The Jacana

 Great Lives Site


Back to Jacana

Great Lives index


Heinrich Himmler
1900 - 1945

The German National Socialist politician Heinrich Himmler commanded the SS, Hitler's elite troops, and was head of the Gestapo. He was perhaps the most powerful and ruthless man in Nazi Germany next to Hitler himself.


Born in Munich, Bavaria, on Oct. 7, 1900, Heinrich Himmler was the son of the former tutor of one of the Bavarian princes. In World War I he took his first opportunity to join the army (1917), but owing to his frail health he never reached the front. Yet he continued soldiering in veterans' bands after the war while a student at the university in Munich, and in November 1923 he marched in Hitler's ill-fated Beer Hall Putsch. After a brief flirt with the leftist Strasser faction of the Nazis, the young anti-Semitic fanatic joined Hitler in 1926 as deputy propaganda chief.

In January 1929 Himmler found his "calling" with his appointment as commander of the blackshirt SS (Schutzstaffel) - then still a small, untrained bodyguard. With characteristic drive and pedantic precision he rapidly turned this organization into an elite army of 50, 000 - including its own espionage system (SD). After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Himmler took over and expanded the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, secret police). In 1934 he liquidated Ernst Roehm, chief of the SA (storm troopers), and thus gained autonomy for the SS, which took charge of all concentration camps.

From this power base, to which he added the position of chief of all German police forces in June 1936 and that of minister of the interior in August 1943, Himmler coordinated the entire Nazi machinery of political suppression and racial "purification." From 1937 on, the entire German population was screened for "Aryan" racial purity by Himmler's mammoth bureaucratic apparatus. After the invasion of eastern Europe it became Himmler's task to "Germanize" the occupied areas and to deport the native populations to concentration camps.

After the plot of July 1944 against Hitler, Himmler also became supreme commander of all home armies. In 1943 he made contacts with the Western Allies in an attempt to preserve his own position and to barter Jewish prisoners for his own safety - an action which caused his expulsion from the party shortly before Hitler's death. On May 21, 1945, Heinrich Himmler was captured while fleeing from the British at Bremervoerde. Two days later he took poison and died.


German; Chief of Police 1936 – 45, leader of the SS 1929 – 45, Minister of the Interior 1943 – 45 The son of a Catholic secondary schoolteacher, Himmler served as a cadet in the 11th Bavarian Infantry without seeing action in the First World War. He took up the study of agriculture, but was soon involved in right-wing politics and took part in Hitler's Munich putsch (1923). He became a poultry farmer in 1928, only to be appointed head of the then small SS a year later by Hitler. In 1931 he set up the SD or Security Service of the Nazi party. When Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933 Himmler was appointed Bavarian police chief. He set up the first concentration camp in southern Germany at Dachau near Munich. Himmler's great moment came on 30 June 1934 when, on Hitler's orders, he sent his SS units into action against his erstwhile mentor and boss Ernst Röhm and other SA leaders. Three weeks later the SS was elevated as an independent organization free of SA control. By 1936 Himmler, already head of the SS and SD, was appointed Chief of the German Police including the Gestapo. Although nominally directly under Dr Frick, Minister of the Interior, Himmler was virtually answerable only to Hitler.

The outbreak of war in September 1939 saw a further escalation of Himmler's power. Hitler made him Reich Commissar for the Consolidation of German Nationhood. This involved the compulsory resettlement of Germans from outside the Reich into Germany, and the expulsion or elimination of non-Germans and the mentally sick. His empire expanded as Germany occupied most of Europe. Many members of the Polish intelligentsia were among his first foreign victims. Thousands of others from all nationalities followed. From the summer of 1941 he energetically implemented the "final solution of the Jewish question" at Auschwitz and elsewhere.

By the time Himmler was appointed Minister of the Interior (25 August 1943) the Third Reich was losing the war. It was disintegrating when he took over as commander of the Volkssturm [Home Guard] in July 1944. Yet his vast army of Waffen-SS, including many foreign volunteers, fought on until the final surrender in May 1945.

Unlike some other Nazi leaders, Himmler was determined to survive the lost war. In April 1945 he took up contact with the Swedish Red Cross, offering to hand over Jewish survivors to their care. He also sought negotiations with the Allies. Furious, Hitler ordered his arrest. Himmler then sought to escape in disguise. He fell into British hands posing as an ordinary soldier; on being recognized, he swallowed the poison capsule in his mouth, dying almost at once.


Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (listen (help·info) 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was a Nazi German politician and head of the Schutzstaffel (SS). He was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany, competing with Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann and Joseph Goebbels. He used the Freundeskreis der Wirtschaft for personal advancement. As Reichsführer-SS he oversaw all police and security forces, including the Gestapo.

As overseer of concentration camps, extermination camps, and Einsatzgruppen (literally: task forces, often used as killing squads), Himmler coordinated the killing of millions of 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 or simply 'in the way', including homosexuals and those with physical and mental disabilities. Shortly before the end of the war, he offered to surrender to the Allies if he were spared from prosecution. After being arrested by British forces, he committed suicide before he could be questioned.

Early life

Heinrich Himmler was born in Munich to a 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 (maiden name Heyder), a devout Roman Catholic and an attentive mother. Heinrich had an older brother, Gebhard Ludwig Himmler, who was born on 29 July 1898, and a younger brother, Ernst Hermann Himmler, born on 23 December 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, Himmler attended Gymnasium in Landshut, where he studied classic literature. Himmler's father, the principal, set him as a bully to spy and punish other pupils. His father even called him a born criminal. While he struggled in athletics, he did well in his schoolwork. Also, at the behest of his father, Heinrich kept a diary from age ten until age 24. He enjoyed chess, harpsichord, stamp collecting, gardening and other extracurricular activities. Throughout Himmler’s youth and into adulthood, he was never at ease in interactions with women.

Himmler’s diaries (1914-18) show that he was extremely interested in war news. He implored his father to use his royal connections to obtain an officer candidate position for him. His parents eventually gave in, allowing him to train upon graduation from secondary school in 1918 with the 11th Bavarian Regiment. Since he was not athletic, he struggled throughout his military training. In 1918 the war ended and Germany was defeated, ending Himmler's aspirations of becoming a professional army officer. He was discharged without ever seeing battle, although he later falsely claimed that he had.

From 1919 to 1922 Himmler studied agronomy at the Munich Technische Hochschule following a short-lived apprenticeship on a farm and subsequent illness. Himmler was pursuing a chaste lifestyle when he became interested in a young girl who was the daughter of a store owner. In his diary, he compares his initial encounter with her as like finding himself a sister. Later he experienced rejection when he let her know his true feelings. His difficulty with women persisted throughout his life. His view towards women is shown in a diary excerpt:

"A proper man loves a woman on three levels: as a dear child who is to be chided, perhaps even punished on account of her unreasonableness, and who is protected and taken care of because one loves her. Then as wife and as a loyal, understanding comrade who fights through life with one, who stands faithfully at one’s side without hemming in or chaining the man and his spirit. And as a goddess whose feet one must kiss, who gives one strength through her feminine wisdom and childlike, pure sanctity that does not weaken in the hardest struggles and in the ideal hours gives one heavenly peace."

Himmler underwent religious turmoil during his studies at Munich Technische Hochschule. In his diaries he claimed to be a devout Catholic, and wrote that he would never turn away from the church. However, he was a member of a fraternity (and later the Thule Society) which he felt to be at odds with the tenets of the church: biographers have defined Himmler’s theology as Ariosophy, his own religious dogma of racial superiority of the Aryan race and Germanic Meso-Paganism, partly from his interests in folklore and mythology of the ancient Teutonic tribes of Northern Europe. During this time he also became obsessed with the idea of becoming a soldier. He wrote that if Germany did not soon go to war, he would go to another country to seek battle.

In 1923, Himmler took part in Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch under Ernst Röhm. In 1926 he met his wife in a hotel lobby while escaping a storm. Margarete Siegroth (née Boden) was blonde-haired and blue-eyed, seven years his senior, divorced, and Protestant. She was physically the epitome of the Nordic ideal. On 3 July 1928, the two were married and had their only child, Gudrun, on 8 August 1929. Himmler adored his daughter, and called her Püppi (English: "dolly"). Margarete later adopted a son, in whom Himmler showed no interest. Heinrich and Margarete separated in 1940 without seeking divorce. Heinrich was too engulfed in Nazi activities to be a competent husband. 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).

Rise in the SS

Early SS (1927–1934)

Himmler joined the SS in 1925 and became deputy–Reichsführer-SS in 1927. Upon the resignation of SS commander Erhard Heiden, Himmler was appointed Reichsführer-SS in January 1929. The SS then had 280 members and was a mere battalion of the much larger Sturmabteilung (SA).

By 1933, the SS numbered 52,000 members. The organization enforced strict membership requirements ensuring that all members were of Adolf Hitler’s Aryan Herrenvolk ("Aryan master race"). 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 the autumn of 1933. Shortly thereafter, Himmler was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer and Reichsführer-SS and became an equal of the senior SA commanders, who by this time loathed the SS and its power.

Himmler, Hermann Göring, and General Werner von Blomberg agreed that the SA and its leader Ernst Röhm posed a threat to the German Army and the Nazi leadership. 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 leaders believing Röhm was intent on using the SA to undertake a coup.
SS chief Heinrich Himmler (left) with Adolf Hitler

Persuaded by Himmler and Göring, Hitler agreed that Röhm had to be murdered. He delegated this task to Reinhard Heydrich, Kurt Daluege and Dr. Werner Best, who ordered the execution of Röhm (carried out by Theodor Eicke) and other senior SA officials, plus some of Hitler’s personal enemies (like Gregor Strasser and Kurt von Schleicher) on 30 June 1934, in what became known as the Night of the Long Knives. The next day, the SS became an independent organization.

Consolidation of power

In 1934, Himmler was named head of the Gestapo, the German secret police, and was also named chief of all German police outside Prussia. Two years later, Himmler gained further 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. Himmler then gained the title Chief of the German Police. Traditionally, law enforcement in Germany had been a state and local matter.

Despite his title, Himmler gained only partial control of the uniformed police. The actual powers granted to him with the appointment were some previously exercised in police matters by the ministry of the interior. It was only in 1943, when Himmler was appointed minister of the interior, that the transfer of ministerial power was complete.

Himmler also oversaw the entire concentration camp system. Once war began, though, new internment camps not formally classified as concentration camps were established, over which 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, destroying the Gestapo’s monopoly in this field.
Heinrich Himmler (left) with, from left to right: Reinhard Heydrich, Karl Wolff and an unidentified assistant at the Obersalzberg, May 1939

With his 1936 appointment, Himmler also gained ministerial authority over Germany’s non-political detective forces, the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo: crime police), which he attempted to combine with the Gestapo into the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo: security police) under the command of Reinhard Heydrich, and thus gain operational control over Germany’s entire detective force. This merger was never complete within the Reich, with Kripo remaining firmly 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. Following the outbreak of World War II, Himmler formed the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA: reichs security headquarters) wherein the Gestapo, Kripo and Sicherheitsdienst (SD: security services) became departments.

The SS during these years developed its own military branch, the SS-Verfügungstruppe, which later became the Waffen-SS. Even though nominally under the authority of Himmler, the Waffen-SS developed a fully militarized structure of command and operationally were incorporated in the war effort parallel to the Wehrmacht. Many contemporary commentators refuse to recognize the Waffen SS as in any sense an honorable military organization. Its units were involved in many notorious incidents of murdering civilians and unarmed prisoners. For this reason, postwar war crimes tribunals declared the Waffen SS to be a criminal organization.

Himmler and the Holocaust

After the Night of the Long Knives, the SS-Totenkopfverbände organized and administered Germany’s regime of concentration camps and, after 1941, the extermination camps in Poland. 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 (sub-human) or in opposition to the regime, and placing them in concentration camps. 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. 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 December 18th 1941, Himmler's appointment book shows he met with Hitler, where to in answer to Himmler's question "What to do with the Jews of Russia?", Hitler's response is recorded as "als Partisanen auszurotten" (extermine them as partisans")

In contrast to Hitler, Himmler inspected concentration camps. After that the Nazis searched for a new and more expedient way to kill which culminated in the use of the gas chambers.

Himmler wanted to breed a master race of Nordic Aryans in Germany. His experience as a chicken farmer had taught him the rudimentary basics of animal breeding which he proposed to apply to humans. He believed that he could engineer the German populace, through selective breeding, to be entirely "Nordic" in appearance within several decades of the end of the war.

Posen speech

On 4 October 1943, Himmler referred explicitly to the extermination of the Jewish people during a secret SS meeting in the city of Poznań (Posen). The following are excerpts from a transcription of an audio recording that exists of the speech:

“I also want to mention a very difficult subject before you here, completely openly. It should be discussed amongst us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public. I am talking about the Jewish evacuation: the extermination of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that is easily said. "The Jewish people are being exterminated," every Party member will tell you: "Perfectly clear, it’s part of our plans, we’re eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, ha!, a small matter.”
—Heinrich Himmler, 4 October 1943

The Second World War

In 1939 Hitler masterminded Operation Himmler, arguably the first operation of WWII in Europe.

Before the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), Himmler prepared his SS for a war of extermination against the forces of "Judeo-Bolshevism". 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, and Dutch. After the invasion, Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians volunteers were also 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 many thousands more were conscripted.

The volunteers from the occupied Soviet territories were frequently collaborator policemen pressed en masse into the Waffen SS once their territories of origin were overrun by the Red Army. In the Baltic States many natives volunteered to serve due to their loathing of their oppression after the occupation by the Soviet Union. As long as they were employed against Soviet troops, they performed acceptably because they expected no mercy if captured. When employed against the Western Allies they often tended to surrender eagerly. 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 Leon Degrelle, whom Himmler planned to appoint chancellor of a restored Burgundy within the Nazi orbit once the war was over.

In 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler’s right hand man was killed near Prague after an attack by Czech special forces supplied by British Intelligence. Himmler immediately carried out a brutal reprisal, killing the entire male population, along with women and children, in the village of Lidice.

Interior minister

In 1943, Himmler was appointed Interior Minister. 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, Hitler’s secretary and party chancellor. It also incurred some displeasure from Hitler himself, whose long-standing disdain for the traditional civil service was one of the foundations of Nazi administrative thinking. 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 Himmler threatening his power base, Bormann could not give him the opportunity fast enough, initially acquiescing in the policies, until furious protests broke out. Then, Bormann came out against the scheme, leaving Himmler much discredited, especially with the party, whose gauleiters now saw 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 Hitler. This prompted Hitler to disband the Abwehr and make Himmler's Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD) the sole intelligence service of the Third Reich. This increased Himmler’s personal power.

General Friedrich Fromm, Commander-in-Chief of the Reserve (or Replacement) Army (Ersatzheer), was implicated in the conspiracy. Fromm’s removal, coupled with Hitler’s suspicion of the army, led the way to Himmler’s appointment as 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).

Unfortunately for Himmler, the investigation soon revealed the involvement of many SS officers in the conspiracy, including senior officers, which played into the hands of Bormann’s power struggle against the SS because very few party cadre officers were implicated. Even more important, some senior SS officers began to conspire against 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, Heydrich’s successor as chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, and Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, the chief of the Gestapo.


In late 1944, Himmler became Commander-in-Chief of the newly formed Army Group Upper Rhine (Heeresgruppe Oberrhein). This army group 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, 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, Himmler was transferred east. By 24 January, Army Group Upper Rhine was de-activated after having gone 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 Hitler gave Himmler command of yet another newly formed army group, Army Group Vistula (Heeresgruppe Weichsel) to stop the Soviet advance on Berlin. Hitler placed Himmler in command of Army Group Vistula, despite the failure of Army Group Upper Rhine and 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 Hitler’s continuing anger at the "failures" of the general staff.

As Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula, Himmler established his command center at Schneidemühl. He used his special train (sonderzug), Sonderzug Steiermark, as his headquarters. Himmler did this despite the train having only one telephone line and no signals detachment. Eager to show his determination, Himmler acquiesced in a quick counter-attack urged by the general staff. The operation quickly bogged down and Himmler dismissed a regular army corps commander and appointed Nazi Heinz Lammerding. His headquarters was also forced to retreat to Falkenburg. On 30 January, 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 Himmler under increasing pressure from 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 Hitler. By early March, Himmler’s headquarters had moved west of the Oder River, although his army group was still named after the Vistula. At conferences with Hitler, Himmler aped his leader’s line of increased severity towards those who retreated.

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

Peace negotiations

In the winter of 1944–45, 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 Himmler had lost faith in German victory, likely due in part to his discussions with his masseur Felix Kersten and with Walter Schellenberg. He realized that if the Nazi regime was to survive, it needed to seek peace with Britain and the United States. Toward this end, he contacted Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden at Lübeck, near the Danish border, and began negotiations to achieve a peace treaty with the Allies. Himmler hoped the British and Americans would fight their Soviet allies with the remains of the Wehrmacht.

When Hitler discovered this, he declared Himmler to be a traitor. He stripped him of his titles and ranks (Reichsführer-SS (Supreme Commander of the SS), Successor of Adolf Hitler (as Reich chancellor), Chief of the German police, Reich commissioner of German nationhood, Reich minister of the interior, Supreme Commander of the Volkssturm, and Supreme Commander of the Home Army) the day before he (Hitler) committed suicide.

Himmler’s negotiations with Count Bernadotte failed. He joined Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who by then was commanding all German forces within the northern part of the western front, in nearby Plön. Dönitz sent Himmler away, explaining that there was no place for him in the new German government.

Himmler next turned to the Americans as a defector, contacting the headquarters of General Dwight Eisenhower and proclaiming he would surrender all of Germany to the Allies if he was 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 Himmler, who was subsequently declared a major war criminal.

Capture and death

Unwanted by his former colleagues and hunted by the Allies, 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. Himmler was arrested on 22 May by Major Sidney Excell, and in captivity, was soon recognized. Himmler was scheduled to stand trial with other German leaders as a war criminal at Nuremberg, but committed suicide in Lüneburg by potassium cyanide capsule before interrogation could begin. His last words were Ich bin Heinrich Himmler! ("I am Heinrich Himmler!"). Another version has Himmler biting into a hidden cyanide pill when searched by a British doctor, who then yelled, "He has done it!". Several attempts to revive Himmler were unsuccessful. Shortly afterwards, Himmler’s body was buried in an unmarked grave on the Lüneburg Heath. The precise location of Himmler’s grave remains unknown.

Forgeries, fabrications and conspiracy theories

Some historians speculated that the man who committed suicide in Lüneburg was not Himmler but a double.

The theory was explained in the book SS-1: The Unlikely Death of Heinrich Himmler by Hugh Thomas, published in 2001 by 4th Estate. Thomas gained access to the autopsy records. It recorded such details as the amount of hair in the ears of the corpse (p. 172), but it was alleged made no mention of a v-shaped scar which Himmler was known to have had; the remnants of a wound above his left cheekbone, sustained in a fencing duel in his youth. Whilst sections of the work were highly readable, historians dismissed the work's primary thesis as baseless, produced to cash-in on the populist genre of the period, manufactured conspiracy fantasies about “surviving Nazis.”

A recently-published book by pro-Nazi, Holocaust denier Joseph Bellinger, Himmler’s Death, offers a speculative account of Himmler’s death, stating that Himmler was assassinated by his British interrogators in May 1945 along with other high-ranking officers of the SS and Werwolf organizations.

Bellinger’s account was first published in Germany by the ultra-Rightist and extremist Arndt Verlag, Kiel. It is largely derivative of the mainstream book, Himmler’s Secret War, by Martin Allen, which makes identical allegations, but later admitted to being based on fabricated documents, "in fact produced using a laser printer, documents replete with anachronistic terminology”

Public confirmation of the hoax was forthcoming in "July 2005, it was discovered that a number of files held at The National Archives contained forged documents."

In May 2008, a British police investigation “identified 29 forgeries that had been slipped into 12 files after 2000” which had been used to support recent Himmler conspiracies and speculations.

The Financial Times newspaper further reported that "the forgeries were cited as sources by a historian who had written three books about World War Two.”

Author Allen was widely reported to have a history of making sensationalistic accusations and reliance on fabricated materials when writing about other notable Nazis. “When challenged about a supposed letter from the Duke of Windsor to Hitler, Allen responded that it had been given to his late father by Albert Speer, later being found in the author's attic.”

Convicted holocaust denier David Irving has similarly made allegations that Himmler was beaten and killed by the British. Relying on the now discredited forgeries, Irving remarked, “Britain's secret agents had secretly and criminally liquidated one of the most wanted men in history” Reputable historians consistently reject such claims, affirming that the British and Allies supported a policy that was committed to having Himmler stand trial. The photograph of the body shows no signs of violence, and there is no supporting forensic evidence, or any other evidence supporting either Irving or Allen's speculations.

Irving has been discredited by an English court which found that he was an "active Holocaust denier," as well as an antisemite and racist, and that he "associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism." The judge ruled that Irving had "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence."

Allach porcelain

The porcelain factory Porzellan Manufaktur Allach was established as a private concern in 1935 in the small town of Allach, near Munich, Germany. In 1936 the factory was acquired by the SS. Heinrich Himmler saw the acquisition of a fine porcelain factory as a way to establish an industrial base for the production of works of art that would represent, in Himmler's eyes, true Germanic culture. Allach porcelain was one of Himmler’s favorite projects and produced various figurines (soldiers, animals, etc.) to compete in the small but profitable German porcelain market.

High-ranking artists were locked into contract. The program of the factory included over 240 porcelain and ceramic models. As output at the Allach factory increased, the Nazis moved production to a new facility near the Dachau concentration camp. The fact that the factory might have been taking advantage of a pool of slave labor provided by the Dachau camp was strongly denied by the factory managers at the Nuremberg Trials. Initially intended as a temporary facility, The Allach sub camp of Dachau remained the main location for fine porcelain manufacture even after the original factory in the town of Allach was modernized and reopened in 1940. The factory in the town of Allach was instead retrofitted for the production of ceramic products such as household pottery.

Allach was a sub-camp of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, located approximately 10 miles from the main camp at Dachau. According to Marcus J. Smith, who wrote "Dachau: The Harrowing of Hell," the Allach camp was divided into two enclosures, one for 3,000 Jewish inmates and the other for 6,000 non-Jewish prisoners. Smith was a doctor in the US military, assigned to take over the care of the prisoners after the liberation. He wrote that the typhus epidemic had not reached Allach until 22 April 1945, about a week before the camp was liberated.

Hitler, unlike Himmler, did not seem to care as much for Allach porcelain. He is quoted as saying, "It’s like looking for ghosts in your attic. What culture can be found in a clay pot?" about Himmler’s efforts at finding evidence about the ancient origins of the Germanic people. What he said could also show his true feelings about Allach porcelain.

The fall of the Third Reich brought an end to the Allach concern. The Allach factories were shut down in 1945 and never reopened.

The Allach Julleuchter was unique in that it was made as presentation piece for SS officers to celebrate the winter solstice. It was later given to all SS members on the same occasion, 21 December. Made of unglazed stoneware, the Julleuchter was decorated with early pagan Germanic symbols. Himmler said, “I would have every family of a married SS man to be in possession of a Julleuchter. Even the wife will, when she has left the myths of the church find something else which her heart and mind can embrace.” During WW2 Julleuchters were also used at SS wedding ceremonies, and some were given to family members of SS soldiers that were killed in action. Production numbers in 1939 alone were a staggering 52,635, certainly a record for any single item produced at the Porzellan Manufaktur Allach.

Historical views

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

Himmler himself accepted the "Hitler dominated" view to an extent, opining that if Hitler were to tell him to shoot his mother, he would do it and "be proud of the Führer’s confidence". This unconditional loyalty was the driving force behind Himmler’s unlikely career. But most commentators agree that Himmler was also a murderous racist and was of his own accord a willing mastermind of genocide. Most historians also concur that Himmler was power hungry.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Himmler’s decisive innovation was to transform the race question from "a negative concept based on matter-of-course anti-Semitism" into "an organizational task for building up the SS ... It was Himmler’s master stroke that he succeeded in indoctrinating the SS with an apocalyptic ‘idealism’ beyond all guilt and responsibility, which rationalized mass murder as a form of martyrdom and harshness towards oneself."

The wartime cartoonist Victor Weisz saw Himmler as a terrible 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, 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."

Himmler told his personal masseur Felix Kersten that he always carried with him a copy of the ancient Indo-Aryan scripture, the Bhagavad Gita because it relieved him of guilt about implementing the final solution; he felt that like the warrior Arjuna in that he was simply doing his duty without attachment to his actions. This was consistent with the "eclectic" borrowing of disparate Hindu concepts that the Nazis used in their construction of a neopagan religion.

In an extract in the Norman Brook War Cabinet Diaries, Winston Churchill took a view towards 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 Himmler ‘and bump him off later’, once peace terms had been agreed. The suggestion to cut a deal for a German surrender with Himmler and then assassinate him with support from the Home Office. ‘Quite entitled to do so’, the minutes record [... Churchill] as commenting."

A main focus of recent work on Himmler has been the extent to which he competed for and craved Hitler’s attention and respect. The events of the last days of the war, when he abandoned Hitler and began separate negotiations with the Allies, are obviously significant in this respect.

Himmler appears to have had a distorted view of how he was perceived by the Allies; he intended to meet with US 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 Himmler, he was genuinely shocked to be treated as a prisoner.










This web page was last updated on: 31 December, 2008