In movies and books, Hitler’s secret police, the dreaded Gestapo, is often represented as a huge, monolithic, omnipresent force. But the reality is that till the outbreak of the war, the Gestapo had just 7000 officials, and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD: the internal security agency) had just 5000 officials. In contrast Britain had ten times more secret police officials for just London—in rest of Britain, the number of such officials was much higher.
With their small employee strength, the Gestapo was not in a position to fully investigate even one percent of the reports that were brought before them. They relied on the testimony of their informants and the cooperation of the public.
Himmler, the head of the SS and SD, who was in control of the Gestapo, had instructed his officials to conduct themselves in such a way that the Germans would trust them, even as they feared them. In this way, the public could be made to believe that the arrests were justified. He believed that the Germans should be left alone to self-police themselves. The brutality of the Gestapo was reserved for the minorities and foreigners.