The Secret State Police, or Gestapo for short, is considered one of the most important instruments of National Socialism. It came into being in 1933 in the course of the National Socialists‘ rise to power. It emerged from the restructuring of the political police of the Weimar Republic by the National Socialist German Workers‘ Party (NSDAP). The main tasks of the Gestapo were the surveillance of society and the persecution of opponents of the Nazi regime. For political reasons, the Gestapo persecuted communists and social democrats, and for racist reasons it persecuted Jews in particular. The Gestapo also worked closely with the Reich Criminal Police and persecuted Sinti and Roma, homosexuals and so-called »asocials«.
The Frankfurt Gestapo thus monitored, persecuted and registered actual and suspected opponents of the Nazi regime and those who were classified as not belonging to the »national community«. The surveillance of forced labourers was one of the Gestapo‘s tasks, especially during the Second World War. Mistreatment, shootings and hangings were the order of the day. The Gestapo officers themselves could also order the forced labourers to be sent to concentration camps.
The Gestapo headquarters was the Secret State Police Office (Gestapa) or, from 1939, the »Reich Security Main Office« in Berlin, to which the state police offices were subordinate. The structure of the Gestapo in 1933 initially consisted of three departments: 1) Abwehr, 2) Außendienst and 3) Sonderaufträge, Sofortsachen, Registratur und Kanzlei. From 1937 onwards, the Gestapo consisted of three departments with a total of 15 divisions and 35 subject areas. The distribution of tasks was differentiated. The departments and sub-departments included, among others: the central authority, correspondence and administration, personnel matters and departments which were charged with the surveillance and persecution of Jews, political opponents, religious institutions, sports, youth and social clubs, homosexuals, emigrants abroad, Sinti and Roma and the surveillance of the economy. The Gestapo also pursued non-political crime and monitored public opinion, the press, art, culture, science and education through individual departments.
The area of activity of the Frankfurt Gestapo included the district of Fulda/Werra and Wiesbaden. In order to be able to carry out the surveillance of society within this area, the Gestapo worked together with informers and undercover agents. In order for the informers and undercover agents to be able to contact the Gestapo, there was a secret post office box in the main post office on the Zeil. Every month, every secret agent could deposit his or her report there. The large number of denunciations made in these reports enabled the Gestapo to imprison countless people in concentration camps and »labour education camps« or to execute them immediately.
Frankfurt Gestapo offices, detention centres and camps
In order to organise surveillance, the offices of the Frankfurt Gestapo were located in the general police building in 1936. In the course of organisational and personnel expansion, the Gestapo moved into its own offices in the building at Bürgerstraße 22 (today: Wilhelm-Leuschner-Straße) on 20 July 1936. With this move and the separation of the Gestapo‘s offices from the general police apparatus, the Gestapo‘s separation from the police authority was put into practice.
Parallel to this development was the expansion of the Frankfurt Gestapo in terms of personnel and organisation. Members who did not fully conform to the NSDAP were dismissed and Schutzstaffel (SS) and Sturmabteilungs (SA) people were recruited in their place. From 1 April 1941, the Frankfurt Gestapo headquarters was located at Lindenstrasse 27, where about 140 staff were employed. There were 3 detention cells in the basement there. However, Gestapo prisoners were not usually held in this building for a long time. Most of the time, the prisoners were brought to Lindenstraße for interrogation. They were then initially imprisoned in the local police prison in Klapperfeldstraße, in the remand prison in Hammelsgasse and in the penal prison in Preungesheim. As the number of those sentenced to imprisonment steadily increased, further detention facilities were created. In Bockenheim (Rödelheimer Strasse 10/12), a so-called emergency prison for more than 160 prisoners was opened from March 1942. Another such prison, in which more than 300 prisoners could be detained, existed at Gutleutstraße 13 from November 1942.
In terms of surveillance, imprisonment and torture up to and including murder, the Frankfurt Gestapo was known for its particularly pronounced brutality. Especially in the deportation of around 10,000 Frankfurt Jews, but also in the persecution of anti-fascists, the Gestapo went far beyond the instructions of Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. People who had contact with prisoners of war and deported Eastern European forced labourers were sent to so-called »labour education camps«. It was not uncommon for prisoners to be whipped and murdered there. Another example of the brutality of the Frankfurt Gestapo was the construction of a dismountable and transportable gallows with which they drove through the whole of Hesse and hanged people in the most brutal way in order to be able to kill more efficiently.
In 1940, the Frankfurt Gestapo took on further tasks within the Nazi apparatus of rule. These included the opening and organisation of the »labour education camp« for male prisoners in Heddernheim, which opened on 1 April 1942. Here, mainly so-called foreign »civilian workers« were imprisoned, who were accused of »work evasion« and »refusal to work«. From 1943 it was also used as an extended police prison and as a transit camp for Jewish prisoners, among others, who were deported from there. The camp was also called KZ Rhein-Main at the time because it was known as a Gestapo execution site. Women were initially imprisoned in the »labour education camp« Watenstedt near Salzgitter. On 1 August 1944, however, the Frankfurt Gestapo set up its own camp near Hirzenhain in the Vogelsberg, which was immediately given the name »Extended Police Prison for Women«.
The Frankfurt Gestapo was also active in other places outside the city area, such as guarding prisoners of war near Rüdesheim, conducting interrogations in a prisoner-of-war camp in Oberursel, deporting Soviet prisoners of war from Limburg to Buchenwald concentration camp and securing the Führer‘s headquarters near Usingen. In 1941, the Frankfurt Gestapo was expanded to include two units: the Druckschriftprüfstelle in the Herderschule on Wittelsbacherallee and a quasi-depotance at the »Reichsvereinigung der Juden« Bezirksstelle Hessen/Hessen Nassau at Hermesweg 5-7. Additional offices were located at Oberlindau 5 in Frankfurt am Main. There were field offices in Wiesbaden, Wetzlar and Limburg. In order to intensify cooperation with the Wiesbaden counterintelligence unit of the Wehrmacht, the counterintelligence unit of the Gestapo field office there was expanded from January 1937. The Wehrmacht‘s Foreign Letter Examination Office at the Zoo was also appointed to the Frankfurt Gestapo, as well as the Frankfurt branch of the Air Force Research Office, which was essentially responsible for intercepting the telephone calls of suspicious persons.
With the appointment of the head of the Frankfurt Gestapo, Reinhard Breder, as commander of the Hesse Security Police in March 1945, the Gestapo withdrew from Frankfurt. The labour education camp in Hirzenhain was initially used as alternative headquarters. However, since it was still being operated as such at this time, SS Colonel Trummler, the head of the Frankfurt Gestapo, ordered the camp to be vacated on 22 March 1945. A few days later, the inmates of the labour education camp were murdered by the Gestapo on the edge of the forest near Glashütten. The detachment moved on via Alsfeld to Seeburg near Göttingen, where it presumably disbanded on 3 April 1945.