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.
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