The Ordnungspolizei, abbreviated Orpo, meaning "Order Police", were the uniformed police force in Nazi Germany from 1936 to 1945. The Orpo organisation was absorbed into the Nazi Party monopoly on power after regional police jurisdiction was removed in favour of the central Nazi government ("Reich-ification", Verreichlichung, of the police). The Orpo was controlled, nominally by the Interior Ministry but its executive functions rested with the leadership of the Schutzstaffel until the end of World War II. Owing to their green uniforms, Orpo were also referred to as Grüne Polizei (green police). The force was first established as a centralised organisation uniting the municipal, city, and rural uniformed police that had been organised on a state-by-state basis.
The Ordnungspolizei were key participants in the conduct of mass murder and atrocities in the occupied areas under German control during the Holocaust and World War II.
Organizations falling under the umbrella of the Ordnungspolizei included the Schutzpolizei (Protection Police), the gendarmerie, and the Gemeindepolizei (Rural Community Police). During the Weimar era, individual German states exercised control over the police forces within their borders.
After Adolf Hitler became Chancellor on January 30, 1933, however, he, Hermann Göring, Wilhelm Frick, and Heinrich Himmler began measures to centralize control of all German police forces. Himmler had assumed control of the SS in 1929 and after 1933 began to consolidate his control over the political police in the German states, a process that culminated in his appointment by Hitler as Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police in June 1936. In that position, Himmler was in charge of the SS; the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police, or SiPo), which included the Kriminalpolizei and the Gestapo; and the Ordnungspolizei.
On 27 September 1939, the SS security service, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and the SiPo were folded into the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA). The RSHA symbolised the close connection between the SS (a party organisation) and the police (a state organisation)
During the Third Reich, the Ordnungspolizei routinely cooperated with the criminal police and the Gestapo at the local level in monitoring and controlling social and political behaviour and enforcing Nazi racial policies. Additionally, Ordnungspolizei formations participated in the annexation of Austria and the occupation of the Sudetenland in 1938.
The Ordnungspolizei numbered almost 100,000 by 1939. Upon the invasion of Poland in September of that year, Himmler ordered the creation of police battalions for security operations in the occupied territories. Ultimately, 21 police battalions of approximately 500 men each participated in the campaign in Poland, conducting a wide variety of duties ranging from traditional security and policing functions to the participation in mass executions individually or as part of the Einsatzgruppen death squads.
The use of the police battalions in Poland set the precedent for the use of Ordnungspolizei forces in the invasion and pacification of Yugoslavia and invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, with more than 100 police battalions participating.
Throughout the occupied eastern territories, Ordnungspolizei units—ranging from small gendarmerie detachments of fewer than 10 men to 500-man police battalions—became involved in the full range of Nazi efforts to subjugate, exploit, and annihilate subject populations. Ordnungspolizei units confiscated harvests, forced local populations into slave labour in the Reich, escorted trains bound for the concentration camps, participated in combat operations, brutally suppressed suspected partisan activity, and murdered an estimated one million people, mostly Jews in the east. The Ordnungspolizei played a critical role in the Final Solution and in the war against the racial and political enemies of the Third Reich.
The Order Police battalions, operating both independently and in conjunction with the Einsatzgruppen, became an integral part of the Final Solution in the two years following the attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Operation Barbarossa. The first mass killing of 3,000 Jews by Police Battalion 309 occurred in occupied Białystok on 12 July 1941. Police battalions were part of the first and second wave of killings in 1941–42 in the territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union and also during the killing operations within the-1939 borders of the USSR, whether as part of Order Police regiments, or as separate units reporting directly to the local SS and Police Leaders. They included the Reserve Police Battalion 101 from Hamburg, Battalion 133 of the Nürnberg Order Police, Police Battalions 45, 309 from Koln, and 316 from Bottrop-Oberhausen.
Their murder operations bore the brunt of the Holocaust by bullet on the Eastern Front. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, this latter role was obscured both by the lack of court evidence and by deliberate obfuscation, while most of the focus was on the better-known Einsatzgruppen ("Operational groups") who reported to the RSHA under Reinhard Heydrich.
Order Police battalions involved in direct killing operations were responsible for at least 1 million deaths. Starting in 1941 the Battalions and local Order Police units helped to transport Jews from the ghettos in both Poland and the USSR (and elsewhere in occupied Europe) to the concentration and extermination camps, as well as operations to hunt down and kill Jews outside the ghettos. The Order Police were one of the two primary sources from which the Einsatzgruppen drew personnel in accordance with manpower needs (the other being the Waffen-SS).
In 1942, the majority of the police battalions were re-consolidated into thirty SS and Police Regiments. These formations were intended for garrison security duty, anti-partisan functions, and to support Waffen-SS units on the Eastern Front. Notably, the regular military police of the Wehrmacht (Feldgendarmerie) were separate from the Ordnungspolizei.
The Ordnungspolizei as a whole had not been declared a criminal organisation by the Allies, unlike the SS, and its members were able to reintegrate into society largely unmolested, with many returning to police careers in Austria and West Germany.