The Gestapo - A History of Hitler's Secret Police, 1933-45, Rupert Butler

The Gestapo - A History of Hitler's Secret Police, 1933-45, Rupert Butler

The Gestapo was one of the most infamous elements of the Nazi regime, a secret police force that was formed in Germany soon after the Nazis came to power, but that later spread across occupied Europe. The stereotyped image of the Gestapo man is of a sinister figure in a leather trench coat, but of course the reality was more complex, with most Gestapo officers being pre-Nazi police officers, and their undercover agents a bit more subtle than that!

Much of the time this doesn't feel like a history of the Gestapo, but instead more of a general account of Nazi activities. Part of the problem is that the book focuses on the 'greatest hits' - the career and assassination of Heydrich, Stauffenberg's attempt to assassinate Hitler, the Röhm purge and so forth. Perhaps the real problem is that the Gestapo had such wide ranging powers across Germany and occupied Europe that this book isn’t really big enough to cover both the most famous aspects of the Gestapo's history and its more mundane day-to-day activities. What we get is a good overview of German repression across Europe, but I would have liked more on the lower level activities of the Gestapo - the sort of material that doesn't get covered in general histories of the war.

This is a good introduction to the topic, covering the formation and structure of the Gestapo, and giving a good idea of just how widely its tentacles spread across Europe. The areas that are covered are dealt with well. Those with more background knowledge will probably find it a bit limiting, covering topics that are already familiar.

1 - Foundations
2 - Rivalry
3 - Heydrich Takes Over
4 - Tightening the Grip
5 - The War Begins
6 - The Occupied Territories
7 - Stamping Out Resistance
8 - The End of the Reich

Author: Rupert Butler
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 192
Publisher: Amber
Year: 2015 edition of 2004 original

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