photography by swartz



2. Himmler


In September 1919, Hitler changed the name of the German Workers' Party Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (DAP) to the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) and pushed for rapid expansion. In 1923, the Nazis had 23,000 members, but by 1932, the party had become the largest political organization in Germany. German President von Hindenburg was advised to form a coalition government embracing NSDAP and other right-wing nationalist parties. On January 30, 1933, von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor. Hitler assumed power under the guise of lawfulness that concealed his true intentions. By the spring of 1933, Hitler was master of Germany.

On April 26, 1933, Hermann Gring, Hitler's second-in-command, created the Geheime Staats Polizei (Gestapo). The Gestapo was one of the most infamous police organizations in the history of mankind. The task of these leather-overcoated agents was to track down subversive elements. According to Gring, "It's not my business to do justice; it's my business to annihilate and exterminate, that's all."

On April 20, 1934, Gring handed over the leadership of the Gestapo to Heinrich Himmler. All Reich police forces civil, political and secret were now under the control of Himmler. The foundations of the police state were now solidly in place. Himmler had an obsession with racial purity and moral cleansing, and his hatred for all forms of "deviants" gave the Gestapo a character distinct from all other secret police forces. Himmler turned Hitler's anti-Semitic tirade into practical reality.

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Last modified: 07/15/03