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7 October 1900
Born 7 October 1900
Munich, Bavaria, Germany Died 23 May 1945 (aged 44)
Lüneburg, Lower Saxony, Germany Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) Spouse(s) Margarete Bode Children Gudrun, Helge, Nanette Dorotha Alma mater Technical University Munich Profession Agronomist Cabinet Cabinet Hitler Religion Roman Catholic (early) Signature Military service Allegiance German Empire Service/branch Heer Years of service 1917–1918 Rank Fahnenjunker Unit 11th Bavarian Infantry Regiment Battles/wars World War I
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (pronounced [?ha?n??ç ?lu??t?p?lt ?h?ml?] 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and later the Minister of the Interior, 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), Himmler rose to become one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany as well as one of the persons most directly responsible for theHolocaust.
As overseer of the concentration camps, extermination camps, and Einsatzgruppen (literally: task forces, often used as killing squads), Himmler coordinated the killing of some six millionJews, 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, people with physical and mentaldisabilities, 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 committedsuicide the following day before he could be questioned.
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. He 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—sent him to spy on 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, Himmler kept a diary from age 10 until age 24. He enjoyed chess, harpsichord, stamp collecting, and gardening. Throughout Himmler's youth and into adulthood, he was never at ease in interactions with women.
Himmler's diaries (1914–1918) 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 with Germany's defeat, thus ending Himmler's aspirations of becoming a professional army officer.
In his diaries, he claimed to be a devout Roman Catholic, and wrote that he would never turn away from the Roman Church. However, he was a member of a fraternity, and later the Thule Society, and felt both associations 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 theAryan race and Germanic Meso-Paganism, developed partly from his interpretations of folklore and mythology of the ancient Teutonic tribes ofNorthern Europe. During this time, he was again 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 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 Himmler worked unsuccessfully as a chicken farmer. They 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 Himmler separated in 1940 without seeking divorce. At that time, 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).
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, andRichard 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 Himmler's view of the SS as a core of breeding men.
Himmler joined the SS in 1925 as an SS-Führer (SS-Leader). His NSDAP number was 14,303 and his SS number was 168. 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 theresignation of SS commander Erhard Heiden, in 1929, Himmler was appointed Reichsführer-SS(Reichsführer was, at that time, simply a title for the National Commander of the SS). At that time, the SS had 280 members and was merely an elite battalion of the much larger Sturmabteilung (SA). Over the next year, Himmler began a major expansion of the organization and, in 1930, he was promoted to the rank ofSS-Gruppenführer.
By 1933, the SS numbered 52,000 members. The organization at that time enforced strict membership requirements ensuring that all members were of Hitler's Aryan Herrenvolk ("Aryan master race"). Applications had been scrutinized 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 qualify as an ideal Nordic.)
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, 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.
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 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, military and political leaders believing Röhm was intent on using the SA to undertake a coup.
Persuaded by Himmler and Göring, Hitler agreed that Röhm had to be eliminated. He delegated this task to Reinhard Heydrich, Kurt Daluege, and Werner Best, who ordered 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, Röhm's SA. Officially, from 20 July 1934 forward, the SS became an independent organization responsible only to Hitler, and Himmler's title of Reichsführer-SS became the highest formal SS rank.
On 20 April 1934, Göring formed a partnership with Himmler and Heydrich. Göring transferred authority over the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei)—the Prussian secret police—to Himmler, who was also named chief of all German police outside Prussia. On 22 April 1934, Himmler named Heydrich the head of the Gestapo. Heydrich continued as head of theSicherheitsdienst (SD: security service), as well.
On 17 June 1936, Himmler was named Chief of German Police after 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, 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.
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, 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 Himmler was appointed Minister of the Interior, that the transfer of ministerial power was complete.
With the 1936 appointment, 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 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, Himmler formed the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA: Reich Main Security Office)wherein the SiPo (Gestapo and Kripo) along with the SD became departments under Heydrich's command therein.
Himmler (front right, beside prisoner) visiting theDachau Concentration Camp in 1936.
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 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 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 an honorable 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 organization.
Himmler and the Holocaust ~Continued
4 October 1943
On 4 October 1943, Himmler referred explicitly to the extermination of the Jewish people during a secret SS meeting in the city of Pozna? (Posen). The following is a translation of an excerpt from a transcription of an audio recording that exists of the speech: Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. “ 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 . . . .
—Heinrich Himmler, 4 October 1943
As Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood, Himmler was deeply involved in the Germanization 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 Generalplan Ost. He declared that no drop of German blood would be lost or left behind for an alien race. Himmler continued his plans to colonize the east despite evidence that Germans did not want to relocate there, and that the activities hindered the war effort; several high-ranking Nazi 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. Himmler oversaw cases of obstinate Germans, and gave orders for concentration camps, or separation of families, or forced labor, 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 Germanization measures were regarded as more suitable material than more compliant ones.
This included the kidnapping of Eastern European children by Nazi Germany. Himmler urged:
"Obviously in such a mixture of peoples, there will always be some racially good types, Therefore, I think that it is our duty to take their children with us, to remove them from their environment, if necessary by robbing, or stealing them. Either we win over any good blood that we can use for ourselves and give it a place in our people, or we destroy that blood."
The "racially valuable" children were to be culled, 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." Acceptable children were to be adopted by German families. Children who passed muster at first but were later rejected were used as slave labor or killed. Himmler ordered that parents who were registered on the Volksliste should lose their children if the parent impeded their Germanization.
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 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, 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 subhumanity, 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 Polish prisoners from Buchenwaldawaiting execution in the forest near the camp.
For a time, the Polish population would be permitted to remain as slave labor. Himmler forbade that this group, not suitable for Germanization, 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 Nazi 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 laborers to be punished by death for the man and a concentration camp for the woman.
In 1939, Himmler masterminded Operation Himmler (also known as Operation Konserve or Operation Canned Goods), arguably the first operation of World War II in Europe. It was afalse 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), 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, 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.
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 Himmler planned to appoint chancellor of an SS State of Burgundy within the Nazi orbit once the war was over.
Himmler inspects a prisoner of war camp in Russia. Some 2.8 million Soviet POWswere killed in just eight months of 1941–42
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 (Himmler's right hand man) was assassinated in Prague after an attack by British Special Operations Executive (SOE), trained soldiers, Jozef Gab?ík and Jan Kubiš of Czechoslovakia’s army-in-exile. 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 Heydrich's death.
In 1943, 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 Himmler. While Frick viewed the concentration camps as a tool to punish dissenters, Himmler saw them as a way to terrorize the people into accepting Nazi rule.
Himmler's appointment effectively merged the Interior Ministry with the SS. Nonetheless, 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 private 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 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 the20 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 importantly, 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 wereErnst Kaltenbrunner, Heydrich's successor as chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, andGruppenführer 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 andFrench 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 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 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 despite 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 centre 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 GeneralWalther 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 echoed Hitler'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 GeneralGotthard Heinrici.
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 were to survive, it needed to seek peace with Britain and the U.S. He also believed by the middle of April 1945 that 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 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. Himmler hoped the British and Americans would fight the Soviets alongside the remains of the Wehrmacht. At Bernadotte's request, Himmler put his offer in writing. On April 21, 1945, 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, 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 Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies. When Hitler was informed of the news, he flew into a rage. A few days earlier, Hermann Göring had asked Hitler for permission to take over the leadership of the Reich — an act that Hitler, under the prodding of Bormann, interpreted as a demand to step down or face a coup. However, Himmler had not even bothered to request permission. The news also hit Hitler hard because he had long believed that Himmler was second only to Joseph Goebbels in loyalty; in fact, Hitler often called Himmler "der treue Heinrich" (the loyal Heinrich). Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot.[After Hitler calmed down, he told those who were still with him in the bunker complex that Himmler's act was the worst act of treachery he'd ever known.
Himmler's treachery—combined with reports the Soviets were only 300 m (330 yd) (about a block) from the Reich Chancellery—prompted Hitler to write his last will and testament. In the Testament, completed the day before he committed suicide, he declared Himmler and Göring to be traitors. He also stripped 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 Himmler from the Nazi Party and ordered his arrest.
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. 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. 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 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 Himmler, who was subsequently declared a major war criminal.
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 on 23 May committed suicide in Lüneburg by means of a potassium cyanide capsule beforeinterrogation could begin. His last words were Ich bin Heinrich Himmler! ("I am Heinrich Himmler!"). Another version has 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 Himmler were unsuccessful. Shortly afterward, Himmler's body was buried in an unmarked grave on theLüneburg Heath. The precise location of Himmler's grave remains unknown.Forgeries, fabrications and conspiracy theories
In a 2005 book, Martin Allen claimed that 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.Legacy
As late as 2011, Gudrun Burwitz, Himmler's daughter, leads the Stille Hilfe (which translates as "Silent Help"). Formed in 1951 by those who had held high positions within the then defunct Nazi Party, the group provides "quiet but active assistance to those who lost their freedom during or after the war by capture, internment or similar circumstance and who need help to this day."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 anti-Semitic in his own right, and even more eager than his boss to commit genocide. Still others see Himmler as power-mad, devoted to the accumulation of power and influence.
According to Robert S. Wistrich, 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 ofmartyrdom and harshness towards oneself."
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."
Felix Kersten, Himmler's personal masseur, claimed that Himmler had told him that he always carried with him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, because it relieved him of guilt about implementing the Final Solution. Himmler felt that, like the warrior Arjuna, he was simply doing his duty without attachment to his actions. Himmler's ideas were probably influenced by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer's concepts of duty derived from his interpretation of the Gita.
In an extract of Norman Brook's 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 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 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 attempted to enter into separate negotiations with the western Allies (an attempt which was rebuffed), 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 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, Himmler was genuinely shocked to be treated as a prisoner.
In 2008, Himmler was named "the greatest mass murderer of all time" by German news magazine Der Spiegel, reflecting his role as architect of the Holocaust.
Gudrun Himmler (aka Gudrun Burwitz) (standing right) with her mother at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals at Nuremberg, 1945. Born Gudrun Himmler
August 8, 1929 (age 82)
Munich Nationality German Known for Stille Hilfe, Wiking-Jugend Spouse Wulf Dieter Burwitz Parents Heinrich Himmler, Margarete Boden
Gudrun Burwitz (née Himmler, born 8 August 1929) is the daughter of Heinrich Himmler,Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police (and from August 1943 onward, the Minister of the Interior), and Margarete Siegroth, née Boden. Gudrun was the first child of Himmler's marriage; they later adopted a son. In 1940, Heinrich Himmler started an affair with the secretary Hedwig Potthast with whom he had two children.
Relation to father Father Heinrich Himmler (centre) and theyoung Gudrun, visiting a concentration camp.
Heinrich Himmler adored his daughter and had her regularly flown to his offices in Berlin from Munichwhere she lived with her mother. She accompanied Heinrich Himmler on some official duties, for instance, inspecting concentration camps (picture), or in other appearances. She has never renounced the Nazi ideology and has repeatedly sought to justify the actions of her father, relative to the context of his time. People who know her say that she has created a golden image of her father.
Heinrich Himmler died in British captivity. She contested that his death was a suicide from a concealed cyanide capsule, as others did. After World War II she and her mother were held in detention by the British occupying powers for four years. She later bitterly referred to these years as the most difficult of her life, and that they had to atone for her father.Nazi sympathies
She married the journalist and author Wulf Dieter Burwitz and had two children. She has remained active in the Nazi community (Neo-Nazism), and has since 1951 been a member of Stille Hilfe, an organisation providing support to arrested, condemned or fugitive former SS-members. In 1952 she helped to found Wiking-Jugend which was organised after the Hitler Youth model. She was a longtime friend ofFlorentine Rost van Tonningen (died in 2007), who was known in the Netherlands as "the black widow" and was active in Nazi circles after the war.
For decades Gudrun Burwitz has been a prominent symbol and idol in Stille Hilfe. At various meetings, for instance the annual Ulrichsberg gathering in Austria, she enjoys the status as both a star and an authority. Oliver Schröm, author of a book about Stille Hilfe, has described her as a "flamboyant Nazi princess" ("schillernde Nazi-Prinzessin").
Gudrun Burwitz has intensified the support for Nazi war criminals in recent years. This was particularly evident in the case of Anton Malloth, a supervisor of Theresienstadt, who was extradited to Germany in 1988 and after a prolonged public trial was sentenced in 2001 to life in prison. During 1988-2001 she arranged his stay at an expensive nursing home in Pullach at the southern outskirts of Munich. There was a public outcry when it was discovered that the premises had been the property of the prominent Nazi Rudolf Hess and that the stay was largely financed by public welfare funds.
The following writing comes form the pen of Himmler an infamous Nazi leader and war criminal responsible for countless murders in the death camps during the Second World War.
The unrelenting angular formations combined with heavy pressure and excessive forward slant indicate fanaticism.
Notice the dagger-like t-bars and the ink-filled strokes. There are no round formations or ovals to alleviate the harshness.
Even the "e" in his signature is a straight up and down stroke. There is a merciless quality that pervades the whole handwriting.
While he was cold and calculating, his extremely repressive nature was obsessive. But he was also highly strung and he was ready to erupt into violence at a moment's notice.
Undeviating in his relentlessness he was a time-bomb waiting to explode.
The Strange Death of Heinrich Himmler
When he died his nose was broken and his cyanide capsule was still intact. Churchill did not want Himmler interviewed by the Americans and refused to allow him to reveal what he knew at trial. This removed one of the most troublesome witnesses to Hitler's survival and Churchill's part in it.
The convergence of available evidence from all released sources provide more than ample justification to conclude that Heinrich Himmler, and a number of other high level officials in the Nazi SS organisation, were indeed assassinated as part of a pre-determined plan advanced by Churchill’s cabinet.
These facts have all been fully investigated and meticulously documented in my book, Himmlers Tod.
In respect to the assassination of Heinrich Himmler, et. al., the evidence that did survive reveals that:
1 Tentative plans were discussed and enthusiastically advocated by Churchill and his closest advisors to assassinate selected German and Italian officials within a few hours of capture.
2 The autopsy report of Heinrich Himmler was falsified, incomplete, and evidence was fabricated.
3 Material evidence relating to the homicide was removed at the site.
4 The participants in the crime were instructed not to divulge any details [other than the officially released version] to the public or to researchers insofar as their role in the events was concerned and they were bound to the rule of official secrecy thereafter.
5 Post-war accounts from the individuals in private diaries provided additional information supporting the conclusion that foul play was involved in the death of the German leader.
6 At least two of the participants were later decorated with the MBE for their role in the affair.
7 Material evidence relating to the crime was erased after the war at the express insistence of the War Office.
8 The records surrounding the ‘official’ inquiry into the circumstances of Himmler’s death have been sealed until the end of the century.
case I had reconstructed from the available documentary evidence in the form of private diaries, forensic evidence, eyewitnesses to the events and recently released papers from the archives in the United States and Great Britain led me to the ineluctable conclusion that the chief of the Gestapo and SS was assassinated for very specific reasons related to the postwar Allied occupation of Germany. The attendant circumstantial evidence I had uncovered and assembled was so powerful and incriminating that I had no need of Mr. Allen’s documents to support my thesis. However, if the documents turned out to be authentic, they would have provided the icing on the cake.
Igra, who confidently asserts that the above men were homosexuals, cites still other Hitler aides and close friends who were known homosexuals as well. He states that Hitler's chauffeur and one-time personal secretary, Emile Maurice, for example, was homosexual, as well as the pornographer Julius Streicher, who "was originally a school teacher, but was dismissed by the Nuremberg School Authorities, following numerous charges of pederasty brought against him" (Igra:72f). SS Chief Heinrich Himmler's "pederastic proclivities [were] captured on film" by Nazi filmmaker Walter Frenz (Washington City Paper, April 4, 1995). Reinhard Heydrich, mastermind of the first pogrom, Kristallnacht, and of the death camps, was homosexual (Calic:64). In The Twelve Year Reich, Richard Grunberger tells of a party given by Nazi propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, which degenerated into a homosexual orgy (Grunberger:70). A recent biography of Albert Speer by Gitta Sereny speaks of a "homo-erotic (not sexual) relationship" between Speer and Hitler (Newsweek, Oct. 30, 1995). Langer notes that Hitler's personal bodyguards were "almost always 100 percent homosexuals" (Langer:179). Hitler's later public pronouncements against homosexuality never quite fit with the lifelong intimacy-sexual or otherwise-which he maintained with men he knew and accepted as homosexuals.
Was the head of the SS and thus the highest responsible for the “Final solution to the Jewish problem,” by orthodox historians alleged to have meant the physical extermination of the European Jewry. After wandering the Flensburg area carrying false papers, Himmler was arrested by British troops on May 22, 1945. According to the official narrative, Himmler committed suicide late on May 23 by biting into a cyanide capsule which he had somehow managed to keep hidden inside his mouth for a whole day, despite eating a sandwich and being searched by his captors in the meantime.
Himmler’s Arrest by Arthur Britton
When the Germans invaded Belgium, Arthur Schrynemakers told his wife, who was French, and their three children, a son and two daughters, who were born in England, to flee to England. The son, also known as Arthur, joined the British Army. He dropped the name Schrynemakers and went by his middle name of Britton. He was first assigned to do guard duty at Windsor Castle.
Arthur Britton (left) in England after joining the British Army
But when it became known that he spoke German, Dutch, and French as well as English, Arthur Britton was assigned to Field Security. His next assignment was to Tunisia.
Arthur Britton during the Tunisian campaign
Shortly after D-Day, Sgt. Britton and his men arrived in France. They were the first British troops in Lille and were mobbed by the happy Frenchmen.
Britton, in Lille, being greeted by well-wishers.
Next stop was Brussels. There he was given a brief leave so that he could see his father, with whom there had been no contact for four and a half years.
After that was the Ardenne where he was responsible for checking the identity of American soldiers to make sure they were not Germans attempting to infiltrate the American lines.
Britton (far left) in the Belgian Ardenne, December 1944
On May 22, 1945 Britton and his men were manning a checkpoint at the Bremervorde bridge in west Germany. Three men were brought in for questioning by Britton, who examined their documents. One in particular, going by the name of Heinrich Hitzinger (misspelled as Hizinger), raised Britton’s suspicion. He arrested all three and turned them over to his superiors. (The following arrest report was provided to me by Britton and has been reproduced in several publications. Both reports appeared in Album Souvenir, 1942-1972, published by the Amicale des Milices Patriotiques du Front de l’Independance de Schaerbeek.)
Arrest Report of "Hizinger/Hitzinger" (Heinrich Himmler)
Britton’s men added the following to the bare bones of the arrest report:
Appendix to Himmler Arrest Report
During interrogation by the British officers, Hitzinger/Hizinger finally admitted to his identity: “I am Heinrich Himmler.” Shortly thereafter, he committed suicide, using a cyanide capsule hidden in his mouth.
Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and Gestapo
The end of Himmler
There are a good many accounts of Himmler’s arrest and demise. One particularly thorough article appeared as “Himmler’s Suicide” in the magazine After the Battle, issue no. 14, 1976. Two newspaper accounts of Britton’s arrest of Himmler appear below. The first was published in the Flemish newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws, 1946, with the English translation following.
From: Het Laatste Nieuws (The latest news) a Flemish newspaper in Brussels – 1946
The arrest of Heinrich Himmler
The executioner was a calm and modest man
The adventure of a sergeant in Bremervorde
Sergeant Britton Schrijnemakers, of Dutch descent and a member of the British Intelligence Service, came ashore in Algiers in 1943, took part in the campaign in Tunis, crossed over to Sicily, was recalled to England before the invasion and came ashore in Normandy on 9 June 1944.
As part of the major breakthrough to the north, he was with the 30th British Army when via Brussels he crossed the Albert Canal and took part in the rush of British tanks to Eindhoven and to the heavily fought for city of Nijmegen. While heavy fighting was going on at the Nijmegen Bridge, sergeant Britton, with his intelligent unit, occupied the NSDAP building on the Oranjesingel, where the roof shingles still rattled while exited Germans on the other side of the Waal in vain tried to make contact with their already departed Nijmegen unit.
After that came the massive breakthrough to the Reichwald, over the Rijn, Osnabruck, Bremen and finally to Bremervorde, the historical place where the executioner and hangman of occupied Europe, the head of the ten thousands of his brutes in the Sicherheitsdienst, whose terrible deeds could be seen all over the continent, was finally arrested himself, Heinrich Himmler, a Feldwebel, who a few days earlier had made an offer of peace.
“It was five o’clock in the afternoon” related sergeant Britton “when a group of ten men crossed the bridge at Bremervorde where I was on duty. Three of them, two big blond fellows with a shorter older man in between them ………………(missing)……………………
British headquarters were he identified himself and a few days later committed suicide.
HIMMLER, A CALM AND MODEST MAN.
What impression did Himmler make on you? He was the calmest most modest man that I had ever met ………(missing)…………….
Arthur Verdun Britton Schrijnemakers, son of a Dutch father and a French mother, himself an Englishman and now the representative of an American company in the Belgium capital, has, in a few days, become a famous person. He has been “discovered”, interviewed, photographed for newspapers and press services, he speaks on radio Lausanne and as soon as possible on radio Hilversum, and without conceit and with the air of youngster who finds it just fine, he has plastered the walls of his office with all the articles written about him, the man who on the evening of the 22nd of May 1945 arrested and brought in as prisoner Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer of the SS………..”
Another article that appeared in the major Brussels newspaper, Le Soir, had this to say:
British Ex-Sergeant tells us how he arrested Himmler on the
Bremervorde Bridge (L’ex-sergent Britton nous conte comment eil arrêta Himmler sur le pont de Bremervorde), Le Soir, Brussels, 23 May 1970, p. 5. (Translation by Mary Street, Nov. 25, 2008.)
On May 24, 25 years ago, Heinrich Himmler, the most powerful and
methodically cruelest accomplice to Hitler, committed suicide.
Himmler was one of the dominant figures in the demonic, irrational
and sinister world of the Third Reich.
It is certainly true that he remains one of the least known
characters in contemporary history.
While innumerable works by noted historians gave analysis and
described the life of Hitler, it is rare to find one that describes
and studies the personality of the S.S. Reichsfuhrer.
His crimes have been described, but hardly anyone has been able to
solve the enigma of his behavior.
People have analyzed the “Black Order” which he oversaw and the
concentration camp system that he organized, but no one can explain
his passion for evil, leaving us only to contemplate his vain, greedy,
meddlesome and cruel personality, to name a few of his vices.
Everything in his traditional family and his education leaves us also
to believe that Himmler would be devoted to a life free of misdeeds.
However, he became the monster of Nazi monsters.
In fact, Himmler was born in 1900, to a peaceful, comfortable family,
in which the laws of the Church were respected and in which they
enjoyed arts and music.
He himself chose the bucolic study of agriculture.
But this being, which everything had predisposed to a serene
existence living placidly on the land in the midst of nature and its
beauty, became paradoxically the incarnation of cruelty, terror and
Even when he had attained the summit of malfeasance, every historian
similarly describes him as a being without awareness, without moral
and physical courage, without intellectual vigor.
All in all, he was like the evil that he incarnated, including the
most contemptible affectedness: incomprehensible, indescribable.
The peaceful farmer that Himmler was before becoming
Hitler’s aide appeared for the first time in Nazi history during the
aborted putsch on 9 November 1923.
On that day he was taken without glory and without resistance to the
police in Munich, leaving the building in which the attacking troops
of Rohm had barricaded themselves, carrying their flag.
Remaining loyal to Hitler during his years of imprisonment and of
unsuccessful political battles, Himmler gained the confidence of the
Fuhrer and became, in 1929, commandant of his personal guard, the S.S.
Henceforth his fate was sealed: systematic assassination, organized
on a colossal and inhuman scale, became his reason to live, and death
became his career.
Haunted by his ambition to create the elite Aryan as the basis of
Nazism , Himmler, who had no Aryan traits, created the “Black Order
S.S.” Himmler became through the immensity of his crimes the most
heartless person bereft [of] scruples that contemporary history has known.
Gestapo chief, grand master of the universe of concentration camps,
optimistic commissary of the Reich for occupied territories of Poland,
executor of the “final solution” which was supposed to end in the
extermination of more than 20 million Jews and untermenschen in all of Europe, exterminator of tens of millions of soviet prisoners of war,
executioner of the German resistance after the attempt on Hitler’s
life on 20 July 1944, Himmler was, for the Fuhrer, “der treue
Heinrich”, or loyal Heinrich.
Up until the day in April, 1945 when he made contact with Count
Bernadotte, president of the Swedish Red Cross, in hopes of saving his skin by cashing in on the lives of Jews in concentration camps and in proposing to the allies to arrive at a separate peace by joining with
him against the Russians.
Dismissed from his functions by Hitler, who lived his last hours in a
“bunker” in the chancellery in Berlin, Himmler prowled around in the
entourage of Admiral Doenitz until 5 May 1945.
Notwithstanding his crimes, he remained convinced that the fear that
he inspired in others would still make him second in command in the
new German state, and that he would thus be able to negotiate the
surrender of Germany while saving himself.
But Doenitz wanted none of it.
That left nothing for the Reichsfuhrer S.S. but to disappear
temporarily in the ruins of the millennial Reich in which he had been
the sinister sorcerer.
Although his name was at the top of the list of war criminals being
hunted by the allies, Himmler was narrow-minded, imagining to himself that at the moment of Nazi capitulation he could save his skin, thanks to the western allies.
He thus prepared himself to appear of good will by guaranteeing the
saving of concentration camp prisoners, and his proposals for a
separate peace to the Anglo-Americans, and his offer to put the
Wehrmacht at their disposition against the Russians, in order to
conquer together the communist threat, and, especially, the crushing
dossier he had created against Goebbels and Bormann in order to prove that they alone had been the inspiration behind Hitler’s criminal
The “Feldwebel” Hizinger
While waiting to make his final move, Himmler disguised himself,
under the false name of Heinrich Hizinger, an unknown Feldwebel,
carrying a demobilization certificate created on 3 May 1945 and
joining up with some Panzers who had returned home.
He shaved off his mustache, covered one eye with a black patch and
wore civilian clothing.
In this disguise, he was able to go about unnoticed in the flow of
disorderly German soldiers who wandered everywhere, fleeing the
Russians or returning to their families. The S.S. Reichsfuhrer,
accompanied by some loyalists, tried to leave northern Germany, a
region which was particularly inhospitable to him.
In fact, the allies were constantly on the lookout for him, knowing
that he might have been spotted a few days before while making contact with Count Bernadotte.
Thanks to his disguise and to his false papers, he hoped to climb over the Bavarian mountains in order to remain hidden until the day when troubles, which, in his estimation, would make havoc in the new Germany, just as after the armistice of 1918, would permit him to resurface, to reintroduce himself, and to negotiate with his conquerors.
Evidently, he had not understood that this time the allies were
determined to chasten the Germans responsible for war crimes, just as he underestimated the capabilities of the British security services as he traveled through the occupied zone.
On 22 May 1945, at 17:00 hours, three German civilians appeared at
the Bremervorde bridge, the only bridge left intact between Bremen and Hamburg.
The 1003 detachment of Montgomery’s Field Security Reserve Detachment was standing guard there.
Two days prior, 12 S.S. agents were sighted and arrested there. At
their interrogation, they confessed that two of their group had
remained at a farm in the area.
The British looked for them in vain, but the incident made them
increase their vigilance.
The papers of the old German military were, one must say, the object
of particular examination. The members of the Intelligence Corps had
learned, in England, to recognize the characteristics of each stamp in
use in the diverse German units, and they had received orders to
arrest on the spot anyone carrying the stamp of Entlassungschein in
the S.S. regiments.
A Revealing Stamp
Without any difficulty at all, the chief sergeant on guard at the
Bremervorde bridge [Arthur Britton] discovered under the stamp of the Wehrmacht affixed on the Schein of the Feldwebel Heinrich Hinziger a trace of an old stamp from the Geheime Feldpolizei. Also, he found it odd that the
lieutenant who accompanied the Feldwebel Hiziger presented himself
first, as officer of the senior echelon, instead of his non-
commissioned officer: not to mention that the latter appeared to be
neither a great captain or a hero.
Convinced that he had discovered enough to retain the three
civilians, Sergeant Britton put Hizinger and his two companions under
arrest as S.S. and sent them under heavy guard to higher authorities
Interrogated separately at Post 031 at British Security near
Lunebourg by Captain Selvester, our three Germans got confused and
contradicted each other. The interrogator decided to confront them. At that moment, Hizinger took off his eye patch and declared himself the S.S. Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler.
Stupefied, Captain Selvester had only one fear from that moment on:
that his prisoner would swallow a cyanide capsule, since he knew the
Nazis had been directed to carry them.
In order to know whether he could, without any danger, begin an
examination of Himmler’s jaw, the British officer calmly asked him if
he would like a sandwich and a cup of tea, before continuing with the
Himmler accepted, delighted: but Sylvester was more delighted at the
success of his strategy!
After that, all that remained was to have Himmler change his clothing
in order to spare him the “battledress” that he was
wearing. He declared that he did not want to be shot like a spy in a
Under threat of being transferred naked as a worm to “Monty’s”
quarters, he finally donned a shirt, shorts and socks, all made in
The Cyanide Capsule Inserted in his Jaw
At the British general’s headquarters, Himmler was handed over to
Colonel Michael Murphy, chief of Security Service. The latter took him
to the Lunebourg prison, where a military doctor was prepared to give
him a thorough body search in order to locate the cyanide capsule that they had vainly looked for in Himmler’s clothing.
At the moment in which the doctor, Captain Wells, ordered him to open his mouth, Himmler chewed the poison encased in his jaw.
Despite the most energetic care possible, he died in twelve minutes.
Heinrich Himmler thus slipped away from his judges, but at the same
time he stole from history a great deal of secrets which will probably
never be discovered by historians.
Since Sergeant Major Austin was assigned to guard the illustrious
prisoner, he was a witness to the suicide along with Colonel Murphy
and the doctor. He was ordered to bury Himmler in the utmost secrecy.
No one will ever know where he is buried.
Thus, Himmler may remain forever the most enigmatic character of the Third Reich.
Mr. Britton: “Himmler, a person without prominence”
Following another preceding article which appeared in Le Soir, I had
the opportunity to meet with Mr. Britton, the British soldier who
arrested Himmler at the Bremervorde bridge on 22 May 1945.
I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a businessman who is dynamic, very friendly, smiling, and without vanity, and whose Belgian education at l’Institut Saint-Louis in Brussels as well as 43 years of living in Belgium have not erased his Britishness.
At the time of the German invasion, in May 1940, Mr. Britton was
eager to return to Great Britain to volunteer for the war.
Assigned to the Grenadiere Guards (that is to say that Mr. Britton is
no wimp!) he progressed quickly to the Intelligence Corps. In this
security service he served in Africa and the Tunisian campaign in 1942, as well as the landing in Sicily in 1943.
In June 1944, he participated in the landing in Europe and was with
Montgomery’s army in Normandy, Lille, Brussels, Nimegue, and the
Ardennes, reaching the Rhine in 1945.
Mr. Britton has received many impressive British military
distinctions . . . but you have to make him talk about them in order
to be aware of them.
Just as we had to do in order to get him to confide in us the
impressions that Himmler left with him.
The Reichsfuhrer remains, for him, an S.S. like the others, who had
to be “rolled over” (interrogated or searched?) when he appeared on
the bridge, hoping to pass by unnoticed with his eight day old beard,
his long hair, his phony wounded disguise, and his demobilzation
papers rubber stamped by the Wehrmacht.
Mr. Britton feels very simply that he was lucky to be more informed
than Himmler . . . and that’s all!
He finds that it was not for nothing that they had “drilled” at the
Intelligence Corps before beginning the pursuit of the S.S., that he
was taught to recognize the Wehrmacht stamps . . . and others, and
that they had familiarized him with the arrogant behavior that German officers generally had toward their inferiors.
Also, Mr. Britton thinks that they benefited from those naive S.S.
who had told them that they had left two of their comrades at a farm
in the area.
From that day forward, the head guard at the Bremervorde bridge
redoubled their efforts, keeping their eyes open so that nothing was
allowed to pass by them unnoticed.
After that, there was a ceaseless effort to uncover the two escapees.
That they would appear at his bridge with a third man would not help
them . . . at Bremervorde everyone was on the lookout!
As I asked Mr. Britton why he kept a precise memory of Himmler, he
answered that it was certainly not because of his exterior personality.
Himmler the man had nothing about him to draw attention.
“. . . He looked like a vanquished German, just like all the others.
Of medium stature, he made no impression. Neither his appearance nor his way of expressing himself would lead you to guess that you were face to face with the most sinister and cruel potentate of the S.S. Also he did not appear to be a leader of men or a chief. He did not look like a great man . . . not even a gentleman. During the interrogation, he presented himself flat as a fig. He
remained guarded, his heels together, obsequious like any other pale
“Fritz” who is innocent of Nazi crimes. He looked like a man without a
past! . . .”
If however Mr. Britton remembers Himmler, it’s because of his eye
patch, no doubt, because it evoked pity for a wound. Then it was
because of the blunder made by the overly zealous lieutenant: it was,
finally, because of the counterfeit rubber stamp of the Wehrmacht.
Also he did not hesitate an instant to inscribe on the arrest
mandate: S. D. (Sicherheidsdienst: S.S. security service).
A Memory: the Gestapo Chief’s Slippers
Naturally Sergeant Britton was informed immediately of Himmler’s
identity and of the importance of his successful arrest.
Confident in his abilities, his superiors sent him to the farm where
Himmler had hidden in order to find his baggage.
He found only one suitcase containing underwear and a manicure set
made of gold, engraved with the initials R.F.H.H. (Reischsfuhrer
Always the gentleman, he returned the valise intact to the
But his superiors had the sense of humor to give him Himmler’s
sllippers. So for one day, the improbable happened and Britton became an old duffer padding about in his slippers.
Today, Sergeant Britton, now Mr. Britton, is a businessman like any
other. Visibly, Himmler does not haunt his memory.
When he thinks about it, it is to regret most of all that the
Intelligence Corps could not deliver him to his trial.
But that is another story.
I tried to evoke memories or impressions from Mr. Britton in order to
show publicly an homage to his perspicacity, to be sure, but also
because this witness who had no idea who he was arresting when he
arrested Himmler, confirms what historians generally tell us about the
pale and inoffensive person who was truly the most sinister of the
This is not the least of paradoxes in the life of the monster of
monsters who left to history the halo of a colorless being, though
full of mystery, after having been the man who exercised the most
colossal power ever seen in crime.
Thus Himmler, whose career was death every day, will appear to future generations as mysterious as the hideous Nazi death that he created, mysterious and enigmatic, for all time, in all of Europe, enslaved in his bloody yoke.
Heinrich Himmler & his daughter Gudrun
As head of the S.S. from 1929 to 1945, Himmler had a very powerful and central role in the Holocaust. In his sixteen-year term he succeeded in recruiting more than 50,000 soldiers. With his well-built army and strong leadership, he was able to supply enough man power to help capture and murder nine million people. Through the help of the S.S., the Nazis were able to maintain control of the many different camps around Europe. Himmler' s pride for his S.S. and devotion to exterminate the "non-Aryan race," is evident from his speech in October of 1943. He defines the "S.S. as a National Socialist Order of men selected for their Nordic characteristics and a sworn blood brotherhood," and states that the S.S. are "brave enough to be unpopular . . . brave enough to be hardhearted and unfeeling!" (Ackermann, 105). In this same speech he explains to his S.S. general that "the Jewish people are being exterminated . . . and most of you will know what it is like to see a hundred corpses lying together, or 500 or 1000 . . . This is a glorious page of our history" (Ackermann, 105). Himmler, like Hitler, felt that even though Jews are "identically biological . . . with human looking features, they are mentally and spiritually lower than any animal; sub-human" (Ackermann, 109). Himmler was captured and put in a British prison for his heinous actions, but like Hitler, his most ardent follower was able to escape prosecution by committing suicide.
Gudrun Himmler's reaction to her father's role was completely opposite of the Frank brothers'. Her father had one of the most powerful roles during the Holocaust, but Gudrun refused to see it. Her love and respect for her father kept her alive and constantly fighting for her name. "At fourteen . . . she cut out every picture of him from the newspapers and glued them into a large scrapbook" (Lebert, 155). After they were captured, Gudrun and her mother were put in jail after jail and left with nothing. Even through the ruthless interrogations at the Nuremberg trials, "she vowed herself to him. She did not weep, but went on hunger strikes. She lost weight, fell sick, and stopped developing" (Lebert, 157). When Gudrun found out that her father had committed suicide, "the fifteen-year-old suffered a psychological and medical breakdown. Shivering . . . day and night she lay delirious on the bed in her cell" (Lebert, 164). Even after the trials were over, Gudrun and her mother were forced to live in a protestant nursing home at Bethel under an alias, because they did not have any money or valuables. Gudrun struggled with her everyday life because of her name. She was denied acceptance to schools, turned down by scholarship programs, and was unable to receive a job. Due to the fact that she refused to take on another name, she constantly had "to start from scratch, introduce herself, say her name, her father' s name" (Lebert, 179). Even through her adulthood, Gudrun stayed faithful to her father. In a 1999 interview she talked about trying to save enough money to go to America and examine the evidence that would help her compare her childhood memories with the documents stating her father's views, and the orders he gave. Ultimately, her goal is to write a book called "simply Heinrich Himmler . . . to clear her father' s name" (Lebert, 155).
Clearly, the reactions of Gudrun, Norman, and Niklas are each unique. Their fathers' actions during, and fate after the Holocaust, prove to be significant landmarks in their lives. Even though Himmler and Frank' s children reacted differently, their lives were severely altered. Gudrun Himmler was unable to maintain a job because of her Himmler name, Norman Frank did not start a family to "rid the world of the Frank name," and Niklas Frank devoted a large part of his life to writing about his negative views on his father. Himmler and Frank's roles during the Holocaust and the Nuremberg Trials seem to be prominent events in the way their children's lives ended up. Ultimately, in studying and comparing the lives of only two Nazi families, it is clear that the events that happened during and after the reign of the Third Reich seriously affected the destiny of the children of Nazi leaders.
THE NAZI NECROMANCER?
by Liam Rogers
(Published at Lughnasa 2000)
Martin Bormann's fourteen-year-old son was a passionate young Nazi going into that day in 1944. He was staying up at the Nazi leaders' compound on Obersalzberg, whilst on holiday from his boarding school in Bavaria, when he saw something that brought the horrors of the National Socialist regime shockingly home to him. He, with his mother and younger sister, were invited by Himmler's mistress, Hedwig Potthast, to see the Reichsführer's special collection in the attic of his new house there. Martin Bormann Jr told this horrific story to a therapy group of the children of former high-ranking Nazis in 1990:
"When she opened the door and we flocked in, we didn't understand what the objects in the room were - until she explained ... It was tables and chairs made out of parts of human bodies. There was a chair ... the seat was a human pelvis, the legs human legs - on human feet. Then she picked up a copy of Mein Kampf ... she showed us the cover - made of human skin, she said - and explained that the Dachau prisoners who made it used the ... skin of the back to make it." [Sereny]
This, then, was the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler's collection of mementoes from the concentration camps and extermination centres that killed and tortured millions of innocent people - crimes for which he was directly responsible.
Himmler: the man behind the Holocaust
His gruesome collection sits rather oddly with the picture of the man we see from those who knew him. Many have described Himmler as coming across as a kindly, eccentric schoolmaster. Field Marshall von Blomberg's aide, Karl Boehm-Tettelbach, liked Himmler more than the other Nazis he met:
"He was a very nice and agreeable guest because he always involved younger people like me and would enquire about the air force, how I was getting along, how long I would be with Blomberg, if I liked it, what I had seen the last trip to Hungary and things like that." [Rees]
And whilst he ran the administrative side of the "final solution" with meticulous efficiency, he had literally no stomach for the reality of mass murder. His persistent stomach pains are thought to have been psychosomatic, caused by the suppressed guilt of the former Catholic about what his SS was doing in the name of the German people. Unfortunately fewer may have died if his doubts hadn't caused this stomach ailment, as in August 1941 he had an experience that may have speeded up the extermination programme. On that day, SS officer Erich von dem Bach Zewelski stood beside Himmler as he watched an Einsatzgruppe (SS extermination squad) shoot a hundred people, including women, in Minsk. He reports:
"When the first shots were heard and the victims collapsed, Himmler began to feel ill. He reeled, almost fell to the ground, then pulled himself together. Then he hurled abuse at the firing squad because of their poor marksmanship. Some of the women were still alive, for the bullets had simply wounded them." [Graber]
A residue of humanity, then, that made him ill, led Himmler to order soon afterwards that women and children should be killed in gas vans - a decision that led to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of which could hold up to three thousand victims at a time, and where Eichmann reckoned that two and a half million Jews alone were systematically murdered. [Hoess]
Why would such a mild-mannered bureaucrat as Himmler so ruthlessly attempt to destroy an entire race and subject Germany and the occupied territories to a reign of terror? Partly, I think, because of his own neo-pagan beliefs, and partly due to an unswerving loyalty to Adolf Hitler - whose rabid anti-Semitism Himmler sought to justify by researching proof for Aryan superiority in the Germans' pagan past.
The SS and neo-paganism
The Nazi Party was more a mass movement than a political party, it was also a pseudo-religious movement - even perhaps a cult. Aleister Crowley realised this, and spoke of Hitler thus:
"His magical technique was indescribably admirable; he adopted the swastika, the Hammer of Thor, the distinctive dress, the slogan, the gestures, the greeting; he even imposed a Sacred Book upon the people." [Crowley]
The Party also adopted a set of seasonal festivals. The cycle started with the Day of the Seizure of Power (30th of January), continuing with February the 24th's commemoration of the Party's foundation, the National Day of Mourning in March, Hitler's birthday on April the 20th, May Day (called the National Day of Labour), Mothering Sunday, the Summer Solstice, the Nuremberg Party Assembly, Harvest Thanksgiving Day, the anniversary of the attempted Munich Putsch on November the 9th, ending with the Winter Solstice. [Grunberger]
Much could be written on the subject of the pagan aura of the Nazi Party and its regime, but here I want to focus on the "high priest" of its "knightly Order" - Heinrich Himmler and his SS. The Nazi slogan "Blood and Soil", indicating its tying together of the destiny of the German people with the very earth of the Fatherland and its glorification of agriculture and those who worked on the land, would have appealed greatly to the young Himmler who joined the Party in 1923 in time to take part in the Munich putsch - Hitler's first attempt to snatch the reins of power.
Himmler had already been moving nationalist circles and was associated with the Germanenorden (a secret society which established lodges based on those of freemasonry) and its offshoot the Thule Society, which had also inspired the birth of the German Workers Party (which was to be hijacked by Hitler and become the National Socialist Workers Party). The Thule Society was named after the Ultima Thule, the alleged birthplace of the Germanic race - members had to prove racial purity for at least three generations.[Padfield]
Peter Padfield notes that from late 1923 to early 1924, Himmler's reading included books on spiritualism, second sight, astrology, telepathy and the like. Himmler was interested also in herbalism, rural life and agriculture [Graber] - he was rather a "back-to-nature", "New Age" sort of man. His activities and growing beliefs led him to renounce his once strong faith in the Catholic Church by the summer of 1924.[Padfield]
Eventually, in 1929, he became the head of the then small and rather unimportant Schutzstaffel - the nightmare SS of the impending Third Reich.
The SS was modeled on the Teutonic Knights, an offshoot of the Knights Templar who were thought to have custody of the Holy Grail (as well as the ancient Indian warrior caste of the Kshatriya). Therefore SS teams were sent in search of the Grail, as well as the Ark of the Covenant. At first it would seem a little strange that a man who had renounced Christianity and oversaw the systematic murder of millions of Jews should be interested in such relics but the theory was that Jesus was Aryan and his father a Roman. The Grail that held his blood could therefore add to SS research into Aryan bloodlines. Himmler also wanted the spear that wounded Christ on the cross - the Spear of Longinus - which Hitler nabbed from a Vienna museum following the annexation of Austria in 1938. Hitler, a fan of Wagner's Parsifal in which the Spear appears, insisted on keeping it for himself - the story that Hitler's copy of the opera had notes in it showing Hitler to be a skilled magician planning an evil ritual with the spear is not one I give any credence to! The spear in question is medieval anyway. [Dyson, Carroll, Rainey]
A speech Himmler made to senior SS men in 1942 reveals his attitude towards Christianity:
"This Christendom, this greatest pestilence which could have befallen us in history, which has weakened us for every conflict, we must finish with."[Padfield]
SS families received a "Yule-tide candleholder" copied from "an old specimen handed down from the early past of our Volk" instead of Christian Christmas gifts. In 1937 Himmler's personal staff began to plan a cultural framework designed to replace Christianity, a project that led to the opening of the Deutschrechtliche Institute at the University of Bonn the following year which researched into Germanic pre-history. Himmler also set himself to constantly improve the solstice celebrations that he felt had the deepest significance, and designed special SS wedding ceremonies. [Padfield]
It has been claimed (most speculatively) that Albrecht Haushofer (son of Karl, the geopolitician) who Hess knew from university had been a student of Gurdijeff and had set up the Vril Society (a lodge claiming contact with Shambhala, the Tibetan otherworld) and that Hitler and Himmler were members.
Himmler did know Haushofer (who knowingly or not seems to have been one of Himmler's spies in the resistance[Padfield]) but I seriously doubt that the Vril Society really existed. That said, Himmler did send SS research teams to Tibet, and Russian troops entering Berlin in 1945 found Tibetans who had committed ritual suicide wearing SS uniforms. [Dyson, Carroll] What it all adds up to is anyone's guess.
Many amongst the Nazi leadership found Himmler rather a figure of fun and would often take the mickey out of him and his mystification of the SS (only behind this very dangerous man's back, though!). Architect, construction supremo, and armaments minister Albert Speer reports Hitler as saying of Himmler:
"What nonsense! Here we have a last reached an age that has left all mysticism behind it, and now he wants to start all over again. We might just as well have stayed with the church ... To think that I may some day be turned into an SS saint! I would turn over in my grave..."[Speer]
Himmler's intense interest in Germanic paganism is illustrated well by a letter that he wrote to the head of the Ahnernebe (a historical and cultural research unit that Himmler had incorporated into the SS). He believed the ancient Germans enacted legal ordinances and marriages upon ancient stones at burial places of the clan (Sippe), and had come across the following custom that he claimed had survived up to 1930:
"If there was a girl in a village who had reached marriageable age and not found a man, the father went out on a moon-dark night, that is at new moon, with the girl and the villagers. The girl was placed on the dolmen or ancestral burial, the villagers stood in a wide circle around this stone, face outward. The father had spoken beforehand with a villager, thus with one of the blood-community. This man took himself from the ring to the ancestral burial and coupled with the girl. The love and sexual act took place on the ancestral burial ... What was done was no casual act, but took place in the sight of the ancestors and on the grave of the ancestors."[Padfield]
He goes on to suggest lines of research for after the war. That he still took time for such matters in August 1944 - with the Eastern Front collapsing, SS squads abusing and killing "partisans" and Germans who dared retreat, with the killing factories working overtime, and himself rooting out disloyal or troublesome factors in Germany (this was just after the bomb attack on Hitler) - says a lot about the man and his beliefs.
His own views about immortality owe something to Hinduism as well as Germanic beliefs in rebirth in the Sippe via the transmission of the bloodline
- not at all incongruous since both beliefs are linked via the spread of Indo-European, or "Aryan", culture (the word comes from the Sanskrit Aryas
- meaning "noble" or "freeman" - and Swastika is Sanskrit also). [Berresford Ellis] Speaking, in 1937, of the idea of rebirth in the Sippe, Himmler said:
"A Volk that has this belief in rebirth and that honours its ancestors, and in so doing honours itself, always has children, and this Volk has eternal life." [Padfield]
He even ordered 20,000 copies of Karl Eckhart's Earthly Immortality: German belief in reincarnation in the Sippe for the SS.
This belief, as well as that of the SS being the noble warrior caste of the Third Reich, is reflected in his instructions for a great triptych for the entrance hall of Wewelsberg Castle - the symbolic seat of SS power. Of the first painting he wanted a depiction of "the attack of an SS troop in war, in which I envisage the representation of a dead or mortally wounded SS man, who is married, to show that from death itself and despite it new life springs". The next panel would show SS men tilling the newly won land, and the final panel would show a new village full of families with many children. [Padfield]
This idea is also reflected in the rather macabre "death's head" insignia adopted by SS killing squads - death and killing were necessary and noble as they kept the folk community pure and vibrant. Himmler could use this same idea to purge whole families such as the von Stauffenbergs (the family of the July 20th 1944 bomber). Witness a speech Himmler made to district leaders:
"You only need to look up the Germanic Sagas. If they proscribed a family and outlawed them, or if there was a blood feud in the family, then they were drastically thorough ... they said, 'This man is a traitor, the blood is bad, there is bad blood in them, that will be eradicated'. And in the case of a blood feud it was eradicated down to the last member of the whole Sippe. The family of Graf Stauffenberg will be extinguished to the last member..." [Padfield]
He then mercilessly hunted down the family, even to distant relatives and had them executed or shipped to concentration camps. Similarly, the disabled or mentally ill were killed or sterilised so as not to pass on their "bad blood", and Germans who had intercourse with slave workers, Jews or other "inferiors" were harshly punished. On the other hand, the "elite" SS were rewarded for having children, and had special brothels - the children of which were supported by the state.
The SS and Earth Mysteries
Archaeology in the SS was mainly carried out by the Ahnernebe, whose "cultural research" also included devilish experiments on the inmates of the concentration camps. The idea of landscape alignments linking supposed sacred sites of the ancient Germanic people - that were being dubbed "leys" in Britain - appealed to Himmler, and many of the pioneers in this area were soon working for the Ahnernebe. "They looked for evidence of ancient landscape surveys in order to substantiate Germany's claims as the home of civilisation, and where proof of the primaeval skills of the race was lacking, it could be fabricated." [Harte]
Indeed, so sparse and unimpressive were the finds from some of the pivotal sites in these grand landscape schemes that the evidence had to be manipulated or just plain invented. Hitler was rather embarrassed by Himmler's obsession with the past:
"Why do we call the whole world's attention to the fact that we have no past? It isn't enough that the Romans were erecting great buildings when our forefathers were still living in mud huts; now Himmler is starting to dig up these villages of mud huts and enthusing over every potsherd and stone axe he finds. All we prove by that is that we were still throwing stone hatchets and crouching around open fires when Greece and Rome had already reached the highest stage of culture. We really should do our best to keep quiet about this past. Instead Himmler makes a great fuss about it all. The present-day Romans must be having a laugh at these relegations." [Speer]
The Ahnernebe, following the theories of Wilhelm Teudt, found ancient Germanic "star temples" where sightlines supposedly radiated out towards important positions of sun, moon, and stars. These calendrical centres tended to turn up near SS colleges, and were often just natural rock formations, medieval remains, and in one case an old farm refuse tip![Magin]
The most famous Nazi sacred centre was the Externsteine near Detmold, north-east of Dortmund. Here stand four spectacular columns of rock, one of which has a small chapel cut into it. The window of the chapel admits the rising sun at midsummer.
According to Teudt this was where the sacred pillar of the Saxons, Irminsul, stood until toppled by Charlemagne (it almost certainly didn't), and a carving of a "weeping Irminsul" is supposed to be on one of the pillars of rock. [Schmidt] The Externsteine was at the centre of alignments (never statistically tested by the Nazis) and was supposed to have been a sacred centre before Stonehenge. [Magin] Excavations in the 1930's found only pottery from the seventh century CE, and the majority from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries.[Schmidt] The chapel is actually Christian, not pagan, and probably medieval.[Devereux]
Still, none of this mattered too much in a totalitarian state with "Spin Doctors" better than Tony Blair's, and the Externsteine became a major Nazi cult centre. Even today thousands of pagans come to this Christian site for the summer solstice, and neo-Nazis still gather here on November the first. The two groups are not entirely separate.[Schmidt]
The Castle of Wewelsberg
Fascinated by tales of King Arthur and his knights, Himmler's "Camelot" for his own knightly Order was the castle of Wewelsberg near Paderborn in Westphalia. Having acquired it in 1934, Himmler had massive reconstruction work done (paid for by his company "The Society for the Protection and Maintenance of German Cultural Monuments") - the labour came, of course, from the concentration camps.
The focal point of the castle was a huge round oak table with seating for his twelve of his senior Gruppenführers:
"They sat in high-backed chairs made out of pigskin, on each of which was a silver disk on which the selected 'knight' had his name engraved. Here the chiefs of the SS were compelled to sit in the company of their Grand Master [Himmler] for hours of contemplation and meditation ... Each 'knight' had his own quarters in the castle..."[Graber]
Beneath this room was a crypt containing pedestals where should one of the "knights" die an urn containing his ashes [Graber] or his coat of arms [Padfield] would be burnt. Vents in the ceiling would allow those in the main hall to see the smoke rise or "the spirit ascend into a type of Valhalla". [Graber]
Himmler's own private rooms in the castle were dedicated to the tenth-century Saxon King Heinrich the first (also known as Henry the Fowler) decked out in period fashion. According to Himmler's masseur, Himmler believed he was the reincarnation of the king, although Padfield notes that this sits uneasily with Himmler's ideas of life after death (by physical transmission of blood in the clan). Himmler shared his Christian name with the king, and may have felt he was an honorary member of a royal clan. His father had been tutor to Prince Heinrich of Bavaria, and the young Himmler was not only named for him but was the Prince's godson.[Padfield] Whatever the case, at midnight each July 2nd (the anniversary of the Saxon king's death) he would apparently commune in silence with King Heinrich. [Graber]
Necromancy or imagination? I wouldn't like to say for sure, when would the chronically overworked Reichsführer find time to learn the art? Still, it is a tempting conclusion to jump to. Any necromancers out there fancy asking him?
Himmler's Speech to the SS Group Commanders
February 18, 1937
In a particularly convoluted piece of Nazi logic, Heinrich Himmler put homosexuality under the ideology of racial theory and racial purity. Drawing upon the fact that Germany had lost over 2 million men during WWI, thus creating a serious imbalance in the reproductive sex ratio, he added an estimated 2 million homosexuals who had doubled the imbalance. Never mind the fact that they were not going to procreate anyway, Himmler proceeded to use those facts as a rationale for bringing homosexuality under Nazi racial policy. Portions of that speech follow:
If you further take into account the facts that I have not yet mentioned, namely that with a static number of women, we have two million men too few on account of those who fell in the war, then you can well imagine how this imbalance of two million homosexuals and two million war dead, or in other words a lack of about four million men capable of having sex, has upset the sexual balance sheet of Germany, and will result in a catastrophe.
I would like to develop a couple of ideas for you on the question of homosexuality. There are those homosexuals who take the view: what I do is my business, a purely private matter. However, all things which take place in the sexual sphere are not the private affair of the individual, but signify the life and death of the nation, signify world power...
After likening the homosexual who was killed and thrown into a peat bog to the weeding process in a garden, Himmler continued his tirade:
...In the SS, today, we still have about one case of homosexuality a month. In a whole year, about eight to ten cases occur in the entire SS. I have now decided upon the following: in each case, these people will naturally be publicly degraded, expelled, and handed over to the courts. Following completion of the punishment imposed by the court, they will be sent, by my order, to a concentration camp, and they will be shot in the concentration camp, while attempting to escape. I will make that known by order to the unit to which the person so infected belonged. Thereby, I hope finally to have done with persons of this type in the SS, and the increasingly healthy blood which we are cultivating for Germany, will be kept pure.
Over the next two years, an intricate network of informants was developed. School children were encouraged to inform on teachers they suspected of homosexuality, employers on employees and vice versa. Homosexuals who were arrested were used to create lists of homosexuals or suspected homosexuals. The clear intention was to identify every homosexual in Germany and move them to concentration camps.
Himmler clearly recognized that these strategies would not solve the sexual imbalance problem in Germany. Instead, the purpose of the plan was, in Himmler's own words, to "identify" the homosexual and remove them from society. He still needed a rationale for exterminating them. As in the case with the Gypsies , Himmler fell back on "medical science" as the solution to the homosexuality problem.