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The Sicherheitsdienst (SD, Security Service) was the intelligence service of the SS. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was considered a "sister organization" with the Gestapo. Between 1933 and 1939, the SD was under the authority of the Sicherheitspolizei after which it was transferred to the authority of the Reichsicherheitshauptamt
The SD had been created in 1932 by Reinhard Heydrich; it became more powerful after the Nazis took control of Germany. It was in some competition with the Sturmabteilung (SA) but under its chief, Heydrich, on June 9, 1934 it was made the sole "Party information service". In 1938 it was made the intelligence organization for the State as well as for the Party, supporting the Gestapo and working with the General and Interior Administration.
The SD was tasked with the detection of actual or potential enemies of the Nazi leadership and the neutralization of this opposition. To fulfill this task, the SD created an organization of agents and informants throughout the Reich, and later throughout the occupied territories. The organization consisted of a few hundred full-time agents and several thousand informants. The SD was the information-gathering agency and the Gestapo and to a degree the Kriminalpolizei were the executive agency of the political police system. Both the SD and the Gestapo were effectively under the control of Heinrich Himmler as Chief of the German Police.
In 1936 the police were divided into the Ordnungspolizei (ORPO or Order Police) and the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo or Security Police). The Ordnungspolizei consisted of the Schutzpolizei (Safety Police), the Gendarmerie (Rural Police), and the Gemeindepolizei (Local Police). The Sicherheitspolizei was composed of the Reichs Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) and the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo). Heydrich became Chief of the Security Police and SD.
The Sicherheitspolizei was centralized in the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, (RSHA, Reich Security Main Office). The operational sections of the SD became Amt III (except for foreign intelligence which was placed in Amt VI); the Gestapo became Amt IV and the Kripo became Amt V. Otto Ohlendorf was named the Chief of Amt III, the SD-Inland (within Germany); Heinrich Müller was named the Chief of Amt IV, the Gestapo; Artur Nebe was named the Chief of Amt V; and Walter Schellenberg became Chief of Amt VI, the SD-Ausland (outside Germany). Later, in 1944, most of the sections of the Abwehr (military intelligence) were incorporated into Amt VI.
Heydrich was Chief of the Security Police and SD (RSHA) until his assassination in 1942, after which Ernst Kaltenbrunner became Chief. Kaltenbrunner took office on January 30, 1943 and remained there until the end of the war. The SD was declared a criminal organization after the war and its members were tried as war criminals at Nuremberg.
The SD was one of the oldest security organizations of the SS and was first formed in 1931 as the Ic-Deinst operating out of a single apartment and answering directly to Heinrich Himmler. By 1933, the organization was known as the SD-Amt and, in 1934, became the basis for the official state security organization of the Sicherheitspolizei. In 1939, the SD was divided into two offices, the Inland-SD and Ausland-SD and placed under the authority of the RSHA
By 1941, the SD had been organized into the following sections:
The Inland-SD was responsible for intelligence and security within Germany and was divided into the following sub-offices:
- Department A (Law and Legal Structures)
- Department B (Race and Ethnic Matters)
- Department C (Cultural and Religious Matters)
- Department D (Industry and Commerce)
- Department E (High Society)
The Ausland-SD was the civilian foreign intelligence agency of the Third Reich. In 1944, the Ausland-SD also took over all functions of the Abwehr. The Ausland-SD was divided into the following sections:
- Department A (Organization and Administration)
- Department B (Espionage in the West)
- Department C (Espionage in the Soviet Union and Japan)
- Department D (Espionage in the American sphere)
- Department E (Espionage in Eastern Europe)
- Department F (Technical Matters)
The SD was the main source of security forces in occupied territories and SD battalions were typically placed under the command of the SS and Police Leaders. The SD also maintained a presence at all concentration camps and supplied personnel, on an as needed basis, to such special organizations as the Einsatzgruppen. The SD was also the primary agency, in conjunction with the Ordnungspolizei, assigned to maintain order and security in the Jewish Ghettos of Poland. The typical image of SS troops, storming through ghettos murdering innocent victims, can be attributed to SD troops under the command of local SS and Police Leaders.
The SD also maintained local offices in Germany's cities and larger towns. The small offices were known as SD-Unterabschnitte and the larger offices were referred to as SD-Abschnitte. All SD offices answered to a local commander known as the Inspektor des Sicherheitspolizei und SD who, in turn, was under the dual command of the RSHA and local SS and Police Leaders.
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