The Ordnungspolizei (Orpo)
was the name for the uniformed regular German police force
in existence during the period of Nazi Germany
, notably between 1936 and 1945. It was increasingly absorbed into the Nazi police system. Owing to their green uniforms, they were also referred to as Grüne Polizei
(green police). The Orpo brought together the city and municipal uniformed forces that had been organised on a state-by-state basis and covered the towns and cities whereas the Gendarmerie
known as the Landjäger) covered small towns and rural areas.
Translated as "order police", Ordnungspolizei
referred to uniformed police units. These were brought together on a national basis for the first time in German history by an act of the German Interior Ministry in the summer of 1936. The act decreed
that the regular German police forces were to be absorbed into the SS
, which would then incorporate all local, state, and national level law enforcement agencies.
The police were divided into the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo or regular police) and the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo or security police), which had been re-established after the First World War. Men wishing to join the Orpo typically served three years in the Sipo first. The Orpo assumed duties of regular uniformed law enforcement while the Sipo consisted of the secret state police (Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapo) and criminal investigation police (Kriminalpolizei or Kripo). The Gestapo was a corps of professional detectives involved in political police duties and the task of the Kriminalpolizei was fighting crime. In September 1939, the Sipo was combined with the secret service of the SS Sicherheitsdienst (SD) into the Main Office for Security of the Reich the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA). The RSHA symbolized the close connection between the SS (a party organization) and the police (a state organization).
The Orpo was commanded by SS-Oberstgruppenführer Kurt Daluege
, who reported directly to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
. As part of his duties as commander of the SS, which now controlled the Orpo, Himmler was also named as Chef der Deutschen Polizei
. By 1941, the Orpo had been divided into the following offices, covering every aspect of German law enforcement.
The Hauptamt Ordungspolizei was the central command office of the entire Ordnungspolizei and was considered a full SS-Headquarters command.
The Schutzpolizei served as Germany's municipal police force and was tasked with maintaining order in German cities and larger towns. The Schutzpolizei was further divided into the following:
- Schutzpolizei des Reiches (cities and large towns)
which included police-station duties (Revierdienst) and barracked police units for riots and public safety (Kasernierte Polizei)
- Schutzpolizei der Gemeinden (smaller towns)
or rural police was tasked with frontier law enforcement to include small communities, rural districts, and mountainous terrain. Members of the Gendarmerie were mainly employed to combat poaching
and also as Alpine troops for homeland defense. With the development of a network of motorways in Germany
, motorized gendarmerie companies were set up in 1937 to secure the traffic.
The Verwaltungspolizei was the administrative branch of the Orpo and had overall command authority for all Orpo police stations. The Verwaltungspolizei also was the central office for record keeping and was the command authority for civilian law enforcement groups, which included the Gesundheitspolizei
(health police), Gewerbepolizei
(commercial or trade police), and the Baupolizei
In main towns, Verwaltungspolizei, Schutzpolizei and Kriminalpolizei were organised into police administrations known as "Polizeiprasidium" or "Polizeidirektion" which had authority upon these police forces in the urban district.
The Verkehrspolizei (traffic police) was the traffic-law enforcement agency and road safety administration of Germany. The organization patrolled Germany's roads (other than motorways which were controlled by Motorized Gendarmerie) and responded to major accidents. The Verkehrspolizei was also the primary escort service for high Nazi leaders who traveled great distances by automobile.
The Wasserschutzpolizei ("water protection" police) was the coast guard of the Third Reich. Tasked with the safety and security of Germany's rivers, harbors, and inland waterways, the group also had authority over the SS-Hafensicherungstruppen
which were Allgemeine-SS
units assigned as port security personnel.
The Bahnschutzpolizei (railway police
) was made up of part-time police officers who were also employees of the Reichsbahn
(state railway). The Bahnschutzpolizei was tasked with railway safety and also preventing espionage and sabotage of railway property.
The Postschutz (postal police) comprised roughly 4,500 members and was tasked with security at Germany's post offices and ensuring the security of other communications media such as telephone
In 1938, all of Germany's local fire brigades were absorbed into the Ordnungspolizei. The Feuerschutzpolizei (fire protection police) thus consisted of all professional fire departments under a national command structure. The Orpo Hauptamt also had authority over the Freiwillige Feuerwehren
, the local volunteer civilian fire brigades
At the height of the Second World War, in response to heavy bombing of Germany's cities, the combined Feuerschutzpolizei and Freiwillige Feuerwehren numbered nearly two million in membership.
The Security and Assistance Service (Sicherheits und Hilfsdienst or SHD) was created in 1935 as air protection police. It was the civil protection service in charge of air raid defence and rescue victims of bombings in connexion with the Technische Nothilfe (Technical Emergency Service) and the Feuerschutzpolizei (Fire Brigades).
In April 1942, SHD was renamed Luftschutzpolizei (air civil defence police).
The air raid network (Luftschutzdienst) was supported by the Reichsluftschutzbund or RLB (Reich Association for Air Raid Precautions) an organization controlled from 1935 by the Air Ministry under Hermann Göring
. The RLB set up an organization of air raid wardens who were responsible for the safety of a building or a group of houses.
Known as the TeNo
, the Technische Nothilfe (technical emergency corps) was a corps of engineers, technicians and specialist in construction work. TeNo was created in 1919 to keep the public utilities and essential industries running during the wave of strikes. In 1930 a gas and air protection service was created as well the emergency branch service was enlarged and equipped to fight natural catastrophes (floods). From 1937 TeNo became a technical auxiliary corps of the police and was absorbed into Orpo Hauptamt. By 1943, the TeNo had over 100,000 members.
The Funkschutz ("radio guard") was made up of SS and Orpo security personnel assigned to protect German radio stations from attack and sabotage. The Funkschutz was the also the primary investigating service for illegal reception of foreign radio broadcasts.
The Werkschutzpolizei (factory protection police) were the night watchmen
of the Third Reich. Its personnel were civilians who answered to a central Orpo office and typically were issued paramilitary uniforms, mostly surplus black or grey Allgemeine-SS
jackets with Orpo insignia.
Between 1939 and 1945, the Ordnungspolizei also maintained separate military formations, independent of the main police offices within Germany. The first such formations were the Police Battalions, established for law enforcement in occupied territories and anti-partisan
duties. The Police Battalions were under the authority of local SS and Police Leaders
and were used, more often than not, as security forces patrolling the Jewish ghettos
. The Police Battalions were also one of the two primary sources from which the Einsatzgruppen
drew personnel in accordance with manpower needs (the other being the Waffen-SS
). The majority of police battalions formed 28 Police Regiments in 1942. many of which saw combat on the Eastern Front
during the retreat of the German army.
It should be noted that the regular military police of the Wehrmacht were separate from the Ordnungspolizei.
Waffen-SS Police Division
The primary military arm of the Ordnungspolizei
was the 4th Panzergrenadier Division of the Waffen-SS
, known as the SS Polizei Division
. Mainly used as a rear guard and reserve formation, the Polizei Division was historically known as being undertrained and lacking in skilled combat tactics. The division consisted of four police regiments composed of Orpo personnel and was typically used to rotate police members into a military situation, so as not to lose police personnel to the general draft of the Wehrmacht or to the full SS divisions of the regular Waffen-SS
Very late in the war several Orpo SS-Police regiments were transferred to the Waffen-SS to form the 35th SS and Police Grenadier Division.
Orpo and SS Unity
The Ordnungspolizei was separate from the SS and maintained a system of insignia and Orpo ranks
. It was possible for policemen to be members of the SS but without active duties. Police generals who were members of the SS referred simultaneously by both rank titles during the war. For instance, a Generalleutnant
in the Police who was also an SS member would be referred to as SS Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei
. In addition, those Orpo police generals that ran duties of Senior SS and Police Leaders (Höhere SS und Polizeiführer) gained equivalent Waffen-SS
ranks in August 1944 when Himmler was appointed Chef der Ersatzheeres (Chief of Home Army) because they had authority over the prisoner-of-war camps
in their area.
Heinrich Himmler's ultimate desire for the Ordnungspolizei was to eventually phase the organization out of existence and replace the regular police forces of Germany with a combined racial/state protection corps (Staatsschutzkorps) of pure SS units. In Himmler's dream, local law enforcement would be undertaken by the Allgemeine-SS with the Waffen-SS providing homeland-security and political-police functions. Historical analysis of the Third Reich has revealed that senior Orpo personnel knew of Himmler's plans and were very much against the extinction of the Ordnungspolizei in favor of an SS state police.
At the close of the Second World War
, the Orpo ceased to exist; but many of its personnel continued with business as usual, performing police services for the Allied occupation forces. The traditions of the Orpo continued in East Germany
, which maintained a state police force (Volkspolizei
) designed after the SS structures, being based on a centralized system. In West Germany
, the police were decentralized again, as they had been before 1936, with each of the new federal states (called Bundesländer
) establishing its own police force Landespolizei
, each of which survives to this day. Many Landespolizei regulations, procedures, and even some uniforms, which are green, and insignia, can be traced back to the pre-1936 forces.
Further reading Browning, Christopher
(1992). Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
. New york: HarperCollins.