Advanced Search Filters

In addition to or instead of a keyword search, use one or more of the following filters when you search.

Skip to main content
Bookmark this Item

Request for the Investigation of Professor Hans Peters

Gestapo Denuncation
Bundesarchiv Berlin

The Nazi Party used several security agencies, such as the Gestapo, to carry out surveillance of the German population. But the Nazi regime lacked the resources to keep the entire society under watch at all times. To fill the gaps in surveillance, the Third Reich also relied on ordinary citizens informing on one another.1 This system rewarded individuals willing to report the activities of those who opposed the regime. It also promoted denunciation as a way for citizens to settle scores with rivals or to eliminate competitors in the workplace.2 As one scholar has shown, in this "self-policing society," at times Germans even informed on their own family members.3 Gestapo files often show how the German population actively participated in their own surveillance and regulation.4

The featured source represents part of the process of denouncing a university professor. In December 1937, the Gestapo contacted Reich Student Leader Gustav Adolf Scheel to request a report in response to rumors about Professor Hans Peters of Berlin University. As the memo shows, Scheel organized a report on Peters from Nazi student leaders. The memo provides no information about the source of the rumors or the denunciation.5

As Germany faced defeat in 1945, the Gestapo and other security offices destroyed police files to escape postwar justice. As a result, few records of the denunciation process remain. But many such documents regarding university faculty and students have been preserved.6 They show how students at Germany's universities used denunciations not only to further their own ideological agendas, but also to target professors whose exams were too difficult or to damage academically successful peers. Politically ambitious students sometimes used denunciations to attack professors in order to improve their own career prospects. This type of behavior was tolerated and even encouraged in an academic setting that privileged political reliability over academic performance. Under Nazi rule, rumors became a dangerous political tool—and helped create an atmosphere of paranoia and fear.

Robert Gellately, "Denunciations and Nazi Germany: New Insights and Methodological Problems," Historical Research, vol. 22, no. 3/4 (1997): 228–239, fn. 229.

Given that most Gestapo files were destroyed toward the end of World War II, the system of denunciation is difficult to reconstruct. The motives of the denunciators were rarely, if ever, recorded. See Gellately, "Denunciations and Nazy Germany," fn 234.

Gellately reports on a grandmother denouncing her own grandson for remarks against Hitler. See Gellately, "Denunciations and Nazi Germany," 237.

Robert Gellately, "The Gestapo and German Society: Political Denunciation in the Gestapo Files," The Journal of Modern History, vol. 60, no. 4 (1998): 654–694, 661.

In general, false or exaggerated denunciations rarely drew consequences. Suspicion of Peters likely resulted from his status as a Catholic and a member of Catholic political circles. For more on German Catholics under Hitler, see The German Churches and the Nazi State in the USHMM Holocaust Encyclopedia.

Because denunciations at universities produced overlapping layers of paperwork both at the university and within the Nazi Ministry of Education, many institutions retained copies that were not destroyed.

For more on the position of Catholics under the Nazi regime, see the USHMM Holocaust Encyclopedia article on The German Churches and the Nazi State. See also a related item in Experiencing History, relaying an American observer's impressions of Christianity in Germany in the early years of Nazi rule.

Close Window Expand Source Viewer

This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: .


The Leader of the Reich Students' Union     Munich, January 12, 1938
Office for Academic Disciplines and             Karlstr. 16
Specialty Training



Student Leader Lemke Br.B
University of Berlin Dr.Kb./Vo.
Berlin File reference: z
Unter den Linden 6


Re: University Associate Professor Hans Peters

I request that you immediately send me a detailed report. The Reichsstudentenführer has received a confidential opinion on P., in which it is stated that he is a great reactionary, shows preference in his classes to Catholics1 and former member of the Center [Party], and discriminates against National Socialists; further, that he belonged to the Center Party and continues to travel in Center Party circles and frequently has members of the Catholic clergy as visitors.

I ask that this be dealt with as a strictly confidential matter.

Heil Hitler!

Head of the Office for Academic Disciplines and Specialty Training

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Bundesarchiv Berlin
Accession Number NS38-3636
Date Created
January 12, 1938
Berlin, Germany
Document Type Letter
How to Cite Museum Materials

Thank You for Supporting Our Work

We would like to thank The Alexander Grass Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for Experiencing History. View the list of all donors and contributors.


Learn more about sources for your classroom