In order to maintain his absolute power he needed to ensure the total loyalty of the people to him. He used a wide variety of methods to achieve this.
The Police State
Hitler and the Nazis created a Police State to exercise control over the population. There were three main parts to it:
Internal security forces
After the elimination of the SA in the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934, Hitler used three main organisations (in addition to the regular German police force) to control the German people through spying, intimidation and imprisonment.
The Schutzstaffel (SS) was led by Heinrich Himmler and was the most important of the three organisations. It oversaw the others. Initially it was set up in 1925 as Hitler’s personal bodyguard service, and it was fanatically loyal to the Führer and utterly ruthless. By 1935, it numbered 200,000. Its leaders became more important than the Party organisation in running the country.
The SS set up concentration camps where ‘enemies of the state’ were sent. They also developed their own huge industrial enterprises, where prisoners were used as slave labour.
The Gestapo was the Nazis’ secret police force. In 1934 Himmler replaced Hermann Göring as its leader. Its job was to monitor the German population for signs of opposition or resistance to Nazi rule and eliminate it. Although its membership was not huge, it was greatly feared because it was powerful. They listened to telephone calls, intercepted letters and encouraged ordinary Germans to inform on their fellow citizens.
The Sicherheitsdienst (SD) was the intelligence-gathering agency of the SS. It was responsible for the security of Hitler and other top Nazis and was led by Himmler’s right-hand man, Reinhard Heydrich.
To help these organisations a spy network made up of ordinary people was established across the Germany.
At a local level, Blockleiters were in charge of listening to gossip, keeping an eye on neighbours and informing on anything suspicious in a block of flats or a group of houses.
At the top of the network were the 42 regional Gauleiters.