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Order on "Measures against the Jews"

In June 1936, Reinhard Heydrich became the leader of the German Security Police—a newly created branch that included the Gestapo (Secret State Police) and the Kripo (Criminal Police). A close associate of SS leader Heinrich Himmler, Heydrich developed the intelligence agency of the SS (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD) and gained control over Germany’s political police forces. As the chief of both the SD and the Security Police, Heydrich was an influential figure linking the regime’s policies of persecution to the German police charged with carrying them out.1

When Himmler became Chief of the German Police in June 1936, the position gave him authority over all of the police forces throughout Germany. He increased coordination between German states’ police forces and took further steps to link the German police with the SS.2 Himmler divided Germany's police forces into the Order Police (Germany’s different uniformed police forces) and the Security Police (the Gestapo and the Kripo).3 Although the different branches of the German police all had separate responsibilities and duties, they worked in cooperation with one another.

The featured memorandum shows how the Nazi regime used German police to support the persecution of Jews during the anti-Jewish violence that has since become known as Kristallnacht ("Crystal Night" or the "Night of Broken Glass").4 On the night of November 9–10, 1938, Nazi leaders organized anti-Jewish attacks throughout the German Reich. Although the violence was designed to appear spontaneous, the attacks were carried out largely by roaming groups of SS, SA (Sturmabteilung, or Stormtroopers) and Hitler Youth acting upon directions from Nazi leaders.5

Heydrich's orders reveal how he directed the Security Police to respond to the violence. While he ordered the police to allow attacks on Jewish homes and businesses, Heydrich directed them to prevent looting from Jewish shops and to secure non-Jewish businesses from any damage. He also ordered the arrests of thousands of Jewish men—"particularly affluent Jews" who were more likely to have the financial means to emigrate from Germany if they could be harassed into leaving the country.

This document not only demonstrates how police in Nazi Germany became involved in the persecution of Jews,6 but it also sheds light on how the different branches of the German police coordinated their work under the Nazi regime.

The Security Police and the SD became formally connected shortly after German forces started World War II by invading Poland on September 1, 1939. Himmler merged the two organizations into the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheits-Hauptamt, or RSHA) later that month and placed it under Heydrich's control. The RSHA would play a leading role in forming and applying the Nazi regime's genocidal policies during the Holocaust. For more on the Security Police, the SD, and the RSHA, see Michael Wildt, An Uncompromising Generation: the Nazi Leadership of the Reich Security Main Office, translated by Tom Lampert (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009); and George C. Browder, Foundations of the Nazi Police State: The Formation of Sipo and SD (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2004. 

See the related item in Experiencing History Photograph of Berlin Police Deputizing Members of the SS.

Although the different branches of the German police all had separate responsibilities and duties, they worked in cooperation with one another. For example, a person arrested by the Order Police might then be investigated by the Kripo before being referred to the Gestapo.

This name comes from the shattered windows of vandalized Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues during these attacks. Many scholars of the Holocaust prefer to use the term "November pogroms" to describe the planned and coordinated anti-Jewish violence rather than use the euphemistic term, "Kristallnacht." To learn more about these events, see Alan E. Steinweis, Kristallnacht 1938 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009); and Gerhard L. Weinberg, Kristallnacht 1938, as Experienced Then and Understood Now (Washington, DC: Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2009). 

As Nazi genocidal policies developed in the context of World War II, members of the German police also became complicit in mass murder. To learn more about the involvement of German police in the mass shootings of the Holocaust, see Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: Harper Collins, 1992); and Ian Rich, Holocaust Perpetrators of the German Police Battalions: The Mass Murder of Jewish Civilians, 1940-1942 (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). 

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Copy of Most Urgent telegram from Munich on November 10, 1938, 1:20 a.m.

To all Headquarters and Stations of the State (Political) Police

To all Local and Regional Offices of the Security Service (SD)

Urgent! For immediate attention of Chief and his deputy!

Re: Measures Against the Jews Tonight.

Because of the assassination of Legation Secretary vom Rath in Paris, demonstrations throughout the Reich are to be expected tonight -- November 9 to 10, 1938. The following orders are issued for dealing with these occurances.

1.) Upon receipt of this telegram, the chiefs of the political police [Gestapo] stations or their deputies must immediately contact the appropriate political authorities for their district [the local Nazi Party leaders]... by telephone to arrange a discussion about the conduct of the demonstrations. This discussion should include the competent Inspector or Commander of the Order Police....

[The local] political authorities are to be informed that the German police have received from the Reichsfuehrer SS and the Chief of the German police the following orders to which the actions of the political authorities should be correspondingly adjusted:

a) Only such actions may be carried out which do not threaten German lives or property (e.g., burning of synagogues only when there is no threat of fire to the surroundings).

b) Stores and residences of Jews may only be destroyed but not looted. The police are instructed to supervise compliance with this order and to arrest looters.

c) Special care is to be taken on commercial streets that non-Jewish businesses are completely secured against damage.

d) Foreign citizens, even if they are Jewish, may not be molested.

2.) ... demonstrations in progress should not be prevented by the police but only supervised for compliance with the guidelines.

3.) ... existing archival material is to be impounded by the police in all synagogues and offices of the Jewish community centers to prevent its destruction in the course of the demonstrations.... [This material] is to be turned over to the... offices of the SD.

4.) The direction of Security Police [both political and criminal divisions] operations relating to the anti-Jewish demonstrations resides with Political Police authorities except when orders are issued by Security Police inspectors. Officials from the Criminal Police as well as members of the Security Service (SD), of the SS para-military units, and of the general SS may be called upon to carry out Security Police operations.

5.) As soon as the course of events during this night allows the assigned police officers to be used for this purpose, as many Jews -- particularly affluent Jews -- are to be arrested in all districts as can be accomodated in existing detention facilities. For the time being, only healthy male Jews, whose age is not too advanced, are to be arrested. Immediately after the arrests have been carried out, the appropriate concentration camps should be contacted to place the Jews into camps as quickly as possible. Special care should be taken that Jews arrested on the basis of this instruction are not mistreated.

6.) The contents of this order are to be passed on to the competent Inspectors and Commanders of the Order Police and to regional and local sectors of the SD....

The chief of the Order Police has issued the corresponding instructions to the Order Police including the fire brigades. Close coordination is to be maintained between the Security Police and the Order Police during the implementation of the ordered actions

signed: [Reinhard] Heydrich

SS-Gruppenführer

[SS-Major General, Nazi Chief of Security Police]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 1995.A.0255
Date Created
November 10, 1938
Author / Creator
Reinhard Heydrich
Language(s)
German
Location
Munich, Germany
Document Type Report
How to Cite Museum Materials

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