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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler

Career:

Branch: Waffen SS
Born: 7 October 1900 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.
Died: 23 May 1945 in Lüneburg, Lower Saxony, Germany.

Ranks:
Reichsführer-SS 1929
SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer
SS-Obergruppenführer 1933
SS-Gruppenführer 1930

Decorations:

Commands:

Personal Information:

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was born on 7 October 1900 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany and became Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the National Socialist Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Heinrich Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo (Secret State Police). Serving as Reichsführer and later as Commander of the Replacement (Home) Army and General Plenipotentiary for the entire Reich's administration (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung), Heinrich Himmler was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and one of the persons most directly responsible for the Holocaust

As overseer of the concentration camps, extermination camps, and Einsatzgruppen (literally: task forces, often used as killing squads), Heinrich Himmler coordinated the killing of some six million Jews, between 200,000 and 500,000 Roma, many prisoners of war, and possibly another three to four million Poles, communists, or other groups whom the Nazis deemed unworthy to live, including homosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses, and members of the Confessing Church. Shortly before the end of the war, he offered to surrender both Germany and himself to the Western Allies if he were spared prosecution. After being arrested by British forces on 22 May 1945, he committed suicide the following day before he could be questioned.

Early life

Heinrich Himmler was born in Munich to a conservative, Roman Catholic, Bavarian middle-class family. His father was Joseph Gebhard Himmler, a secondary-school teacher and principal of the prestigious Wittelsbacher Gymnasium his mother was Anna Maria Himmler (née Heyder), a devout Roman Catholic. He had an older brother, Gebhard Ludwig Himmler, who was born in July 1898, and a younger brother, Ernst Hermann Himmler, born in 1905.

Heinrich was named after his godfather, Prince Heinrich of Bavaria of the royal family of Bavaria, who was tutored by Gebhard Himmler. In 1910, Heinrich Himmler attended Gymnasium in Landshut, where he studied classic literature. Heinrich Himmler's father the principal sent him to spy on other pupils. His father even called him a born criminal. It was at Landshut that the young Heinrich Himmler made friends with Karl Gebhardt, a friendship that would last to the end of World War II. While he struggled in athletics, he did well in his schoolwork. Initially at the behest of his father, Heinrich Himmler kept a diary from age 10 and continued to do so even after his father stopped checking it.

Heinrich Himmler was a teenager at the outbreak of World War I, and his diaries from the war years show that he took a keen interest in it. From Easter 1915 onwards, Heinrich trained with the Cadet Corps, and later implored his father to use his royal connections to obtain an officer candidate position for him. This his father did, though initially without success, and Heinrich began training with the reserve battalion of the 11th Bavarian Regiment in January 1918.Since he was not athletic, Heinrich Himmler struggled throughout his military training. During this timeframe, his older brother Gebhard served on the western front and saw combat where he received the Iron Cross. In November 1918, the war ended with Germany's defeat, finishing any real chance for Heinrich Himmler to continue a military career. On 18 December, he was discharged and returned to Landshut.

After the war, Heinrich Himmler completed his grammar-school education, and assisted the Freikorps in their crushing of the Bavarian Soviet Republic. However, again he missed out on a military career when the Freikorps were incorporated into the Reichswehr. From 1919 to 1922, Heinrich Himmler studied agronomy at the Munich Technische Hochschule (now Technical University Munich) following a short-lived apprenticeship on a farm and a subsequent illness.Still not having given up his desire to have a military career, his field of study enabled Heinrich Himmler to maintain contacts with former army officers there to prepare for civilian employment.

Heinrich Himmler was anti-Semitic by the time he went to university, though not yet radically so. He remained a devoted Catholic while a student, but enjoyed drinking with members of his fraternity, the League of Apollo and joined a Reichswehr reserve unit. In 1920 when Count Arco was sentenced to death, Heinrich Himmler was immediately ready to work with right-wing elements to enact a rescue operation, and was disappointed that no violence took place once the death sentence was commuted to imprisonment. In 1920 after the Reichswehr reserves were disbanded, he joined the Einwohnerwehr and a rifle club. His second year at university saw Heinrich Himmler redouble his efforts at embarking upon a military career. Although Heinrich Himmler was not successful, he was able to extend his involvement with the paramilitary scene in Munich. It was at this time, via his rifle club, that he first met Ernst Röhm.

Despite an active social life, Heinrich Himmler struggled to gain the acceptance he craved, and he was unable to fully connect with people. While he was able to form good friendships with women, he had little success in terms of relationships and partly in self-defence clung to antediluvian, prudish views regarding men, women, sex and marriage. He was critical of himself and his perceived social inadequacies, and made great efforts to compensate for them, in part by learning to control his emotions with his innate strength of will. Nevertheless, these interpersonal problems, and his attempts to counterbalance them, would plague Heinrich Himmler his whole life, and were the key reasons for his enthusiasm as to the military and paramilitary.

In 1923, Heinrich Himmler took part in Adolf Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch, serving under Ernst Röhm. In 1926, he met his future wife in a hotel lobby while escaping a storm. Margarete Siegroth (née Boden) was seven years his senior, divorced, and Protestant. On 3 July 1928, the two were married. During this time Heinrich Himmler worked unsuccessfully as a chicken farmer. On 8 August 1929, the couple had their only child, Gudrun. Heinrich Himmler adored his daughter, and called her Püppi (English: dolly). Margarete later adopted a son, in whom Heinrich Himmler showed no interest. Heinrich and Margarete Heinrich Himmler separated in 1940 without seeking divorce. At that time, Heinrich Himmler became friendly with a secretary, Hedwig Potthast, who left her job in 1941 and became his mistress. He fathered two children with her: a son, Helge (born 1942), and a daughter, Nanette Dorothea (born 1944).

Heinrich Himmler was also very interested in agriculture and the back to the land movement. He and his wife had romantic ideals of making a farming life. He joined the Artamanen society, a sort of idealistic back-to-the-land youth group, but mixed with racist ideology. He became one of the leaders of this movement. Through this movement, he also apparently met Rudolf Höss, who would later preside over Auschwitz, and Richard Walther Darré, who would later work in the RuSHA (race and resettlement office) of the SS. Darre's views on restoring racial purity to Germany, by breeding programs, were a deep influence on Heinrich Himmler's view of the SS as a core of breeding men.

For the most part, Heinrich Himmler abstained from drinking alcohol and smoking. He frequently had stomach pains which started in 1917, for which he received massage therapy from his personal masseur Felix Kersten starting in 1939.

Diary entries for 1921 and 1922 furnish evidence of increasing difficulties in his relationships with others, and in 1922 particularly from the summer onwards, when Heinrich Himmler became seriously politicised in the atmosphere after Walther Rathenau's assassination, a murder he fully supported they betray a broadening concern with the 'Jewish question'. Heinrich Himmler's political radicalisation was also propelled by the curtailment of his education by Germany's economic climate, which compounded his military-career failure with the barring of doors which studying for a doctorate would have opened. Finally, in the summer of 1922, the reality of post-war Germany had caught up with him.

Heinrich Himmler took a poorly paid office-job for a year until September 1923, and several weeks later partook in the event that would set him on a life of politics: the Beer Hall Putsch, in which he was the flag bearer of Ernst Röhm's paramilitary faction. Heinrich Himmler was questioned about his role in the putsch, but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.He would not accept these failures in his personal, professional and political life, and took refuge in thoughts that he was in the right, that he was the misunderstood outsider. His irritable and opinionated arrogance also deepened in the course of these difficult years: Heinrich Himmler became increasingly and blatantly more aggressive, and his tendency to interfere in other people's affairs became more domineering, even to the point of hiring a private investigator to gather information on his elder brother's ex-fiancée.

In 1923-24, Heinrich Himmler began searching for a world view, moving away from Catholicism and furthered his interest in the occult and anti-Semitism. Germanic mythology, reinforced by occult ideas, would eventually become a kind of substitute religion for him.After the failed putsch, he read about Adolf Hitler through two books.

The beginning of 1924 saw Heinrich Himmler as an unemployed, failed putschist living back at home with his parents. He charged himself with agitating for the National Socialist Party, something that he committed to as a career from mid-1924 working under Gregor Strasser, though Heinrich Himmler maintained his paramilitary activities. Possibly as a reward for his work, the commencement of 1925 saw Heinrich Himmler in charge of Nazi affairs for Lower Bavaria, and for integrating the area's membership with the NSDAP under Adolf Hitler when the party was re-founded in February 1925, though Heinrich Himmler was not swept into Adolf Hitler's inchoate Führer cult. In April 1926 he met Joseph Goebbels for the first time. Still with Strasser, Heinrich Himmler was made his deputy in January 1927 after Strasser had been appointed the NSDAP's propaganda chief in November 1926. His role at Munich HQ was blessed from the outset with considerable freedom of action that increased still further after 1928. As deputy propaganda chief, Heinrich Himmler's unquenchable thirst for control, his extraordinary arrogance, and his inability to tolerate criticism, opposition or minor deviations from his instructions did not make him a popular figure with Party subordinates and the rank and file. His attitude to superiors, on the other hand, was nothing short of obsequious.

Rise in the SS

Heinrich Himmler joined the SS in 1925 as an SS-Führer (SS-Leader). His NSDAP number was 14,303 and his SS number was 168. Heinrich Himmler's first leadership position was that of SS-Gauführer (District Leader) in Bavaria. In 1927, he became Deputy-Reichsführer-SS, with the rank of SS-Oberführer, and upon the resignation of SS commander Erhard Heiden, in 1929, Heinrich Himmler was appointed Reichsführer-SS (Reichsführer was, at that time, simply a title for the National Commander of the SS). The SS only had 280 members and was merely an elite battalion of the much larger Sturmabteilung (SA). Over the next year, Heinrich Himmler began a major expansion of the organisation and, in 1930, he was promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer.

By 1933, the SS numbered 52,000 members. The organisation at that time enforced strict membership requirements ensuring that all members were of Adolf Hitler's Aryan Herrenvolk (Aryan master race). Applications had been scrutinised for Nordic qualities, in Heinrich 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, Heinrich Himmler did not qualify as an ideal Nordic.)

Heinrich Himmler and his deputy Reinhard Heydrich began an effort to separate the SS from SA control. Black SS uniforms replaced the SA brown shirts in July 1932 and by 1934 enough quantities were manufactured for general use by all. In 1933, Heinrich Himmler was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer. This made him an equal of the senior SA commanders, who by this time loathed the SS and envied its power.

Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring, and General Werner von Blomberg agreed that the SA and its leader Ernst Röhm posed a threat to the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) and the National Socialist leadership. Ernst Röhm had socialist and populist views, and believed that the real revolution had not yet begun. He felt that the SA should become the sole arms-bearing corps of the state. This left some Nazi, military and political leaders believing Ernst Röhm was intent on using the SA to undertake a coup.

Persuaded by Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler agreed that Ernst Röhm had to be eliminated. He delegated this task to Reinhard Heydrich, Kurt Daluege, and Werner Best, who ordered Ernst Röhm's execution (carried out by Theodor Eicke), along with the purge of the entire SA leadership and other political adversaries (including, Gregor Strasser and Kurt von Schleicher). These actions took place from 30 June to 2 July 1934, in what became known as the Night of the Long Knives.The great beneficiaries of the action were the SS and the German Army. They both celebrated the demise of their mutual rival, Ernst Röhm's SA. Officially, from 20 July 1934 forward, the SS became an independent organisation responsible only to Adolf Hitler, and Heinrich Himmler's title of Reichsführer-SS became the highest formal SS rank
On 20 April 1934, Hermann Göring formed a partnership with Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. Hermann Göring transferred authority over the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) the Prussian secret police to Heinrich Himmler, who was also named chief of all German police outside Prussia. On 22 April 1934, Heinrich Himmler named Reinhard Heydrich the head of the Gestapo. Reinhard Heydrich continued as head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD: security service), as well.

On 17 June 1936, Heinrich Himmler was named Chief of German Police after Adolf Hitler announced a decree that was to unify the control of Police duties in the Reich. Traditionally, law enforcement in Germany had been a state and local matter. In this role, Heinrich Himmler was nominally subordinate to Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick. However, the decree effectively merged the police with the SS, making it virtually independent of Frick's control.

Heinrich Himmler gained authority as all of Germany's uniformed law enforcement agencies were amalgamated into the new Ordnungspolizei (Orpo: order police), whose main office became a headquarters branch of the SS. Despite his title, Heinrich Himmler gained only partial control of the uniformed police. The actual powers granted to him were some that were previously exercised by the ministry of the interior. It was only in 1943, when Heinrich Himmler was appointed Minister of the Interior, that the transfer of ministerial power was complete.

With the 1936 appointment, Heinrich Himmler also gained ministerial authority over Germany's non-political detective forces, the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo: crime police), which he merged with the Gestapo into the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo: security police) under Reinhard Heydrich's command, thus gaining operational control over Germany's entire detective force. This merger was never complete within the Reich, with Kripo remaining mainly under the control of its own civilian administration and later the party apparatus (as the latter annexed the civilian administration). However, in occupied territories not incorporated into the Reich proper, SiPo consolidation within the SS line of command proved mostly effective. In September 1939, following the outbreak of World War II, Heinrich Himmler formed the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA: Reich Main Security Office) wherein the SiPo (Gestapo and Kripo) along with the SD became departments under Reinhard Heydrich's command therein.

Heinrich Himmler oversaw the entire concentration camp system. Once World War II began, however, new internment camps, which were not formally classified as concentration camps, were established over which Heinrich Himmler and the SS did not exercise control. In 1943, following the outbreak of popular word-of-mouth criticism of the regime as a result of the Stalingrad disaster, the party apparatus, professing disappointment with the Gestapo's performance in deterring such criticism, established the Politische Staffeln (political squads) as its own political policing organ, breaking the Gestapo's monopoly in this field.

The SS during these years developed its own military branch, the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), which later evolved into the Waffen-SS. Even though nominally under the authority of Heinrich Himmler, the Waffen-SS developed a fully militarised structure of command and operationally were incorporated in the war effort parallel to the Wehrmacht. Many contemporary commentators refuse to recognise the Waffen-SS as an honourable military organisation. Its units were involved in notorious incidents of murdering civilians and unarmed prisoners. This was one of many reasons that the International Military Tribunal declared the SS to be a criminal organisation.

Heinrich Himmler and the Holocaust

After the Night of the Long Knives, the SS-Totenkopfverbände organised and administered Germany's regime of concentration camps and, after 1941, extermination camps in occupied Poland as well. The SS through its intelligence arm, the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD) dealt with Jews, Gypsies, communists and those persons of any other cultural, racial, political or religious affiliation deemed by the Nazis to be either Untermensch (subhuman) or in opposition to the regime, and placed them in concentration camps. Heinrich Himmler opened the first of these camps at Dachau on 22 March 1933. He was the main architect of the Holocaust, using elements of mysticism and a fanatical belief in the racist Nazi ideology to justify the murder of millions of victims. Heinrich Himmler had similar plans for the Poles intellectuals were to be killed, and most other Poles were to be only literate enough to read traffic signs. On 18 December 1941, Heinrich Himmler's appointment book shows he met with Adolf Hitler. The entry for that day poses the question What to do with the Jews of Russia?, and then answers the question als Partisanen auszurotten (exterminate them as partisans).

In contrast to Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler inspected concentration camps. As a result of these inspections, the Nazis searched for a new and more expedient way to kill, which culminated in the use of the gas chambers.

Heinrich Himmler wanted to breed a master race of Nordic Aryans in Germany. His experience as a chicken farmer had taught him the rudiments of animal breeding which he proposed to apply to humans. He believed that he could engineer the German populace, through eugenic selective breeding, to be entirely Nordic in appearance within several decades of the end of the war.
On 4 October 1943, Heinrich Himmler referred explicitly to the extermination of the Jewish people during a secret SS meeting in the city of Poznan (Posen). The following is a translation of an excerpt from a transcription of an audio recording that exists of the speech:

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 swine, 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.

Germanisation

As Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood, Heinrich Himmler was deeply involved in the Germanisation program for the East, particularly Poland. Its purpose was to remove all non-Germanic peoples from German Lebensraum and to reclaim any Volkdeutsche (ethnic Germans) living there for Germany, as laid out in the general plan Ost. He declared that no drop of German blood would be lost or left behind for an alien race. Heinrich Himmler continued his plans to colonise the east despite evidence that Germans did not want to relocate there, and that the activities hindered the war effort several high-ranking National Socialist officials found the latter point obvious.

The plans began with the Volksliste, the classification of people deemed of German blood into those Germans who had collaborated before the war those still regarding themselves as German, but who had been neutral partially Polonized but Germanizable and those Germans who had been absorbed into Polish nationality. Any person classified as German who resisted was to be deported to a concentration camp. Heinrich Himmler oversaw cases of obstinate Germans, and gave orders for concentration camps, or separation of families, or forced labour, in efforts to break down resistance.

His declaration that it is in the nature of German blood to resist led to the paradoxical conclusion that Balts or Poles who resisted Germanisation measures were regarded as more suitable material than more compliant ones.

This included the kidnapping of Eastern European children by Nazi Germany. Heinrich 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 culled, removed from all contact with Poles, and raised as Germans, with German names. Heinrich 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. Acceptable children were to be adopted by German families.Children who passed muster at first but were later rejected were used as slave labour or killed. Heinrich Himmler ordered that parents who were registered on the Volksliste should lose their children if the parent impeded their Germanisation

The colony of Hegewald was set up in the Reichskommisariat Ukraine at his command. His original plans to recruit settlers from Scandinavia and the Netherlands were unsuccessful, and so it was settled with such ethnic Germans as had not been deported by the Soviet Union.

For the Nazi leaders, the land which would provide sufficient Lebensraum for Germany was the Soviet Union. At the Nuremberg trial, SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Erich von dem Bach testified that at a conference in Wewelsburg in 1941 Heinrich Himmler told SS leaders that to make room for the Germans, Germany would have to exterminate 30 million Slavs in the Soviet Union.

On July 13, 1941, three weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union, Heinrich Himmler told the group of Waffen SS men:

This is an ideological battle and a struggle of races. Here in this struggle stands National Socialism: an ideology based on the value of our Germanic, Nordic blood. ... On the other side stands a population of 180 million, a mixture of races, whose very names are unpronounceable, and whose physique is such that one can shoot them down without pity and compassion. These animals, that torture and ill-treat every prisoner from our side, every wounded man that they come across and do not treat them the way decent soldiers would, you will see for yourself. These people have been welded by the Jews into one religion, one ideology, that is called Bolshevism... When you, my men, fight over there in the East, you are carrying on the same struggle, against the same sub humanity, the same inferior races, that at one time appeared under the name of Huns, another time 1000 years ago at the time of King Henry and Otto I under the name of Magyars, another time under the name of Tartars, and still another time under the name of Genghis Khan and the Mongols. Today they appear as Russians under the political banner of Bolshevism. Anti-Polish measures

For a time, the Polish population would be permitted to remain as slave labor. Heinrich Himmler forbade that this group, not suitable for Germanisation, receive anything above a fourth-grade education. The removal of the racially valuable types would deprive the population of leaders, and ensure that they were available for labor.

He also prescribed that as many ethnic groups as possible be recognized in order to foment disunity.

By this I mean that it is very much in our interest not only not to unite the people of the East but the reverse to splinter them into as many parts and subdivisions as possible. We should also aim for a situation in which, after a longer period of time has passed, the concept of nationality disappears among the Ukrainians, Górale, and Lemki.
This is partly reflected in his views on blood and soil, where he came the closest of all Nazis to supporting the views of Alfred Rosenberg. His interest in Richard Walther Darré stemmed from Darré's views on repopulating eastern regions with Germans.

This also reflected National Socialist policy on non-Germans.The Posen speech also calls for the merciless use of all Slavonic forced labor on this ground:

What happens to a Russian, to a Czech, does not interest me in the slightest. What the nations can offer in good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their children and raising them with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our culture otherwise, it is of no interest to me. Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interest me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished. We shall never be rough and heartless when it is not necessary, that is clear. We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a decent attitude towards animals, will also assume a decent attitude towards these human animals. But it is a crime against our own blood to worry about them and give them ideals, thus causing our sons and grandsons to have a more difficult time with them. When someone comes to me and says, I cannot dig the anti-tank ditch with women and children, it is inhuman, for it will kill them, then I would have to say, you are a murderer of your own blood because if the anti-tank ditch is not dug, German soldiers will die, and they are the sons of German mothers. They are our own blood.
He also called for sexual relations between German women and Polish slave labourers to be punished by death for the man and a concentration camp for the woman.

World War II

In 1939, Heinrich Himmler masterminded Operation Heinrich Himmler (also known as Operation Konserve or Operation Canned Goods), arguably the first operation of World War II in Europe. It was a false flag project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which was subsequently used by Nazi propaganda to justify the invasion of Poland.

Before the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), Heinrich Himmler prepared his SS for a war of extermination against the forces of Judeo-Bolshevism. Heinrich Himmler, always glad to make parallels between Nazi Germany and the Middle Ages, compared the invasion to the Crusades. He collected volunteers from all over Europe, especially those of Nordic stock who were perceived to be racially closest to Germans, like the Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Icelanders, and the Dutch. After the invasion, Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonian volunteers were recruited, attracting the non-Germanic volunteers by declaring a pan-European crusade to defend the traditional values of old Europe from the Godless Bolshevik hordes. Thousands volunteered and later many thousands more were conscripted.

Racial restrictions were relaxed to the extent that Tatars, Arabs, Albanians from Kosovo, Central Asian and Bosnian Muslims, and even Indians and Mongols were recruited.

In the Baltic states, many natives were willing to serve against the Red Army due to their loathing of their oppression after the occupation by the Soviet Union. These men were conscripted into the Waffen-SS. Employed against Soviet troops, they performed acceptably. Waffen-SS recruitment in Western and Nordic Europe collected much less manpower, though a number of Waffen-SS Legions were founded, such as the Wallonian contingent led by Léon Degrelle, whom Heinrich Himmler planned to appoint chancellor of an SS State of Burgundy within the Nazi orbit once the war was over.

Between 140,000 and 500,000 Soviet prisoners of war died or were executed in Nazi concentration camps, most of them by shooting or gassing.

In 1942, Reinhard Heydrich (Heinrich Himmler's right hand man) was assassinated in Prague after an attack by British Special Operations Executive (SOE), trained soldiers, Jozef Gabcík and Jan Kubiš of Czechoslovakia's army-in-exile. Heinrich Himmler ordered brutal reprisals. Over 13,000 people were arrested, and the village of Lidice was razed to the ground the male inhabitants there and in the village of Ležáky were murdered. At least 1,300 people were executed by firing squads after Reinhard Heydrich's death.

Interior Minister

In 1943, Heinrich Himmler was appointed Reich Interior Minister, replacing Frick, with whom he had engaged in a turf war for over a decade. For instance, Frick had tried to restrict the widespread use of protective custody orders that were used to send people to concentration camps, only to be begged off by Heinrich Himmler. While Frick viewed the concentration camps as a tool to punish dissenters, Heinrich Himmler saw them as a way to terrorise the people into accepting Nazi rule.

Heinrich Himmler's appointment effectively merged the Interior Ministry with the SS. Nonetheless, Heinrich Himmler sought to use his new office to reverse the party apparatus's annexation of the civil service and tried to challenge the authority of the party gauleiters.

This aspiration was frustrated by Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler's private secretary and party chancellor. It also incurred some displeasure from Adolf Hitler himself, whose long-standing disdain for the traditional civil service was one of the foundations of Nazi administrative thinking. Heinrich Himmler made things much worse still when following his appointment as head of the Reserve Army (Ersatzheer, see below) he tried to use his authority in both military and police matters by transferring policemen to the Waffen-SS.

With Heinrich Himmler threatening his power base, Martin Bormann could not give him the opportunity fast enough, initially acquiescing in the policies, until furious protests broke out. Then, Martin Bormann came out against the scheme, leaving Heinrich Himmler discredited, especially with the party, whose gauleiters now saw Martin Bormann as their protector.

20 July plot

It was determined that leaders of German Military Intelligence (the Abwehr), including its head, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, were involved in the 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This prompted Adolf Hitler to disband the Abwehr and make Heinrich Himmler's Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD) the sole intelligence service of the Third Reich. This increased Heinrich Himmler's personal power.

General Friedrich Fromm, Commander-in-Chief of the Reserve (or Replacement) Army (Ersatzheer), was implicated in the conspiracy. Friedrich Fromm's removal, coupled with Adolf Hitler's suspicion of the army, led the way to Heinrich Himmler's appointment as Friedrich Fromm's successor, a position he abused to expand the Waffen-SS even further to the detriment of the rapidly deteriorating German armed forces (Wehrmacht).

Azeri SS volunteer formation which fought on Germany's side, during the Warsaw Uprising, August 1944. Unfortunately for Heinrich Himmler, the investigation soon revealed the involvement of many SS officers in the conspiracy, including senior officers, which played into the hands of Martin Bormann's power struggle against the SS because very few party cadre officers were implicated. Even more importantly, some senior SS officers began to conspire against Heinrich Himmler himself, as they believed that he would be unable to achieve victory in the power struggle against Bormann. Among these defectors were Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Reinhard Heydrich's successor as chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, and Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, the chief of the Gestapo.

Commander-in-Chief

In late 1944, Heinrich Himmler became Commander-in-Chief of the newly formed Heeresgruppe Oberrhein. This Heeresgruppe was formed to fight the advancing U.S. 7th Army and French 1st Army in the Alsace region along the west bank of the Rhine. The U.S. 7th Army was under the command of General Alexander Patch and the French 1st Army was under the command of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny.

On 1 January 1945, Heinrich Himmler's army group launched Operation North Wind (Unternehmen Nordwind) to push back the Americans and the French. In late January, after some limited initial success, Heinrich Himmler was transferred east. By 24 January, Heeresgruppe Oberrhein was deactivated after going over to the defensive. Operation North Wind officially ended on 25 January.

Elsewhere, the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) had failed to halt the Red Army's Vistula-Oder offensive, so Adolf Hitler gave Heinrich Himmler command of yet another newly formed army group, Heeresgruppe Weichsel to stop the Soviet advance on Berlin. Adolf Hitler placed Heinrich Himmler in command of Army Group Vistula despite the failure of Heeresgruppe Oberrhein and despite Heinrich Himmler's total lack of experience and ability to command troops. This appointment may have been at the instigation of Martin Bormann, anxious to discredit a rival, or through Adolf Hitler's continuing anger at the failures of the general staff.

As Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula, Heinrich Himmler established his command centre at Schneidemühl. He used his special train (sonderzug), Sonderzug Steiermark, as his headquarters. Heinrich Himmler did this despite the train having only one telephone line and no signals detachment. Eager to show his determination, Heinrich Himmler acquiesced in a quick counter-attack urged by the general staff. The operation quickly bogged down and Heinrich Himmler dismissed a regular army corps commander and appointed Nazi Heinz Lammerding. His headquarters was also forced to retreat to Falkenburg. On 30 January, Heinrich Himmler issued draconian orders: Tod und Strafe für Pflichtvergessenheit death and punishment for those who forget their obligations, to encourage his troops. The worsening situation left Heinrich Himmler under increasing pressure from Adolf Hitler he was unassertive and nervous in conferences. In mid-February, the Pomeranian offensive by his forces was directed by General Walther Wenck, after intense pressure from General Heinz Guderian on Adolf Hitler. By early March, Heinrich Himmler's headquarters had moved west of the Oder River, although his army group was still named after the Vistula. At conferences with Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler echoed Adolf Hitler's line of increased severity towards those who retreated.

On 13 March, Heinrich Himmler abandoned his command and, claiming illness, retired to a sanatorium at Hohenlychen. Heinz Guderian visited him there and carried his resignation as Commander-in-Chief of Heeresgruppe Weichsel to Adolf Hitler that night. On 20 March, Heinrich Himmler was replaced by General Gotthard Heinrici.

Peace negotiations

In the winter of 1944 to 45, Heinrich Himmler's Waffen-SS numbered 910,000 members, with the Allgemeine-SS at least on paper hosting a membership of nearly two million. However, by early 1945 Heinrich Himmler had lost faith in German victory, likely due in part to his discussions with his masseur Felix Kersten and with Walter Schellenberg. He realised that if the National Socialist Regime were to survive, it needed to seek peace with Britain and the U.S. He also believed by the middle of April 1945 that Adolf Hitler had effectively incapacitated himself from governing by remaining in Berlin to personally lead the defence of the capital against the Soviets.

To this end, he contacted Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden at Lübeck, near the Danish border. He represented himself as the provisional leader of Germany, telling Bernadotte that Adolf Hitler would almost certainly be dead within two days. He asked Bernadotte to tell General Dwight Eisenhower that Germany wished to surrender to the West. Heinrich Himmler hoped the British and Americans would fight the Soviets alongside the remains of the Wehrmacht. At Bernadotte's request, Heinrich Himmler put his offer in writing. On April 21, 1945, Heinrich Himmler met with Norbert Masur, a Swedish representative of the World Jewish Congress, in Berlin for a discussion concerning the release of Jewish concentration camp inmates. During the meeting, Heinrich Himmler stated that he wanted to bury the hatchet with the Jews.

On the evening of 28 April, the BBC broadcast a Reuters news report about Heinrich Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies. When Adolf Hitler was informed of the news, he flew into a rage. A few days earlier, Hermann Göring had asked Adolf Hitler for permission to take over the leadership of the Reich an act that Adolf Hitler, under the prodding of Bormann, interpreted as a demand to step down or face a coup. However, Heinrich Himmler had not even bothered to request permission. The news also hit Adolf Hitler hard because he had long believed that Heinrich Himmler was second only to Joseph Goebbels in loyalty in fact, Adolf Hitler often called Heinrich Himmler der treue Heinrich (the loyal Heinrich). Adolf Hitler ordered Heinrich Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Heinrich Himmler's SS representative at Adolf Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot. After Adolf Hitler calmed down, he told those who were still with him in the bunker complex that Heinrich Himmler's act was the worst act of treachery he'd ever known.

Heinrich Himmler's treachery combined with reports the Soviets were only 300 m (330 yd) (about a block) from the Reich Chancellery prompted Adolf Hitler to write his last will and testament. In the Testament, completed the day before he committed suicide, he declared Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring to be traitors. He also stripped Heinrich Himmler of all of his party and state offices: Reichsführer-SS, Chief of the German Police, Commissioner of German Nationhood, Reich Minister of the Interior, Supreme Commander of the Volkssturm, and Supreme Commander of the Home Army. Finally, he expelled Heinrich Himmler from the National Socialist Party and ordered his arrest.

Heinrich Himmler's negotiations with Count Bernadotte failed. However, the negotiations helped secure the release of some 15,000 Scandinavian prisoners from the remaining concentration camps in the White Buses operation. Heinrich Himmler joined Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who by then was commanding all German forces within the northern part of the western front, in nearby Plön. Karl Dönitz sent Heinrich Himmler away, explaining that there was no place for him in the new German government.

Heinrich Himmler next turned to the Americans as a defector, contacting Eisenhower's headquarters and proclaiming he would surrender all of Germany to the Allies if he were spared from prosecution. He asked Eisenhower to appoint him minister of police in Germany's post-war government. He reportedly mused on how to handle his first meeting with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) commander and whether to give the Nazi salute or shake hands with him. Eisenhower refused to have anything to do with Heinrich Himmler, who was subsequently declared a major war criminal.

Capture and death

In the winter of 1944 to 1945, Heinrich Himmler's Waffen-SS numbered 910,000 members, with the Allgemeine-SS at least on paper hosting a membership of nearly two million. However, by early 1945 Heinrich Himmler had lost faith in German victory, likely due in part to his discussions with his masseur Felix Kersten and with Walter Schellenberg. He realised that if the National Socialist Regime were to survive, it needed to seek peace with Britain and the U.S. He also believed by the middle of April 1945 that Adolf Hitler had effectively incapacitated himself from governing by remaining in Berlin to personally lead the defence of the capital against the Soviets.

To this end, he contacted Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden at Lübeck, near the Danish border. He represented himself as the provisional leader of Germany, telling Bernadotte that Adolf Hitler would almost certainly be dead within two days. He asked Bernadotte to tell General Dwight Eisenhower that Germany wished to surrender to the West. Heinrich Himmler hoped the British and Americans would fight the Soviets alongside the remains of the Wehrmacht. At Bernadotte's request, Heinrich Himmler put his offer in writing. On April 21, 1945, Heinrich Himmler met with Norbert Masur, a Swedish representative of the World Jewish Congress, in Berlin for a discussion concerning the release of Jewish concentration camp inmates. During the meeting, Heinrich Himmler stated that he wanted to bury the hatchet with the Jews.

On the evening of 28 April, the BBC broadcast a Reuters news report about Heinrich Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies. When Adolf Hitler was informed of the news, he flew into a rage. A few days earlier, Hermann Göring had asked Adolf Hitler for permission to take over the leadership of the Reich an act that Adolf Hitler, under the prodding of Bormann, interpreted as a demand to step down or face a coup. However, Heinrich Himmler had not even bothered to request permission. The news also hit Adolf Hitler hard because he had long believed that Heinrich Himmler was second only to Joseph Goebbels in loyalty in fact, Adolf Hitler often called Heinrich Himmler der treue Heinrich (the loyal Heinrich). Adolf Hitler ordered Heinrich Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Heinrich Himmler's SS representative at Adolf Hitler's's HQ in Berlin) shot. After Adolf Hitler calmed down, he told those who were still with him in the bunker complex that Heinrich Himmler's act was the worst act of treachery he'd ever known.

Heinrich Himmler's treachery combined with reports the Soviets were only 300 m (330 yd) (about a block) from the Reich Chancellery prompted Adolf Hitler to write his last will and testament. In the Testament, completed the day before he committed suicide, he declared Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring to be traitors. He also stripped Heinrich Himmler of all of his party and state offices: Reichsführer-SS, Chief of the German Police, Commissioner of German Nationhood, Reich Minister of the Interior, Supreme Commander of the Volkssturm, and Supreme Commander of the Home Army. Finally, he expelled Heinrich Himmler from the National Socialist Party and ordered his arrest.

Heinrich Himmler's negotiations with Count Bernadotte failed. However, the negotiations helped secure the release of some 15,000 Scandinavian prisoners from the remaining concentration camps in the White Buses operation. Heinrich Himmler joined Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who by then was commanding all German forces within the northern part of the western front, in nearby Plön. Karl Dönitz sent Heinrich Himmler away, explaining that there was no place for him in the new German government.

Heinrich Himmler next turned to the Americans as a defector, contacting Eisenhower's headquarters and proclaiming he would surrender all of Germany to the Allies if he were spared from prosecution. He asked Eisenhower to appoint him minister of police in Germany's post-war government. He reportedly mused on how to handle his first meeting with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) commander and whether to give the Nazi salute or shake hands with him. Eisenhower refused to have anything to do with Heinrich Himmler, who was subsequently declared a major war criminal.

Capture and death

Unwanted by his former colleagues and hunted by the Allies, Heinrich Himmler wandered for several days around Flensburg near the Danish border. Attempting to evade arrest, he disguised himself as a sergeant-major of the Secret Military Police, using the name Heinrich Hitzinger, shaving his moustache and donning an eye patch over his left eye, in the hope that he could return to Bavaria. He had equipped himself with a set of false documents, but someone whose papers were wholly in order was so unusual that it aroused the suspicions of a British Army unit in Bremen. Heinrich Himmler was arrested on 22 May by Major Sidney Excell and soon recognized while in captivity. Heinrich Himmler was scheduled to stand trial with other German leaders as a war criminal at Nuremberg, but on 23 May committed suicide in Lüneburg by means of a potassium cyanide capsule before interrogation could begin. His last words were Ich bin Heinrich Himmler! (I am Heinrich Himmler!). Another version has Heinrich Himmler biting into a hidden cyanide pill embedded in one of his teeth, when searched by a British doctor, who then yelled, He has done it! Several attempts to revive Heinrich Himmler were unsuccessful. Shortly afterward, Heinrich Himmler's body was buried in an unmarked grave on the Lüneburg Heath. The precise location of Heinrich Himmler's grave remains unknown.

Forgeries, fabrications and conspiracy theories

In a 2005 book, Martin Allen claimed that Heinrich Himmler had secretly negotiated with the UK as early as 1943, and that he may have been killed on Churchill's order to cover up this fact. The book was based on forgeries of documents at the National Archives. In May 2008 a British police investigation identified 29 forgeries that had been slipped into 12 files to support claims in Allen's three World War II books

Historical views

Historians are divided on the psychology, motives, and influences that drove Heinrich Himmler. Some see him as dominated by Adolf Hitler, fully under his influence and essentially a tool carrying Adolf Hitler's views to their logical conclusion. Others see Heinrich Himmler as extremely anti-Semitic in his own right, and even more eager than his boss to commit genocide. Still others see Heinrich Himmler as power-mad, devoted to the accumulation of power and influence.

According to Robert S. Wistrich, Heinrich Himmler's decisive innovation was to transform the race question from a negative concept based on matter-of-course anti-Semitism into an organisational task for building up the SS. It was Heinrich Himmler's master stroke that he succeeded in indoctrinating the SS with an apocalyptic idealism' beyond all guilt and responsibility, which rationalised mass murder as a form of martyrdom and harshness towards oneself.

The wartime cartoonist Victor Weisz depicted Heinrich Himmler as a giant octopus, wielding oppressed nations in each of his eight arms.

Wolfgang Sauer historian at University of California, Berkeley felt that although he was pedantic, dogmatic, and dull, Heinrich Himmler emerged under Adolf Hitler as second in actual power. His strength lay in a combination of unusual shrewdness, burning ambition, and servile loyalty to Adolf Hitler.

In an extract of Norman Brook's War Cabinet Diaries,Winston Churchill took a view towards Heinrich Himmler widely shared during the war, advocating his assassination. According to Brook, responding to a suggestion that Nazi leaders be executed, this prompted Churchill to ask if they should negotiate with Heinrich Himmler and bump him off later, once peace terms had been agreed. The suggestion to cut a deal for a German surrender with Heinrich Himmler and then assassinate him met with support from the Home Office. Quite entitled to do so, the minutes record Churchill as commenting.

A main focus of recent work on Heinrich Himmler has been the extent to which he competed for and craved Adolf Hitler's attention and respect. The events of the last days of the war, when he abandoned Adolf Hitler and attempted to enter into separate negotiations with the western Allies (an attempt which was rebuffed), are obviously significant in this respect.

Heinrich Himmler appears to have had a distorted view of how he was perceived by the Allies he intended to meet with U.S. And British leaders and have discussions as gentlemen. He tried to buy off their vengeance by last-minute reprieves for Jews and important prisoners. According to British soldiers who arrested him, Heinrich Himmler was genuinely shocked to be treated as a prisoner.

In 2008, Heinrich Himmler was named the greatest mass murderer of all time by German news magazine Der Spiegel, reflecting his role as architect of the Holocaust

Summary of SS service

Heinrich Himmler served in the SS for a total of twenty years, sixteen of which as Reichsführer-SS. In contrast to other contemporary Nazis, such as Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler was presented few decorations and never was awarded a combat medal.

Gallery:

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler picture 1

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