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.
World War II was a horrific period in history during which 50 million people perished from death camps, atomic bombs, and years of battle. Often called the Janus event of the 20th century, WWII is truly unforgettable. Learn how the Allies defeated Nazi Germany.
Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor was the major event that caused the United States to enter World War II. On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed the harbor, which damaged 300 planes, eight battleships, and killed over 2,000 people. Learn more about the attack.