The SD was the intelligence gathering body of Nazi Germany. The SD was separate from the Gestapo but is probably not as well-known as its rival for power. The SD stood for Sicherheltsdienst or Security Service.
The SD was led by Reinhard Heydrich. Its members were thought of as the elite of the elite – professionals who were responsible for the security of the Third Reich. The especial responsibility of the SD was the security of Adolf Hitler and other senior Nazis. The SD was formed in March 1934 when Himmler decided to create his own security service to rival the Gestapo – an organisation he did not solely head. Himmler had very clear ideas as to the purpose of the SD:
“The SD will discover the enemies of the National Socialist concept and it will initiate counter-measures through the official police authorities.” In theory the SD was under the control of Wilhelm Frick, Minister of the Interior, but few doubted that its real masters were Himmler and Heydrich. The SD gathered together under one title numerous police forces – KRIPO (the criminal police force), Schupos (the urban constabulary) and the Reich Central Security Office among some.
SD men were famed for the methodical manner in which they worked. They divided the population into 5 categories:
1. V-men: men who could be trusted.
2. A-men: agents in the field.
3. Z-men: informants.
4. H-men: secondary informants.
5. U-men: corrupt and unreliable
The SD had vast power. It could involve itself in any aspect of someone’s life if they believed that that person was potentially “an enemy of the state”. Reports were kept at local level. Some of these survived the war and show just how extensive the SD’s system of informants was. Reports were also sent to central office in Berlin if it was felt that the person involved was important enough.
The average citizen in Nazi Germany had no come back against the SD. Heydrich could order the immediate arrest and incarceration of any suspect and few were safe from the clutches of the SD. Being arrested was one thing. Proving your innocence was another. The SD worked on the assumption that an individual was guilty until he/she could prove her innocence. As the SD held all the necessary evidence and the individual involved was in prison or a concentration camp, this was almost impossible to do.
The SD was highly active during World War Two. It hunted out resistance fighters in the occupied territories and Jews who were being hidden. One surviving document/report show that the SD shut down an orphanage in France during the war and that 41 children were taken into custody.
The SD was declared a criminal organisation at the Nuremburg Trials. It found that simply being a member of the SD was a criminal act in itself.