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Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt - RSHA)
The RSHA was the central office through which the Nazis' fight against the "enemies of the regime" was organised
On September 22, 1939, the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service; SD) and Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; Sipo) - which included the Gestapo and the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police; Kripo) - were merged to become the RSHA. Under Reinhard Heydrich, it developed into an enormous organisation, which comprised seven departments.
Amt I, under Bruno Streckenbach (who was to succeed Heydrich as acting RSHA chief for eight months following the latter's assassination in June 1942), was in charge of personnel. Amt II, originally under Dr. Werner Best and later under Dr. Neckmann, was in charge of organisation and law. Amt III, under Otto Ohlendorf, was essentially the former SD internal affairs department, and dealt with economic matters, culture, and ethnic Germans. Amt IV, under Heinrich Mueller, was the Gestapo, which was divided into fourteen divisions, plus the border police. The divisions dealt separately with political "enemies" and sabotage, counterintelligence, treason, and the like. Section IV B 4, under Adolf Eichmann, was responsible for evacuations and Jews. Amt V, under Nebe, was the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), which had four main divisions. Amt VI, officially under Heinz Jost and later under Walter Schellenberg, was called SD-Foreign, and was the foreign intelligence of the SS. Its six divisions dealt with German spheres of interest in the West. Amt VII, under Professor Franz Six, was the "ideological" branch of the RSHA, mainly concerning Jews.
Following the assassination of Heydrich, and his subsequent permanent replacement by Ernst Kaltenbrunner in early 1943, the basic structure of the organisation remained the same. During Kaltenbrunner's era, the Gestapo department grew. In the wake of the attempts on Hitler's life in 1944 and the subsequent break up of the Abwehr, the SD's foreign department also became larger. RSHA Control. In the Reich, the RSHA was under the often-nominal control of the Sipo and SD inspectors in each military district. However, the Gestapo issued orders directly to its own branches. In the occupied territories, a similar control from Berlin was generally maintained. Here, the Gestapo, Kripo, and SD branches were under the direction of the commanders of the Sipo and SD (Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei und des Sicherheitsdienstes), although in the field the Gestapo, the SD, and the mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) were largely autonomous. An alternate line of command was established by Himmler on May 21, 1941, through the Hoeherer SS- und Polizeifuehrer (Higher SS and Police Leader), who could bypass the normal chain of command, cutting out the RSHA.
The RSHA and the Jews
The primary victims of the Nazis, the Jews, became a special focus of RSHA activity under Eichmann's section. From late 1941 on, it directed the deportation of most of European Jewry to ghettos, slave labour, and extermination camps. The RSHA continued Hitler's extermination policies to the very end of the war.
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