The Reichssicherheits-Hauptamt (Reich Main Office of Security ) was established in Berlin in 1939 after the outbreak of World War II. It consisted of an amalgamation of the Gestapo, the Kripo (Criminal Police) and the SD (Security Service of the SS). State and party organisations melted into this new intelligence and security corps whose mission was spearheaded entirely by the Nazi national ideal: the need to keep the German people ‘pure’ by employing all available means.
The RSHA had unprecedented power, based on terror and lawlessness. It was initially led by Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942). After Heydrich was assassinated Heinrich Himmler took over for a brief period and was succeeded by Ernst Kaltenbrunner (1903-1946) in January 1943.
The RSHA was reorganised in March 1941 into seven units, which were active both in Germany and the occupied territories of Europe. In Germany political and ‘racial’ opponents could be placed in ‘Schutzhaft’, so-called protective custody, basically amounting to imprisonment in a concentration camp without any form of trial. In Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union the RSHA organised the systematic elimination of ‘hostile’ elements, including leading communists and Jews. From the second half of 1941 Adolf Eichmann organised the deportation of the European Jews from Referat IV B 4 Judenangelegenheiten und Räumungsangelegenheiten (Office of Jewish Affairs and Evacuation).