Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (German: [ˈhaɪnʁɪç ˈluːɪtˌpɔlt
ˈhɪmlɐ] ( listen); 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945)
was Reichsführer of the
Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron; SS), and
a leading member of the
Nazi Party (NSDAP) of Germany. Himmler was one
of the most powerful men in
Nazi Germany and one of the people most
directly responsible for the Holocaust.
As a member of a reserve battalion during World War I, Himmler did not
see active service. He studied agronomy in university, and joined the
Nazi Party in 1923 and the SS in 1925. In 1929, he was appointed
Reichsführer-SS by Hitler. Over the next 16 years, he developed the
SS from a mere 290-man battalion into a million-strong paramilitary
group, and, following Hitler's orders, set up and controlled the Nazi
concentration camps. He was known to have good organisational skills
and for selecting highly competent subordinates, such as Reinhard
Heydrich in 1931. From 1943 onwards, he was both Chief of German
Police and Minister of the Interior, overseeing all internal and
external police and security forces, including the
State Police). Himmler had a lifelong interest in occultism,
interpreting Germanic neopagan and
Völkisch beliefs to promote the
racial policy of Nazi Germany, and incorporating esoteric symbolism
and rituals into the SS.
On Hitler's behalf, Himmler formed the
Einsatzgruppen and built
extermination camps. As facilitator and overseer of the concentration
camps, Himmler directed the killing of some six million Jews, between
200,000 and 500,000 Romani people, and other victims; the total number
of civilians killed by the regime is estimated at eleven to fourteen
million people. Most of them were Polish and Soviet citizens.
Late in World War II, Hitler briefly appointed him a military
commander and later Commander of the Replacement (Home) Army and
Plenipotentiary for the administration of the entire Third
Reich (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung). Specifically, he
was given command of the Army Group Upper
Rhine and the Army Group
Vistula; he failed to achieve his assigned objectives and Hitler
replaced him in these posts. Realising that the war was lost, he
attempted to open peace talks with the western Allies without Hitler's
knowledge, shortly before the war ended. Hearing of this, Hitler
dismissed him from all his posts in April 1945 and ordered his arrest.
Himmler attempted to go into hiding, but was detained and then
arrested by British forces once his identity became known. While in
British custody, he committed suicide on 23 May 1945.
1 Early life
1.1 Nazi activist
2 Rise in the SS
2.1 Consolidation of power
2.2 Anti-church struggle
3 World War II
4 The Holocaust
4.1 Posen speech
5 20 July plot
6 Military commander
6.1 Peace negotiations
7 Capture and death
Mysticism and symbolism
9 Relationship with Hitler
10 Marriage and family
11 Historical assessment
12 See also
13.1 Explanatory notes
14 Further reading
15 External links
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was born in
Munich on 7 October 1900 into a
conservative middle-class Roman Catholic family. His father was Joseph
Gebhard Himmler (17 May 1865 – 29 October 1936), a teacher, and his
mother was Anna Maria Himmler (née Heyder; 16 January 1866 – 10
September 1941), a devout Roman Catholic. Heinrich had two brothers,
Gebhard Ludwig (29 July 1898 – 1982) and Ernst Hermann (23 December
1905 – 2 May 1945).
Himmler's first name, Heinrich, was that of his godfather, Prince
Heinrich of Bavaria, a member of the royal family of Bavaria, who had
been tutored by Gebhard Himmler. He attended a grammar school in
Landshut, where his father was deputy principal. While he did well in
his schoolwork, he struggled in athletics. He had poor health,
suffering from lifelong stomach complaints and other ailments. In his
youth he trained daily with weights and exercised to become stronger.
Other boys at the school later remembered him as studious and awkward
in social situations.
Himmler's diary, which he kept intermittently from the age of ten,
shows that he took a keen interest in current events, dueling, and
"the serious discussion of religion and sex". In 1915, he began
training with the
Landshut Cadet Corps. His father used his
connections with the royal family to get Himmler accepted as an
officer candidate, and he enlisted with the reserve battalion of the
11th Bavarian Regiment in December 1917. His brother, Gebhard, served
on the western front and saw combat, receiving the
Iron Cross and
eventually being promoted to lieutenant. In November 1918, while
Himmler was still in training, the war ended with Germany's defeat,
denying him the opportunity to become an officer or see combat. After
his discharge on 18 December, he returned to Landshut. After the
war, Himmler completed his grammar-school education. From 1919–22,
he studied agronomy at the
Technische Hochschule (now Technical
University Munich) following a brief apprenticeship on a farm and a
Although many regulations that discriminated against
Jews and other minority groups—had been
eliminated during the unification of
Germany in 1871, antisemitism
continued to exist and thrive in
Germany and other parts of
Europe. Himmler was antisemitic by the time he went to university,
but not exceptionally so; students at his school would avoid their
Jewish classmates. He remained a devoted Catholic while a student,
and spent most of his leisure time with members of his fencing
fraternity, the "League of Apollo", the president of which was Jewish.
Himmler maintained a polite demeanor with him and with other Jewish
members of the fraternity, in spite of his growing
antisemitism. During his second year at university, Himmler
redoubled his attempts to pursue a military career. Although he was
not successful, he was able to extend his involvement in the
paramilitary scene in Munich. It was at this time that he first met
Ernst Röhm, an early member of the
Nazi Party and co-founder of the
Sturmabteilung ("Storm Battalion"; SA). Himmler admired Röhm
because he was a decorated combat soldier, and at his suggestion
Himmler joined his antisemitic nationalist group, the Bund
Reichskriegsflagge (Imperial War Flag Society).
In 1922, Himmler became more interested in the "Jewish question", with
his diary entries containing an increasing number of antisemitic
remarks and recording a number of discussions about
Jews with his
classmates. His reading lists, as recorded in his diary, were
dominated by antisemitic pamphlets, German myths, and occult
tracts. After the murder of Foreign Minister
Walther Rathenau on
24 June, Himmler's political views veered towards the radical right,
and he took part in demonstrations against the Treaty of Versailles.
Hyperinflation was raging, and his parents could no longer afford to
educate all three sons. Disappointed by his failure to make a career
in the military and his parents' inability to finance his doctoral
studies, he was forced to take a low-paying office job after obtaining
his agricultural diploma. He remained in this position until September
Himmler in early SS uniform, with rank of Oberführer
Himmler joined the
Nazi Party (NSDAP) in August 1923; his Party number
was 14,303. As a member of Röhm's paramilitary unit, Himmler
was involved in the Beer Hall Putsch—an unsuccessful attempt by
Hitler and the NSDAP to seize power in Munich. This event would set
Himmler on a life of politics. He was questioned by the police about
his role in the putsch, but was not charged because of insufficient
evidence. However, he lost his job, was unable to find employment as
an agronomist, and had to move in with his parents in Munich.
Frustrated by these failures, he became ever more irritable,
aggressive, and opinionated, alienating both friends and family
In 1923–24, Himmler, while searching for a world view, came to
abandon Catholicism and focused on the occult and in antisemitism.
Germanic mythology, reinforced by occult ideas, became a religion for
him. Himmler found the NSDAP appealing because its political positions
agreed with his own views. Initially, he was not swept up by Hitler's
charisma or the cult of
Führer worship. However, as he learned more
about Hitler through his reading, he began to regard him as a useful
face of the party, and he later admired and even worshipped
him. To consolidate and advance his own position in the NSDAP,
Himmler took advantage of the disarray in the party following Hitler's
arrest in the wake of the Beer Hall Putsch. From mid-1924 he
Gregor Strasser as a party secretary and propaganda
assistant. Travelling all over Bavaria agitating for the party, he
gave speeches and distributed literature. Placed in charge of the
party office in Lower Bavaria by Strasser from late 1924, he was
responsible for integrating the area's membership with the NSDAP under
Hitler when the party was re-founded in February 1925.
That same year, he joined the
Schutzstaffel (SS) as an SS-Führer
(SS-Leader); his SS number was 168. The SS, initially part of the
much larger SA, was formed in 1923 for Hitler's personal protection,
and was re-formed in 1925 as an elite unit of the SA. Himmler's
first leadership position in the SS was that of SS-Gauführer
(district leader) in Lower Bavaria from 1926. Strasser appointed
Himmler deputy propaganda chief in January 1927. As was typical in the
NSDAP, he had considerable freedom of action in his post, which
increased over time. He began to collect statistics on the number of
Jews, Freemasons, and enemies of the party, and following his strong
need for control, he developed an elaborate bureaucracy. In
September 1927, Himmler told Hitler of his vision to transform the SS
into a loyal, powerful, racially pure elite unit. Convinced that
Himmler was the man for the job, Hitler appointed him Deputy
Reichsführer-SS, with the rank of SS-Oberführer.
Around this time, Himmler joined the Artaman League, a
group. There he met Rudolf Höss, who was later commandant of
Auschwitz concentration camp, and Walther Darré, whose book, The
Peasantry as the Life Source of the Nordic Race, caught Hitler's
attention, leading to his later appointment as Reich Minister of Food
and Agriculture. Darré was a firm believer in the superiority of the
Nordic race, and his philosophy was a major influence on
Rise in the SS
Himmler in 1929. Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann.
Main article: Machtergreifung
Upon the resignation of SS commander
Erhard Heiden in January 1929,
Himmler assumed the position of
Reichsführer-SS with Hitler's
approval;[a] he still carried out his duties at propaganda
headquarters. One of his first responsibilities was to organise SS
participants at the
Nuremberg Rally that September. Over the next
year, Himmler grew the SS from a force of about 290 men to about
3,000. By 1930 Himmler had persuaded Hitler to run the SS as a
separate organisation, although it was officially still subordinate to
To gain political power, the NSDAP took advantage of the economic
downturn during the Great Depression. The coalition government of the
Weimar Republic was unable to improve the economy, so many voters
turned to the political extreme, which included the NSDAP. Hitler
used populist rhetoric, including blaming scapegoats—particularly
the Jews—for the economic hardships. In the 1932 election, the
Nazis won 37.3 percent of the vote and 230 seats in the Reichstag.
Hitler was appointed
Chancellor of Germany
Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von
Hindenburg on 30 January 1933, heading a short-lived coalition of his
Nazis and the German National People's Party. The new cabinet
initially included only three members of the NSDAP: Hitler, Hermann
Göring as minister without portfolio and Minister of the Interior for
Wilhelm Frick as Reich Interior Minister. Less
than a month later, the Reichstag building was set on fire. Hitler
took advantage of this event, forcing von Hindenburg to sign the
Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended basic rights and allowed
detention without trial. The Enabling Act, passed by the Reichstag
in 1933, gave the Cabinet—in practice, Hitler—full legislative
powers, and the country became a de facto dictatorship. On 1
August 1934, Hitler's cabinet passed a law which stipulated that upon
von Hindenburg's death, the office of president would be abolished and
its powers merged with those of the chancellor. Von Hindenburg died
the next morning, and Hitler became both head of state and head of
government under the title
Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and
The Nazi Party's rise to power provided Himmler and the SS an
unfettered opportunity to thrive. By 1933, the SS numbered 52,000
members. Strict membership requirements ensured that all members
were of Hitler's Aryan
Herrenvolk ("Aryan master race"). Applicants
were vetted for Nordic qualities—in Himmler's words, "like a nursery
gardener trying to reproduce a good old strain which has been
adulterated and debased; we started from the principles of plant
selection and then proceeded quite unashamedly to weed out the men
whom we did not think we could use for the build-up of the SS."
Few dared mention that by his own standards, Himmler did not meet his
Himmler's organised, bookish intellect served him well as he began
setting up different SS departments. In 1931 he appointed Reinhard
Heydrich chief of the new Ic Service (intelligence service), which was
Sicherheitsdienst (SD: Security Service) in 1932. He later
officially appointed Heydrich his deputy. The two men had a good
working relationship and a mutual respect. In 1933, they began to
remove the SS from SA control. Along with Interior Minister Frick,
they hoped to create a unified German police force. In March 1933,
Reich Governor of Bavaria
Franz Ritter von Epp
Franz Ritter von Epp appointed Himmler chief
Munich Police. Himmler appointed Heydrich commander of
Department IV, the political police. That same year, Hitler
promoted Himmler to the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer, equal in rank
to the senior SA commanders. Thereafter, Himmler and Heydrich took
over the political police of state after state; soon only
controlled by Göring.
Himmler further established the SS Race and Settlement Main Office
(Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt or RuSHA). He appointed Darré as its
first chief, with the rank of SS-Gruppenführer. The department
implemented racial policies and monitored the "racial integrity" of
the SS membership. SS men were carefully vetted for their racial
background. On 31 December 1931, Himmler introduced the "marriage
order", which required SS men wishing to marry to produce family trees
proving that both families were of Aryan descent to 1800. If any
non-Aryan forebears were found in either family tree during the racial
investigation, the person concerned was excluded from the SS. Each
man was issued a Sippenbuch, a genealogical record detailing his
genetic history. Himmler expected that each SS marriage should
produce at least four children, thus creating a pool of genetically
superior prospective SS members. The programme had disappointing
results; less than 40 per cent of SS men married and each produced
only about one child.
Himmler (front right, beside prisoner) visiting the Dachau
Concentration Camp in 1936
In March 1933, less than three months after the Nazis seized power,
Himmler set up the first official concentration camp at Dachau.
Hitler had stated that he did not want it to be just another prison or
detention camp. Himmler appointed Theodor Eicke, a convicted felon and
ardent Nazi, to run the camp in June 1933. Eicke devised a system
that was used as a model for future camps throughout Germany. Its
features included isolation of victims from the outside world,
elaborate roll calls and work details, the use of force and executions
to exact obedience, and a strict disciplinary code for the guards.
Uniforms were issued for prisoners and guards alike; the guards'
uniforms had a special
Totenkopf insignia on their collars. By the end
of 1934, Himmler took control of the camps under the aegis of the SS,
creating a separate division, the SS-Totenkopfverbände.
Initially the camps housed political opponents; over time, undesirable
members of German society—criminals, vagrants, deviants—were
placed in the camps as well. A Hitler decree issued in December 1937
allowed for the incarceration of anyone deemed by the regime to be an
undesirable member of society. This included Jews, Gypsies,
communists, and those persons of any other cultural, racial,
political, or religious affiliation deemed by the Nazis to be
Untermensch (sub-human). Thus, the camps became a mechanism for social
and racial engineering. By the outbreak of
World War II
World War II in autumn
1939, there were six camps housing some 27,000 inmates. Death tolls
Consolidation of power
In early 1934, Hitler and other Nazi leaders became concerned that
Röhm was planning a coup d'état. Röhm had socialist and
populist views, and believed that the real revolution had not yet
begun. He felt that the SA—now numbering some three million men, far
dwarfing the army—should become the sole arms-bearing corps of the
state, and that the army should be absorbed into the SA under his
leadership. Röhm lobbied Hitler to appoint him Minister of Defence, a
position held by conservative General Werner von Blomberg.
Göring had created a Prussian secret police force, the Geheime
Gestapo in 1933, and appointed
Rudolf Diels as its
head. Göring, concerned that Diels was not ruthless enough to use the
Gestapo effectively to counteract the power of the SA, handed over its
control to Himmler on 20 April 1934. Also on that date, Hitler
appointed Himmler chief of all German police outside Prussia. This was
a radical departure from long-standing German practice that law
enforcement was a state and local matter. Heydrich, named chief of the
Gestapo by Himmler on 22 April 1934, also continued as head of the
Hitler decided on 21 June that Röhm and the SA leadership had to be
eliminated. He sent Göring to Berlin on 29 June, to meet with Himmler
and Heydrich to plan the action. Hitler took charge in Munich, where
Röhm was arrested; he gave Röhm the choice to commit suicide or be
shot. When Röhm refused to kill himself, he was shot dead by two SS
officers. Between 85 and 200 members of the SA leadership and other
political adversaries, including Gregor Strasser, were killed between
30 June and 2 July 1934 in these actions, known as the Night of the
Long Knives. With the SA thus neutralised, the SS became an
independent organisation answerable only to Hitler on 20 July 1934.
Himmler's title of
Reichsführer-SS became the highest formal SS rank,
equivalent to a field marshal in the army. The SA was converted
into a sports and training organisation.
Rudolf Hess at
Dachau in 1936, viewing a scale model of
On 15 September 1935, Hitler presented two laws—known as the
Nuremberg Laws—to the Reichstag. The laws banned marriage between
non-Jewish and Jewish Germans and forbade the employment of non-Jewish
women under the age of 45 in Jewish households. The laws also deprived
so-called "non-Aryans" of the benefits of German citizenship.
These laws were among the first race-based measures instituted by the
Himmler and Heydrich wanted to extend the power of the SS; thus, they
urged Hitler to form a national police force overseen by the SS, to
Nazi Germany against its many enemies at the time—real and
imagined. Interior Minister Frick also wanted a national police
force, but one controlled by him, with
Kurt Daluege as his police
chief. Hitler left it to Himmler and Heydrich to work out the
arrangements with Frick. Himmler and Heydrich had greater bargaining
power, as they were allied with Frick's old enemy, Göring. Heydrich
drew up a set of proposals and Himmler sent him to meet with Frick. An
angry Frick then consulted with Hitler, who told him to agree to the
proposals. Frick acquiesced, and on 17 June 1936 Hitler decreed the
unification of all police forces in the Reich, and named Himmler Chief
of German Police. In this role, Himmler was still nominally
subordinate to Frick. In practice, however, the police was now
effectively a division of the SS, and hence independent of Frick's
control. This move gave Himmler operational control over Germany's
entire detective force. He also gained authority over all of
Germany's uniformed law enforcement agencies, which were amalgamated
into the new
Ordnungspolizei (Orpo: "order police"), which became a
branch of the SS under Daluege.
Shortly thereafter, Himmler created the
criminal police) as the umbrella organisation for all criminal
investigation agencies in Germany. The Kripo was merged with the
Gestapo into the
Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo: security police), under
Heydrich's command. In September 1939, following the outbreak of
World War II, Himmler formed the
Reich Main Security Office) to bring the SiPo (which included the
Gestapo and Kripo) and the SD together under one umbrella. He again
placed Heydrich in command.
Himmler, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and other SS officials visiting
Mauthausen concentration camp
Mauthausen concentration camp in 1941
Under Himmler's leadership, the SS developed its own military branch,
SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), which later evolved into the
Waffen-SS. Nominally under the authority of Himmler, the Waffen-SS
developed a fully militarised structure of command and operations. It
grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions during World War II,
serving alongside the Heer (army), but never being formally part of
In addition to his military ambitions, Himmler established the
beginnings of a parallel economy under the umbrella of the SS. To
this end, administrator
Oswald Pohl set up the Deutsche
Wirtschaftsbetriebe (German Economic Enterprise) in 1940. Under the
auspices of the SS Economy and Administration Head Office, this
holding company owned housing corporations, factories, and publishing
houses. Pohl was unscrupulous and quickly exploited the companies
for personal gain. In contrast, Himmler was honest in matters of money
In 1938, as part of his preparations for war, Hitler ended the German
alliance with China, and entered into an agreement with the more
modern Japan. That same year, Austria was unified with
Nazi Germany in
the Anschluss, and the
Munich Agreement gave
Nazi Germany control over
the Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia. Hitler's primary
motivations for war included obtaining additional
space") for the Germanic peoples, who were considered racially
superior according to Nazi ideology. A second goal was the
elimination of those considered racially inferior, particularly the
Jews and Slavs, from territories controlled by the Reich. From 1933 to
1938, hundreds of thousands of
Jews emigrated to the United States,
Palestine, Great Britain, and other countries. Some converted to
Kirchenkampf and Nazi persecution of the Catholic
Himmler believed that a major task of the SS should be "acting as the
vanguard in overcoming Christianity and restoring a 'Germanic' way of
living" as part of preparations for the coming conflict between
"humans and subhumans". Himmler biographer
Peter Longerich wrote
that, while the Nazi movement as a whole launched itself against Jews
and Communists, "by linking de-Christianisation with re-Germanization,
Himmler had provided the SS with a goal and purpose all of its
own". Himmler was vehemently opposed to Christian sexual morality
and the "principle of Christian mercy", both of which he saw as
dangerous obstacles to his planned battle with "subhumans". In
1937, Himmler declared:
We live in an era of the ultimate conflict with Christianity. It is
part of the mission of the SS to give the German people in the next
half century the non-Christian ideological foundations on which to
lead and shape their lives. This task does not consist solely in
overcoming an ideological opponent but must be accompanied at every
step by a positive impetus: in this case that means the reconstruction
of the German heritage in the widest and most comprehensive sense.
World War II
When Hitler and his army chiefs asked for a pretext for the invasion
Poland in 1939, Himmler, Heydrich, and Heinrich Müller
masterminded and carried out a false flag project code-named Operation
Himmler. German soldiers dressed in Polish uniforms undertook border
skirmishes which deceptively suggested Polish aggression against
Germany. The incidents were then used in
Nazi propaganda to justify
the invasion of Poland, the opening event of World War II. At the
beginning of the war against Poland, Hitler authorised the killing of
Polish civilians, including
Jews and ethnic Poles. The Einsatzgruppen
(SS task forces) had originally been formed by Heydrich to secure
government papers and offices in areas taken over by
World War II. Authorised by Hitler and under the direction of
Himmler and Heydrich, the
Einsatzgruppen units—now repurposed as
death squads—followed the Heer (army) into Poland, and by the end of
1939 they had murdered some 65,000 intellectuals and other civilians.
Militias and Heer units also took part in these killings.
Under Himmler's orders via the RSHA, these squads were also tasked
with rounding up
Jews and others for placement in ghettos and
Germany subsequently invaded
Denmark and Norway, the Netherlands, and
France, and began bombing Great Britain in preparation for an
invasion. On 21 June 1941, the day before invasion of the Soviet
Union, Himmler commissioned the preparation of the Generalplan Ost
(General Plan for the East); the plan was finalised in July 1942. It
called for the Baltic States, Poland, Western Ukraine, and Byelorussia
to be conquered and resettled by ten million German citizens. The
current residents—some 31 million people—would be expelled further
east, starved, or used for forced labour. The plan would have extended
the border of
Germany a thousand kilometres to the east (620 miles).
Himmler expected that it would take twenty to thirty years to complete
the plan, at a cost of 67 billion Reichsmarks. Himmler stated
openly: "It is a question of existence, thus it will be a racial
struggle of pitiless severity, in the course of which 20 to 30 million
Jews will perish through military actions and crises of food
Himmler declared that the war in the east was a pan-European crusade
to defend the traditional values of old Europe from the "Godless
Bolshevik hordes". Constantly struggling with the
recruits, Himmler solved this problem through the creation of
Waffen-SS units composed of Germanic folk groups taken from the
Balkans and eastern Europe. Equally vital were recruits from among the
Germanic considered peoples of northern and western Europe, in the
Netherlands, Norway, Belgium,
Denmark and Finland. Spain and Italy
also provided men for
Waffen-SS units. Among western countries,
the number of volunteers varied from a high of 25,000 from the
Netherlands to 300 each from
Sweden and Switzerland. From the
east, the highest number of men came from
Lithuania (50,000) and the
Bulgaria (600). After 1943 most men from the east
were conscripts. The performance of the eastern
Waffen-SS units was,
as a whole, sub-standard.
Himmler inspects a prisoner of war camp in Russia, circa 1941
In late 1941, Hitler named Heydrich as Deputy Reich Protector of the
newly established Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich began
to racially classify the Czechs, deporting many to concentration
camps. Members of a swelling resistance were shot, earning Heydrich
the nickname "the Butcher of Prague". This appointment
strengthened the collaboration between Himmler and Heydrich, and
Himmler was proud to have SS control over a state. Despite having
direct access to Hitler, Heydrich's loyalty to Himmler remained
With Hitler's approval, Himmler re-established the
the lead-up to the planned invasion of the Soviet Union. In March
1941, Hitler addressed his army leaders, detailing his intention to
smash the Soviet Empire and destroy the
Bolshevik intelligentsia and
leadership. His special directive, the "Guidelines in Special
Spheres re Directive No. 21 (Operation Barbarossa)", read: "In the
operations area of the army, the
Reichsführer-SS has been given
special tasks on the orders of the Führer, in order to prepare the
political administration. These tasks arise from the forthcoming final
struggle of two opposing political systems. Within the framework of
these tasks, the
Reichsführer-SS acts independently and on his own
responsibility." Hitler thus intended to prevent internal
friction like that occurring earlier in
Poland in 1939, when several
German Army generals had attempted to bring
Einsatzgruppen leaders to
trial for the murders they had committed.
Following the army into the Soviet Union, the
up and killed
Jews and others deemed undesirable by the Nazi
state. Hitler was sent frequent reports. In addition, 2.8
million Soviet prisoners of war died of starvation, mistreatment or
executions in just eight months of 1941–42. As many as 500,000
Soviet prisoners of war died or were executed in Nazi concentration
camps over the course of the war; most of them were shot or
gassed. By early 1941, following Himmler's orders, ten
concentration camps had been constructed in which inmates were
subjected to forced labour.
Jews from all over
Germany and the
occupied territories were deported to the camps or confined to
ghettos. As the Germans were pushed back from Moscow in December 1941,
signalling that the expected quick defeat of the Soviet Union had
failed to materialize, Hitler and other Nazi officials realised that
mass deportations to the east would no longer be possible. As a
result, instead of deportation, many
Jews in Europe were destined for
Main article: The Holocaust
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Nazi racial policies, including the notion that people who were
racially inferior had no right to live, date back to the earliest days
of the party; Hitler discusses this in Mein Kampf. Somewhere
around the time of the German declaration of war on the United States
in December 1941, Hitler finally resolved that the
Jews of Europe were
to be "exterminated". Heydrich arranged a meeting, held on 20
January 1942 at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin. Attended by top Nazi
officials, it was used to outline the plans for the "final solution to
the Jewish question". Heydrich detailed how those
Jews able to work
would be worked to death; those unable to work would be killed
outright. Heydrich calculated the number of
Jews to be killed at 11
million, and told the attendees that Hitler had placed Himmler in
charge of the plan.
In June 1942, Heydrich was assassinated in
Prague in an operation led
Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, members of Czechoslovakia's
army-in-exile who had been trained by the British
Executive. During the two funeral services, Himmler—the chief
mourner—took charge of Heydrich's two young sons, and he gave the
eulogy in Berlin. On 9 June, after discussions with Himmler and
Karl Hermann Frank, Hitler ordered brutal reprisals for Heydrich's
death. Over 13,000 people were arrested, and the village of
Lidice was razed to the ground; its male inhabitants and all adults in
the village of
Ležáky were murdered. At least 1,300 people were
executed by firing squads. Himmler took over leadership of
RSHA and stepped up the pace of the killing of
Jews in Aktion
Reinhard (Operation Reinhard), named in Heydrich's honour. He
ordered the Aktion Reinhard camps—the first extermination camps—to
be constructed at Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka.
Initially the victims were killed with gas vans or by firing squad,
but these methods proved impracticable for an operation of this
scale. In August 1941, Himmler attended the shooting of 100 Jews
at Minsk. Nauseated and shaken by the experience, he was
concerned about the impact such actions would have on the mental
health of his SS men. He decided that alternate methods of killing
should be found. On his orders, by early 1942 the camp at
Auschwitz had been greatly expanded, including the addition of gas
chambers, where victims were killed using the pesticide Zyklon B.
By the end of the war, at least 5.5 million
Jews had been killed by
the Nazi regime; most estimates range closer to six
million. Himmler visited the camp at Sobibór in early 1943,
by which time 250,000 people had been killed at that location alone.
After witnessing a gassing, he gave 28 people promotions, and ordered
the operation of the camp to be wound down. In a revolt that October,
prisoners killed most of the guards and SS personnel, and 300
prisoners escaped. Two hundred managed to get away; some joined
partisan units operating in the area. The remainder were killed. The
camp was dismantled by December 1943.
The Nazis also targeted Romani (Gypsies) as "asocial" and
"criminals". By 1935, they were confined into special camps away
from ethnic Germans. In 1938, Himmler issued an order in which he
said that the 'Gypsy question' would be determined by "race".
Himmler believed that the Romani were originally Aryan but had become
a mixed race; only the "racially pure" were to be allowed to
live. In 1939, Himmler ordered thousands of Gypsies to be sent to
Dachau concentration camp
Dachau concentration camp and by 1942, ordered all Romani sent to
Auschwitz concentration camp.
Himmler was a main architect of the Holocaust, using
his deep belief in the racist Nazi ideology to justify the murder of
millions of victims. The Nazis planned to kill Polish intellectuals
and restrict non-Germans in the
General Government and conquered
territories to a fourth-grade education. The Nazis wanted to
breed a master race of racially pure Nordic Aryans in Germany. As an
agronomist and farmer Himmler was acquainted with the principles of
selective breeding, which he proposed to apply to humans. He believed
that he could engineer the German populace, for example, through
eugenics, to be Nordic in appearance within several decades of the end
of the war.
Main article: Posen speeches
"Die Ausrottung des jüdischen Volkes"
An excerpt from the
Posen speeches where Himmler discusses the ongoing
extermination of the Jews
Problems playing this file? See media help.
On 4 October 1943, during a secret meeting with top SS officials in
the city of
Poznań (Posen), and on 6 October 1943, in a speech to the
party elite—the Gau and Reich leaders—Himmler referred explicitly
to the "extermination" (German: Ausrottung) of the Jewish people.
A translated excerpt from the speech of 4 October reads:
I also want to refer here very frankly to a very difficult matter. We
can now very openly talk about this among ourselves, and yet we will
never discuss this publicly. Just as we did not hesitate on 30 June
1934, to perform our duty as ordered and put comrades who had failed
up against the wall and execute them, we also never spoke about it,
nor will we ever speak about it. Let us thank God that we had within
us enough self-evident fortitude never to discuss it among us, and we
never talked about it. Every one of us was horrified, and yet every
one clearly understood that we would do it next time, when the order
is given and when it becomes necessary.
I am now referring to the evacuation of the Jews, to the extermination
of the Jewish People. This is something that is easily said: 'The
Jewish People will be exterminated', says every party member, 'this is
very obvious, it is in our program—elimination of the Jews,
extermination, a small matter.' And then they turn up, the upstanding
80 million Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. They say the
others are all swines, but this particular one is a splendid Jew. But
none has observed it, endured it. Most of you here know what it means
when 100 corpses lie next to each other, when there are 500 or when
there are 1,000. To have endured this and at the same time to have
remained a decent person—with exceptions due to human
weaknesses—has made us tough, and is a glorious chapter that has not
and will not be spoken of. Because we know how difficult it would be
for us if we still had
Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and
rabble-rousers in every city, what with the bombings, with the burden
and with the hardships of the war. If the
Jews were still part of the
German nation, we would most likely arrive now at the state we were at
in 1916 and '17 ...
Hitler's motivation for authorising Himmler's speeches was to ensure
that all party leaders were made aware of these plans and actions.
Thus, it would be impossible for them to later deny knowledge of the
killings. Because the Allies had indicated that they were going to
pursue criminal charges for German war crimes, Hitler tried to gain
the loyalty and silence of his subordinates by making them all parties
to the planned genocide.
Main article: Germanization
As Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood
(RKFDV) with the incorporated VoMi Himmler was deeply involved in the
Germanization program for the East, particularly Poland. As laid out
in the General Plan for the East, the aim was to enslave, expel or
exterminate the native population and to make
space") for Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans). He continued his plans to
colonise the east, even when many Germans were reluctant to relocate
there, and despite negative effects on the war effort.
Himmler's racial groupings began with the Volksliste, the
classification of people deemed of German blood. These included
Germans who had collaborated with
Germany before the war, but also
those who considered themselves German but had been neutral; those who
were partially "Polonized" but "Germanizable"; and Germans who were of
Polish nationality. Himmler ordered that those who refused to be
classified as ethnic Germans should be deported to concentration
camps, have their children taken away, or be assigned to forced
labour. Himmler's belief that "it is in the nature of German
blood to resist" led to his conclusion that Balts or Slavs who
Germanization were racially superior to more compliant
ones. He declared that no drop of German blood would be lost or
left behind to mingle with an "alien race".
The plan also included the kidnapping of Eastern European children by
Nazi Germany. Himmler urged:
Obviously in such a mixture of peoples, there will always be some
racially good types. Therefore, I think that it is our duty to take
their children with us, to remove them from their environment, if
necessary by robbing, or stealing them. Either we win over any good
blood that we can use for ourselves and give it a place in our
people, ... or we destroy that blood.
The "racially valuable" children were to be removed from all contact
with Poles, and raised as Germans, with German names. Himmler
declared, "We have faith above all in this our own blood, which has
flowed into a foreign nationality through the vicissitudes of German
history. We are convinced that our own philosophy and ideals will
reverberate in the spirit of these children who racially belong to
us." The children were to be adopted by German families.
Children who passed muster at first but were later rejected were taken
to a ghetto in Łódź, where most of them eventually died.
By January 1943, Himmler reported that 629,000 ethnic Germans had been
resettled; however, most resettled Germans did not live in the
envisioned small farms, but in temporary camps or quarters in towns.
Half a million residents of the annexed Polish territories, as well as
from Slovenia, Alsace, Lorraine, and Luxembourg were deported to the
General Government or sent to
Germany as slave labour. Himmler
instructed that the German nation should view all foreign workers
Germany as a danger to their German blood. In
accordance with German racial laws, sexual relations between Germans
and foreigners were forbidden as
Rassenschande (race defilement).
20 July plot
Main article: 20 July plot
On 20 July 1944, a group of German army officers led by Claus von
Stauffenberg and including some of the highest-ranked members of the
German armed forces attempted to assassinate Hitler, but failed to do
so. The next day, Himmler formed a special commission that arrested
over 5,000 suspected and known opponents of the regime. Hitler ordered
brutal reprisals that resulted in the execution of more than 4,900
people. Though Himmler was embarrassed by his failure to uncover
the plot, it led to an increase in his powers and authority.
General Friedrich Fromm, commander-in-chief of the Reserve (or
Replacement) Army (Ersatzheer) and Stauffenberg's immediate superior,
was one of those implicated in the conspiracy. Hitler removed Fromm
from his post and named Himmler as his successor. Since the Reserve
Army consisted of two million men, Himmler hoped to draw on these
reserves to fill posts within the Waffen-SS. He appointed Hans
Jüttner, director of the SS Leadership Main Office, as his deputy,
and began to fill top Reserve Army posts with SS men. By November 1944
Himmler had merged the army officer recruitment department with that
Waffen-SS and had successfully lobbied for an increase in the
quotas for recruits to the SS.
By this time, Hitler had appointed Himmler as Minister of the Interior
Plenipotentiary General for Administration
(Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung). In August 1944
Hitler authorised him to restructure the organisation and
administration of the Waffen-SS, the army, and the police services. As
head of the Reserve Army, Himmler was now responsible for prisoners of
war. He was also in charge of the
Wehrmacht penal system, and
controlled the development of
Wehrmacht armaments until January
On 6 June 1944 the Western Allied armies landed in northern France
during Operation Overlord. In response, Army Group Upper Rhine
(Heeresgruppe Oberrhein) group was formed to engage the advancing US
7th Army (under command of General Alexander Patch) and French
1st Army (led by General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny) in the Alsace
region along the west bank of the Rhine. In late 1944, Hitler
appointed Himmler commander-in-chief of Army Group Upper Rhine.
On 26 September 1944 Hitler ordered Himmler to create special army
Volkssturm ("People's Storm" or "People's Army"). All males
aged sixteen to sixty were eligible for conscription into this
militia, over the protests of Armaments Minister Albert Speer, who
noted that irreplaceable skilled workers were being removed from
armaments production. Hitler confidently believed six million men
could be raised, and the new units would "initiate a people's war
against the invader". These hopes were wildly optimistic. In
October 1944, children as young as fourteen were being enlisted.
Because of severe shortages in weapons and equipment and lack of
training, members of the
Volkssturm were poorly prepared for combat,
and about 175,000 of them lost their lives in the final months of the
On 1 January 1945 Hitler and his generals launched Operation North
Wind (Unternehmen Nordwind). The goal was to break through the lines
of the US 7th Army and French 1st Army to support the southern thrust
in the Ardennes offensive, the final major German offensive of the
war. After limited initial gains by the Germans, the Americans halted
the offensive. By 25 January, Operation North Wind had officially
On 25 January 1945, in spite of Himmler's lack of military experience,
Hitler appointed him as commander of the hastily formed Army Group
Vistula (Heeresgruppe Weichsel) to halt the Soviet Red Army's
Vistula–Oder Offensive into Pomerania. Panzer General Heinz
Guderian considered Himmler's appointment "idiocy" and regarded the
officers Himmler chose to organize the defense as "uniformly incapable
of performing their allotted tasks". Knowing that Himmler would
need all the help he could get, Guderian appointed General Walther
Wenck, an experienced staff officer, as his chief of staff.
Himmler established his command centre at Schneidemühl, using his
special train, Sonderzug Steiermark, as his headquarters. The train
had only one telephone line, inadequate maps, and no signal detachment
or radios with which to establish communication and relay military
orders. Himmler seldom left the train, only worked about four hours
per day, and insisted on a daily massage before commencing work and a
lengthy nap after lunch. Operation Solstice, an attack from
Pomerania against the northern flank of Marshal Georgy Zhukov's 1st
Belarusian Front, was launched on 16 February 1945, but could make
little headway against Pavel Alexeyevich Belov's 61st Army and Semyon
Bogdanov's 2nd Guards Tank Army. Zhukov responded by redirecting
two Soviet tank armies against the German forces. Within five days,
tanks of the
Red Army had reached the Baltic, trapping the German
forces, who sought to escape by sea. Himmler was unable to devise
any viable plans for completion of his military objectives. Under
pressure from Hitler over the worsening military situation, Himmler
became anxious and unable to give him coherent reports.
Hitler was unwilling to admit that his choice of commander had been
poor. After an intense argument with Guderian, who insisted on a
change of command of the Army Group Vistula, Hitler assigned
Wenck to Himmler's headquarters to take over command of a limited
counter-offensive; Hitler then observed that it was not possible for
him to move the troops needed for Guderian's planned double pincer
attack from neighbouring regions. When the counter-attack failed
to stop the Soviet advance, Hitler held Himmler personally liable and
accused him of not following orders. Himmler's tenure as a military
commander ended on 20 March, when Hitler replaced him with General
Gotthard Heinrici as Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula. By this
time Himmler, who had been under the care of his doctor since 18
February, had fled to a sanatorium at Hohenlychen. Hitler sent
Guderian on a forced medical leave of absence, and he reassigned his
post as chief of staff to Hans Krebs on 29 March. Himmler's
failure and Hitler's response marked a serious deterioration in the
relationship between the two men. By that time, the inner circle
of people which Hitler trusted was rapidly shrinking.
In early 1945, the German war effort was on the verge of collapse and
Himmler's relationship with Hitler had deteriorated. Himmler
considered independently negotiating a peace settlement. His masseur,
Felix Kersten, who had moved to Sweden, acted as an intermediary in
negotiations with Count Folke Bernadotte, head of the Swedish Red
Cross. Letters were exchanged between the two men, and direct
meetings were arranged by
Walter Schellenberg of the RSHA.
Heinrich Himmler in 1945
Himmler and Hitler met for the last time on 20 April 1945—Hitler's
birthday—in Berlin, and Himmler swore unswerving loyalty to Hitler.
At a military briefing on that day, Hitler stated that he would not
leave Berlin, in spite of Soviet advances. Along with Göring, Himmler
quickly left the city after the briefing. On 21 April, Himmler
met with Norbert Masur, a Swedish representative of the World Jewish
Congress, to discuss the release of Jewish concentration camp
inmates. As a result of these negotiations, about 20,000 people
were released in the
White Buses operation. Himmler falsely
claimed in the meeting that the crematoria at camps had been built to
deal with the bodies of prisoners who had died in a typhus epidemic.
He also claimed very high survival rates for the camps at Auschwitz
and Bergen-Belsen, even as these sites were liberated and it became
obvious that his figures were false.
On 23 April, Himmler met directly with Bernadotte at the Swedish
consulate in Lübeck. Representing himself as the provisional leader
of Germany, he claimed that Hitler would be dead within the next few
days. Hoping that the British and Americans would fight the Soviets
alongside what remained of the Wehrmacht, Himmler asked Bernadotte to
Dwight Eisenhower that
Germany wished to surrender to
the West. Bernadotte asked Himmler to put his proposal in writing, and
Meanwhile, Göring had sent a telegram, a few hours earlier, asking
Hitler for permission to assume leadership of the Reich—an act that
Hitler, under the prodding of Martin Bormann, interpreted as a demand
to step down or face a coup. On 27 April, Himmler's SS representative
at Hitler's HQ in Berlin, Hermann Fegelein, was caught in civilian
clothes preparing to desert; he was arrested and brought back to the
Führerbunker. On the evening of 28 April, the
BBC broadcast a Reuters
news report about Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western
Allies. Hitler, who had long considered Himmler to be second only to
Joseph Goebbels in loyalty (he called Himmler "the loyal Heinrich"),
flew into a rage at this apparent betrayal. Hitler told those who were
still with him in the bunker complex that Himmler's act was the worst
treachery he had ever known and ordered his arrest. Fegelein was
court-martialed and shot.
By this time, the Soviets had advanced to the Potsdamerplatz, only
300 m (330 yd) from the Reich Chancellery, and were
preparing to storm the Chancellery. This report, combined with
Himmler's treachery, prompted Hitler to write his last will and
testament. In the testament, completed on 29 April—one day prior to
his suicide—Hitler declared both Himmler and Göring to be traitors.
He stripped Himmler of all of his party and state offices and expelled
him from the Nazi Party.
Karl Dönitz as his successor. Himmler met
Dönitz in Flensburg and offered himself as second-in-command. He
maintained that he was entitled to a position in Dönitz's interim
government as Reichsführer-SS, believing the SS would be in a good
position to restore and maintain order after the war. Dönitz
repeatedly rejected Himmler's overtures and initiated peace
negotiations with the Allies. He wrote a letter on 6 May—two days
before the German Instrument of Surrender—formally dismissing
Himmler from all his posts.
Capture and death
Himmler's corpse after his suicide by cyanide poisoning, May 1945
Rejected by his former comrades and hunted by the Allies, Himmler
attempted to go into hiding. He had not made extensive preparations
for this, but he had equipped himself with a forged paybook under the
name of Sergeant Heinrich Hitzinger. With a small band of companions,
he headed south on 11 May to Friedrichskoog, without a final
destination in mind. They continued on to Neuhaus, where the group
split up. On 21 May, Himmler and two aides were stopped and detained
at a checkpoint set up by former Soviet POWs. Over the following two
days, he was moved around to several camps and was brought to the
British 31st Civilian Interrogation Camp near Lüneburg, on 23
The duty officer, Captain Thomas Selvester, began a routine
interrogation. Himmler admitted who he was, and Selvester had the
prisoner searched. Himmler was taken to the headquarters of the Second
British Army in Lüneburg, where Doctor Wells conducted a medical exam
on him. The doctor attempted to examine the inside of Himmler's mouth,
but the prisoner was reluctant to open it and jerked his head away.
Himmler then bit into a hidden potassium cyanide pill and collapsed
onto the floor. He was dead within 15 minutes. Shortly
afterward, Himmler's body was buried in an unmarked grave near
Lüneburg. The grave's location remains unknown.
Mysticism and symbolism
Main article: Ideology of the SS
Himmler was interested in mysticism and the occult from an early age.
He tied this interest into his racist philosophy, looking for proof of
Aryan and Nordic racial superiority from ancient times. He promoted a
cult of ancestor worship, particularly among members of the SS, as a
way to keep the race pure and provide immortality to the nation.
The stylised lightning bolts of the SS insignia were based on the
Armanen runes of Guido von List.
Viewing the SS as an "order" along the lines of the Teutonic Knights,
he had them take over the Church of the Teutonic Order in Vienna in
1939. He began the process of replacing Christianity with a new moral
code that rejected humanitarianism and challenged the Christian
concept of marriage. The Ahnenerbe, a research society founded by
Himmler in 1935, conducted research all over the globe to look for
proof of the superiority and ancient origins of the Germanic
All regalia and uniforms of Nazi Germany, particularly those of the
SS, used symbolism in their designs. The stylised lightning bolt logo
of the SS was chosen in 1932. The logo is a pair of runes from a set
Armanen runes created by
Guido von List
Guido von List in 1906. The ancient
Sowilō rune originally symbolised the sun, but was renamed "Sig"
(victory) in List's iconography. Himmler modified a variety of
existing customs to emphasise the elitism and central role of the SS;
an SS naming ceremony was to replace baptism, marriage ceremonies were
to be altered, a separate SS funeral ceremony was to be held in
addition to Christian ceremonies, and SS-centric celebrations of the
summer and winter solstices were instituted. The Totenkopf
(death's head) symbol, used by German military units for hundreds of
years, had been chosen for the SS by Schreck. Himmler placed
particular importance on the death's-head rings; they were never to be
sold, and were to be returned to him upon the death of the owner. He
interpreted the deaths-head symbol to mean solidarity to the cause and
a commitment unto death.
Relationship with Hitler
As second in command of the SS and then Reichsführer-SS, Himmler was
in regular contact with Hitler to arrange for SS men as
bodyguards; Himmler was not involved with Nazi Party
policy-making decisions in the years leading up to the seizure of
power. From the late 1930s, the SS was independent of the control
of other state agencies or government departments, and he reported
only to Hitler.
Hitler's leadership style was to give contradictory orders to
subordinates and to place them into positions where their duties and
responsibilities overlapped with those of others. In this way, Hitler
fostered distrust, competition, and infighting among his subordinates
to consolidate and maximise his own power. His cabinet never met after
1938, and he discouraged his ministers from meeting
independently. Hitler typically did not issue written
orders, but gave them orally at meetings or in phone conversations; he
also had Bormann convey orders. Bormann used his position to
control the flow of information and access to Hitler, earning him
enemies, including Himmler.
Hitler promoted and practised the Führerprinzip. The principle
required absolute obedience of all subordinates to their superiors;
thus Hitler viewed the government structure as a pyramid, with
himself—the infallible leader—at the apex. Accordingly,
Himmler placed himself in a position of subservience to Hitler, and
was unconditionally obedient to him. However, he—like other top
Nazi officials—had aspirations to one day succeed Hitler as leader
of the Reich. Himmler considered Speer to be an especially
dangerous rival, both in the Reich administration and as a potential
successor to Hitler. Speer refused to accept Himmler's offer of
the high rank of SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer, as he felt to do so would
put him in Himmler's debt and obligate him to allow Himmler a say in
Hitler called Himmler's mystical and pseudoreligious interests
"nonsense". Himmler was not a member of Hitler's inner circle;
the two men were not very close, and rarely saw each other
socially. Himmler socialised almost exclusively with other
members of the SS. His unconditional loyalty and efforts to
please Hitler earned him the nickname of der treue Heinrich ("the
faithful Heinrich"). In the last days of the war, when it became clear
that Hitler planned to die in Berlin, Himmler left his long-time
superior to try to save himself.
Marriage and family
Himmler with his wife Margarete and daughter Gudrun
Himmler met his future wife, Margarete Boden, in 1927. Seven years his
senior, she was a nurse who shared his interest in herbal medicine and
homoeopathy, and was part owner of a small private clinic. They were
married in July 1928, and their only child, Gudrun, was born on 8
August 1929. The couple were also foster parents to a boy named
Gerhard von Ahe, son of an SS officer who had died before the
war. Margarete sold her share of the clinic and used the proceeds
to buy a plot of land in Waldtrudering, near Munich, where they
erected a prefabricated house. Himmler was constantly away on party
business, so his wife took charge of their efforts—mostly
unsuccessful—to raise livestock for sale. They had a dog,
After the Nazis seized power the family moved first to Möhlstrasse in
Munich, and in 1934 to Lake Tegern, where they bought a house. Himmler
also later obtained a large house in the Berlin suburb of Dahlem, free
of charge, as an official residence. The couple saw little of each
other as Himmler became totally absorbed by work. The
relationship was strained. The couple did unite for social
functions; they were frequent guests at the Heydrich home. Margarete
saw it as her duty to invite the wives of the senior SS leaders over
for afternoon coffee and tea on Wednesday afternoons.
Images of Himmler and Gudrun together
Hedwig Potthast, Himmler's young secretary starting in 1936, became
his mistress by 1939. She left her job in 1941. He arranged
accommodation for her, first in
Mecklenburg and later at
Berchtesgaden. He fathered two children with her: a son, Helge (born
15 February 1942) and a daughter, Nanette Dorothea (born 20 July 1944,
Berchtesgaden). Margarete, by then living in Gmund with her daughter,
learned of the relationship sometime in 1941; she and Himmler were
already separated, and she decided to tolerate the relationship for
the sake of her daughter. Working as a nurse for the German Red Cross
during the war, Margarete was appointed supervisor in Military
District III (Berlin-Brandenburg). Himmler was close to his first
daughter, Gudrun, whom he nicknamed Püppi ("dolly"); he phoned her
every few days and visited as often as he could.
Margarete's diaries reveal that Gerhard had to leave the National
Political Educational Institute in Berlin because of poor results. At
the age of 16 he joined the SS in
Brno and shortly afterwards went
"into battle", He was captured by the Russians but later returned to
Hedwig and Margarete both remained loyal to Himmler. Writing to
Gebhard in February 1945, Margarete said, "How wonderful that he has
been called to great tasks and is equal to them. The whole of Germany
is looking to him." Hedwig expressed similar sentiments in a
letter to Himmler in January. Margarete and Gudrun left Gmund as
Allied troops advanced into the area. They were arrested by American
troops in Bolzano, Italy, and held in various internment camps in
Italy, France, and Germany. They were brought to Nuremberg to testify
at the trials and were released in November 1946. Gudrun emerged from
the experience embittered by her alleged mistreatment and has remained
devoted to her father's memory.
Death mask of Himmler on display in the
Imperial War Museum
Imperial War Museum in London
Speer said that though Himmler seemed pedantic and insignificant on
the surface, he was a good decision maker, had a talent for selecting
highly competent staff, and successfully inserted the SS into every
aspect of daily life.
Peter Longerich observes that Himmler's
ability to consolidate his ever-increasing powers and responsibilities
into a coherent system under the auspices of the SS led him to become
one of the most powerful men in the Third Reich.
Historian Wolfgang Sauer says that "although he was pedantic,
dogmatic, and dull, Himmler emerged under Hitler as second in actual
power. His strength lay in a combination of unusual shrewdness,
burning ambition, and servile loyalty to Hitler." Historian Peter
Padfield opined that "Himmler ... appeared the most powerful man
under Hitler. It is impossible to say whether he was in practice, and
meaningless to ask, since he was never prepared to use his power
directly to change the course of events...".
Historian John Toland relates a story by Günter Syrup, a subordinate
of Heydrich. Heydrich showed him a picture of Himmler and said, "The
top half is the teacher but the lower half is the sadist."
Adrian Weale comments that Himmler and the SS followed
Hitler's policies, without question or ethical considerations. Himmler
accepted Hitler and Nazi ideology, and saw the SS as a chivalric
Teutonic order of new Germans. Himmler adopted the doctrine of
Auftragstaktik ("mission command"), whereby orders were given as broad
directives, with authority delegated downward to the appropriate level
to carry them out in a timely and efficient manner. Weale states that
the SS ideology gave the men a doctrinal framework, and the mission
command tactics allowed the junior officers leeway to act on their own
initiative to obtain the desired results.
In 2008, the German news magazine
Der Spiegel described Himmler as one
of the most brutal mass murderers in history, and the architect of the
World War II
World War II portal
Service record of Heinrich Himmler
Glossary of Nazi Germany
Nazi Party leaders and officials
List of SS personnel
Racial policy of Nazi Germany
^ At that time
Reichsführer-SS was only a titled position, not an
actual SS rank (McNab 2009, pp. 18, 29).
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 13.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 12–15.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 1.
^ Breitman 2004, p. 9.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 17–19.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 3, 6–7.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 16.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 8.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 20–26.
^ Breitman 2004, p. 12.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 29.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 22–25.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 33, 42.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 31, 35, 47.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 6, 8–9, 11.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 54.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 10.
^ Weale 2010, p. 40.
^ Weale 2010, p. 42.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 60, 64–65.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 9–11.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 11.
^ a b Biondi 2000, p. 7.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 72–75.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 11–12.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 77–81, 87.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 11–13.
^ a b Evans 2003, p. 227.
^ Gerwarth 2011, p. 51.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 70, 81–88.
^ a b Evans 2003, p. 228.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 89–92.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 15–16.
^ a b McNab 2009, p. 18.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 148.
^ Weale 2010, p. 47.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 113–114.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 228–229.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 17, 19–21.
^ Evans 2005, p. 9.
^ Bullock 1999, p. 376.
^ Kolb 2005, pp. 224–225.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011, p. 92.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 184.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 192.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 199.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 226–227.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 20, 22.
^ Pringle 2006, p. 41.
^ Pringle 2006, p. 52.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 17, 23, 151.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 24, 27.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 149.
^ McNab 2009, p. 29.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 66.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 23, 36.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 127, 353.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 302.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 22–23.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 378.
^ Evans 2003, p. 344.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 136, 137.
^ Evans 2005, p. 84.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 151–153.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 84–85.
^ Evans 2005, p. 87.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 86–90.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 306–309.
^ Evans 2005, p. 24.
^ Evans 2005, p. 54.
^ Williams 2001, p. 61.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 308–314.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 31–35, 39.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 316.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 313.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 543–545.
^ Gerwarth 2011, pp. 86, 87.
^ a b c d Williams 2001, p. 77.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 204.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 201.
^ Gerwarth 2011, p. 163.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 56, 57, 66.
^ Sereny 1996, pp. 323, 329.
^ Evans 2008, p. 343.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 120.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 641, 653, 674.
^ Evans 2003, p. 34.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 554–558.
^ a b c Longerich 2012, p. 265.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 270.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 518–520.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 118, 122.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 518, 519.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 14–15.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 118–145.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 173–174.
^ Cesarani 2004, p. 366.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 93, 98.
^ Koehl 2004, pp. 212–213.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 81–84.
^ van Roekel 2010.
^ McNab 2009, pp. 84, 90.
^ McNab 2009, p. 94.
^ Evans 2008, p. 274.
^ Gerwarth 2011, p. 225.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 598, 618.
^ a b Hillgruber 1989, p. 95.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 958.
^ Longerich, Chapter 15 2003.
^ Goldhagen 1996, p. 290.
^ POWs: Holocaust Memorial Museum.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 480–481.
^ Evans 2008, p. 256.
^ a b Longerich, Chapter 17 2003.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 86.
^ Evans 2008, p. 264.
^ a b Gerwarth 2011, p. 280.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 129.
^ Gerwarth 2011, pp. 280–285.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 714.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 570–571.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 282–283.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 256–257.
^ Gilbert 1987, p. 191.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 547.
^ Gerwarth 2011, p. 199.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 295, 299–300.
^ Evans 2008, p. 318.
^ Yad Vashem, 2008.
^ Introduction: Holocaust Memorial Museum.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 288–289.
^ a b Longerich 2012, p. 229.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 230.
^ Lewy 2000, pp. 135-137.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 230, 670.
^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 1150.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 236.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 3.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 429, 451.
^ Pringle 2006.
^ a b Sereny 1996, pp. 388–389.
^ Posen speech (1943), audio recording.
^ Posen speech (1943), transcript.
^ IMT : Volume 29, p. 145f.
^ Cecil 1972, p. 191.
^ a b Overy 2004, p. 543.
^ Overy 2004, p. 544.
^ Nicholas 2006, p. 247.
^ a b Lukas 2001, p. 113.
^ Cecil 1972, p. 199.
^ a b c d Sereny 1999.
^ Kohn-Bramstedt 1998, p. 244.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 578–580.
^ Rupp 1979, p. 125.
^ Majer 2003, pp. 180, 855.
^ Shirer 1960, §29.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 696–698.
^ Evans 2008, p. 642.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 698–702.
^ Lisciotto 2007.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 702–704.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 1036.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 1086.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 715.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 1087.
^ a b c d e The Battle for
^ Evans 2008, pp. 675–678.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 884, 885.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 891.
^ Guderian 1957, p. 332.
^ Duffy 1991, p. 178.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 715–718.
^ a b Duffy 1991, p. 241.
^ Duffy 1991, p. 181.
^ Duffy 1991, p. 247.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 891, 913–914.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 914.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 230–233.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 943–945.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 923–925, 943.
^ Penkower 1988, p. 281.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 724.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 727–729.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 1187.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 943–947.
^ Evans 2008, p. 724.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 237.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 733–734.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, pp. 239, 243.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 734–736.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 1, 736.
^ Bend Bulletin 1945.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 1–3.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 248.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 256–273.
^ Yenne 2010, p. 134.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 50.
^ Yenne 2010, p. 64.
^ Yenne 2010, pp. 93, 94.
^ Flaherty 2004, pp. 38–45, 48, 49.
^ Yenne 2010, p. 71.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 287.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 16.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 20.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 251.
^ a b Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 29.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 323.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 377.
^ Evans 2005, p. 47.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 181.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 83.
^ Sereny 1996, pp. 322–323.
^ Sereny 1996, pp. 424–425.
^ Speer 1971, p. 473.
^ Speer 1971, p. 141, 212.
^ Toland 1977, p. 869.
^ Speer 1971, p. 80.
^ Weale 2010, pp. 4, 407–408.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 17.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 258.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 109–110.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 27.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 109, 374–375.
^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2007, p. 40–41.
^ Gerwarth 2011, p. 111.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 466–68.
^ Himmler 2007, p. 285.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 732.
^ Himmler 2007, p. 275.
^ Sify News 2010.
^ Sereny 1996, pp. 323–324.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 747.
^ Sauer, Wolfgang.
^ Padfield 2001, p. 534.
^ Toland 1977, p. 812.
^ Weale 2010, pp. 3, 4.
^ Von Wiegrefe 2008.
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