Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Discussions on every day life in the Weimar Republic, pre-anschluss Austria, Third Reich and the occupied territories. Hosted by Vikki.
aa1874
New member
Posts: 1
Joined: 11 May 2020 16:00
Location: Jakarta

Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by aa1874 » 11 May 2020 16:07

This is sometimes brought up to prove the "totalitarianism" of NS Germany: the claim that the Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on all telephone calls and stalk on private mail during its delivery just like how communist East Germany did. Is this true, or just another Allied propaganda?

User avatar
Waleed Y. Majeed
Member
Posts: 3634
Joined: 13 Nov 2004 11:37
Location: Aarhus, Denmark

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by Waleed Y. Majeed » 12 May 2020 09:38

Why not? With Wilhelm Ohnesorge as Postminister from 1937 the party and Gestapo would have had free hands to do as they pleased.

Waleed

GregSingh
Member
Posts: 3489
Joined: 21 Jun 2012 01:11
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by GregSingh » 12 May 2020 11:00

Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, from February 28th, 1933:

On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:
§ 1. Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom, freedom of (opinion) expression, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Art1.jpg


You've Been Warned....since March 1933...Did anybody notice? :D
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
The more you let yourself to go, the less others will let you to go.
F.Nietzsche

ManfredV
Member
Posts: 435
Joined: 10 May 2005 10:55
Location: Pirmasens

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by ManfredV » 12 May 2020 16:15

It was impossible to control every telephone call and every letter - not enough staff and equipment. But Gestapo had enough to surveil "suspicious" persons and they did.

User avatar
Helmut0815
Member
Posts: 731
Joined: 19 Sep 2010 13:13
Location: Lower Saxony, Germany

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by Helmut0815 » 12 May 2020 17:27

Compared to East German Stasi the Nazi Gestapo was a small organisation. While the Stasi had 91,000 officers in 1989 (plus ~150,000 "informants") for 17 million people (one Stasi officer for 187 people) the Gestapo had 31,000 officers, lots of them operating in occupied countries.
In Berlin the ratio Gestapo/residents was 1:4000; in rural provinces the ratio was 1:25,000
The Stasi had 2,200 officers in the central post offices solely working on clandestinely opening letters, recording suspicious content (and stealing western currency if found). The Stasi was almighty and capable of controlling large parts of mail and telephone calls while the Gestapo was far away from that.


regards


Helmut

ManfredV
Member
Posts: 435
Joined: 10 May 2005 10:55
Location: Pirmasens

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by ManfredV » 14 May 2020 16:34

Gestapo had also many "informants" and esp. Blockwarts controlled their neighbourhood. But one of Gestapo`s strongest weapon was fear. People didn't know how small Gestapo really was.

User avatar
Helmut0815
Member
Posts: 731
Joined: 19 Sep 2010 13:13
Location: Lower Saxony, Germany

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by Helmut0815 » 14 May 2020 18:38

ManfredV wrote:
14 May 2020 16:34
But one of Gestapo`s strongest weapon was fear. People didn't know how small Gestapo really was.
Exactly. And it was the Gestapo itself that spread rumors abouts it's technical capabilities and the total surveillance of the people, not the Allied propaganda.

Wordsworth
Member
Posts: 69
Joined: 31 May 2016 20:25
Location: United States

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by Wordsworth » 09 Sep 2020 18:31

In fact, the Gestapo often got reports from people who were just upset at their neighbors for some reason. In the middle years of the Reich - this would certainly be before the end of the war when hoarding food or criticizing the war effort could get you a death sentence - the Gestapo understood that people sometimes needed to vent so often overlooked a one-time errant comment in a pub or a bad joke that was overheard. It was sufficient to warn the person to be more careful and let them go on their way. The spectre of the Gestapo knowing the content of every phone call and every letter was enough to cause most people to be guarded in their communication rather than the actual reality of it.

The Gestapo surveiled people they felt needed to be watched, but that wasn't everyone.

User avatar
wm
Member
Posts: 6381
Joined: 29 Dec 2006 20:11
Location: Poland

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by wm » 09 Sep 2020 21:55

I think the Gestapo lacked resources for that, especially in the occupied territories.
It was possible, but it seems they never did it.
Another reason was German bureaucracy and turf wars that bogged down any efforts.

SloveneLiberal
Member
Posts: 316
Joined: 23 Jul 2018 12:54
Location: Slovenia

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by SloveneLiberal » 10 Sep 2020 22:58

It was not necessary in fact that a delation was given directly to the Gestapo. Also local officials of NSDAP or DAF in factories were receiving delations.

SloveneLiberal
Member
Posts: 316
Joined: 23 Jul 2018 12:54
Location: Slovenia

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by SloveneLiberal » 11 Sep 2020 13:43

wm wrote:
09 Sep 2020 21:55
I think the Gestapo lacked resources for that, especially in the occupied territories.
It was possible, but it seems they never did it.
Another reason was German bureaucracy and turf wars that bogged down any efforts.
WM in occupied territories also different collaboration units were giving support to Gestapo. In Slovenia for example you had so called Home Guard police under the command of Lovro Hacin who was working under Paul Duscha, head of Gestapo in Ljubljana. Around 6000 people were imprisoned by Home Guard police. Many were sent then to German concentration camps. Some were chosen to be shot as hostages etc. This police was also involved in deportation of last Jews from Ljubljana in September 1944. They mostly died in German concentration camps later. Around 100 men in the police units were working as political intelligence service.

Home Guard organization had another intelligence service which was also working together with before mentioned police and Germans. In early 1944 they had 31 offices.

User avatar
Hikari
Member
Posts: 33
Joined: 13 Jan 2020 02:21
Location: USA VA

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by Hikari » 12 Sep 2020 05:42

The Gestapo only needs to monitor very few people to maintain deterrence.
It is of course impossible to monitor everyone at anytime, but in countries where there is extremely strict censorship of speech (such as China), everyone always feels that it is not safe to speak about their political views.
By the way, there may be over million "Internet content cencorers" in China.Collect, delete, and report any "violating" information.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 9516
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 12 Sep 2020 09:22

Hi Guys,

I seem to recall that chimney sweeps, (every house needed them periodically), had certain powers of surveillance on behalf of the State and this was only rescinded decades after the war.

Sid.

ljadw
Member
Posts: 12029
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by ljadw » 12 Sep 2020 13:28

wm wrote:
09 Sep 2020 21:55
I think the Gestapo lacked resources for that, especially in the occupied territories.
It was possible, but it seems they never did it.
Another reason was German bureaucracy and turf wars that bogged down any efforts.
This is correct : there were not that many devices/apps to eavesdrop on conversations by telephone and the production of them was limited and the WM (especially the LW ) came first .
Till 1935 the Prussian police was controlled by Goering who disposed of a strong eavesdrop organisation .( Forschungsamt )
When the Gestapo ordered the technicians who made these devices to work for them , these people were suddenly called up for military service and the result was that the Gestapo had to ask the Forschungsamt to eavesdrop,what it did or not .
It took the Gestapo til July 1944 to take over the Forschungsamt.

Edward L. Hsiao
Member
Posts: 1967
Joined: 01 Aug 2003 08:43
Location: Flagstaff,Arizona

Re: Was it true that the Reich government or Gestapo could tap/eavesdrop on private conversations by mail or telephone?

Post by Edward L. Hsiao » 15 Sep 2020 08:55

The Gestapo was after a lot of people who was in the July 20th,1944 plot.

Edward L. Hsiao

Return to “Life in the Third Reich & Weimar Republic”