The Gestapo was the secret police force of Nazi Germany. The word "Gestapo" is short for the German words Geheime Staatspolizei, which is translated "secret state police". It was formed by then Interior Minister of Prussia, Hermann Göring in April 1933 by removing the political and intelligence sections of the Prussian police and putting the unit under his command. By the following year, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had assumed control of all the German state political police departments except for Prussia. Thereafter in April 1934, Göring turned over control of the Gestapo to Himmler and his right-hand man, Reinhard Heydrich for use in the purge of the SA, in what became known as the "Night of the Long Knives".
They molded the force into a national agency to fight "enemies of the state". In 1936, the Gestapo became a sub-branch of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) or SiPo along with the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police), under Heydrich's overall command. Later on 27 September 1939, the Gestapo and Kripo became sub-departments of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) (Reich Security Main Office) under Heydrich. At that time, Heinrich Müller was made chief of the Gestapo (known as "Amt IV" or Department IV of the RSHA).
The Nazis used this police force to quiet all opposition from 1933 to 1945. German people were terrified of the Gestapo, as they were brutal, often arresting people in the middle of the night, and condemning them without giving them a chance to speak in their own defense. Further, the Gestapo relied on informants and people willing to denounce one another to their agents. The Nazis placed Gestapo agents around Europe in countries occupied by Germany to spread Nazi control and search out opponents. Also they were used to spy on each other, on government officials, and on military officers. The Gestapo collected complete histories of people, so when the Nazis invaded that country they would know who would oppose them.
- Browder, George C. Hitler's Enforcers: The Gestapo and the SS Security Service in the Nazi Revolution (1996) online edition
- Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich (2000).
- Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich in Power: 1933-1939 (2005).
- Gellately, Robert. The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933-1945 (1990).
- Manvell, Roger, and Heinrich Fraenkel. Heinrich Himmler: The SS, Gestapo, His Life and Career (2007).
- McNab, Chris. The SS: 1923–1945 (2009).
- Padfield, Peter. Himmler: Reichsführer-SS (1990).