Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 October 2021
The Gestapo gradually wrested enforcement authority from the courts between 1935 and 1939. A conflict over jurisdiction played out in national journals as the political police asserted a mandate of prevention. At first, case officers reported findings to prosecutors without commentary. After Himmler became Chief of German Police in June 1936, the Gestapo routinely withheld cases with insufficient evidence to convict and even dropped charges against a few remarkably loyal offenders in extraordinary circumstances. Enforcement authority remained with prosecutors in most cases. The Party and the Ministry of Justice exercised joint discretion built into the law to target highly public offences, recidivists, and political opponents presumed to be subversives. But the Gestapo increasingly encroached by prescribing a desired outcome in the case summary. Political police used these “recommendations,” backed by the power of protective custody, to gradually assert control over enforcement decisions by the judiciary. By 1939, the Gestapo determined who deserved to be punished based on their character, while the courts determined who could be punished based on available evidence.