The Gestapo took shape in the context of a complex set of interacting social forces, personalities, and traditions. Beginning in early 1933, in one state after another it was decided to tighten the organization of the police. As one telling phrase from the law of 26 April on the Prussian Gestapo stated, it was necessary 'to assure the effective battle against all endeavours directed at the existence and security of the state'. Such aims were pursued vigorously and soon involved ever greater incursion by the police into the lives of citizens. The Gestapo grew unchecked not least because the definition of what constituted security and opposition was inflated and expanded beyond all previous boundaries. Legal and civil rights, which had been protected by the rule of law, were disregarded and often dissolved. Eventually, it came to function as the ultimate 'thought-police' about which rulers in earlier times with ambitions to control their subjects could only have fantasized. After gradually working out spheres of influence with other organizations concerned with monitoring and controlling behaviour, the Gestapo became much more than an extension of the traditional state apparatus and enforcer of policy. At times it could become lawgiver, judge, jury, and executioner.
- From The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933-1945 by Robert Gellately