The Geheime Staatspolizei – or Gestapo – was set up by Göring in 1933 as a police force for Prussia. One year later, in 1934, Himmler was appointed chief of the Gestapo. Under his leadership the Gestapo was moulded into a force that tracked down and persecuted enemies of the state, first in Germany and later in occupied Europe.
The Gestapo could impose Schutzhaft (protective custody), imprison people without charge, torture suspects into making confessions and kill prisoners. It was also closely involved in the deportation of Jews.
The Gestapo in Germany was not a large unit but it had an extensive web of informers. The Gestapo formed part of the RSHA (Reich Main Office of Security) from 1939 and was classified as a criminal organisation at the Nuremberg trials.