Seventy years after the Third Reich was crushed, any mention of the Gestapo still conjures up the image of merciless leather-coated enforcers of Nazi rule pouncing on terrified civilians. In fact, those most likely to wear leather coats were young recruits who entered the service on the eve of the Second World War. During the first years of Nazi rule most Gestapo operatives were career policemen and the organisation was quite small. It acquired its reputation much later, and most of its victims were in fact foreign workers in wartime Germany.
Following the war, the men of the Geheime Staatspolizei (secret state police) cultivated the myth of a monolithic Nazi machine. Since many had served in the Bavarian or Prussian political police during the Weimar Republic or had been transferred from the Kripo (criminal police) into the Gestapo, they depicted themselves