FACT CHECK: Viral Image Falsely Claims Nazi Germany Defunded The Police
A viral Instagram post claims Nazi leader Adolf Hitler orchestrated the defunding and elimination of Germany’s police departments after taking power in 1933.
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Historians and other experts agree Hitler strengthened and centralized the police.
The viral post makes the claim that Hitler defunded the police in what appears to be an attempt to draw a comparison between changes in policing in Nazi Germany and recent calls to defund the police sparked after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died on May 25 in Minneapolis police custody.
“In 1933 Hitler appointed Hermann Goring Minister of the Interior,” reads the Instagram post. “His first orders were to defund & eliminate police departments so that they would not interfere with his Brown Shirts whose mission it was to riot, burn, beat up & kill citizens in an effort to sway the elections.”
However, the Nazis actually strengthened the police by merging them with paramilitary organizations such as the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, became the chief of all German police forces, per the Jewish Virtual Library.
Laurie Woods, a lecturer at Vanderbilt University with 21 years of law enforcement experience, explained to USA Today that changes in policing in Nazi Germany bear little resemblance to current calls to defund the police, saying, “It’s not something that you can even compare.”
“Hitler absorbed the police into one unit. They didn’t suddenly lose their jobs as police officers so the other guys could move in,” Woods told USA Today. “They had more powers to arrest without cause, take people into custody simply because they were Jewish, seize other people’s property – they increased the reach of existing police powers in a way that was totally uncontrolled and unchecked.”
Thomas Kühne, director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, said in an email to Check Your Fact that the claim is “complete nonsense.”
“The police apparatus in Nazi Germany, in its various branches, grew,” Kühne said. “There was no way and no intention to defund it.” (RELATED: Did Germany Elect Hitler As Their Chancellor?)
“In the police state that Nazi Germany was, the security authorities were strengthened and expanded beyond anything previously seen in Germany, with a wide variety of policing agencies at every level of society,” Paul Bartrop, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Research at Florida Gulf Coast University, said in an email to Check Your Fact. “Rather than defunding and eliminating police departments, the Nazi state expanded the range of policing activities enormously.”
The SS, SD and police “were among the primary perpetrators of the Holocaust,” where six million Jews and millions of others were murdered, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.