Heinrich Himmler

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Heinrich Luitpold Himmler
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Henrihs Himlers, Ге́нрих Ги́ммлер, Heinrich Luitpold Himmler, Генрих Гиммлер, Heinrihs Himmlers
Military person, Nazi, War criminal
Berlin, Кладбище (ru)

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler, was Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) of Nazi Germany.

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler later appointed him Commander of the Replacement (Home) Army and General Plenipotentiary for the entire Reich's administration (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung). Himmler was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and one of the persons most directly responsible for the Holocaust.

As a member of a reserve battalion during World War I, Himmler did not see active service. He studied agronomy in college, and joined the Nazi Party in 1923 and the SS in 1925. In 1929, he was appointed Reichsführer-SS by Hitler. Himmler developed the SS into a powerful group with its own military, and, following Hitler's orders, set up and controlled the Nazi concentration camps. He was known to have good organisational skills and for selecting highly competent subordinates, such as Reinhard Heydrich in 1931. From 1943 forward, he was both Chief of German Police and Minister of the Interior, overseeing all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo (Secret State Police).

On Hitler's behalf, Himmler formed the Einsatzgruppen and built extermination camps. As facilitator and overseer of the concentration camps, Himmler directed the killing of some six million Jews, between 200,000 and 500,000 Romani people, and other victims; the total number of civilians killed by the regime is estimated at eleven to fourteen million people. Most of them were Polish and Soviet citizens.

Late in World War II, Hitler charged Himmler with the command of the Army Group Upper Rhine and the Army Group Vistula; he failed to achieve his assigned objectives and Hitler replaced him in these posts. Shortly before the end of the war, without the knowledge of Hitler, he attempted to open peace talks with the western Allies. Hearing of this, Hitler dismissed him from all his posts in April 1945. Upon realizing that the war was lost, Himmler attempted to go into hiding. He was detained and then arrested by British forces once his identity became known. While in British custody, he committed suicide on 23 May 1945.


Early life

Himmler in 1907

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was born in Munich on 7 October 1900 to a conservative Roman Catholic middle-class family. His father was Gebhard Himmler, a teacher, and his mother was Anna Maria Himmler (née Heyder), a devout Roman Catholic. His older brother, Gebhard Ludwig, was born in July 1898, and his younger brother, Ernst, was born in 1905.

Himmler's first name, Heinrich, was the same as that of his godfather, Prince Heinrich of Bavaria of theroyal family of Bavaria, who was tutored by Gebhard Himmler. He attended a grammar school inLandshut where his father was deputy principal. While he did well in his schoolwork, he struggled in athletics. His health was poor, with lifelong stomach complaints and other ailments. He trained daily with weights as a youth and exercised to become stronger. Fellow students remembered him as studious, and awkward in social situations.

Himmler's diary, which he kept intermittently from age 10, shows that he took a keen interest in current events, dueling, and "the serious discussion of religion and sex". In 1915, he began training with the Landshut Cadet Corps. His father used his connections with the royal family to get Himmler accepted as an officer candidate, and he enlisted with the reserve battalion of the 11th Bavarian Regiment in December 1917. His brother, Gebhard, served on the western front and saw combat; he received the Iron Cross and was eventually promoted to lieutenant. In November 1918, while Himmler was still in training, the war ended with Germany's defeat, denying him the opportunity to become an officer or see combat. After his discharge on 18 December, he returned to Landshut.

After the war, Himmler completed his grammar-school education. From 1919–1922, he studied agronomy at the Munich Technische Hochschule (now Technical University Munich) following a brief apprenticeship on a farm and a subsequent illness.

Although many regulations that discriminated against non-Christians—including Jews and other minority groups—had been eliminated during the unification of Germany in 1871, antisemitism continued to exist and thrive in Germany and other parts of Europe.

 Himmler was antisemitic by the time he went to university, but not exceptionally so; students at his school would avoid their Jewish classmates.He remained a devoted Catholic while a student, and spent most of his leisure time with members of his fencing fraternity, the "League of Apollo", the president of which was Jewish. Himmler maintained a polite demeanor with him and with Jewish members of the fraternity, in spite of his growing antisemitism.

 During his second year at university, Himmler redoubled his attempts to pursue a military career. Although he was not successful, he was able to extend his involvement in the paramilitary scene in Munich. It was at this time that he first met Ernst Röhm, an early member of the Nazi party and co-founder of the Sturmabteilung ("Storm Battalion"; SA). Himmler admired Röhm because he was a decorated combat soldier, and at his suggestion, Himmler joined his antisemitic nationalist group, theReichskriegsflagge.

In 1922, Himmler became more interested in the 'Jewish question', with his diary entries containing an increasing number of antisemitic remarks and recording a number of discussions about Jews with his classmates. His reading lists, as recorded in his diary, were dominated by antisemitic pamphlets, German myths, and occult tracts. After the murder of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau on 24 June, Himmler's political views veered towards the radical right, and he took part in demonstrations against the Treaty of Versailles. Hyperinflation was raging that summer, and his parents could no longer afford to keep all three sons in school. Disappointed by his failure to make a career in the military and his parents' inability to finance his doctoral studies, he was forced to take a low-paying office job after obtaining his agricultural diploma. He remained in this position until September 1923.

Nazi activist

Himmler joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in August 1923; his Party number was 14,303. As a member of Röhm's paramilitary unit, Himmler was involved in the Beer Hall Putsch—an unsuccessful attempt by Hitler and the NSDAP to seize power in Munich. This event would set Himmler on a life of politics. He was questioned by the police about his role in the putsch, but was not charged because of insufficient evidence. But he lost his job, was unable to find employment as an agronomist, and had to move in with his parents in Munich. Frustrated by these failures, he became ever more irritable, aggressive, and opinionated, alienating both friends and family members.

In 1923–24, Himmler, while searching for a world view, moved away from Catholicism and furthered his interest both in the occult and in antisemitism. Germanic mythology, reinforced by occult ideas, became a substitute religion for him. Himmler found the NSDAP appealing because its political positions agreed with his own views. Initially, he was not swept up by Hitler's charisma or the cult of Führer worship. As he learned more about Hitler through his reading, he began to regard him as a useful face of the party, and he later admired and even worshipped him.

To consolidate and advance his own position in the NSDAP, Himmler took advantage of the disarray in the party following Hitler's arrest in the wake of the Beer Hall Putsch. From mid-1924 he worked under Gregor Strasser as a party secretary and propaganda assistant. Travelling all over Bavaria agitating for the party, he gave speeches and distributed literature. Placed in charge of the party office in Lower Bavaria by Strasser from late 1924, he was responsible for integrating the area's membership with the NSDAP under Hitler when the party was re-founded in February 1925.

That same year, he joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) as an SS-Führer (SS-Leader); his SS number was 168. The SS, initially part of the much larger SA, was formed in 1923 for Hitler's personal protection, and was re-formed in 1925 as an elite unit of the SA. Himmler's first leadership position in the SS was that of SS-Gauführer (district leader) in Lower Bavaria from 1926. Strasser appointed Himmler deputy propaganda chief in January 1927. As was typical in the NSDAP, he had considerable freedom of action in his post, which increased over time. He began to collect statistics on the number of Jews, Freemasons, and enemies of the party, and following his strong need for control, he developed an elaborate bureaucracy. In September 1927, Himmler told Hitler of his vision to transform the SS into a loyal, powerful, racially-pure elite unit. Convinced that Himmler was the man for the job, Hitler appointed him Deputy Reichsführer-SS, with the rank of SS-Oberführer.

Around this time, Himmler joined the Artaman League, a Völkisch youth group. There he met Rudolf Höss, who was later commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, and Walther Darré, whose book, The Peasantry as the Life Source of the Nordic Race, caught Hitler's attention, leading to his later appointment as Reich Minister of Food and Agriculture. Darré was a firm believer in the superiority of the Nordic race, and his philosophy was a major influence on Himmler.

Rise in the SS

Himmler in early SS uniform, with rank of Oberführer

Upon the resignation of SS commander Erhard Heiden in 1929, Himmler assumed the position of Reichsführer-SS with Hitler's approval; he still carried out his duties at propaganda headquarters. One of his first responsibilities was to organise SS participants at the Nuremberg Rally that September. Over the next year, Himmler grew the SS from a force of about 290 men to about 3,000. By 1930 Himmler had persuaded Hitler to run the SS as a separate organisation, although it was still subordinate to the SA.

Main article: Machtergreifung

To gain political power, the NSDAP took advantage of the economic downturn during the Great Depression. The coalition government of the Weimar Republic was unable to improve the economy, so many voters turned to the NSDAP. Hitler used populist rhetoric, including blaming scapegoats—particularly the Jews—for the economic hardships. In the 1932 election, the Nazis won 37.3 percent of the vote and 230 seats in the Reichstag.

Hitler led a short-lived coalition government and was appointed chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg on 30 January 1933. Hindenburg appointed Hermann Göring as minister without portfolio, Minister of the Interior for Prussia, and Reich Commissioner of Aviation, and named Wilhelm Frick as Reich Interior Minister.

 Less than a month later, the Reichstag building was set on fire. Hitler took advantage of this event, forcing von Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended basic rights and allowed detention without trial. The Enabling Act, passed by the Reichstag in 1933, gave Hitler and his party full legislative powers, and the country became a de facto dictatorship. After the death of von Hindenburg in August 1934, the Reichstag appointed Hitler Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor); he thus became head of state as well as head of government. The post of president was eliminated.

The Nazi Party's rise to power provided Himmler and the SS an unfettered opportunity to thrive. By 1933, the SS numbered 52,000 members. Strict membership requirements ensured that all members were of Hitler's Aryan Herrenvolk ("Aryan master race"). Applicants were vetted for Nordic qualities—in Himmler's words, "like a nursery gardener trying to reproduce a good old strain which has been adulterated and debased; we started from the principles of plant selection and then proceeded quite unashamedly to weed out the men whom we did not think we could use for the build-up of the SS." Few dared mention that by his own standards, Himmler did not meet his own ideals.

Himmler's organised, bookish intellect served him well as he began setting up different SS departments. In 1931 he appointed Reinhard Heydrich chief of the new 'Ic Service' (intelligence service), which was renamed the Sicherheitsdienst (SD: Security Service) in 1932. He later officially appointed Heydrich his deputy. The two men had a good working relationship and a mutual respect. 

In 1933, they began to remove the SS from SA control. Along with Interior Minister Frick, they hoped to create a unified German police force. In March 1933, Reich Governor of Bavaria Franz Ritter von Epp appointed Himmler chief of the Munich Police. Himmler appointed Heydrich commander of Department IV, the political police. That same year, Hitler promoted Himmler to the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer, equal in rank to the senior SA commanders. Thereafter, Himmler and Heydrich took over the political police of state after state; soon only Prussia was controlled by Göring.

Himmler further established the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt or RuSHA), a racist and antisemitic organisation. He appointed Darré as its first chief, with the rank of SS-Gruppenführer. The department implemented racial policies and monitored the "racial integrity" of the SS membership. SS men were carefully vetted for their racial background and were required to get racial certificates of any prospective spouses. Each man was issued a Sippenbuch, a genealogical record detailing his genetic history. Himmler expected that each SS marriage should produce at least four children, thus creating a pool of genetically superior prospective SS members. The programme had disappointing results; less than 40 per cent of SS men married and each produced only about one child.

Himmler (front right, beside prisoner) visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp in 1936

In March 1933, less than three months after the Nazis seized power, Himmler set up the first official concentration camp at Dachau. Hitler had stated that he did not want it to be just another prison or detention camp. Himmler appointed Theodor Eicke, a convicted felon and ardent Nazi, to run the camp in June 1933. Eicke devised a system that was used as a model for future camps throughout Germany. Its features included isolation of victims from the outside world, elaborate roll calls and work details, the use of force and executions to extract obedience, and a strict disciplinary code for the guards. Uniforms were issued for prisoners and guards alike; the guards' uniforms had a special death's head insignia on their collars. By the end of 1934, Himmler took control of the camps under the aegis of the SS, creating a separate division, the SS-Totenkopfverbände.

Initially the camps housed political opponents; over time, undesirable members of German society—criminals, vagrants, deviants—were placed in the camps as well. A Hitler decree issued in December 1937 allowed for the incarceration of anyone deemed by the regime to be an undesirable member of society. This included Jews, Gypsies, communists, and those persons of any other cultural, racial, political, or religious affiliation deemed by the Nazis to be Untermensch (sub-human). Thus, the camps became a mechanism for social and racial engineering. By the outbreak of World War II in autumn 1939, there were six camps housing some 27,000 inmates. Death tolls were high.

Consolidation of power Main article: Night of the Long Knives

In early 1934, Hitler and other Nazi leaders became concerned that Röhm was planning a coup d'état. Röhm had socialist and populist views, and believed that the real revolution had not yet begun. He felt that the SA—now numbering some three million men—should become the sole arms-bearing corps of the state, and that the army should be absorbed into the SA under his leadership. Röhm lobbied Hitler to appoint him Minister of Defence, a position held by conservative General Werner von Blomberg.

Göring had established a Prussian police force, called the Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapo in November 1933, and appointed Rudolf Diels as its head. Göring, concerned that Diels was not ruthless enough to use the Gestapo effectively to counteract the power of the SA, handed over its control to Himmler on 20 April 1934. Also on that date, Hitler appointed Himmler chief of all German police outside Prussia. Heydrich, named chief of the Gestapo by Himmler on 22 April 1934, also continued as head of the SD.

Hitler decided on 21 June that Röhm and the SA leadership had to be eliminated. He sent Göring to Berlin on 29 June, to meet with Himmler and Heydrich to plan the action. Hitler took charge in Munich, where Röhm was arrested; he gave Röhm the choice to commit suicide or be shot. When Röhm refused to kill himself, he was shot dead by two SS officers.

Between 85 to 200 members of the SA leadership and other political adversaries, including Gregor Strasser, were killed between 30 June and 2 July 1934 in these actions, known as the Night of the Long Knives. With the SA thus neutralised, the SS became an independent organisation from 20 July 1934, responsible only to Hitler, and Himmler's title of Reichsführer-SSbecame the highest formal SS rank. The SA was converted into a sports and training organisation.

Himmler and Rudolf Hess at Dachau in 1936, viewing a scale model of the camp

On 15 September 1935, Hitler presented two laws—known as the Nuremberg Laws—to the Reichstag. The laws banned marriage between non-Jewish and Jewish Germans and forbade the employment of non-Jewish women under the age of 45 in Jewish households. The laws also deprived so-called "non-Aryans" of the benefits of German citizenship. These laws were among the first race-based measures instituted by the Third Reich.

Himmler and Heydrich wanted to extend the power of the SS; thus, they urged Hitler to form a national police force overseen by the SS, to guard Nazi Germany against its many enemies at the time—real and imagined. Interior Minister Frick also wanted a national police force, but one controlled by him, with Kurt Daluege as his police chief. Hitler left it to Himmler and Heydrich to work out the arrangements with Frick.

Himmler and Heydrich had greater bargaining power, as they were allied with Frick's old enemy, Göring. Heydrich drew up a set of proposals and Himmler sent him to meet with Frick. An angry Frick then consulted with Hitler, who told him to agree to the proposals. Frick acquiesced, and on 17 June 1936 Hitler appointed Himmler as Chief of German Police and decreed the unification of all police forces. In this role, Himmler was still nominally subordinate to Frick, but the de facto power was now in the hands of Himmler. This move gave Himmler operational control over Germany's entire detective force. He also gained authority over all of Germany's uniformed law enforcement agencies, which were amalgamated into the new Ordnungspolizei (Orpo: "order police"), which became a branch of the SS under Daluege.

Shortly thereafter, Himmler created the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo: criminal police), merging it with the Gestapo into the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo: security police), under Heydrich's command. In September 1939, following the outbreak of World War II, Himmler formed the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA: Reich Main Security Office) to bring the SiPo (which included the Gestapo and Kripo) and the SD together under one umbrella. He again placed Heydrich in command.

Himmler, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and other SS officials visiting Mauthausen concentration camp in 1941

Under Himmler's leadership, the SS developed its own military branch, the SS-Verfügungstruppe(SS-VT), which later evolved into the Waffen-SS. Nominally under the authority of Himmler, theWaffen-SS developed a fully militarised structure of command and operations. It grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions during World War II, serving alongside the Heer (army), but never being formally part of it.

In addition to his military ambitions, Himmler established the beginnings of a parallel economy under the umbrella of the SS. To this end, administrator Oswald Pohl set up the Deutsche Wirtschaftsbetriebe (German Economic Enterprise) in 1940. Under the auspices of the SS Economy and Administration Head Office, this holding company owned housing corporations, factories, and publishing houses. Pohl was unscrupulous and quickly exploited the companies for personal gain. In contrast, Himmler was very honest in matters of money and business.

In 1938, as part of his preparations for war, Hitler ended the German alliance with China, and entered into an agreement with the more modern Japan. That same year, Austria was unified with Nazi Germany in the Anschluss, and the Munich Agreement gave Nazi Germany control over the Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia. 

Hitler's primary motivations for war included obtaining additional Lebensraum ("living space") for the Germanic peoples, who were considered racially superior according to Nazi ideology. A second goal was the elimination of those considered racially inferior, particularly the Jews and Slavs, from territories controlled by the Reich. From 1933 to 1938, hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrated to the United States, Palestine, Great Britain, and other countries. Some converted to Christianity.

World War II

When Hitler and his army chiefs asked for a pretext for the invasion of Poland in 1939, Himmler, Heydrich, and Heinrich Müller masterminded and carried out a false flag project code-named Operation Himmler. German soldiers dressed in Polish uniforms undertook border skirmishes that deceptively suggested Polish aggression against Germany. The incidents were then used in Nazi propaganda to justify the invasion of Poland, the opening event of World War II. At the beginning of the war against Poland, Hitler authorised the killing of Polish civilians, including Jews and ethnic Poles.

The Einsatzgruppen (SS task forces) had been originally formed by Heydrich to secure government papers and offices in areas taken over by Germany before World War II. Authorised by Hitler and under the direction of Himmler and Heydrich, the Einsatzgruppen units—now repurposed as death squads—followed the Heer(army) into Poland, and by the end of 1939 they had murdered some 65,000 intellectuals and other civilians. Militias and Heer units also took part in these killings. Under Himmler's orders via the RSHA, these squads were also tasked with rounding up Jews and others for placement in ghettos and concentration camps.

Himmler inspects a prisoner of war camp in Russia, circa 1941

Germany subsequently invaded France, Denmark and Norway, and the Netherlands, and began bombing Great Britain in preparation for an invasion. On 21 June 1941, the day before invasion of the Soviet Union, Himmler commissioned the preparation of the Generalplan Ost(General Plan for the East); the plan was finalised in July 1942. It called for the Baltic States, Poland, western Ukraine, and Byelorussia to be conquered and resettled by ten million German citizens. The current residents—some 31 million people—would be expelled further east, starved, or used for forced labour.

The plan would have extended the border of Germany a thousand kilometres to the east (620 miles). Himmler expected that it would take twenty to thirty years to complete the plan, at a cost of 67 billion Reichsmarks. Himmler stated openly: "It is a question of existence, thus it will be a racial struggle of pitiless severity, in the course of which 20 to 30 million Slavs and Jews will perish through military actions and crises of food supply."

Himmler, declaring that the war in the east was a pan-European crusade to defend the traditional values of old Europe from the "godless Bolshevik hordes", attracted volunteers from all over Europe for the Waffen-SS. He initially selected recruits from northern and western Europe—from Scandinavia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Flanders, the Netherlands, and Switzerland—that he thought to be racially closest to Germans. Spain and Italy also provided men for Waffen-SS units.

 Among western countries, the number of volunteers varied from a high of 50,000 from the Netherlands to 300 each from Sweden and Switzerland. From the east, the highest number of men came Lithuania (50,000) and the lowest from Bulgaria (600). After 1943 most men from the east were conscripts. The performance of the eastern Waffen-SS units was, as a whole, sub-standard.

In the fall of 1941, Hitler named Heydrich as Deputy Reich Protector of the newly established Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich began to racially classify the Czechs, deporting many to concentration camps. Members of a swelling resistance were shot, earning Heydrich the nickname "the Butcher of Prague". This appointment strengthened the collaboration between Himmler and Heydrich, and Himmler was proud to have SS control over a state. Despite having direct access to Hitler, Heydrich's loyalty to Himmler remained firm.

With Hitler's approval, Himmler re-established the Einsatzgruppen in the lead-up to the planned invasion of the Soviet Union. In March 1941, Hitler addressed his army leaders, detailing his intention to smash the Soviet Empire and destroy the Bolshevik intelligentsia and leadership.

His special directive, the "Guidelines in Special Spheres re Directive No. 21 (Operation Barbarossa)", read: "In the operations area of the army, the Reichsführer-SS has been given special tasks on the orders of the Führer, in order to prepare the political administration. These tasks arise from the forthcoming final struggle of two opposing political systems. Within the framework of these tasks, the Reichsführer-SS acts independently and on his own responsibility." Hitler thus intended to prevent internal friction like that occurring earlier in Poland in 1939, when several German Army generals had attempted to bringEinsatzgruppen leaders to trial for the murders they had committed.

Following the army into the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen rounded up and killed Jews and others deemed undesirable by the Nazi state. Hitler was sent frequent reports. In addition, 2.8 million Soviet prisoners of war died of starvation, mistreatment, or executions in just eight months of 1941–42.] As many as 500,000 Soviet prisoners of war died or were executed in Nazi concentration camps over the course of the war; most of them were shot or gassed. 

By spring 1941, following Himmler's orders, ten concentration camps had been constructed in which inmates were subjected to forced labour. Jews from all over Germany and the occupied territories were deported to the camps or confined to ghettos. As the Germans were pushed back from Moscow in December 1941, signalling that the invasion of the Soviet Union had failed, Hitler and other Nazi officials realised that mass deportations to the east would no longer be possible. As a result, instead of deportation, many Jews in Europe were destined for death.


Peace negotiations

Heinrich Himmler in 1945

In the spring of 1945, Germany's chances of winning the war and Himmler's relationship with Hitler had both deteriorated. Himmler, therefore, considered independently negotiating a peace settlement. His masseur, Felix Kersten, who had moved to Sweden, acted as an intermediary in negotiations with Count Folke Bernadotte, head of the Swedish Red Cross. Letters were exchanged between the two men, and direct meetings were arranged by Walter Schellenberg of the RSHA.

Himmler, hoping that the British and Americans would fight the Soviets alongside the remains of the Wehrmacht, asked Bernadotte to inform GeneralDwight Eisenhower that Germany wished to surrender to the West. Himmler and Hitler met for the last time on 20 April 1945—Hitler's birthday—in Berlin, and Himmler swore total loyalty to Hitler. At a military briefing on that day, Hitler stated that he would not be leaving Berlin, in spite of Soviet advances. Along with Göring, Himmler quickly left the city after the briefing.

 On 21 April, Himmler met with Norbert Masur, a Swedish representative of the World Jewish Congress, to discuss the release of Jewish concentration camp inmates. As a result of these negotiations, about 20,000 people were released in the White Buses operation. During the negotiations Himmler falsely claimed that the crematoria had been built to deal with the dead from a typhus epidemic. He also claimed very high survival rates for the camps at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, even as these sites were liberated and it became obvious that his figures were false.

Himmler, representing himself as the provisional leader of Germany, told Bernadotte on 23 April that Hitler would be dead within the next few days. However, Göring sent a telegram on 23 April, asking permission to take over the leadership of the Reich—an act that Hitler, under the prodding ofMartin Bormann, interpreted as a demand to step down or face a coup. On the evening of 28 April, the BBC broadcast a Reuters news report about Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies. Hitler, who had long believed Himmler was second only to Joseph Goebbels in loyalty—calling Himmler "der treue Heinrich" (the loyal Heinrich)—flew into a rage about this apparent betrayal. He ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot. Hitler told those who were still with him in the bunker complex that Himmler's act was the worst act of treachery he had ever known.

These events, combined with reports that the Soviets were only 300 m (330 yd) from the Reich Chancellery, prompted Hitler to write his last will and testament. In the testament, completed on 29 April—one day prior to his suicide—Hitler declared both Himmler and Göring to be traitors. He stripped Himmler of all of his party and state offices and expelled him from the Nazi Party.

Hitler named Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor. Himmler met Dönitz in Flensburg and offered himself as second-in-command. He maintained that he was entitled to a position in the new government as Reichsführer-SS, believing the SS would be in a good position to restore and maintain order after the war. Dönitz repeatedly rejected Himmler's overtures, and initiated peace negotiations with the Allies. He wrote a letter on 6 May—two days before German Instrument of Surrender—formally dismissing Himmler from all his posts.

Capture and death

Himmler's corpse in Allied custody after his suicide by poison, 1945

Unwanted by his former colleagues and hunted by the Allies, Himmler attempted to go into hiding. He had not made extensive preparations for this, but he had equipped himself with a forged paybook under the name of Sergeant Heinrich Hitzinger. With a small band of companions, he headed south on 11 May to Friedrichskoog, without a final destination in mind. They continued on to Neuhaus, where the group split up. Himmler and two aides were stopped at a checkpoint on 21 May and detained.

Over the following two days he was moved around to several camps, and was brought to the British 31st Civilian Interrogation Camp near Lüneburg on 23 May. The duty officer, Captain Selvester, began a routine interrogation. Himmler admitted who he was, and Selvester had the prisoner searched. He was taken to the headquarters of the Second British Army in Lüneburg, where Doctor Wells conducted a medical exam. The doctor attempted to examine the inside of Himmler's mouth, but the prisoner was reluctant to open it and jerked his head away. Himmler then bit into a hidden cyanide pill and collapsed onto the floor. He was dead within fifteen minutes. Shortly afterward, Himmler's body was buried in an unmarked grave near Lüneburg. The precise location of the grave remains unknown.

Mysticism and symbolism

Main article: Ideology of the SS

Himmler was interested in mysticism and the occult from an early age. He tied this interest into his racist philosophy, looking for proof of Aryan and Nordic racial superiority from ancient times. He promoted a cult of ancestor worship, particularly among members of the SS, as a way to keep the race pure and provide immortality to the nation.

The stylised lightning bolts of the SS insignia were based on theArmanen runes ofGuido von List.

Viewing the SS as an "order" along the lines of the Teutonic Knights, he had them take over the Church of the Teutonic Order in Vienna in 1939. He began the process of replacing Christianity with a new moral code that rejected humanitarianism and challenged the Christian concept of marriage. The Ahnenerbe, a research society founded by Himmler in 1935, conducted research all over the globe to look for proof of the superiority and ancient origins of the Germanic race.

All regalia and uniforms of Nazi Germany, particularly those of the SS, used symbolism in their design. The SS adopted runic symbols, chosen by Himmler, as insignia. The stylised lightning bolt "SS" runes were derived from the Armanen runes of Guido von List, which he had loosely based on the indigenous runic alphabets of the Germanic peoples.

 Himmler modified a variety of existing customs to emphasize the elitism and central role of the SS; an SS naming ceremony was to replace baptism, marriage ceremonies were to be altered, a separate SS funeral ceremony was to be held in addition to Christian ceremonies, and SS-centric celebrations of the summer and winter solstice were instituted.

 The Totenkopf (death's head) symbol, used by German military units for hundreds of years, had been chosen for the SS by Schreck. Himmler placed particular importance on the death's-head rings; they were never to be sold, and were to be returned to him upon the death of the owner. He interpreted the deaths-head symbol to mean solidarity to the cause and a commitment unto death.

Relationship with Hitler

As second in command of the SS and then Reichsführer-SS, Himmler was in regular contact with Hitler to arrange for SS men as bodyguards; Himmler was not involved with Nazi Party policy-making decisions in the years leading up to the seizure of power. From the late 1930s, the SS was independent of the control of other state agencies or government departments, and he reported only to Hitler.

Hitler's leadership style was to give contradictory orders to subordinates and to place them into positions where their duties and responsibilities overlapped with those of others. In this way, Hitler fostered distrust, competition, and infighting among his subordinates to consolidate and maximise his own power. His cabinet never met after 1938, and he discouraged his ministers from meeting independently. Hitler typically did not issue written orders, but gave them verbally at meetings or in phone conversations; he also had Bormann convey orders. Bormann used his position to control the flow of information and access to Hitler, earning him enemies, including Himmler.

Hitler promoted and practiced the Führerprinzip. The principle required absolute obedience of all subordinates to their superiors; thus Hitler viewed the government structure as a pyramid, with himself—the infallible leader—at the apex. Accordingly, Himmler placed himself in a position of subservience to Hitler, and was unconditionally obedient to him. However, he—like other top Nazi officials—had aspirations to one day succeed Hitler as leader of the Reich. Himmler considered Speer to be an especially dangerous rival, both in the Reich administration and as a potential successor to Hitler.

Hitler called Himmler's mystical and pseudoreligious interests "nonsense". Himmler was not a member of Hitler's inner circle; the two men were not very close, and rarely saw each other socially. Himmler socialised almost exclusively with other members of the SS. His unconditional loyalty and efforts to please Hitler earned him the nickname of der treue Heinrich ("the faithful Heinrich"). In the last days of the war, when it became clear that Hitler planned to die in Berlin, Himmler left his long-time superior to try to save himself.

Marriage and family

Himmler met his future wife, Margarete Boden, in 1927. Seven years his senior, she was a nurse who shared his interest in herbal medicine and homeopathy, and was part owner of a small private clinic. They were married in July 1928, and their only child, Gudrun, was born on 8 August 1929. The couple were also foster parents to a boy named Gerhard von Ahe, son of an SS officer who had died before the war. Margarete sold her share of the clinic and used the proceeds to buy a plot of land in Waldtrudering, near Munich, where they put up a prefabricated house. Himmler was constantly away on party business, so his wife took charge of their efforts—mostly unsuccessful—to raise livestock for sale.

After the Nazis seized power the family moved first to Möhlstrasse in Munich, and in 1934 to Lake Tegern, where they bought a house. Himmler also later obtained a large house in the Berlin suburb of Dahlem free of charge as an official residence. The couple saw little of each other as Himmler became totally absorbed by work.The relationship was strained. The couple did unite for social functions; they were frequent guests at the Heydrich home. Margarete saw it as her duty to invite the wives of the senior SS leaders over for afternoon coffee and tea on Wednesday afternoons.

Himmler's wife Margarete and daughter Gudrun in Nuremberg during the Nuremberg Trials

Hedwig Potthast, Himmler's young secretary starting in 1936, became his mistress by 1939. She left her job in 1941. He arranged accommodations for her, first in Mecklenburg, and later at Berchtesgaden. He fathered two children with her: a son, Helge (born 1942) and a daughter, Nanette Dorothea (born 1944 at Berchtesgaden).

Margarete, by then living in Gmund with her daughter, learned of the relationship sometime in 1941; she and Himmler were already separated, and she decided to tolerate the relationship for the sake of her daughter. Working as a nurse for the Red Cross during the war, Margarete was appointed supervisor in Military District III (Berlin-Brandenburg). Himmler was close to his first daughter, Gudrun, whom he nicknamed Püppi ("dolly"); he phoned her every few days and visited as often as he could.

Hedwig and Margarete both remained loyal to Himmler. Writing to Gebhard in February 1945, Margarete said, "How wonderful that he has been called to great tasks and is equal to them. The whole of Germany is looking to him." Hedwig expressed similar sentiments in a letter to Himmler in January. Margarete and Gudrun left Gmund as Allied troops advanced into the area. They were arrested by American troops in Bolzano, Italy, and held in various internment camps in Italy, France, and Germany. They were brought to Nuremberg to testify at the trials, and were released in November 1946. Gudrun emerged from the experience embittered by her alleged mistreatment and has remained devoted to her father's memory.

Historical views

Death mask of Himmler on display in the Imperial War Museum in London

Albert Speer notes that though Himmler seemed pedantic and insignificant on the surface, he was a good decision maker, had a talent for selecting highly competent staff, and successfully inserted the SS into every aspect of daily life. Historian Peter Longerich observes that Himmler's ability to consolidate his ever-increasing powers and responsibilities into a coherent system under the auspices of the SS led him to become one of the most powerful men in the Third Reich.

Historian Wolfgang Sauer says that "although he was pedantic, dogmatic, and dull, Himmler emerged under Hitler as second in actual power. His strength lay in a combination of unusual shrewdness, burning ambition, and servile loyalty to Hitler." Historian Peter Padfield opined that "Himmler ... appeared the most powerful man under Hitler. It is impossible to say whether he was in practice, and meaningless to ask, since he was never prepared to use his power directly to change the course of events ... "

Historian John Toland relates a story by Günter Syrup, a subordinate of Heydrich. Heydrich showed him a picture of Himmler and said, "The top half is the teacher but the lower half is the sadist." Historian Adrian Weale comments that Himmler and the SS followed Hitler's policies, without question or ethical considerations. Himmler accepted Hitler and Nazi ideology, and saw the SS as a chivalric Teutonic order of new Germans. Himmler adopted the doctrine of Auftragstaktik ("mission command"), whereby orders were given as broad directives, with authority delegated downward to the appropriate level to carry them out in a timely and efficient manner. Weale states that the SS ideology gave the men a doctrinal framework, and the mission command tactics allowed the junior officers leeway to act on their own initiative to obtain the desired results.

According to British war cabinet minutes released in 2006, Winston Churchill advocated Himmler's assassination. In response to Himmler's attempts to open peace overtures with the Allies in 1945 through Count Bernadotte, Churchill enquired if they should negotiate with Himmler and bump him off later. 'Quite entitled to do so', said Churchill. This suggestion met with some support from the British Home Office.

Historian Ian Kershaw observes that many Nazis seemed to have a "psychological block" at the end of the regime, refusing to recognise their responsibility for the barbaric actions that occurred during the Third Reich. They lacked self-awareness, and the moral value system had completely collapsed. In 2008 the German news magazine Der Spiegel described Himmler as one of the most brutal mass murderers in history, and the architect of the Holocaust. 


Source: news.lv, wikipedia.org

Title From To Images Languages
Sobibor, extermination campSobibor, extermination camp00.03.194000.11.1943de, en, lv, pl, ru
WewelsburgWewelsburgde, lv, ru


        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription
        1Karl Maria  WiligutKarl Maria WiligutFriend, Idea mate10.12.186603.01.1946
        2Viktor BrackViktor BrackFriend09.11.190402.06.1948
        3Karl GebhardtKarl GebhardtCoworker23.11.189702.06.1948
        4Hansas FrankasHansas FrankasCoworker23.05.190016.10.1946
        5Reinhard  GehlenReinhard GehlenCoworker03.04.190208.06.1979
        6Hermann  GöringHermann GöringCoworker12.01.189315.10.1946
        7Edward  HeathEdward HeathFamiliar09.07.191617.07.2005
        8Мария  ПоповаМария ПоповаFamiliar
        Каролина Диль РашерFamiliar
        10Sigmund RascherSigmund RascherFamiliar12.02.190926.04.1945
        11Adolf EichmannAdolf EichmannEmployee19.03.190601.06.1962
        12Oskar  DirlewangerOskar DirlewangerEmployee26.09.189505.06.1945
        13Gottlob BergerGottlob BergerEmployee16.06.189605.01.1975
        14Friedrich JeckelnFriedrich JeckelnEmployee02.02.189503.02.1946
        15Reinhard HeydrichReinhard HeydrichPartymate07.03.190404.06.1942
        16Otto SkorzenyOtto SkorzenyIdea mate12.06.190805.07.1975
        17Adolf HitlerAdolf HitlerIdea mate20.04.188930.04.1945
        18Wolfram  SieversWolfram SieversIdea mate10.07.190502.06.1948
        19Anastasy  VonsyatskyAnastasy VonsyatskyIdea mate30.05.189805.02.1965
        20Walther SchellenbergWalther SchellenbergIdea mate, Soldier16.01.191031.03.1952
        21Joachim Von RibbentropJoachim Von RibbentropIdea mate30.04.189316.10.1946
        22Walther von BrauchitschWalther von BrauchitschIdea mate04.10.188118.10.1948
        23Karl  HaushoferKarl HaushoferIdea mate27.08.186913.03.1946
        24Martin  LutherMartin LutherSoldier16.12.189513.05.1945

        17.08.1918 | Thule Society

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        09.11.1923 | The Beer Hall Putsch - Hitlerputsch

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        06.01.1929 | Heinrich Himler was appointed Reichsführer-SS by Hitler

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        01.07.1935 | Создано Аненербе — тайная организация по изучению «Наследия предков»

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        26.10.1938 | Rozpoczęła się tzw. Polenaktion, w ramach której 17 tys. polskich Żydów mieszkających w III Rzeszy zostało deportowanych do Polski

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        31.08.1939 | Gleiwitz incident

        The Gleiwitz incident (German: Überfall auf den Sender Gleiwitz; Polish: Prowokacja gliwicka) was a false flag operation by Nazi forces posing as Poles on 31 August 1939, against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe. The goal was to use the staged attack as a pretext on the basis of which to invade Poland.

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        06.11.1939 | Sonderaktion Krakau

        Sonderaktion Krakau was the codename for a Nazi German operation against professors and academics of the Jagiellonian University and other universities in Nazi occupied Kraków, Poland, at the beginning of World War II. It was carried out as part of the much broader action plan, the Intelligenzaktion, to eradicate the Polish intellectual elite especially in those centres (such as Kraków) that were slated by the Nazis to become culturally German.

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        12.01.1940 | Akcja T4: żandarmeria niemiecka rozstrzelała 440 pacjentów szpitala psychiatrycznego w Chełmie

        Aktion T4, E-Aktion (niem.) – nazwa programu realizowanego w III Rzeszy w latach 1939–1944 polegającego na fizycznej „eliminacji życia niewartego życia” (niem. „Vernichtung von lebensunwertem Leben”). W ramach akcji mordowano chorych na schizofrenię, niektóre postacie padaczki, otępienie, pląsawicę Huntingtona, stany po zapaleniu mózgowia, osoby niepoczytalne, chorych przebywających w zakładach opiekuńczych ponad 5 lat, oraz ludzi z niektórymi wrodzonymi zaburzeniami rozwojowymi. Szacuje się, że w okresie szczytowym tego programu, tj. w latach 1940–1941, zabito w jego ramach 70 273 chorych i niepełnosprawnych, w tym także pensjonariuszy szpitali psychiatrycznych na terenach okupowanych.

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        04.04.1940 | Akcija T4. Vācu nacsociālisti nogalina 499 psihiatriskās slimnīcas pacientus Polijā

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        20.05.1940 | Do obozu Auschwitz przywieziono pierwszych więźniów (30 niemieckich kryminalistów)

        Pomysł utworzenia obozu w Oświęcimiu powstał we Wrocławiu w ówczesnym Urzędzie Wyższego Dowódcy SS i Policji Nadokręgu „Südost” (niem. der Höhere SS und Polizeiführer Südost). Na czele tego urzędu stał wtedy SS-Gruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski. Pod koniec 1939 SS-Oberführer Arpad Wigand, pełniący tam funkcję inspektora policji bezpieczeństwa i służby bezpieczeństwa (Inspekteur der Sicherheitspolizei und des Sicherheitsdienstes) wystąpił z propozycją wobec przepełnionych więzień na Górnym Śląsku oraz w Zagłębiu Dąbrowskim, aby utworzyć nowy obóz, przy czym wskazał Oświęcim jako miejsce, które nadaje się do adaptacji na terenach istniejącego tam od jesieni 1939 jenieckiego obozu przejściowego Wehrmachtu, w miejscu przedwojennych koszar Wojska Polskiego, w widłach rzek Wisły i Soły. Całość argumentował dogodnym usytuowaniem wraz z połączeniami kolejowymi do Górnego Śląska, Generalnego Gubernatorstwa, jak również Austrii i innych państw.

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        16.11.1940 | Niemcy zamknęli getto w Warszawie

        Getto warszawskie – getto dla ludności żydowskiej utworzone przez władze niemieckie w Warszawie 2 października 1940, zamknięte 16 listopada 1940 i zlikwidowane w maju 1943. Było największym gettem w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie i całej okupowanej Europie. W kwietniu 1941 w obrębie murów „dzielnicy żydowskiej” znajdowało się ok. 450 tys. osób.

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        15.10.1941 | W Generalnym Gubernatorstwie wprowadzono karę śmierci dla Żydów opuszczających teren getta i dla Polaków udzielających Żydom schronienia

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        15.11.1941 | Himlers izdod rīkojumu visus homoseksuāļus pārvietot uz koncentrācijas nometnēm

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        08.12.1941 | Created Chełmno extermination camp

        Chełmno extermination camp (German: Vernichtungslager Kulmhof) built during World War II, was a Nazi German extermination camp situated 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of the metropolitan city of Łódź, near the Polish village of Chełmno nad Nerem (Kulmhof an der Nehr in German). Following the invasion of Poland in 1939 Germany annexed the area into the new territory of Reichsgau Wartheland aiming at its complete "Germanization"; the camp was set up specifically to carry out ethnic cleansing through mass killings. It operated from December 8, 1941 parallel to Operation Reinhard during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, and again from June 23, 1944 to January 18, 1945 during the Soviet counter-offensive. Polish Jews of the Łódź Ghetto and the local inhabitants of Reichsgau Wartheland (Warthegau) were exterminated there. In 1943 modifications were made to the camp's killing methods because the reception building was already dismantled.

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        10.02.1943 | Vācijā izdota pavēle par Latviešu leģiona izveidošanu

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        19.04.1943 | Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

        The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Yiddish: אױפֿשטאַנד אין װאַרשעװער געטאָ; Polish: powstanie w getcie warszawskim; German: Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto) was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's final effort to transport the remaining Ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp. The most significant portion of the rebellion took place from 19 April, and ended when the poorly armed and supplied resistance was crushed by the Germans, who officially finished their operation to liquidate the Ghetto on 16 May. It was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II.

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        28.04.1943 | Organizing the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Ukrainian)

        The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Ukrainian) (German: 14. Waffen Grenadier Division der SS (galizische Nr.1), prior to 1944 titled the 14th SS-Volunteer Division "Galician" (German: 14. SS-Freiwilligen Division "Galizien") was a World War II German military formation initially made up of volunteers from the region of Galicia with a Ukrainian ethnic background but later also incorporated Slovaks, Czechs and Dutch volunteers and officers. Formed in 1943, it was largely destroyed in the battle of Brody, reformed, and saw action in Slovakia, Yugoslavia and Austria before being renamed the first division of the Ukrainian National Army and surrendering to the Western Allies by 10 May 1945.

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        16.05.1943 | The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against Nazi rule was ended

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        04.08.1944 | 4. dzień powstania warszawskiego

        Dowodzenie siłami niemieckimi zwalczającymi powstanie przejął SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.

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        09.10.1944 | Heinrich Himmler wydał rozkaz całkowitego zburzenia Warszawy

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        14.11.1944 | Armed Forces of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (VS-KONR) established

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        03.05.1945 | Britu Karaliskie gaisa spēki nogremdēja agrāko luksusa okeānu laineri "Cap Arcona". Ap 5000 upuru

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        09.05.1945 | 2. Pasaules kara beigas Eiropā

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