The Customs Service was formed in 1936 as a separate branch of the government under the
jurisdiction of the Reichs Minister of Finance, and charged with securing all borders,
ports and waterways from illicit traffic. Its primary function was to ensure that all
taxes due to the 3rd Reich were collected.
In many ways this formation was an extension of the long arm of the Gestapo,
eventually all customs departments came under full control by the Gestapo in
In order to accomplish its diversified missions, the German Customs Service was
organized into two separate groups:
Landzoll - Land Service. Guarded land borders, import control, tax
gathering, border security.
Wasserzoll Water Customs, sea fronts, harbours, ports, imports
by sea, security.
Custom detachments ranged in size from small guard posts of five men to large 450-man
groups in Hamburg and Markdorf.
At the outbreak of WWII, the customs officials became more like border police, greater
emphasis being placed upon border security. The responsibility of the Zolldienst was
expanded to include border control of escaped prisoners of war, saboteurs, defectors,
refugees, spies, etc.