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The Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) was the name for the uniformed regular Germanmarker police force in existence during the period of Nazi Germany, notably between 1936 and 1945. It was increasingly absorbed into the Nazi police system. Owing to their green uniforms, they were also referred to as Grüne Polizei or the green police. The Orpo brought together the city and municipal uniformed forces that had been organised on a state-by-state basis and covered the towns and cities whereas the Gendarmerie (in Württembergmarker known as the Landjäger) covered small towns and rural areas.


Translated as "order police", Ordnungspolizei referred to uniformed police units. On 17 June 1936, Himmler was named Chef der Deutschen Polizei im Reichsministerium des Innern (Chief of German Police in the Interior Ministry) after Hitler announced a decree that was to "unify the control of Police duties in the Reich". Traditionally, law enforcement in Germany had been a state and local matter. In this role, Himmler was nominally subordinate to Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick. However, the decree effectively merged the police with the SS, making it virtually independent of Frick's control. Himmler gained authority as all of Germany’s uniformed law enforcement agencies were amalgamated into the new Ordnungspolizei, whose main office became a headquarters branch of the SS.

The police were divided into the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo or regular police) and the Sicherheitspolizeimarker (Sipo or security police), which had been established in 1934. The Orpo assumed duties of regular uniformed law enforcement while the Sipo consisted of the secret state police (Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapomarker) and criminal investigation police (Kriminalpolizeimarker or Kripo). The Gestapo was a corps of professional detectives involved in political police duties and the task of the Kriminalpolizei was fighting crime. In September 1939, the secret service of the SS Sicherheitsdienstmarker (SD) and the Sipo were folded into the Reich Main Security Office Reichssicherheitshauptamtmarker (RSHA). The RSHA symbolized the close connection between the SS (a party organization) and the police (a state organization).

The Order Police played a central role in carrying out the Holocaust, as stated by Professor Browning:


The Orpo was under the control of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler who was the Chef der Deutschen Polizei. It was initially commanded by SS-Oberstgruppenführer und Generaloberst der Polizei Kurt Daluege. But in 1943, Daluege had a massive heart attack and was removed from duty. He was replaced by SS-Obergruppenführer und Generaloberst der Polizei Alfred Wünnenberg, who served until the end of the war.

By 1941, the Orpo had been divided into the following offices covering every aspect of German law enforcement.

Headquarters (Hauptamt Ordungspolizei)

The Hauptamt Ordungspolizei was the central command office of the entire Ordnungspolizei and was considered a full SS-Headquarters command.

Municipal police (Schutzpolizei)

The Schutzpolizei served as Germany's municipal police force and was tasked with maintaining order in German cities and larger towns. The Schutzpolizei was further divided into the following:
Schutzpolizei des Reiches (cities and large towns)
which included police-station duties (Revierdienst) and barracked police units for riots and public safety (Kasernierte Polizei)
Schutzpolizei der Gemeinden (smaller towns)


The Gendarmerie or rural police was tasked with frontier law enforcement to include small communities, rural districts, and mountainous terrain. Members of the Gendarmerie were mainly employed to combat poaching and also as Alpine troops for homeland defense. With the development of a network of motorways in Germanymarker, motorized gendarmerie companies were set up in 1937 to secure the traffic.

Administration (Verwaltungspolizei)

The Verwaltungspolizei was the administrative branch of the Orpo and had overall command authority for all Orpo police stations. The Verwaltungspolizei also was the central office for record keeping and was the command authority for civilian law enforcement groups, which included the Gesundheitspolizei (health police), Gewerbepolizei (commercial or trade police), and the Baupolizei (building police).In main towns, Verwaltungspolizei, Schutzpolizei and Kriminalpolizei were organised into police administrations known as "Polizeiprasidium" or "Polizeidirektion" which had authority upon these police forces in the urban district.

Traffic police (Verkehrspolizei)

The Verkehrspolizei (traffic police) was the traffic-law enforcement agency and road safety administration of Germany. The organization patrolled Germany's roads (other than motorways which were controlled by Motorized Gendarmerie) and responded to major accidents. The Verkehrspolizei was also the primary escort service for high Nazi leaders who traveled great distances by automobile.

Water police (Wasserschutzpolizei)

The Wasserschutzpolizei ("water protection" police) was the coast guard of the Third Reich. Tasked with the safety and security of Germany's rivers, harbors, and inland waterways, the group also had authority over the SS-Hafensicherungstruppen which were Allgemeine-SSmarker units assigned as port security personnel.

Railway police (Bahnschutzpolizei)

The Bahnschutzpolizei (railway police) was made up of part-time police officers who were also employees of the Reichsbahn (state railway). The Bahnschutzpolizei was tasked with railway safety and also preventing espionage and sabotage of railway property.

Postal police (Postschutz)

The Postschutz (postal police) comprised roughly 4,500 members and was tasked with security at Germany's post offices and ensuring the security of other communications media such as telephone and telegraph lines.

Fire protection (Feuerschutzpolizei)

In 1938, all of Germany's local fire brigades were absorbed into the Ordnungspolizei. The Feuerschutzpolizei (fire protection police) thus consisted of all professional fire departments under a national command structure. The Orpo Hauptamt also had authority over the Freiwillige Feuerwehren, the local volunteer civilian fire brigades.

At the height of the Second World War, in response to heavy bombing of Germany's cities, the combined Feuerschutzpolizei and Freiwillige Feuerwehren numbered nearly two million in membership.

Air raid protection (Luftschutzpolizei)

The Security and Assistance Service (Sicherheits und Hilfsdienst or SHD) was created in 1935 as air protection police. It was the civil protection service in charge of air raid defence and rescue victims of bombings in connection with the Technische Nothilfe (Technical Emergency Service) and the Feuerschutzpolizei (Fire Brigades).In April 1942, SHD was renamed Luftschutzpolizei (air civil defence police).The air raid network (Luftschutzdienst) was supported by the Reichsluftschutzbund or RLB (Reich Association for Air Raid Precautions) an organization controlled from 1935 by the Air Ministry under Hermann Göring. The RLB set up an organization of air raid wardens who were responsible for the safety of a building or a group of houses.

Banner of the Berlin unit of the TeNo, or Technischen Nothilfe (Technical Emergency Corps)

Technical assistance (Technische Nothilfe)

Known as the TeNo, the Technische Nothilfe (technical emergency corps) was a corps of engineers, technicians and specialists in construction work. TeNo was created in 1919 to keep the public utilities and essential industries running during the wave of strikes. In 1930, a gas and air protection service was created, while the emergency service branch was enlarged and equipped to fight natural catastrophes, e.g. floods. From 1937 TeNo became a technical auxiliary corps of the police and was absorbed into Orpo Hauptamt. By 1943, the TeNo had over 100,000 members.

Radio guard (Funkschutz)

The Funkschutz ("radio guard") was made up of SS and Orpo security personnel assigned to protect German broadcasting stations from attack and sabotage. The Funkschutz was also the primary investigating service which detected illegal reception of foreign radio broadcasts.

Factory protection (Werkschutzpolizei)

The Werkschutzpolizei (factory protection police) were the night watchmen of the Third Reich. Its personnel were civilians who answered to a central Orpo office and typically were issued paramilitary uniforms, mostly surplus black or grey Allgemeine-SSmarker jackets with Orpo insignia.

Police Battalions

Between 1939 and 1945, the Ordnungspolizei also maintained separate military formations, independent of the main police offices within Germany. The first such formations were the Police Battalions, established for law enforcement in occupied territories and anti-partisan duties but roles from unit to unit varied widely within campaigns and from campaign to campaign during the war

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Some Police Battalions were primarily focused on traditional security roles of an occupying force while others were directly involved in the Holocaust. This latter role was obscured in the immediate aftermath of World War II, both by accident and by deliberate obfuscation, when most of the focus was on the better-known Einsatzgruppenmarker ("Operational groups") who reported to the Reichssicherheitshauptamtmarker (RSHA — Reich Main Security Office) under Reinhard Heydrich.

The Police Battalions were organizationally and administratively under Chief of Police Kurt Daluege but operationally they were under the authority of regional SS-und-Polizeiführer (SS-and-Police-Leaders), who reported up a separate chain of command, bypassing Daluege, directly to Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler.

During the invasion of Poland in 1939, Police Battalions committed atrocities against both the Catholic and the Jewish populations and as security forces patrolled the perimeters of the Jewish ghettoes of Polandmarker (SS, SD, and in some cases the Criminal Police were responsible for internal ghetto security issues in conjunction with Jewish ghetto administration). Starting in 1941 Police Battalions and local Order Police units helped to transport Jews from the ghettoes in both Poland and the USSR (and elsewhere in occupied Europe) to the concentration and extermination camps, as well as operations to hunt down and kill Jews outside the ghettoes.
Operating both independently and in conjunction with the Einsatzgruppen, Police Battalions were also an integral part of the "Final Solution" in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union which began on 22 July 1941. Police Battalions, whether as part of Police Regiments or as separate units or reporting directly to the local SS-und-Polizeiführer were part of the first and second waves of killing in 1941–2 in the USSR and also in killing operations in Poland. Police Battalion involvement in direct killing operations are responsible for at least 1 million deaths.

It should also be noted that the Order Police were one of the two primary sources from which the Einsatzgruppen drew personnel in accordance with manpower needs (the other being the Waffen-SS).

The majority of police battalions formed 28 Police Regiments as of 1942, many of which saw combat on the Eastern Front during the retreat of the German army.

The regular military police of the Wehrmacht were separate from the Ordnungspolizei.

Waffen-SS Police Division

A recruitment poster for the SS Police Division.
The primary military arm of the Ordnungspolizei was the 4th Panzergrenadier Division of the Waffen-SS, known as the SS Polizei Division. Mainly used as a rear guard and reserve formation, the Polizei Division was historically known as being undertrained and lacking in skilled combat tactics. The division consisted of four police regiments composed of Orpo personnel and was typically used to rotate police members into a military situation, so as not to lose police personnel to the general draft of the Wehrmacht or to the full SS divisions of the regular Waffen-SS.

Very late in the war several Orpo SS-Police regiments were transferred to the Waffen-SS to form the 35th SS and Police Grenadier Division.

Orpo and SS Unity

The Ordnungspolizei was separate from the SS and maintained a system of insignia and Orpo ranks. It was possible for policemen to be members of the SS but without active duties. Police generals who were members of the SS were referred to simultaneously by both rank titles during the war. For instance, a Generalleutnant in the Police who was also an SS member would be referred to as SS Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei. In addition, those Orpo police generals that undertook the duties of both Senior SS and Police Leader (Höhere SS und Polizeiführer) gained equivalent Waffen-SS ranks in August 1944 when Himmler was appointed Chef der Ersatzheeres (Chief of Home Army), because they had authority over the prisoner-of-war camps in their area.

Heinrich Himmler's ultimate aim was to replace the regular police forces of Germany with a combined racial/state protection corps (Staatsschutzkorps) of pure SS units. Local law enforcement would be undertaken by the Allgemeine-SSmarker with the Waffen-SS providing homeland-security and political-police functions. Historical analysis of the Third Reich has revealed that senior Orpo personnel knew of Himmler's plan and were opposed to it.

Orpo legacy

At the close of the Second World War, the Orpo ceased to exist; but many of its personnel continued with business as usual, performing police services for the Allied occupation forces. The traditions of the Orpo continued in East Germanymarker, which maintained a state police force (Volkspolizei) designed after the SS structures, being based on a centralized system. In West Germanymarker, the police were decentralized again, as they had been before 1936, with each of the new federal states (called Bundesländer) establishing its own police force Landespolizei, each of which survives to this day. Many Landespolizei regulations, procedures, and even some uniforms, which are green, and insignia, can be traced back to the pre-1936 forces.


  1. Breitman, Richard, Official Secrets, Hill and Wang: NY, 1998, pp 5; Goldhagen, Daniel J., Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Random House: USA, 1996, pp 186;
  2. Hillberg, Raul, The Destruction of the European Jews, Holmes & Meir: NY, NY, 1985, 100–106.
  3. Hillberg, pp 71–73
  4. Rossino, Alexander B., Hitler Strikes Poland, University of Kansas Press: Lawrence, Kansas, 2003, pp 69–72, en passim
  5. Hillberg, pp 81
  6. Goldhagen, pp 195
  7. Hillberg, pp 175, 192–198, en passim
  8. Goldhagen, pp 202, 271–273, Goldhagen's citations include Israel Gutman, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, NY: Macmillan 1990
  9. Hillberg, pp 105–106


  • Browning, Christopher, Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers, Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 052177490X.

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