Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD, lit. "Reich security service") was
an SS security force of Nazi Germany. Originally bodyguards for Adolf
Hitler, it later provided men for the protection of other high-ranking
leaders of the Nazi regime. The group, although similar in name, was
completely separate from the
Sicherheitsdienst (SD) which was the
formal intelligence service for the SS, the
Nazi Party and later Nazi
Its role also included personal security, investigation of
assassination plots, surveillance of locations before the arrival of
Nazi dignitaries and vetting buildings as well as guests. The RSD had
the power to request assistance from any other SS organisations and
take command of all
Ordnungspolizei (order police) in its role
protecting the Nazi functionaries.
2 Pre-war role
3 Wartime operations
4 See also
The RSD was founded on 15 March 1933 as the Führerschutzkommando
Führer protection command"; FSK) under the command of then
Standartenführer Johann Rattenhuber. His deputy was Peter
Högl. Originally charged with protecting the
Führer only while he
was inside the borders of Bavaria, its members consisted of
criminal-police detectives of the Bavarian police. Since the small
group was made up of Bavarian police officers, they could only operate
within the area of their authority. Hitler's protection outside
Bavaria was already entrusted to an eight-member bodyguard known as
Begleitkommando des Führers
Begleitkommando des Führers which was founded on 29 February
Hitler wanted a home-grown close protection group while in Munich
because this was the traditional birthplace of the
Nazi Party and
where any plots would therefore have added significance. In the spring
of 1934, the Führerschutzkommando replaced the SS-Begleitkommando for
Hitler's overall protection throughout Germany. In 1935 the
Führerschutzkommando was made up of 17 police officers under
Rattenhuber's command. The FSK was officially renamed the
Security Service; RSD) on 1 August
1935. Himmler finally gained full control over the RSD in October
1935. Although Himmler was officially named chief, Rattenhuber
remained in command and took his orders for the most part from Hitler
or a chief aide such as Julius Schaub. Himmler was given
administrative control over the RSD and the SS gained influence over
its members. As for the SS-Begleitkommando, it was expanded and
became known as the Führerbegleitkommando (
Führer Escort Command;
FBK). The FBK continued under separate command until April 1945 and
remained responsible for Hitler's close personal protection.
The RSD and FBK worked together for security and personal protection
during Hitler's trips and public events, but they operated as two
groups and used separate vehicles. For those occasions, Rattenhuber
would be in overall command and the FBK chief, at the time, would act
as his deputy. Before a trip, the RSD had the responsibly of
checking the route, the buildings along the route, and the places
Hitler was to visit. The local
Gestapo office would provide
intelligence reports, along with information as to any assassination
rumours, to the RSD. For motorcades, following Hitler's
Mercedes-Benz would be two cars to the left and right, one with FBK
men and the other with a detachment of RSD men.
In 1936 a resolution of the
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht gave members of
the RSD the status of being
Wehrmacht officers but with authority that
included extra jurisdictional powers and privileges. It was
formally called the
Reichssicherheitsdienst Gruppe Geheime Feldpolizei
z. b. V (Reich
Security Service Group Secret Field Police z. b.
V). They were considered military police officers that were
technically on the staff of
Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler with its personnel
wearing the uniform of the SS with the SD diamond on their lower left
sleeve. Those who were eligible to claim SS membership could join
the RSD and all officers had to present proof that they were of German
blood. In 1937 all RSD officers were made members of the SS breaking
the link to the regular army. By that year, the RSD had 100 men in
On the outbreak of World War II, the RSD had 200 men in its ranks.
It protected Hitler, along with other government and inner circle
members as they travelled around occupied Europe. By 1944, there
were seventeen RSD units protecting the top leadership.
As RSD chief, Rattenhuber was responsible for securing Hitler's field
headquarters. In particular, a battalion guarded the
Wolf's Lair near
the town of Rastenburg, now
Kętrzyn in Poland. Rattenhuber's deputy,
Peter Högl was appointed Chief of RSD Department 1 (responsible for
the personal protection of
Hitler on a day-to-day basis during the
Wolf's Lair had three security zones. Sperrkreis 1
Security Zone 1) was located at the heart of the Wolf's Lair. Ringed
by steel fencing and guarded by RSD and FBK men, it contained Hitler's
bunker and ten other camouflaged bunkers built from 2 metres
(6 ft 7 in) thick steel-reinforced concrete. Hitler
first arrived at the
Wolf's Lair on 23 June 1941 and departed for the
last time on 20 November 1944. Overall, he spent over 800 days there
during that three and half year period.
By early 1945, Germany's military situation was on the verge of total
collapse. In January 1945, Rattenhuber accompanied
Hitler and his
entourage into the bunker complex under the
Reich Chancellery garden
in the central government sector of Berlin. To the Nazi leadership
it was clear that the battle for Berlin, which started in late April,
would be the final battle of the war. On 27 April 1945, Högl was
sent out to find Himmler's liaison man, SS-Gruppenführer and
Generalleutnant of the
Hermann Fegelein who had deserted his
post at the Führerbunker. Fegelein was caught by Högl's RSD
squad in his
Berlin apartment, wearing civilian clothes and preparing
to flee to
Sweden or Switzerland. He was carrying cash—German and
foreign—and jewellery, some of which belonged to Eva Braun. Högl
also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of
Himmler's attempted peace negotiations with the western Allies.
Fegelein was brought back to the
Führerbunker and then shot on 28
Hitler committed suicide on 30 April, Rattenhuber and
the remaining RSD officers were captured by the Soviet
Red Army on 1
May 1945 during the attempted break-out from central
Berlin to avoid
capture. Rattenhuber served 10 years in prison before being
released by the Soviets on 10 October 1955.
Führer Begleit Brigade, an armored unit of the German Army which
Adolf Hitler with battlefield security.
Feldgendarmerie, the German military police in World War II.
^ Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 288.
^ a b c Felton 2014, p. 23.
^ a b c Hoffmann 2000, p. 32.
^ a b Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 16, 287.
^ Hoffmann 2000, p. 48.
^ a b c Hoffmann 2000, p. 36.
^ Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 16, 287, 293.
^ Felton 2014, pp. 32, 33.
^ Hoffmann 2000, pp. 39–40.
^ Hoffmann 2000, p. 60.
^ Hoffmann 2000, pp. 85, 86 diagram pages.
^ a b c Felton 2014, p. 18.
^ Hoffmann 2000, p. 43.
^ a b Hoffmann 2000, p. 40.
^ Felton 2014, p. 24.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 624, 792.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 624.
^ a b Beevor 2002, p. 139.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 942.
^ a b Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 277, 278.
^ Beevor 2002, pp. 388–389.
^ Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 286.
Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin – The Downfall 1945. New York:
Viking-Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-03041-5.
Felton, Mark (2014). Guarding Hitler: The Secret World of the Führer.
London: Pen and Sword Military. ISBN 978-1-78159-305-9.
Hoffmann, Peter (2000) . Hitler's Personal Security: Protecting
Führer 1921-1945. New York: Da Capo Press.
Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999) . The Last Days of Hitler: The
Legends, the Evidence, the Truth. Trans. Helmut Bögler. London:
Brockhampton Press. ISBN 978-1-86019-902-8.
Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton &
Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6.
SS and police leader
Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS
SS Main Office
Head Operational Office
Security Office (RSHA)
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Office of Race and Settlement (RuSHA)
Main Office for Ethnic Germans (VOMI)
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Police and security services
Regular uniform police (Orpo)
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Ranks, uniforms and insignia
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World War II
Places of residence
Special train (Führersonderzug)
Braunau am Inn
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Wealth and income
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In popular culture
The Victory of Faith
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Hitler: The Last Ten Days
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Eva Braun (wife)
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Streets named after Hitler