By Rob Arndt


One Mercedes that found widespread use in the Third Reich was the 260D sedan. Mercedes built the 260D from 1936-1940.

Gestapo ID Disc

Because it had a diesel engine, it saw only rear-echelon use with the Heer, but both the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe, which had other diesel engines, used a number of them. The unfortunate alternative use of the Mercedes 260D has a very dark side to its history. It was the car of choice for the dreaded Gestapo and SS. As Jens Mehner put it, “I would call the 260D a thug's car since that is a name those leather-coat-clad sub-humans deserve...”

Early Mercedes diesel engine


In the 1920s, the main attraction of the diesel engine was strictly limited to its economic value. But the constant noise of operation, the vibrations, and the limited power of the initial engine performance made the success of the first diesel trucks very minimal. At the beginning of the 1930s, however, the German engineers were still trying to solve the problems of diesel reliability. The rate of compression and the higher constraints of the diesel engines forced the Germans to oversize the block rolls, the crankshaft and the pistons compared to a gasoline engine of equal cubic capacity. The German engineers could not, however, increase the number of revolutions of the engine without the inertia of these massive parts harming the longevity of the engine.

Back in 1926, Daimler-Benz equipped its trucks with one diesel six cylinders whose maximum operation reached 1,300 rpm against 1,000 rpm for a four cylinder diesel. It was at that time impossible to go beyond. The Germans needed the addition of Mahle reduced pistons, and Bosch injection pumps to reach 2,000 rpm, then 2,800 rpm with 82 hp by 1933. By then, the frame of a light passenger car could not yet withstand the vibrations emitted by these large engines.

By November 1934, Mercedes engineers thus decided to confine further diesel development around a four-cylinder motor. They managed to reduce the vibrations by redesigning the combustion chambers and improved the engine output by laying out the valves at the head. The result was a diesel engine which developed 45 hp with an operation of 3,200 rpm, while consuming only 9.5 l/100 km (against 13 l/100 km for the standard 4 cylinder gasoline engines of the time).

Mercedes 260D diesel taxi

Consequently, it could be installed in the frame of a Mercedes 200 taxi. The thousands of kilometers traveled by 1935 soon proved the value of usage, solidity, and the reliability of this diesel enough to arouse the interest of private individuals.

The following year, Mercedes decided to answer this new demand by presenting a passenger version, baptized 260D in reference to the cubic capacity.

In 1936, the French vehicle manufacturers Peugeot and Citroen proposed similar light diesel vehicles, but only utility versions and taxis. But on the French side, a passenger diesel would not be available until 1938 with the Peugeot 402.

Mercedes soon profited from the range of bodies planned for the basic frame with 6 cylinders, including two convertibles. Nearly 2,000 vehicles would be assembled until 1940, the priority date on which the Daimler-Benz group had to devote itself entirely to military manufacture.

Front grille of Mercedes 260D with lights

The SS and Gestapo made excellent use of these vehicles for more sinister purposes - the hunting of Jews. If one saw the 260D coming, trouble was to be expected. The Mercedes 260D ultimately became associated as an infamous “Death Mobile” instead of known as the first diesel passenger car.

                                                                                                 Interior schematic of the early diesel engine arrangement

Mercedes-Benz automobiles were popular in Germany and were naturally taken into use by the various agencies of the Third Reich. Many of these automobiles appear in famous photographs of the era, from pre-war Party rallies to the entry into Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to Hitler's departure from Rastenburg after the assassination attempt upon him.

Since Mercedes-Benz automobiles were seen as symbols of the prosperous Germany promised by the Nazis, they were often displayed by Party leaders during the years of struggle, with Göring's 1931 roadster being the most famous example. The cars were also speedy and sturdy, allowing Hitler and his top associates to campaign throughout Germany at a speed that caught his political opponents unprepared.

1931 Mercedes SSK

State power brought almost infinite resources into the hands of the Nazi Party, and liberal use of luxury automobiles were part of the spoils of victory. Again, a vehicle belonging to Hermann Göring typifies the era, in this case his massive Grosser Mercedes six-seat touring car.

1937 Mercedes 770K

The early war brought the automobile's most colourful moment, as part of Hitler's personal Grey (or Führer) Column, which toured parts of Poland even as fighting was still in progress. Allied air supremacy soon made such operations too hazardous, but Mercedes cars soldiered on with important state duties, often with bullet-proof windows and low-visibility headlights and occasionally with anti-aircraft machine guns mounted.

Geheimes Staatspolizeiamt


The GESTAPO was the political police force of the Reich. Much of its personnel consisted of transferees from former political police forces of the States. The GESTAPO was founded in April 1933 by Göring to serve as a political police force Prussia. Membership in the GESTAPO was voluntary, and it had a membership of about  40,000 or 50,000 in 1943-45.


Himmler was named Deputy Chief of the GESTAPO in Prussia in 1934. The GESTAPO, through its great power of arrest and confinement to concentration camps without recourse to law, was the principal means for eliminating enemies of the Nazi regime.


The headquarters organization of the GESTAPO (Amt IV of the RSHA) was set up on a functional basis. In 1943 it contained five sub-sections. Section A dealt with opponents, sabotage, and protective service. Section B dealt with political churches, sects and Jews, and was subdivided into four offices, including B4, which was responsible for Jewish affairs, matters of evacuation, means of suppressing enemies of the people and State, dispossession of rights of German citizenship. (Eichmann was head of this office). Section C dealt with card files, protective custody, and matters of press and Party. Section D dealt with regions under greater German influence. Section E dealt with security. Section F dealt with passport matters and alien police.


Subordinate offices of the GESTAPO were established throughout the Reich and designated as StaatsPolizeistellen. These offices reported directly to the RSHA in Berlin>but were subject to the supervision of Inspekteursof the Security Police in the various provinces. In the occupied territories the regional offices of the GESTAPO were coordinated with the Criminal Police and the SD under Kommandeursof the Security Police and SD.

Both SS and Gestapo used the Mercedes 260D with distinction hunting down Jews


The GESTAPO was one of the primary agencies for the persecution of the Jews. The persecution of the Jews under the Nazi regime is a story of increasingly severe treatment, beginning with restrictions, then seizure and spoliation of property, commitment to concentration camps, deportation, slave labor, and finally mass murder. The GESTAPO carried out mass murders of hundreds of thousands of civilians of occupied countries as a part of the Nazi program to exterminate political and racial undesirables ("Einsatzgruppen"):


The head of the Jewish section in the GESTAPO, and the man directly responsible for carrying out the mass extermination program against the Jews by the GESTAPO, Obersturmbannführer Eichmann, estimated in his report to Himmler on the matter, that 2,000,000 Jews had been killed by shootings, mainly by the Einsatzgruppen of the SIPO and SD during the campaign in the East. This did not include the estimated 4,000,000 sent by the GESTAPO for extermination in annihilation camps.

During 1943 the program of mass murder carried out by the Einsatzgruppen in the East was modified, and orders were issued to round up hundreds of thousands of persons for the armament industry.

The great power of the GESTAPO was "Schutzhaft" -- the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings on the theory of "protective custody." This power was based upon the law of 28 February 1933 which suspended the clauses of the Weimar Constitution guaranteeing civil liberties to the German people. The actions and orders of the GESTAPO were not subject to judicial review. Under the law of 30 November 1933 the only redress available was by appeal to the next higher authority within the GESTAPO itself.

The first concentration camps were established in 1933 at Dachau in Bavaria and at Oranienburg in Prussia. The GESTAPO was given by law the responsibility of administering the concentration camps. The reason assigned for the arrest and commitment of persons to concentration camps usually was that, according to the GESTAPO, the person endangered by his attitude the existence and security of the people and the State. Further specifications of grounds included such offenses as that of "working against the Greater German Reich with an illegal resistance organization," "being a Jew," "suspected of working for the detriment of the Reich," "being strongly suspected of aiding desertion," "because as a relative of a deserter he is expected to take advantage of every occasion to harm the German Reich," "refusal to work," "sexual intercourse with a Pole," "religious propaganda," "working against the Reich," "loafing on the job," or "defeatist statements." The most casual remark of a German citizen might bring him before the GESTAPO, where his fate and freedom were decided without recourse to law. In this government, in which the rule of law was replaced by a tyrannical rule of men, the GESTAPO was the primary instrumentality of oppression










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