Rudolf Diels

Rudolf Diels

Rudolf Diels, the son of a farmer, was born in Betghaus, Germany, on 16th December, 1900. Trained as a lawyer, Diels joined the political police in Prussia in 1930. Over the next couple of years he became an expert on building up information that could be used to incriminate political radicals.

When Hermann Goering became minister of the interior in Prussia in 1933 he recruited Diels as head of Dept 1A of the Prussian State Police. Goering was impressed by Diels and made him head of what became known as the Gestapo.

Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich became jealous of Diels's power and began to spread rumours about his loyalty to Adolf Hitler. One of these stories claimed that Diels had joined the conspiracy being organized by Ernst Roehm. Without the support of Hermann Goering Diels would have been killed during the Night of the Long Knives.

In April 1934, Goering, under pressure from Heinrich Himmler and Wilhelm Frick, agreed to hand over control of the Gestapo to the Schutzstaffel (SS). As a result Diels lost his position as head of the organization and now became security chief of the Cologne government.

At the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial Diels gave evidence against the leaders of the Nazi Government. As he was considered to be innocent of war crimes he was allowed to serve as under secretary in the post-war German government. Diels published his memoirs, Lucifer Ante Portas, in 1950.

Rudolf Diels, who retired from the German government in 1953, was killed on 18th November, 1957, when he accidentally shot himself with a hunting gun.

Primary Sources

(1) Rudolf Diels arrived at the Reichstag soon after it had been set on fire on 27th February 1933.

Shortly after my arrival in the burning Reichstag, the National Socialist elite had arrived. On a balcony jutting out of the chamber, Hitler and his trusty followers were assembled. As I entered, Goering came towards me. His voice was heavy with the emotion of the dramatic moment: "This is the beginning of the Communist Revolt, they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be lost."

Goering could not continue. Hitler turned to the assembled company. Now I saw that his face was purple with agitation and with the heat. He shouted uncontrollably, as I had never seen him do before, as if he was going to burst: "There will be no mercy now. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down. The German people will not tolerate leniency. Every communist official will be shot where he is found. Everybody in league with the Communists must be arrested. There will also no longer be leniency for social democrats.

(2) Rudolf Diels was in charge of interrogating Van der Lubbe after the Reichstag Fire.

A few of my department were already engaged in interrogating Marinus Van der Lubbe. Naked from the waist upwards, smeared with dirt and sweating, he sat in front of them, breathing heavily. He panted as if he had completed a tremendous task. There was a wild triumphant gleam in the burning eyes of his pale, haggard young face.

The voluntary confessions of Marinus Van der Lubbe prevented me from thinking that an arsonist who was such an expert in his folly needed any helpers. He had been so active that he had laid several dozen fires. With a firelighter he had set the chamber aflame. Then he had rushed through the big corridors with his burning shirt which he brandished in his right hand like a torch. During the hectic activity he was overpowered by Reichstag officials. I reported on the results of the first interrogations of Marinus Van der Lubbe - that in my opinion he was a maniac. But with this opinion I had come to the wrong man; Hitler ridiculed my childish view.

(3) Rudolf Diels, Lucifer Ante Portas (1950)

I was in charge of the Gestapo until the beginning of 1934. Meanwhile Himmler was in charge of the police in provinces of Germany with the exception of Prussia. Himmler had become the leader of all these police forces, and, of course, he now sought to get the leadership of the police in Prussia as well. It was not agreeable to me, I wanted to handle my police myself. But when Hitler asked me to do this and said that it would be the correct thing, and it was proven, I actually handed the police over to Himmler, who put Heydrich in charge.