The Gestapo was a secret police whose main task was to maintain the National Socialist (Nazi) regime in Germany and later in the occupied countries. Adolf Hitler himself considered that there must be some sort of political police that will protect the Third Reich by seeking and eliminating all dissidents and opponents. Since the Third Reich's opponents could come from any social strata and any position in society, for Gestapo everyone could have been a potential suspect. Due to the constant suspicion and persistence in finding an opponent, Gestapo became one of the symbols of Hitler's government and the terror he carried out.
After becoming Minister of the Internal Affairs of Prussia, Herman Goering was most important figure in process of creating the Gestapo. To strengthen the Gestapo, he used the Prussian political police that became part of Gestapo’s forces. Goering set up Gestapo headquarters in Berlin not far from his palace. Shortly thereafter, there was a clash within the party between Goering, who was second in command after Hitler, and Heinrich Himmler, the SS leader. Both wanted full control of the Gestapo but Himmler was increasingly taking control over the time and on April 20, 1934. Goering surrendered to Himmler full control over the Gestapo. Himmler thus concentrated all power over the secret services, because under his authority was also the SD (Security Service). Himmler has appointed Reinhard Heydrich as Commander of the Gestapo, who at the same time was a commander of SD. Although SD and Gestapo were connected and had the same commander, they were often rivals. After Heydrich's death, Heinrich Müller took over the leadership of the Gestapo.
The organization of the Gestapo was specific because it had a considerable autonomy in operation. Gestapo even set up its own legal system that overcame the powers of ordinary courts of the Third Reich. A special law was passed in 1936, which gave the Gestapo special powers not to seek the consent of the ordinary German court for its verdicts. Gestapo under its control had the property, freedom and lives of all Germans. Opposition of Gestapo were all those for whom they thought that could in any way endanger the Third Reich, so on the list were those who respected the German Emperor Wilhelm II, although he had not been in power since 1918, but the Nazis watched on the monarchy as an opponent of national socialism. Apart from supporters of the monarchy, Gestapo also persecuted Jews, Bolsheviks, Marxists, and even those who would ridicule or disparage the Third Reich. Even an anti-racist joke could have been enough to start an investigation of the Gestapo. Further, Gestapo dealt with finding spies, betrayal or sabotage of German governance. Even the Germans were in constant fear because they were rumors about the tortures and people who disappeared after being taken to the Gestapo headquarters for questioning.
Under the scrutiny of the Gestapo was even the Church, especially after Pope Pius XI warned Christians of Nazism and the harmfulness of Nazi ideology. Christianity found itself as a natural enemy of Nazism, in particular its racial policies and the conduct of violent euthanasia, to which the clergy in Germany strongly opposed. Gestapo carefully monitored the activity of the Church, especially bishops, but agents followed even ordinary members of clergy.
The methods used by Gestapo were extremely cruel, but they worried much more about the outcome than about the means they would use to achieve this. Gestapo had the habit of first just warning the Germans who opposed Hitler, without taking any measures. However, if the warned persons continued to oppose Hitler, they were taken to detention for some time with an excuse of being detained because of the safety of the state. Often the punishment was sending accused to the concentrating camps. If the suspect really belonged to a group of those who could harm the Third Reich, then he was arrested and taken to a testing during which he would be often beaten to death.
The Gestapo was also involved in important political events, such as the merging of Austria with Germany (Anschluss) and played an important role in events surrounding Czechoslovakia and other countries. With the Germany’s conquests, the field of action of Gestapo expanded and served to break any kind of resistance to Nazi occupation. They participated in the biggest crimes in the occupied countries, such as the slaughter in Poland or the execution of Russian prisoners of war, and the stories about the Gestapo's cruelty spread everywhere.
Although they did the worst crimes, Gestapo’s members were often young people with very good education, but they shared a fanatic commitment to Hitler's ideas and the preservation of the Third Reich. Although the power of the Gestapo was huge and everyone was afraid of it, the number of members was very small, only 6,500 in 1937. At the height of his power, Gestapo had about 20000 members, but mostly they were honorary and auxiliary staff, while in the Gestapo there were only 3000 Nazis. At the Nuremberg Trials, SD and Gestapo were treated as part of a unique organization and members were tried for the organization of war crimes and participation in the execution of crimes against humanity.