Were German soldiers actually Nazis in World War II

Second World War Secret field police: the unknown Nazi troops and their afterlife in the BND

The entire leadership and officer level did not consist of the military, but field police officers, delegated from the ranks of Reinhard Heydrich's security police. In 1946, Wilhelm Krichbaum stated in an affidavit to the International Military Tribunal that no more than eight percent of these officials came from the ranks of the Gestapo. Real criminologists were called in for the job much more often. More recent archive inspections tend to show the opposite findings.

The "Gestapo of the Wehrmacht"

According to the current state of historical research, a large part of the staff, especially the management level, brought experience from the Gestapo with them. Like Field Police Chief Krichbaum himself, who had served as Feldjäger-Hauptmann in the Dresden State Police Office from 1933 and later, in parallel to his function as Field Police Chief, headed Office IV of the Reich Security Main Office and also acted as deputy to the Gestapo chief.

Role of the secret field police

But what were these police officers actually assigned to during the war? They were not responsible for the "ordinary" order; that was the duty of the field gendarmerie. An army service printing regulation of July 24, 1939 assigned the Secret Field Police, among other things, the task of combating "endangering the people and the state" in the operational area. And the commissioners delivered - for the first time in covert operations in Spain between 1936 and 1939 and when Austria was annexed in 1938.

Even in this early phase, the field police are exposed to "openly terrorist" measures and actions, such as the torture and execution of prisoners and suspects. But it is only a foretaste of what will happen with the general staff of Operation "Barbarossa", the attack on the Soviet Union.

1941: The Secret Field Police gains more power

In 1936 the future role of the field police was defined in the "Handbuch der Neuzeitlichen Wehrwissenschaft" as follows: "Special police for war purposes. They continue the activities of the political police during the war". This special role is expanded again five years later. Because in the war against the Soviet Union, the Secret Field Police will also take on tasks that were previously reserved for the Wehrmacht judiciary.

In his letter known as the "Martial Law Decree" in 1941, Adolf Hitler explicitly wipes all concerns about international law off the table and declares that restraint towards this new enemy is completely inappropriate. After all, it is important to keep a "particularly dangerous element from the civilian population that destroys all order" in check: the "Jewish-Bolshevik worldview", which uses the "weapon of disintegration insidiously and from ambush".