Order Police
Orpo flag
Orpo flag
Common nameGrüne Polizei
Agency overview
Formed26 June 1936; 87 years ago (26 June 1936)
Dissolved1945; 79 years ago (1945)
Employees401,300 (1944 est.)[1]
Legal personalityGovernmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Legal jurisdiction Nazi Germany
Occupied Europe
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersBerlin NW 7, Unter den Linden 72/74
52°30′26″N 13°22′57″E / 52.50722°N 13.38250°E / 52.50722; 13.38250
Elected officers responsible
Agency executives
Parent agencyInterior Ministry

The Ordnungspolizei (German: [ˈɔʁdnʊŋspoliˌtsaɪ]), abbreviated Orpo, meaning "Order Police", were the uniformed police force in Nazi Germany from 1936 to 1945.[2] The Orpo organisation was absorbed into the Nazi monopoly on power after regional police jurisdiction was removed in favour of the central Nazi government ("Reich-ification", Verreichlichung, of the police). The Orpo was controlled nominally by the Interior Ministry, but its executive functions rested with the leadership of the SS until the end of World War II.[2] Owing to their green uniforms, Orpo were also referred to as Grüne Polizei (green police). The force was first established as a centralised organisation uniting the municipal, city, and rural uniformed police that had been organised on a state-by-state basis.[2]

The Ordnungspolizei encompassed virtually all of Nazi Germany's law-enforcement and emergency response organisations, including fire brigades, coast guard, and civil defence. In the prewar period, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, and Kurt Daluege, chief of the Order Police, cooperated in transforming the police force of the Weimar Republic into militarised formations ready to serve the regime's aims of conquest and racial annihilation. Police troops were first formed into battalion-sized formations for the invasion of Poland, where they were deployed for security and policing purposes, also taking part in executions and mass deportations.[3] During World War II, the force had the task of policing the civilian population of the occupied and colonised countries beginning in spring 1940.[4] Orpo's activities escalated to genocide with the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa. Twenty-three Order Police battalions, formed into independent regiments or attached to Wehrmacht security divisions and Einsatzgruppen, perpetrated mass-murder in the Holocaust and were responsible for widespread crimes against humanity and genocide targeting the civilian population.


Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, was named Chief of German Police in the Interior Ministry on 17 June 1936 after Hitler announced a decree to "unify the control of police duties in the Reich".[5] 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 subordinated the police to the SS. Himmler gained authority as all of Germany's uniformed law enforcement agencies were amalgamated into the new Ordnungspolizei, whose main office became populated by officers of the SS.[5]

The police were divided into the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo or order police) and the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo or security police), which had been established in June 1936.[5] The Orpo assumed duties of regular uniformed law enforcement while the SiPo consisted of the secret state police (Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapo) and criminal investigation police (Kriminalpolizei or Kripo). The Kriminalpolizei was a corps of professional detectives involved in fighting crime and the task of the Gestapo was combating espionage and political dissent. On 27 September 1939, the SS security service, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and the SiPo were folded into the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA). The RSHA symbolised the close connection between the SS (a party organisation) and the police (a state organisation).[6][7]

In broad terms, Himmler pursued the amalgamation of SS and police into a form of "State Protection Corps" (Staatsschutzkorps), and used the expanded reach the police powers gave him to persecute ideological opponents and "undesirables" of the Nazi regime such as Jews, freemasons, churches, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other groups defined as "asocial". The Nazi conception of criminality was racial and biological, holding that criminal traits were hereditary, and had to be exterminated to purify German blood. As a result, even ordinary criminals were consigned to concentration camps to remove them from the German racial community (Volksgemeinschaft) and ultimately exterminate them.[8]

The Order Police played a central role in carrying out the Holocaust. By "both career professionals and reservists, in both battalion formations and precinct service" (Einzeldienst) through providing men for the tasks involved.[9]


The German Order Police had grown to 244,500 men by mid-1940.[4] The Orpo was under the overall control of Reichsführer-SS Himmler as Chief of the German Police in the Ministry of the Interior. It was initially commanded by SS-Oberstgruppenführer und Generaloberst der Polizei Kurt Daluege. In May 1943, Daluege had a massive heart attack and was removed from duty.[10] He was replaced by SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS und 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.

The central command office known as the Ordnungspolizei Hauptamt was located in Berlin. From 1943 it was considered a full SS-Headquarters command.[11] The Orpo main office consisted of Command Department (Kommandoamt), responsible for finance, personnel and medical; Administrative (Verwaltung) charged with pay, pensions and permits; Economic (Wirtschaftsverwaltungsamt); Technical Emergency Service (Technische Nothilfe); Fire Brigades Bureau (Feuerwehren); Colonial Police (Kolonialpolizei); and SS and Police Technical Training Academy (Technische SS-und Polizeiakademie).[12]

Branches of police

Ordnungspolizei in Minsk, Reichskommissariat Ostland, Weißruthenien, 1943


Main article: Hilfspolizei


The Sonderpolizei were the special police authorities not subordinate to the Hauptamt Ordnungspolizei or the Reichssicherheitshauptamt:[13]

Police battalions

Main article: Order Police battalions

Invasion of Poland

Ordnungspolizei conducting a raid (razzia) in the Kraków ghetto, 1941

Between 1939 and 1945, the Ordnungspolizei maintained military formations, trained and outfitted by the main police offices within Germany.[14][15] Specific duties varied widely from unit to unit and from one year to another.[16] Generally, the Order Police were not directly involved in frontline combat,[17] except for Ardennes in May 1940, and the Siege of Leningrad in 1941.[18] The first 17 battalion formations (from 1943 renamed SS-Polizei-Bataillone) were deployed by Orpo in September 1939 along with the Wehrmacht army in the invasion of Poland.[15] The battalions guarded Polish prisoners of war behind the German lines, and carried out expulsion of Poles from Reichsgaue under the banner of Lebensraum.[19] They also committed atrocities against both the Catholic and the Jewish populations as part of those "resettlement actions".[20] After hostilities had ceased, the battalions – such as Reserve Police Battalion 101 – took up the role of security forces, patrolling the perimeters of the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland (the internal ghetto security issues were managed by the SS, SD, and the Criminal Police, in conjunction with the Jewish ghetto administration).[21]

Each battalion consisted of approximately 500 men armed with light infantry weapons.[17] In the east, each company also had a heavy machine-gun detachment.[22] Administratively, the Police Battalions remained under the Chief of Police Kurt Daluege, but operationally they were under the authority of regional SS and Police Leaders (SS- und Polizeiführer), who reported up a separate chain of command directly to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler.[23] The battalions were used for various auxiliary duties, including the so-called anti-partisan operations, support of combat troops, and construction of defence works (i.e. Atlantic Wall).[24] Some of them were focused on traditional security roles as an occupying force, while others were directly involved in actions designed to inflict terror and in the ensuing Holocaust.[25] While they were similar to Waffen-SS, they were not part of the thirty-eight Waffen-SS divisions, and should not be confused with them, including the national 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division.[24] The battalions were originally numbered in series from 1 to 325, but in February 1943 were renamed and renumbered from 1 to about 37,[24] to distinguish them from the Schutzmannschaft auxiliary battalions recruited from local population in German-occupied areas.[17]

Order Police descending to the cellars on a Jew-hunt in Lublin, December 1940. The Lublin Ghetto was set up in March 1941.

Invasion of the Soviet Union

Members of the Ordnungspolizei shooting naked women and children during the Holocaust[26]

The Order Police battalions, operating both independently and in conjunction with the Einsatzgruppen, became an integral part of the Final Solution in the two years following the attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Operation Barbarossa. The first mass-murder of 3,000 Jews by Police Battalion 309 occurred in occupied Białystok on 12 July 1941.[27] Police battalions were part of the first and second wave of murders in 1941–42 in the territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union and also during the killing operations within the 1939 borders of the USSR, whether as part of Order Police regiments, or as separate units reporting directly to the local SS and Police Leaders.[28] They included the Reserve Police Battalion 101 from Hamburg, Battalion 133 of the Nürnberg Order Police, Police Battalions 45, 309 from Koln, and 316 from Bottrop-Oberhausen.[25] Their murder operations bore the brunt of the Holocaust by bullet on the Eastern Front.[29] In the immediate aftermath of World War II, this latter role was obscured both by the lack of court evidence and by deliberate obfuscation, while most of the focus was on the better-known Einsatzgruppen ("Operational groups") who reported to the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) under Reinhard Heydrich.[30]

Order Police battalions involved in direct killing operations were responsible for at least 1 million murders.[31] Starting in 1941 the Battalions and local Order Police units helped to transport Jews from the ghettos 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 murder Jews outside the ghettos.[32] 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).[33]

In 1942, the majority of the police battalions were re-consolidated into thirty SS and Police Regiments. These formations were intended for garrison security duty, anti-partisan functions, and to support Waffen-SS units on the Eastern Front. Notably, the regular military police of the Wehrmacht (Feldgendarmerie, Feldjägerkorps, and Geheime Feldpolizei) were separate from the Ordnungspolizei.

Waffen-SS Police Division

Main article: 4th SS Polizei Division

21 October 1944. An SS Propaganda Company photograph of armed Volkssturm; a uniformed Orpo man is shown at the far right end of the line.

The primary combat arm of the Ordnungspolizei was the SS Polizei Division of the Waffen-SS. The division was formed in October 1939, when thousands of members of the Orpo were drafted and placed together with artillery and signals units transferred from the army.[34] 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-Police Grenadier Division.[citation needed] Cossack Orpo units were rolled into the XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps with other units to nominally form 2nd Cossack Division.

Orpo and SS relations

Troops from the SS Police Battalions load Jews into boxcars at Marseille, France, in January 1943.

By the start of the Second World War in 1939, the SS had effectively gained complete operational control over the German Police, although outwardly the SS and Police still functioned as separate entities. The Ordnungspolizei maintained its own system of insignia and Orpo ranks as well as distinctive police uniforms. Under an SS directive known as the "Rank Parity Decree", policemen were highly encouraged to join the SS and, for those who did so, a special police insignia known as the SS Membership Runes for Order Police was worn on the breast pocket of the police uniform.

In 1940, standard practice in the German Police was to grant equivalent SS rank to all police generals. Police generals who were members of the SS were referred to simultaneously by both rank titles – 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 1942, SS membership became mandatory for police generals, with SS collar insignia (overlaid on police green backing) worn by all police officers ranked Generalmajor and above.

The distinction between the police and the SS had virtually disappeared by 1943 with the creation of the SS and Police Regiments, which were consolidated from earlier police security battalions. SS officers now routinely commanded police troops and police generals serving in command of military troops were granted equivalent SS rank in the Waffen-SS. In August 1944, when Himmler was appointed Chef des Ersatzheeres (Chief of the Home Army), all police generals automatically were granted Waffen-SS rank because they had authority over the prisoner-of-war camps.

See also


  1. ^ Burkhardt Müller-Hillebrandt: Das Heer (1933-1945), Vol. III Der Zweifrontenkrieg, Mittler, Frankfurt am Main 1969, p. 322
  2. ^ a b c Struan Robertson. "The 1936 "Verreichlichung" of the Police". Hamburg Police Battalions during the Second World War. Archived from the original (Internet Archive) on February 22, 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-24.
  3. ^ Showalter 2005, p. xiii.
  4. ^ a b Browning, Christopher R. (1998). Arrival in Poland (PDF). Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2014 – via Internet Archive, direct download 7.91 MB. also: PDF cache archived by WebCite. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help); External link in |quote= (help)CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  5. ^ a b c Williams 2001, p. 77.
  6. ^ Weale 2012, pp. 140–144.
  7. ^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 783.
  8. ^ Longerich, Peter (2010). "Das Staatsschutzkorps". Himmler: Eine Biographie (in German). Pantheon Verlag. pp. 211–261. ISBN 978-3-570-55122-6.
  9. ^ Browning, Nazi Policy, p. 143.
  10. ^ McKale 2011, p. 104.
  11. ^ a b c Williamson, Gordon (2012). "Structure". World War II German Police Units. Osprey / Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 6–8. ISBN 978-1780963402..
  12. ^ McNab 2013, pp. 60, 61.
  13. ^ Davis, Brian L. (2007). The German Home Front 1939-1945. Oxford, p. 9.
  14. ^ Goldhagen 1997, p. 204.
  15. ^ a b Browning 1998, p. 38.
  16. ^ Breitman, Richard, Official Secrets, Hill and Wang: NY, 1998, p 5 & Goldhagen, Daniel J., Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Random House: USA, 1996, p 186.
  17. ^ a b c Williamson, Gordon (2004). The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror. Zenith Imprint. p. 101. ISBN 0-7603-1933-2.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Browning 1992, p. 5 (22/298 in PDF).
  19. ^ Browning 1992, p. 38.
  20. ^ Rossino, Alexander B., Hitler Strikes Poland, University of Kansas Press: Lawrence, Kansas, 2003, pp 69–72, en passim.
  21. ^ Hillberg, p 81.
  22. ^ Browning 1992, p. 45 (72 in PDF).
  23. ^ Hillberg, pp 71–73.
  24. ^ a b c United States War Department (1995) [March 1945]. Handbook on German Military Forces. Louisiana State University Press. pp. 202–203. ISBN 0-8071-2011-1.
  25. ^ a b Browning 1998, pp. 11-12, 31-32.
  26. ^ "A German police officer shoots Jewish women still alive after a mass execution of Jews from the Mizocz ghetto". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  27. ^ Browning 1998, pp. 9-12 (26/298 in PDF).
  28. ^ Hillberg, pp. 175, 192–198, en passim.
  29. ^ Patrick Desbois (27 October 2008). "The Shooting of Jews in Ukraine: Holocaust By Bullets". Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York, NY. Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  30. ^ Hillberg, Raul, The Destruction of the European Jews, Holmes & Meir: NY, NY, 1985, pp. 100–106.
  31. ^ Goldhagen, pp 202, 271–273, Goldhagen's citations include Israel Gutman, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, NY: Macmillan 1990
  32. ^ Goldhagen, p 195.
  33. ^ Hillberg, pp 105–106.
  34. ^ Stein 1984, pp. 33–35.


Further reading