and rank of the various leaders, numbers of persons, and the various conflicts between the units. For readers & researchers interested in in-depth details on the many arms of the Gestapo, this book lays it out. I got a lot out of the book, even though I had to go back and re-read many passages to grasp the full meaning of the information.
on November 18, 2014
Wow. This book is a NECESSITY for all. Not only does it discuss the Gestapo and Ss powers during that time, but also the names of the Nazi's higher ups who struggle, falsely accuse and undermine each other, even by death, to promote THEMSELVES in the Reich! I believe this is a MUST-READ due to the very slow process of even the German citizens losing their personal, work and religious freedoms. Plus, the interesting thing is that they even brain-washed their citizens to start spying on others and turning them in. As I read the process, it alarmed me as regards to our personal freedoms of speech, religion and socialization of our government. I am not an alarmist, but I believe anyone who reads this book will see as I did, that history just might repeat itself!
While the book is nominally about the Gestapo, I found it had more value as an examination of a cross-section of the National Socialist regime. It is a tough read, both because of the writer/translator's style and the subject matter itself. Still, one of those parts of history that I believe everyone has a duty to read, both to honor the memories of the victims and prevent a recurrence.
===The Good Stuff===
* For better or worse, the author is not a disinterested observer, but rather saw the Gestapo and other National Socialist security forces in action. As a result, his writing captures a raw and realistic edge, bringing out the true level of terror and hopelessness felt during the times. The flip side of this is he seems somewhat less than balanced in his feelings about "good" Germans, although certainly understandable.
* I found the author's description of the National Socialist bureaucracy fascinating, much better and more complete than other works I have read. It amazes me that there could be a form to fill out for mass executions, with required signatures and consequences for improper or sloppy paperwork. Likewise, there must have been a score of security and police forces, each with their own leadership, priorities and loyalties. And in many cases fighting with the other departments was more important than any Nazi causes or military objectives. In some ways, these descriptions were more chilling than the atrocities described.
* Violence and horrible mistreatment of victims was a part of Hitler's methodology, and Delarue does a reasonable job of dealing with the more horrific descriptions. He tells enough of the details to give the reader an appreciation of the levels of violence applied, but without going overboard and sensationalizing it.
* The most captivating part of the whole book to me were the very last chapters. Watching the Gestapo and other intelligence/security agencies during the collapse of the regime was absolutely fascinating. Even when there was barely a 10 mile strip of Germany unoccupied by its enemies, the machinations between the various agencies and their leaders continued. There were still fights over the choice of a successor even as the Russians were breaking into the Reich Chancellery.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff===
* Parts of the book become tedious and incomprehensible. For example, there is an entire chapter devoted to explaining the security bureaucracy in Occupied France, including the relationships with various French officials and government organizations. While I appreciate the effort it took to tease this chapter out of the facts, it was quite honestly too arcane and complicated for me to comprehend. I am sure that if I read it ten times and diagrammed it out, it made perfect sense. But quite honestly I was more than willing to just admit the interlocking and multiple-path relations and move on.
* Much the same criticism applies to the discussion of German organizations. In many cases, one man reported to another in one capacity, but was his supervisor in a different organizational structure. Add in that each of these groups might have overlapping and conflicting goals, and the narrative becomes strained and quite uninteresting to a casual reader.
=== Overall ===
This was a tough, and not at all enjoyable read. It was an easy book to put down, and took some effort to pick up and continue. Much of that is the very nature of the material, and I found myself strangely bound to finishing the book. However, the author's writing style, commitment to detail and rather unfocused and meandering narrative made this issue worse than it needed to be.
Would I recommend the book? It is about 50 years old, so much of the material in it is dated and obsoleted by more contemporary works. However, it does have the advantage of being one of the first Gestapo histories, and therefore probably the best at capturing the raw emotions of the times. I doubt that modern publishers/editors would tolerate some of the crude language and references included in its descriptions of Nazi viewpoints. All things considered, I'd say it is a worth a read.
on May 22, 2015
An excellent study of this hideous criminal gang in all it's horror and evil. The more you read of this vile mob the more you wonder what motivated such inhuman behaviour and the banal idiocy. You have to read this to believe it and even then it's hard to comprehend.
on October 31, 2014
New insight into an old horrible story. In the past I have read many books covering the NAZI horror story, but this author brings out all the dirty linen in this well written and researched book. Let me put it this way, this book struck a nerve like never before and I consider myself an ongoing student of history which encompasses these past seven decades. The author must be commended on his research and knowledge of a society that a writer of fiction could never have dreamed up. Yes some people will deviate from the facts and point out the Soviet Stalinist terror that condemned 20 million Russians to starvation and murder, but the NAZI's still get the number one spot for innovation and (pardon the pun,) execution. Industrialized death by people who gave you the Mercedes Benz, excelled in science and industry. I have always wondered how a so-called well educated, highly cultured people could as the German's have so often been described, become accessories to histories worst crimes against humanity. The author plays back German/Austrian history, yes, Austrian, treated by the allies as a victim nation in 1945, but in truth just as bad as the German's and in many respects, worse. The history covered by this book takes us from a defeated, but not fully occupied Germany of 1918 to the very end in May 1945. This allowed the defeated German's to wallow in self pity blaming everyone, (stab in the back theory) but themselves for their predicament. One must wonder, how in the world could the German people look to an ex-Austrian, German army corporal's ravings and find any merit? Germany of the 1920's was a state in revolution. The military refusing to acknowledge that it had been defeated on the field of battle, since the army in November 1918 was allowed to retreat back into Germany in relatively good form while blaming the Versailles Treaty along with certain German politicians who in effect stabbed the loyal German army in the back thus denying the true facts relating to WW I and Germany's final defeat. A starving population, a war weary army, mutinies by the Imperial German Navy and finally civil war in the streets. All this leads up to a bunch of fanatical ex-soldiers who find themselves street fighting the very numerous and powerful German Communists for control. The German's of the late 1920's and 1930's governed by the weak and hated Wiemar Republic. As the NAZI's take control German society finds it almost acceptable to euthanize people considered mentally incapacitated and thousands are eliminated by lethal injections and gassing by combustible gas engines. Than their are the first concentration camps for political enemies, so step by step an entire nation basically becomes a homicidal machine. This book carefully examines the individual personalities of the NAZI main players and there are amazing facts to be learned which have scarcely been covered in the past. This book is a lesson in how a society becomes insanely dangerous to itself and its neighbors. If you are at all interested in this particular subject, than I highly recommend this book to help round out your knowledge of a despicable era in the history of modern man. You will never take casual political events lightly ever again.