The Concentration Camp: The Beginning of Protective Custody (Part 2 of 5)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter XI

[Page 949]

The Nazis realized early that without the most drastic repression of actual and potential opposition they could not consolidate their power over the German people. Immediately after Hitler became Chancellor, the conspirators promptly destroyed civil liberties by issuing the Presidential Emergency Decree of 28 February 1933 (1390-PS).

It was this decree which was the basis for "Schutzhaft", that is, "protective custody" -- the power of the Gestapo to imprison people without judicial proceedings. This is made clear by a typical order for protective custody: "Order of Protective Custody. Based on Article 1 of the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State of 28 February 1933 (Reichsgesetzblatt I, p. 83), you are taken into protective custody in the interest of public security and order. "Reason: Suspicion of activities inimical toward the State." (2499-PS) [Page 950] Goering, in a book entitled "Aufbau Einer Nation" and published in 1934, sought to give the impression that the camps originally were directed at those whom the Nazis considered "Communists" and "Social Democrats". At page 89 of this book he stated: "We had to deal ruthlessly with these enemies of the State. It must not be forgotten that at the moment of our seizure of power over 6 million people officially voted for Communism and about 8 million for Marxism in the Reichstag elections in March. "Thus the concentration camps were created, to which we had to send first thousands of functionaries of the Communist and Social Democratic parties." (2324-PS)

In practical operations, the power to order confinement was almost without limit: Frick, in an order which he issued on 25 January 1938, as Minister of Interior, made this clear. Article 1 of this order provided: "Protective custody can be decreed as a coercive measure of the Secret State Police against persons who endanger the security of the people and the State through their attitude in order to counter all aspirations of enemies of the people and State." (1723- PS)

This order further provides: "*** In a summary of all the previously issued decrees on the cooperation between the Party and the Gestapo I refer to the following and ordain: "1. To the Gestapo has been entrusted the mission by the Fuehrer to watch over and to eliminate all enemies of the Party and the National Socialist State as well as all disintegrating forces of all kinds directed against both. The successful solution of this mission forms one of the most essential prerequisite for the unhampered and frictionless work of the Party. The Gestapo, in their extremely difficult task, is to be granted support and assistance in every possible way by the NSDAP." (1723-PS)

Previous | Documents index | Next

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.

Timeline People Arts Activities Resources