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Gauleiter

Distinguish from Gaultier.

A Gauleiter (German pronunciation: [ˈɡaÊŠlaɪtÉ™]) was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP (more commonly known as the Nazi Party) or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau. It has since become a term used to refer to any overbearing local official, especially one prone to the dictatorial use of political or bureaucratic power.

Contents

[edit] Etymology

The German word Leiter means leader, whilst Gau was an old word for a region of the German Reich, once ruled by a Frankish Gaugraf; it translates most closely to the English shire. Gau was one of the many archaic words from medieval German history that the Nazis revived for their own purposes.

[edit] History

The title of Gauleiter was first established in 1925 after the Nazi Party reorganized following the failed Beer Hall Putsch. By 1928, Gauleiter had also become a Nazi paramilitary rank, and would eventually become the second-highest such position, ranking only below the rank of Reichsleiter (roughly translated: National leader).

[edit] Political position

In theory, a Gauleiter was merely a representative of the Nazi Party who served to coordinate regional Nazi party events and also served to "advise" the local government. In practice, Gauleiters were the unquestioned rulers of their particular areas of responsibility. The legal governmental establishment merely existed as a rubber stamp for the Gauleiter. Party control over the civil administration was institutionalized, as in many cases Gauleiters also held the supreme civil administrative posts in their area (Reichsstatthalter or Oberpräsident). However, since Party Gau boundaries and provincial/state boundaries were rarely the same, this arrangement led to mutually overlapping jurisdictions and added to the administrative chaos typical of Nazi Germany.

The Gauleiter was the highest ranking political leader at the Gau level of political administration within the Reich, with the Reich (national) level the highest, Gau (shire, prefecture, province) second-highest, Kreis (circle, i.e. district or county) third-highest, and Ort (municipal) level the lowest. There were two additional, lower local levels (Block and Zelle, describing a party cell). Political leaders from the Ort level and higher wore official uniforms, with the piping and background color of the uniform collar tabs indicating the administrative level.

[edit] Insignia

Vehicle insignia for a Gauleiter

The insignia for the rank of Gauleiter consisted of two oak leaves worn on a brown colored collar patch. The Stellvertreter-Gauleiter (Deputy-Gauleiter), wore a single oak leaf.

All political leaders working at Gau level had rhomboid collar tabs with red facings (not brown), with a dark wine-red (burgundy) colored piping around the outer edges*.

Reich level collar tabs had a bright crimson facing, with gold piping; Kreis level tabs had a dark chocolate brown facing, with white piping, while Ort level tabs had a light brown facing with light blue piping. The political leader collar-tab system was quite complicated and underwent four changes (complexity increasing with each change); the final (fourth) pattern as described above, was introduced around the end of 1938—by this time, with many more job positions within each level; this made the fourth pattern collar tab rank system by far the most complicated of all. The Gaulieter had authority over the district leaders (kreisleiter), who in turn directed chapter leaders (Ortsgruppenleiter). An Ortsgruppe (chapter) encompassed 1500 housholds--usually a city suburb or a few villages. Chapter leaders directed cell leaders (Zellenleiter), responsible for 160 to 480 households. Zellenleiter had control over the lowest local leaders, Blockleiter, who had charge of one block consisting of 40 to 60 households. The cell and block leaders at the bottom of the hierarchy gave the party a strong hold on the civilian populace

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Westermann, Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte




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