In a book that I am reading about the Nuremberg Trials I came across the following:

Justice Jackson intended to 'prove the criminal character of several voluntary organisations that played a cruel and controlling part in subjugating Germany and then her neighbours, such as the SS & Gestapo.

Q. In my laymans knowledge of history I had understood the Gestapo to be the secret police and hence not voluntary. In what way were they voluntary, and in what way were they not? Ditto for the SS.

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    Do you think that Gestapo officers and members of the SS were volunteers or conscripts? – sempaiscuba Nov 23 '18 at 9:06
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    @MoziburUllah: Oh, they very much violated the constitution... – DevSolar Nov 23 '18 at 9:21
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    @MoziburUllah: Compare the German federal election in November 1932 with the German federal election in March 1933 -- and even there the NSDAP did not win a majority. Hitler's far-reaching powers were seized, not democratically voted for. (Democratic votes are free, secret, equal, and general, with basic rights of freedom of opinion and a free press...) – DevSolar Nov 23 '18 at 9:32
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    @MoziburUllah The recruitment practices for the SS, Waffen SS, and Gestapo are explained on their respective Wikipedia pages. – sempaiscuba Nov 23 '18 at 11:13
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    Why would you assume the secret police were not voluntary? The secret police by definition are going to be filled with not just volunteers but zealots. Please document your assumption. – MCW Nov 23 '18 at 13:17


Prior to 1933, there was the Prussian Secret Police, "Abteilung I A". As such, it was a police unit, i.e. working there was very much voluntary.

In 1933, the Prussian Secret Police was renamed "Geheime Staatspolizei" (Secret State Police), abbreviated Gestapo. (Which made all the staff of the Prussian Secret Police -- volunteers -- now "Gestapo members".)

Legal restrictions on their actions were removed step by step, and the organization eventually separated from the police apparatus and placed under direct control of Göring (Secretary of the Interior) and later Himmler (Chief of German Police and Reichsführer of the SS) .

At no point did the Gestapo press people into working there. I can imagine that quitting service with the Gestapo, or turning down a transfer, could raise some eyebrows. But it was a voluntary organization (as far as anything under totalitarian rule can be voluntary).

Schutzstaffel (SS)

The beginnings of the Schutzstaffel in 1925 were as personal bodyguards and thugs to Adolf Hitler (very much voluntary). The organization grew and became more militarized, but well into the times of the Waffen-SS it remained a voluntary organization.

Only from 1943 onward (or possibly as early as February 1942) did the Waffen-SS draft men into service.

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    One Wiki article indicates Waffen-SS conscription began as early as February 1942. This only applied to the Waffen-SS though. The Allgemeine SS (General SS) and SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) remained voluntary, but towards the end of the war the SS-Totenkopfverbände in the camps were supplemented (and even replaced) with SS-Mannschaft (Auxilliary-SS) which may have been drafted. – Kerry L Nov 23 '18 at 15:30
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    One more comment - the Getsapo was created by Göring in 1933, but in April 1934 it came under the control of Himmler, and stayed there for the rest of the Third Reich's miserable existence (Himmler was appointed Chief of German Police in 1936 too). From 1939 on Himmler put the Gestapo under the control of the RSHA under Heydrich (all still under Himmler's authority) and the organization then essentially became connected to the SS Sicherheitsdienst (SD) (Security Service). Göring was out of the picture by '34 and it became Himmler's show entirely. – Kerry L Nov 23 '18 at 16:40
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    @KerryL: Edited that in as well. – DevSolar Nov 24 '18 at 14:55
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    You had my +1 even before the edits - just wanted to help with a couple of clarifications :-) – Kerry L Nov 24 '18 at 14:56

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