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Himmler and Terror. Key questions: How did Heinrich Himmler rise to power? What was the role of the SS-Gestapo? How ‘omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent’ was the Gestapo? How important was ‘terror’ to the Nazi regime?. Rise to power within Nazi Party.

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himmler and terror

Himmler and Terror

Key questions:

How did Heinrich Himmler rise to power?

What was the role of the SS-Gestapo?

How ‘omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent’ was the Gestapo?

How important was ‘terror’ to the Nazi regime?

rise to power within nazi party

Rise to power within Nazi Party

‘the most colourless personality in the Nazi inner circle’

‘a shrewd practitioner of power with an eye to the main chance’

‘more sinister than Hitler himself’

‘half crank, half schoolmaster’

1918: Joined German army but failed to see any fighting.

After the war, he became an agricultural student and briefly a poultry farmer in Bavaria before joining the NSDAP in 1923. He dreamt of a master race - an Aryan Herrenvolk personified by the early recruits of the SS.

1923 – took part in the failed Munich Putsch.

1925: Joined SS Schutzstaffel. 120 men of absolute loyalty and obedience to Hitler. In 1929, Himmler becomes commander of SS or Reichsführer-SS , but still a relatively small organisation with only 300 members.

growth of ss

Growth of SS

In 1930, Himmler appointed a young naval lieutenant, Reinhard Heydrich as head of a new intelligence unit of the SS, known as the SD.

Heydrich was to become an important architect of he Holocaust – he has been described as the ‘blond beast’, a ‘young evil god of death’ and ‘der Hanker’ (the hangman).

Heydrich was intelligent, ruthlessly ambitious and in many respects the brains behind the later development of the SS.

By 1931, the SS had grown into an organisation of 10,000 men and by 1933 52,000 men.

the ss gestapo

The SS-Gestapo

March 1933: Himmler became President of Police in Munich and established a model camp in Dachau. He appointed Theodore Eicke to be the first commandant of the model camp. Later Eicke was to supervise the multiplying network of terror camps across Germany and Eastern Europe.

April 1933: Himmler became police commander for the whole of Bavaria, the second largest German state.

April 1934: Himmler successfully exploited a turf war between Goering, the effective head of Prussia, and William Frick, Minister of the Interior for the whole of Germany, to become head of the Prussian Gestapo (Secret State Police).

ss and sa

SS and SA

Theodore Eicke – camp commandant, personally executed Ernst Rohm in Night of the Long Knives.

The SS remained nominally subordinate to the general organisation of the SA. Its absolute loyalty to the Fuhrer made it the natural choice to carry out the purges of June 1934 – Himmler himself was a key figure in the Night of the Long Knives.

He said later:

‘On 30th June 1934 we did not hesitate to do the duty laid down for us and put guilty friends up against the wall and shoot them…we didn’t talk about it among ourselves…Each of us found it appalling yet we are all sure that if such orders were necessary again, we would carry them out as we did then.’

In reward for its loyalty and brutal efficiency, the SS became an independent organisation within the party

the ss state

The SS State

In 1936 all police powers were unified under Himmler’s control as Chief of German Police.

Himmler was therefore in charge of a huge police-terror network.

key developments in himmler s rise to power
Key developments in Himmler’s rise to power

1925: joined SS (party body – Hitler’s personal bodyguard).

1927: becomes deputy commander of SS and commander in 1929

March 1933: appointed head of political police in Munich

April 1933: appointed police commander for whole of Bavaria.

April 1934: becomes head of Prussian Gestapo (secret state police).

July 1934: After Night of Long Knives, SS now independent of SA.

1936: becomes head of all police forces in every state.

1939: entire security apparatus coordinated under one umbrella organisation RHSA (Reich Main Security Department) under Heydrich.

By 1939: 240,000 members of the SS organised into divisions. The main branch was the Waffen-SS, primarily a paramilitary organisation.



Use the handouts plus pages 216-222 E&J and pages 201-203 to construct a chart detailing the roles of the various components of the SS-Gestapo complex:

Military (Waffen SS)

Police (Gestapo and Orpo)

Security (SD)

Racial (Concentration Camps)

Economic (SS Economy and Administration Board)

Include the role, methods and key details to do with each organisation