HEINRICH LUITPOLD HIMMLER (German: ( listen ); 7 October 1900 –
23 May 1945) was Reichsführer of the
Squadron; SS), and a leading member of the
Nazi Party (NSDAP) of
As a member of a reserve battalion during World War I, Himmler did
not see active service. He studied agronomy in college, 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
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
Late in World War II, Hitler charged Himmler with the 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
* 4 The Holocaust
* 4.1 Posen speech
* 5 20 July plot
* 6 Military commander
* 6.1 Peace negotiations
* 7 Capture and suicide * 8 Mysticism and symbolism * 9 Relationship with Hitler * 10 Marriage and family * 11 Historical assessment * 12 See also
* 13 References
* 13.1 Explanatory notes * 13.2 Citations
* 13.3 Bibliography
* 13.3.1 Printed * 13.3.2 Online
* 14 Further reading * 15 External links
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was born in
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
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
Although many regulations that discriminated against
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
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 members.
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
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 Völkisch youth 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 Himmler.
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; 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 the SA.
To gain political power, the NSDAP took advantage of the economic
downturn during the
Great Depression . The coalition government of the
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 own ideals.
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
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
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
CONSOLIDATION OF POWER
Main article: Night of the Long Knives
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 Staatspolizei or 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 SD.
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. Himmler and
On 15 September 1935, Hitler presented two laws—known as 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
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
Under Himmler's leadership, the SS developed its own military branch,
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 and business.
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
Main articles: Kirchenkampf and Nazi persecution of the Catholic Church
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
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
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
In late 1941, Hitler named Heydrich as Deputy Reich Protector of the
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
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
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
Reichsführer-SS acts independently and on his own
responsibility." Hitler thus intended to prevent internal friction
like that occurring earlier in
Following the army into the Soviet Union, the
up and killed
Main article: The Holocaust
Part of a series on
* Major perpetrators * Adolf Hitler * Heinrich Himmler * Reinhard Heydrich * Adolf Eichmann * Odilo Globocnik * Theodor Eicke * Richard Glücks * Ernst Kaltenbrunner * Rudolf Höss * Christian Wirth * Joseph Goebbels
World War II
Jewish ghettos in
* List of selected ghettos
"FINAL SOLUTION "
END OF WORLD WAR II
* Wola massacre * Death marches
NAZI EXTERMINATION CAMPS
* Auschwitz-Birkenau * Bełżec * Chełmno * Jasenovac * Majdanek * Maly Trostenets * Sajmište * Sobibór * Treblinka
NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS
TRANSIT AND COLLECTION CAMPS
* Breendonk * Mechelen
* Gurs * Drancy
* Amersfoort * Westerbork
* Warsaw * Białystok * Łachwa * Częstochowa
Allied response Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations
Reparations Agreement between
Israel and West
* Holocaust survivors
Deportations of French Jews to death camps
* List of books about
The Destruction of the
* Days of remembrance * Memorials and museums
* v * t * e
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
In June 1942, Heydrich was assassinated in
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
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 the 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
Main article: Posen speeches
Problems playing this file? See media help .
On 4 October 1943, during a secret meeting with top SS officials in
the city of
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
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.
As Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood
RKFDV ) with the incorporated VoMi Himmler was deeply involved in the
Himmler's racial groupings began with the
Volksliste , the
classification of people deemed of German blood. These included
Germans who had collaborated with
The plan also included the kidnapping of Eastern European children by
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
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
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.
By this time, Hitler had appointed Himmler as Minister of the
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
On 6 June 1944 the Western Allied armies landed in northern France
Operation Overlord . In response, Army Group Upper Rhine
(Heeresgruppe Oberrhein) group was formed to engage the advancing US
7th Army (under command of General
On 26 September 1944 Hitler ordered Himmler to create special army units, the 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 war.
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 ended.
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
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
Hitler was unwilling to admit that his choice of commander had been
inadequate. 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
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
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
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
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.
CAPTURE AND SUICIDE
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
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 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
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 of 18 Armanen runes created by 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
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, Töhle.
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
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
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.
Albert 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. Historian 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." Historian 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 Holocaust.
Service record of Heinrich Himmler
* Glossary of
* ^ 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 2012 , 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.
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