Module B: The Behaviour of the Police from a Historical Point of View: The Role of the Police under the Nazis and in the Concentration Camp System

Oliver von Wrochem/Georg Erdelbrock


Target groups
Police academy students or police officers in further education and information disseminators in police academies.


Themes and goals
In this module, we address the history of the police under the Nazis. Our focus is on those organisations within the police who were responsible for the persecution of social minorities and for racist policies in the Third Reich. We also talk about how police officers were both perpetrators as well as victims within the Nazi camp system and look at the police’s involvement in mass killings. Participants learn how to analyse the different mechanisms of discrimination, disenfranchisement and marginalisation. We not only investigate how individuals could have acted differently while discussing conformist and non-conformist behaviour, we also look at the diffusion of responsibility through the division of labour and talk about issues of social affiliation and group identity, the effects of power invested in the state, and the transition from democratic to totalitarian systems and structures. The goal of this module is to promote an understanding of the impact of institutions while analysing how they can change to adapt to society.


Participants are encouraged to critically reflect on their own actions as police officers today. Using the Nazi regime an example, we analyse what can happen when the police are granted unlimited power to apply prevention measures. That legal provisions are necessary to limit the actions of security agencies soon becomes clear, while what has or has not changed in the police since the Nazi regime is also made obvious. Above that we talk about the meaning and necessity of individual freedoms. In sum, studying the role of the police under the Nazis can serve as a basis for a critical reflection of not only the institutional character and mode of function of the police, but also the actions of individual members of the police force.