“Between 1933 and 1945, the central institutions of Nazi persecution and terror – the Secret State Police Office with its own “house prison”, the leadership of the SS and, during the Second World War, the Reich Security Main Office –  were located on the present-day grounds of the “Topography of Terror” that are next to the Martin Gropius Building and close to Potsdamer Platz

The RSHA, at once a kind of ministry and an SS main office, incorporated both state and Nazi Party tasks. The reorganization did not result in the dissolution of existing offices. For instance, in communication with other public offices, the new Department IV of the RSHA continued to be called the “Secret State Police Office.” Prinz-Albrecht-Straße 8, Berlin SW 11 was the most important office building and postal address of the RSHA, the Reich SS Leader and his “Personal Staff.” 

The RSHA had a wide-reaching network of subordinate offices at its disposal. In the German-occupied countries, mobile and stationary RSHA offices that played a dominant role included Einsatzgruppen (special mobile units) and Einsatzkommandos (special mobile sub-units) or “Commanders” and “Overall Commanders of the Security Police and SD” with the forces under their command. 

The orders from the RSHA played a major part in the Nazi regime’s politics of persecution and extermination. It was the RSHA that selected the personnel of the Einsatzgruppen, whose mass executions claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews and political opponents of the Nazis. Staff of Department IV developed gas vans that were also used for a time to murder Jews. Adolf Eichmann’s Section IV B 4 and other RSHA offices played a leading role in the implementation of Hitler’s “final solution to the Jewish question” in Europe. The Gestapo’s section for “Protective Custody” decided whether people should be sent to the concentration camps. In the camps the RSHA ran “political sections” staffed by Gestapo officers.

With the RSHA, Himmler and Heydrich created the most important body in the Nazi system of repression and terror”. 

Topography of Terror

“It seems extraordinary to make a connection  between the archaeology of The Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) in Berlin and Calgarth Estate, a location nestled at the heart of the  Romantic Lake District of Wordsworth and Ruskin. 

But this ominous and foreboding location was the place where the planning and organisation of the Holocaust took place. Its bricks and mortar remains offer no clue as to what this place represents, that is, if  the aesthetics were simply taken at face value.

It was due to the activities of those who were based here under the Nazi regime that the Holocaust was planned and delivered. It is hard to describe how it felt to be at Calgarth Estate in the summer of 2019 having just taken part in the excavation. It is a visit that I struggle fully come to terms with, and not sure that I ever will”.

Trevor Avery, August 2019