Gestapo the secret police of Nazi Germany. The word is an abbreviation of Geheime Staatspolizei (secret state police). The Gestapo tried to eliminate all opposition to the Nazi regime by denial of civil liberties and by use of torture, concentration camps, and murder. During World War II the Gestapo followed the German armed forces into occupied countries. One of its tasks was rounding up Jews for extermination. The Gestapo was organized in 1933 by Hermann Goering. Heinrich Himmler became its head in 1934, and it gradually became part of the SS (Schutzstaffel, “protective echelon”), the Nazi party police.
War Begins. In the early hours of Friday, September 1, 1939, the German armies stormed across the Polish frontierwithout a declaration of war.
In 1939, a group of scientists, many having recently arrived in the United States after fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany, informed government officials that recent experiments conducted in Germany had demonstrated the feasibility of building an atomic weapon.