June 18, 2020 / 3:21 PM / 19 days ago

Fact check: Hermann Goering did not defund and eliminate police departments

Shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook, a post claims: “In 1933 Hitler appointed Hermann Goering Minister of the Interior. His first orders were to defund and eliminate the police departments.” It asks “Is history repeating itself?” amid calls from what it calls American socialist leaders to defund and abolish the current American policing system following the death of George Floyd. 

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

This claim, of which examples can be found here and here  , is false.  

Hermann Goering was a key leader in the Nazi party and one of the primary architects of the Nazi police state in Germany (here) . He did become Minister of the Interior in Prussia, the country’s largest and most influential state, in 1933 ( here ). It is false, however, that Goering’s “first orders were to defund and eliminate the police departments.”  

Timothy Snyder, professor  of history at  Yale  University specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust (  here ), told Reuters via email that the claims made in the posts are “absolutely baseless.” 

After the Enabling Act of 1933 (  here  ) ceded almost all political authority to Hitler, Snyder laid out four key actions that took place with regards to German policing. Firstly, the highly decentralized police departments were brought under a unified central command. Secondly, “the unified police forces were then placed under the same ultimate command as the SS” (the acronym for the infamous “Schutzstaffel” paramilitary group, here  ). Thirdly, led by Heinrich Himmler, the SS officers were brought into the police (comprised of the Ordnungspolizei (orpo) "regular police", the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo) "security police” which initially included the Gestapo, and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) "security service”). Finally, “police were trained to understand crime as a matter of race,” the result of which, Snyder explained, “was the creation of a police force that took active part in the Holocaust.” 

Corresponding with Reuters via email, Peter Fritzsche, a professor of history at the University of Illinois (  here  ) and author of “Hitler’s First Hundred Days” (here  ), likewise debunked the claim. 

According to Fritzsche, when Goering became Interior Minister for Prussia, he gained executive power over the largest police force in the country. Very quickly, Goering demanded that the police act to protect the Nazi state, making it clear that the police would serve the nationalist forces over the opposing socialists or communists. 

Three weeks into his new role, he officially designated the paramilitary brownshirts (also known as the SA, an abbreviation for Sturmabteilung) in Prussia as auxiliaries of the Prussian police with the power to arrest. Fritzsche explained that the regular police and the SA initially worked together until late February 1933, when emergency legislation suspended the Constitution following the Reichstag Fire (  here  ) and the SA began to act more independently.  

During this time, “the police were mobilized by the Nazis, not sidelined,” Fritzsche said, and there was “no defunding of police at all.” 

VERDICT 

False. Hermann Goring did not defund and eliminate police departments. 

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here  . 

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