Nazi Party

The Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NDSAP, abbreviated to Nazi) as it had developed by the 1930s was an all-embracing political organisation which differed from conventional Western political parties by being uniformed and organized on military-like lines at all levels. After 1933, it had no legally allowed opposition parties. It had its own newspapers, magazines, and book publishing house, and controlled the arts, cinema, and broadcasting, by means of government agencies and committees. Control was exercised through a political leadership that covered all layers of society.

The four main levels were:

REICHSLEITUNG - goverment level answering to the Fuhrer covering organisation, education, finance, personnel, propaganda, jurisdiction, foreign policy, foreign press, censorship, archives, colonial policy, ideology, and the Fuhrer's department.

GAULEITUNG - each regional district (43 by 1943 including those outside German borders) was called a Gau and was headed by a Gauleiter and his staff.

KREISLEITUNG - each Gan was divided into sub-districts called Kreise and these totaled 920, each administered by a Kreisleiter and his staff. This was the lowest level with full-time paid staff. Party workers below this were part-timers or volunteers.

ORTSGRUPPENLEITUNG - every Kreis was further sub-divided into several Ortsgruppen (local groups) each administered by an Ortsgruppenleiter and his staff, each controlling several Zellen (cells), each of which controlled a Block. The Block had its own Blockleiter and this was the lowest level of control with each block comprising 40-60 households. The Blockleiter kept a record of each household and attitudes within it.

Each level of control reported upwards. Any dissent or disloyalty to party or state could, in theory, be easily detected and usually was. Every Gau and Kreis had an education office to provide ideological training to the political leaders. The best students were sent on courses at party colleges, known as Ordensburgen, and this opened up promotion up the party ladder.

The party leadership had its own designs of uniform, insignia, decorations, and flags, and military style regulations. The plain brown tunic and dark blue trousers in which Hitler and other senior Nazi leaders are quite often seen in photographs was, in fact, the regulation walking out dress for a political leader.

Within the party but with its own administration, command structure, uniforms, insignia was the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (SA) which had been established in 1921. The SA was organised into regiments corresponding to the partry districts and further sub-divided into Hunderschaften (hundreds). The SA was supposed to protect party functions and rallies though in the early days they also fermented trouble at opposing party meetings.

The SA leader, Ernst Rohm, eventually became too ambitious for Hitler's liking, and on 29 June 1934 in the infamous `Night of the Long Knives' he and other SA leaders were executed and Victor Lutze was appointed new SA leader and the SA itself was much reduced in power and influence.

The other Nazi organisation of influence was the Schutzstaffeln (SS) or protection squads, formed in 1927 partly to counter the growing strength of the SA. The SS also had its own uniform, insignia, ranks, command structure, and administration, and was distinctive by its black uniform and death's head insignia. After 1934 the SS became the dominant party paramilitary force and its influence extended everywhere. Himmler was the SS commander.

From the SS grew the SS-VT, later Waffen SS, in 1939, literally the `armed SS' which became a politically controlled 'army' to its right and was part of Germany's fighting forces during World War 2.