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Nazi SS Chief Heinrich Himmler dies by suicide

Nazi SS Chief Heinrich Himmler dies by suicide



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On May 23, 1945, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, assistant chief of the Gestapo, and architect of Hitler’s program to exterminate European Jews, dies by suicide one day after being arrested by the British.

As head of the Waffen-Schutzstaffel (the military arm of the Nazi Party) and assistant chief of the Gestapo (the secret police), Himmler was able over time to consolidate his control over all police forces of the Reich. The power he would ultimately wield would rival that of the German army; it would also prove highly effective in eliminating all opposition to Hitler and the party, as well as in carrying out the Fuhrer’s Final Solution. It was Himmler who organized the creation of death camps throughout Eastern Europe and a pool of enslaved laborers.

Himmler’s megalomania, which included a plan to surrender to the Western Allies late in the war in order to pursue the fight against Russia unimpeded, caused Hitler to strip him of all his offices and order his arrest. Himmler attempted to slip out of Germany disguised as a soldier, but was caught by the British. He swallowed a cyanide capsule a day later.

Himmler has been portrayed in many films, including The Eagle Has Landed, with Donald Pleasence as Himmler.

READ MORE: The Holocaust: Facts, Victims & Survivors


20 Nazis Who Committed Suicide by Cyanide Poisoning

Heinrich Himmler. Wikimedia Commons

20. Responsible for the deaths of more than 10 million, Heinrich Himmler killed himself after failing to escape at the end of the war

Heinrich Himmler (b. 1900) was Reichsführer of the Nazi SS and one of the chief architects of the Holocaust. Enlisting as an officer candidate with the reserve battalion of the 11th Bavarian Regiment in December 1917, Himmler remained in training during the conclusion of the war and was thus denied the opportunity to become an officer or experience combat. Unsuccessful in his further attempts to pursue a military career and harboring growing anti-Semitic and far-right views, Himmler joined the Nazi Party in 1923 as a member of the paramilitary SA and took part in the failed Munich Putsch.

Joining the SS as an SS-Führer (SS-Leader) in 1925 with the serial number #168, Himmler advanced quickly through the ranks, first as a District Leader and later as a propaganda chief. Developing an extensive bureaucracy collating statistics and information on undesirables, Himmler confided with Hitler his vision for the SS as an elite unit dedicated to racial purity in response Hitler appointed Himmler Deputy Reichsführer-SS with the rank of SS-Oberführer, rising to the position of Reichsführer-SS in January 1929 upon the resignation of Erhard Heiden. Within his first year as Reichsführer Himmler drastically expanded the SS, increasing its numbers from approximately 290 to over 3,000, and after the Machtergreifung in 1933 had enlarged the organization to 52,000 members. Applicants were vetted according to the requirements of Hitler&rsquos Aryan Herrenvolk (&ldquoAryan master race&rdquo), despite Himmler&rsquos own incompatibility with these principles, and in 1931 Himmler introduced his &ldquomarriage order&rdquo requiring for family trees to prove racial purity within the SS.

Extending his racialist ideology outside the SS, less than three months after the Machtergreifung Himmler established Dachau concentration camp, with the new facility serving a model for all future camps in Germany. Initially incarcerating political opponents, from December 1937 Hitler granted Himmler authority to imprison anyone deemed by the regime to be an undesirable by the outbreak of the Second World War, Himmler oversaw six camps housing roughly 27,000 inmates.

During World War Two Himmler oversaw the activities of the Nazi death squads in Europe, notably the Einsatzgruppen (SS task forces) collectively responsible for the deaths of at least two million people, commissioned the &ldquoGeneralplan Ost&rdquo (General Plan for the East) which proposed the expulsion or eradication of Slavic populations to create space for Aryan Germans, and was responsible, among other programs, for Operation Reinhard &ndash the plan to exterminate Poland&rsquos Jews. Overall, it is estimated Himmler was complicit or responsible for the deaths of in excess of 14 million people throughout Europe.

In April 1945, with defeat imminent, Himmler sought to negotiate a secret surrender with the Allies, hoping the Americans would assist the remaining German forces in repelling the Red Army. After a BBC report on the evening of April 28 revealed these negotiations, Hitler stripped Himmler of his rank and despite efforts to regain his position under the new Chancellor, Karl Dönitz, Himmler was rebuffed and instead fled into hiding. Captured on May 21, Himmler identified himself to his British captors on May 23 and during a medical examination broke a hidden cyanide capsule concealed in his mouth.


Himmler commits suicide on 23-05-1945, age 44.

chief of the SS, assistant chief of the Gestapo, and architect of Hitler’s program to exterminate European Jews, commits suicide one day after being arrested by the British.

As head of the Waffen-Schutzstaffel (“Armed Black Shirts”), the military arm of the Nazi Party, and assistant chief of the Gestapo, the secret police, Himmler was able over time to consolidate his control over all police forces of the Reich. The power he would ultimately wield would rival that of the German army it would also prove highly effective in eliminating all opposition to Hitler and the party, as well as in carrying out the Fuhrer’s Final Solution. It was Himmler who organized the creation of death camps throughout Eastern Europe and a pool of slave labourers in private deliberation with Adolf Hitler.

Himmler’s megalomania, which included a plan to surrender to the Western Allies late in the war in order to pursue the fight against Russia unimpeded, caused Hitler to strip him of all his offices and order his arrest. Himmler attempted to slip out of Germany disguised as a soldier, but was caught by the British.

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 pay book 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 a small disheveled figure with a patch over his left eye and two aides were stopped at a checkpoint, which had been set up by former Soviet POWs, 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 Thomas 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 on Himmler. 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 under a big tree in an unmarked secret grave near Lüneburg Forrest. The precise location of the grave remains only known by the auteur of the “After the Battle” war magazine who got the information from the two British soldiers who buried Himmler. These sergeants were Bill Ottery and Ray Weston and the auteur gave his promise to hold the secret.


This week in Jewish history | SS leader Heinrich Himmler commits suicide in British custody

On 23 May 1945, Chief of German Police Heinrich Himmler committed suicide, one day after being arrested by British authorities.

As Reichsführer (National Leader) of the SS, Himmler was the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany by the end of World War II. He was responsible for conceiving and directing the implementation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” The German secret police, security police, and criminal police all reported to him through his chief lieutenants Reinhard Heydrich and Ernst Kaltenbrunner. He also oversaw and controlled the vast Nazi concentration camp system, including the economic exploitation of prisoner labor as a means of extermination.

In the final months of the war, Himmler suffered increasingly from psychosomatic illnesses. Realizing the imminent defeat of Germany, Himmler, who hoped to succeed Hitler, attempted to negotiate a peace deal with western Allies without Hitler’s knowledge. Outraged, Hitler promptly stripped Himmler of all offices and ordered his arrest. While Himmler attempted to disguise himself as a soldier to avoid arrest - his familiar mustache had been shaved off, a black patch covered one eye and his rimless glasses were replaced by thick horn-rimmed glasses - his forged identification papers aroused suspicion of a British patrol unit.

His disguise was strong enough that the British unit was initially unaware who they were holding in custody but under interrogation, Himmler soon revealed himself as one of the key masterminds in the destruction of European Jewry. Shortly after that, a medical officer went into the interrogation room to inspect Himmler from head-to-toe. When he reached Himmler’s mouth, Himmler swallowed a capsule of cyanide capsule and was pronounced dead minutes later.

British authorities buried Himmler in a secret location, so that Nazi sympathizers could not use his burial location as a gathering spot and place of inspiration.


The corpse of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler after his suicide by poison, 1945

Himmler lying on the floor of British 2nd Army HQ after his suicide. May 23, 1945.

In 1945 disillusioned Himmler believed victory had slipped from Germany’s grasp and secretly attempted to start peace negotiations with Eisenhower in a bid to escape a war crimes trial. But Eisenhower refused to have anything to do with Himmler. A furious Hitler declared Himmler a traitor, stripped him of his powers, and expelled him from the Nazi Party.

Rejected by his former comrades and hunted by the Allies, Himmler attempted to go into hiding. He disguised himself by shaving off his mustache, wearing an eye patch over his left eye, and carrying false identity papers under the name of Sergeant Heinrich Hitzinger. With a small band of companions, he headed south on 11 May to Friedrichskoog, without a final destination in mind.

They continued on to Neuhaus, where the group split up. On 21 May, Himmler and two aides were stopped and detained at a checkpoint set up by former Soviet prisoners of war. 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 Thomas Selvester, began a routine interrogation. Himmler admitted who he was, and Selvester had the prisoner searched. Himmler was taken to the headquarters of the Second British Army in Lüneburg, where doctor Wells conducted a medical exam on him.

When the doctor saw a dark object in a gap in Himmler’s lower jaw, he ordered him to come closer to the light and tried to remove the glass capsule. Suddenly Himmler bit on the cyanide capsule and at the doctor’s fingers. Himmler fell to the ground and someone shouted “The bastard beats us!”.

The smell of prussic acid spread through the room. “We immediately upended the old bastard and got his mouth into the bowl of water which was there to wash the poison out”, noted Major Whittaker in his diary. “There were terrible groans and grunts coming from the swine”. Himmler’s tongue was secured in an attempt to prevent him from swallowing the poison.

Doctor Wells tried resuscitation but it was in vain. He was dead within 15 minutes. At least one death mask of Himmler was taken. On 25 May an autopsy was conducted, the teeth configuration compared, and the brain and part of his skeleton removed. Shortly afterward, Himmler’s body was buried in an unmarked grave near Lüneburg. The grave’s location remains unknown.

s 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.


Nazi SS Chief Heinrich Himmler dies by suicide - HISTORY

Posted Friday, June 3, 2005

Friday, June 3, 2005 updated Sunday, June 5, 2005

On May 23, 1945 Britain's secret agents had secretly and criminally liquidated one of the most wanted men in history, for whose proper public trial and punishment the blood of millions of his victims cried out .

British secret service did murder SS chief Heinrich Himmler (to stop him talking to the Americans)

NOTE: About the authenticity of these new Himmler Documents
DOCUMENTS discovered in Britain's Public Records Office, Kew, London, confirm revisionist claims that Himmler was liquidated by the British secret service on Churchill's orders, and did not commit suicide shortly after his capture as conformist historians have long maintained.

[ Partial translation in French ]

WINSTON Churchill had long agitated in his War Cabinet for a secret plan to be approved between the Allied leaders ordering the execution without trial of a number of the enemy leaders, including Himmler. See my book "Nuremberg, the Last Battle" and the forthcoming volume iii of the Churchill biography.

Meeting at Hyde Park in September 1944, Churchill had readily persuaded Franklin D Roosevelt to sign on to this plan for lynch justice, but after Churchill carried the document to Moscow in October 1944 Joseph Stalin surprisingly refused to agree, insisting instead on proper trials for all enemy war criminals.

IN 1999 my publishing imprint Focal Point Publications invited Californian writer Joe Bellinger to speak at Cincinnati on The Strange Death of Heinrich Himmler. He came to the same conclusions.
Impressed by his narrative there we paid him over $11,000 to enable him to travel to Washington and London to complete his research.
He never made those trips, never finished his manuscript, and unfortunately did not learn of the files which have now been released.

THE "silencing" of Himmler raises again the question of whether Churchill really had been negotiating with Himmler for nearly a year.
In August 1944 the head of the secret service showed him at least one document "from Himmler," and Churchill assured the secret service chief that after reading it he had safely destroyed it: 'Himmler telegram kept and destroyed by me. WSC.31.viii'.
Hitler was evidently aware of what Himmler was up to, because on September 12 the Reichsführer discussed with Hitler "peace feelers to Russia or Britain."
A few days later, however, on September 18, 1944, the British intercepted a German intelligence signal that Himmler 'forbids by W/T (wireless traffic) all contact with English since their offers are bluff' -- as no doubt they were. See PRO file HW.1/3196.

Rumours emerged last year that Churchill had personally ordered the alleged silencing of Benito Mussolini , and that the order had been handed by an SOE officer to Italian partisans soon after. Mussolini and his entire Cabinet were liquidated by machine gun squads without trial in the closing days of the war.

In April 1945, Himmler moved to northern Germany and began negotiations through his own Intelligence chief Walter Schellenberg and Count Bernadotte , the Swedish emissary, to end the bloodshed in Europe. The negotiations went through Sir Victor Mallet , the British minister in Stockholm. Stalin was by this time pathologically suspicious of any separate negotiations between the Allied governments and the Nazi leadership. Himmler was thus the repository of some awkward secrets when he fell into British hands in May 1945.

For a while Churchill was inclined to deal with him. Admiral Cunningham , Britain's First Sea Lord, visited Churchill on April 13, 1945 and wrote this startling passage in his diary afterwards:

Real historians have long doubted the conformist version of how Himmler died, namely that he obligingly swallowed poison when he realised the game was up.

Patient research revealed that the official files on his death had oddities, discrepancies, and inconsistencies: the autopsy performed on the corpse did not give the cause of death a vital page had been retyped there was no message in the files of 21 Army Group, Field-Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery's headquarters, reporting the event to London. Whatever had been there, it had gone.

Now come documents from the Public Record Office (record group FO 800, file 868), which provide more than just a smoking gun. What is truly extraordinary is not so much that the conformists have willingly overlooked the inconsistencies for over sixty years but that those involved in, or aware of, the murder -- who included Prime Minister Churchill himself -- had kept quiet about it.

The first, dated May 10, 1945 is a Personal and Secret letter on Foreign Office stationery from Sir John Wheeler-Bennett , later a noted Establishment and Royal historian, to the famous British agent Sir Robert Bruce-Lockhart , of the Political Intelligence Department off the Foreign office -- which conducted Black propaganda against the enemy:

Further to our meeting yesterday morning, I have been giving some serious thought to the little H situation.

We cannot allow Himmler to take to the stand in any prospective prosecution, or indeed allow him to be interrogated by the Americans. Steps will therefore have to been taken to eliminate him as soon as he falls into our hands.

Please give this matter some thought, as if we are to take action we will have to expedite such an act with some haste.

Lockhart minuted two days later in handwriting: " I agree, I have arranged for Mr Ingrams to go for a fortnight. R B-L, 12/May/1945. "

It is significant to note from the diary of General Dempsey , commanding the British Second Army in Northern Germany (PRO file WO/285/12), that on Monday, May 21 he visited both the detention camp at Westertimke and the German concentration area between Bremervörde and Stade. We know that Himmler and his two adjutants Macher and Grothmann had been arrested at Bremervörde on May 21, 1945, but -- so the story goes -- Himmler was not identified until they arrived at Westertimke on May 23, 1945.

The former Reichsführer SS was carrying a letter to Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery , the British field commander (which has vanished). His only cyanide capsule was found in his clothing after he had been ordered to strip naked, and it was handed to Michael Murphy, head of British Intelligence at the Second Army. According to The Illustrated London News story a few days later, a "second" capsule was surrendered to the medical officer at Himmler's final destination, the ominous house at No. 31a Ülzener Strasse in Lüneburg -- which raises a number of obvious questions.

After his identification, according to the official accounts, Himmler had answered questions, eaten a thick British Army sandwich, and been driven to the house in Lüneburg -- from which he emerged dead.

Although the British military files appear meticulous, even listing with suspicious detail every person present in the room at the moment of death, many facts did not fit into place.

The prisoner's nose had been broken, according to The Illustrated London News artist who sketched the body. How had he obtained the cyanide capsule he had allegedly been hiding in his mouth (let alone answer questions and bite into that sandwich)?

The capsule descriptions varied, and bore no resemblance to what the standard issue capsule actually looked like. And more (but wait for my upcoming Himmler biography).

At 2:50 a.m. that night (it was now May 24, 1945) "Mr Thomas" wired from Bremen to the Foreign Office for Bruce Lockhart in a top secret code (jj jj jj jj is the clue: it was a one-time pad).

Bruce Lockhart significantly noted on this telegram, "copy to PM" -- i.e., to Churchill -- "May 25".

Brendan Bracken , Churchill's obnoxious red-headed confidant (left, with friend: Clementine loathed him), was also in on the action -- a war crime, despite Heinrich Himmler's dark record, as he was a prisoner of war who had surrendered to British custody.

"Mr Dear Top," he wrote on May 27 to Lord Selborne at the Ministry of Economic warfare, head of the SOE (PRO file HS series HS8/944),

Quite so: Britain's secret agents had secretly and criminally liquidated one of the most wanted men in history, for whose proper public trial and punishment the blood of millions of his victims cried out: and for no other visible reason than to conceal that for a few days toward the end of the war, Churchill had negotiated with him on peace terms.

"I am also sure [continued Bracken] that this incident would complicate our relationship with our American brethren under no circumstances must they discover that we eradicated 'Little H', particularly so since we know they were keen to interrogate him themselves.

I am of the opinion that the special SOE/PWE Committee and team can now be dissolved, even though Mallet is still negotiating with W.S. [ Walter Schellenberg ] in Sweden. Perhaps you could let me know your opinion on this matter."

REAL historians will now need to do further work to identify the murderer, "Mr Thomas," and the part played by Robert Bruce-Lockhart, who was a principal figure in Britain's Black propaganda war together with Sefton Delmer .

Bracken ordered that all his papers be destroyed before his death. Bruce-Lockhart's diaries and papers are in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, California a sanitized edition of his diaries was published many years ago, and his papers have probably been weeded too.

It is known that when Himmler first established contact with the British, Churchill's initial response was to deal with him regardless of his reputation. But then the secret services stepped in. A fake communiqué was issued claiming that Himmler had offered to betray Hitler, and this caused much confusion and fury in Hitler's bunker in the last few days -- not to mention anguish to Himmler himself.

Until the last moment, he believed that he was to meet Montgomery, and when he took off his eye patch and identified himself as Himmler to the British camp commandant, he believed that he would be in the presence of the British commander soon after.

Instead, as Colonel Michael Murphy wrote in a handwritten report in an odd turn of phrase to which we drew comment two months ago, "I therefore told him to dress, and wishing to have a medical search conducted, telephoned my G-II at my H.Q. and told him to get a Doctor to stand by at a house I had had prepared for such men as Himmler." This was the house from which Himmler emerged lifeless, wrapped in a blanket.

Many months ago we had already detected that page 2 of the three-page report in the British Second Army intelligence unit's war diary, recording Himmler's death, had been retyped at roughly the same time -- on the same report pad and using the same typewriter, but by a different hand: clearly indicating that it had been sanitized for some purpose which could only be surmised.

Our thanks to Steve Kippax in London for additional research and providing the document scans. Kippax's special interest is in the British and German Special Forces in WWII and after, and he has studied SOE, OSS, Abwehr and SD in depth

[ Partial translation in French ]


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Their release has been timed to coincide with today’s Holocaust Memorial Day. The papers had lain hidden for several decades in Tel Aviv, having been bought by an Israeli Holocaust survivor called Chaim Rosenthal in the final days of World War II.

In 2007, Rosenthal sold the collection to a film-maker called Vanessa Lapa, who will shortly release a documentary about the letters, which she is calling The Decent.

The title is an ironic reference to a notorious speech Himmler made in October 1943, in which he spoke openly about exterminating the Jews.

‘Most of you here know what it means when 100 corpses lie next to each other,’ he told a Nazi gathering, ‘when there are 500 or when there are a 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.’

The notion that Himmler, despite ordering a genocide, could have remained ‘decent’, is clearly absurd, but as the letters show, the SS leader continued to believe himself to be a loving family man.

The letters reveal Himmler as seemingly able to separate the two sides of his personality.

These letters reveal Himmler as seemingly able to separate the two sides of his personality

As head of the dreaded SS, Hitler's Nazi guard, Himmler's 'business' was to orchestrate the mass shootings and gassings of millions of Jews and other 'undesirables'

Just a few days before Nazi Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, Himmler spent a few halcyon days with his family in an idyllic part of Upper Bavaria. As the three of them explored the beautiful countryside, Himmler did not mention to either his wife or daughter that his beloved SS and the German armed forces were about to mobilise on an epic scale in order to try to defeat Stalin.

Himmler’s wife only seemed to have learned about the attack later when the news became public.

‘Now we are at war again,’ she wrote to her husband on June 22. ‘I knew it. I didn’t sleep well at all.’

While millions suffered the privations brought about by the war, the Himmlers continued to have a taste for the high life.

‘There is still one can of caviar in the fridge,’ Marga told her husband. ‘Take it.’

The collection of documents also contains Marga’s wartime account book, which shows that she was spending extravagantly — about ten times more than the average household.

However, while his wife concerned herself with domesticity, it seems that Himmler’s daughter, Gudrun, then 11 years old, was more perceptive in her analysis of the political situation. She too wrote to Himmler on June 22 that year.

‘It’s terrible that we are going to war with Russia,’ she declared. ‘They were our allies after all. Russia is sooo big. The struggle will be very difficult if we want to conquer all of Russia.’

It is not known whether Himmler replied to that letter, but it seems likely that he did not, as a few days later, he wrote to Marga, apologising for forgetting their wedding anniversary ‘for the first time’.

‘There is quite a lot going on these days,’ he admitted. ‘The fighting is very hard, especially for the SS.’

Although Himmler and his wife still appeared to be on good terms, the newly uncovered letters provide a fascinating insight into how the couple’s relationship had, in fact, deteriorated.

Their early correspondence from the days of the courtship in the late Twenties is romantic — and even sometimes sexual — in tone.

This photograph, from May 1944, shows Adolf Hitler shaking hands with Himmler

Himmler, who was in charge of the entire complex of concentration camps throughout Europe, is seen here inspecting a Russian prisoner of war

Himmler would call himself a ‘roughneck’, and he referred to himself as a ruthless street fighter. He was proud of this roughness in the bedroom. ‘I am so lucky to have such a good bad man who loves his bad wife as much as she loves him,’ Marga wrote.

The couple would speak of sex as being ‘revenge’.

‘I’m for nothing but “Revenge” all the time,’ he wrote to Marga in January 1928 when he was on a train to Munich.

‘Remember “Revenge”,’ Marga insisted in April that year. ‘My black soul is thinking up the most impossible things.’

But over the years, the couple’s passion cooled to such an extent that, by 1938, Himmler had found himself a mistress — his secretary — with whom he had two children. Himmler also adopted a son, Gerhard, with Marga, though the boy did not take his surname.

Instead of addressing Marga as ‘my dear sweetheart’, he started to write to her — somewhat bizarrely — as ‘Dear Mummy’.

Nevertheless, Himmler did still care for his wife and daughter. Throughout the war, he would send them luxurious treats. In May 1942, for example, he sent Marga and Gudrun 150 tulips from Holland.

‘Striped, jagged, two colours, one colour,’ he wrote. ‘The kind you cannot find here.’

Even when the couple drifted apart, there was one belief that they continued to share fiercely: their hatred for the Jews.

In her early letters, Marga complained about how ‘Jewish scum’ scared her, and how she resented having to deal with a Jewish doctor, Bernhard Hauschild, with whom she co-owned a clinic in Berlin.

‘This Hauschild!’ she exclaimed in May 1928. ‘A Jew will always be a Jew!’ ‘Don’t get worked up about the Jews, dear, dear woman,’ Himmler replied, ‘if I could only help you.’

Himmler is seen here with his daughter, Gudrun

A decade later, her husband’s fellow Nazis would indeed ‘help’ the likes of Marga, by organising the brutal Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, in November 1938, which saw 90 Jews killed, and thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses destroyed.

Marga was delighted, but, like her husband, believed the SS could go further.

‘This thing with the Jews,’ she wrote, ‘when will this scum leave us so that we can lead a happy life?’

But apart from these references to the Jews, what is remarkable about the letters is that they make so little mention of Himmler’s murderous day job.

The letters show no sense of remorse or regret. What they do reveal is that Himmler displayed what some psychiatrists call ‘doubling’, in which people are able to commit extraordinarily evil acts while all the time believing themselves to be essentially good, or in Himmler’s own self-deluded word, ‘decent’.

The letter that captures this best is a short one. It simply states: ‘I’m off to Auschwitz. Kisses, Yours, Heini.’

For the head of the SS, heading off to Auschwitz was no more remarkable than a day trip to visit a regional branch of the office or a factory floor.

The notion that Himmler, despite ordering a genocide, could have remained 'decent', is clearly absurd, but as the letters show, the SS leader continued to believe himself to be a loving family man


Diels was born in Berghausen in the Taunus, the son of a farmer. [3] He went to school in Wiesbaden. [4] He served in the army towards the end of World War I and was posted in Haguenau, Alsace in an intelligence role. [4] After the war, he studied law at the University of Marburg from 1919. [4] At university he had a reputation as a drinker and philanderer. [5] While there he also received a number of dueling scars resulting from the academic fencing once practised by young upper-class Austrians and Germans. [6]

He joined the Prussian interior ministry in 1930 and was promoted to an advisory position in the Prussian police in 1932, targeting political radicals, both Communists and Nazis. [3] He was head of the Prussian Political Police when Adolf Hitler came to power. Göring was made minister president for Prussia in 1933, replacing Carl Severing, and was impressed with Diels' work and new-found commitment to the Nazi Party. Diels became a protégé of Göring. [3] In April 1933, Göring appointed him as chief of the new Prussian state police department 1A, concerned with political crimes. [7] Department 1A was soon renamed the Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police), or Gestapo. [8] During this time, he had a romantic relationship with Martha Dodd, the daughter of the US ambassador to Germany. [9]

On 27 February 1933 the Reichstag fire occurred and Diels was the main interrogator of the principal accused, Marinus van der Lubbe. [3] He told Hitler he thought that the fire was set by this single man. However, Hitler was convinced it was the Communists. [3] Diels also ordered Arthur Nebe to arrange the killing of Gregor Strasser in October 1933 Strasser was later killed during the Night of the Long Knives in which Diels himself was almost killed.

Diels attracted the attention of political rivals, including SS chief Heinrich Himmler and his deputy, Reinhard Heydrich. In 1933 and 1934, Himmler and Heydrich took over the political police of state after state. Soon only Prussia was left outside their control. [1] [10] Concerned that Diels was not ruthless enough to effectively counteract the power of the Sturmabteilung (SA), Göring handed over control of the Gestapo 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 SS Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, SD). [11] Effectively smeared, but with Göring's aid, Diels narrowly avoided execution during the Night of the Long Knives in the summer of 1934, fleeing his post for five weeks. Thereafter, he was briefly Deputy Police President of Berlin before being appointed Regierungspräsident (administrative president) of the local government of Cologne. [3]

He maintained his association with Göring, marrying his cousin, Ilse Göring. [3] Göring saved him from prison notably in 1940 when he declined to order the arrest of Jews. He was later arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 after the 20 July Plot to assassinate Hitler and imprisoned, but survived. [3]

Diels presented an affidavit for the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials but was also summoned to testify by Göring's defense lawyer. After 1950 he served in the post-war government of Lower Saxony [3] and then in the Ministry of the Interior, until his retirement in 1953.

Diels' memoirs, Lucifer Ante Portas: Von Severing bis Heydrich, were published in 1950. It was pre-released in Der Spiegel between May and July 1949 in nine episodes. [12] A less cautious work was published after his retirement, Der Fall Otto John ("The Case of Otto John") (1954).

Diels died on 18 November 1957 when his rifle accidentally discharged while he was hunting. [3] [13]


Heinrich Himmler

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Heinrich Himmler, (born October 7, 1900, Munich, Germany—died May 23, 1945, Lüneburg, Germany), German Nazi politician, police administrator, and military commander who became the second most powerful man in the Third Reich.

Where did Heinrich Himmler attend school?

Although Heinrich Himmler’s education was interrupted by World War I, he completed high school in 1919 but did not see combat. He graduated with a degree in agriculture from the Technical University in Munich in 1922.

Why is Heinrich Himmler significant?

Heinrich Himmler was one of the most powerful figures in the Third Reich, overseeing the creation and management of the vast Nazi police state as well as the infrastructure of the Holocaust. He established the first concentration camp at Dachau and organized extermination camps throughout occupied Europe.

How did Heinrich Himmler die?

With Soviet armies fighting in the streets of Berlin, Heinrich Himmler tried to circumvent Adolf Hitler and make a separate peace with the Western Allies. Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest, and Himmler tried to escape disguised as a German soldier. He was captured by the Allies and committed suicide by ingesting cyanide.

Where is Heinrich Himmler buried?

Heinrich Himmler was buried in an unmarked grave by British military authorities somewhere near Lüneburg, Germany.

The son of a Roman Catholic secondary-school master, Himmler studied agriculture after World War I and joined rightist paramilitary organizations. As a member of one of those, Ernst Röhm’s Reichskriegsflagge (“Imperial War Flag”), he participated in November 1923 in Adolf Hitler’s abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Himmler joined the Nazi Party in 1925, rose steadily in the party hierarchy, and was elected a deputy to the Reichstag (German parliament) in 1930. The foundations of his future importance, however, were laid with his appointment as Reichsführer of the SS (Schutzstaffel “Protective Echelon”), Hitler’s elite bodyguard, which was nominally under the control of the Sturmabteilung (SA “Assault Division”). Himmler immediately began expanding the SS, which reached a membership of more than 50,000 by 1933. After Hitler gained power on January 30, 1933, Himmler became head of the Munich police and soon afterward became commander of all German police units outside Prussia. As such, he established the Third Reich’s first concentration camp, at Dachau.

In April 1934 Himmler was appointed assistant chief of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) in Prussia, and from that position he extended his control over the police forces of the whole Reich. He masterminded the June 30, 1934, purge in which the SS eliminated the SA as a power within the Nazi Party. That purge strengthened Hitler’s control over both the party and the German army, which had viewed the SA as a serious rival. Himmler then began to build the SS into the most powerful armed body in Germany next to the armed forces. He assumed full command of the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo Security Police) and the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo Order Police) as Reichsführer SS and Chief of the German Police on June 17, 1936. Under Himmler the SS acquired vast police powers in Germany and the territories it occupied, and it also gained primary responsibilities in the areas of security, intelligence gathering, and espionage.

World War II brought a vast extension of Himmler’s empire and the resources at his command. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Himmler was entrusted with the administration of the conquered territory with the goal of eliminating the Soviet system. In July 1942 Hitler appointed Himmler to head the German antipartisan campaign in the occupied areas behind the front lines that campaign targeted the racial and political enemies of the Third Reich and was characterized by widespread acts of mass murder and atrocity. He oversaw the deployment of the Einsatzgruppen (“deployment groups”) in the massacre of Jews and other victims at sites such as Babi Yar, in Ukraine, during the early war years. Himmler organized the extermination camps in German-occupied Poland at which millions of Jews were systematically slaughtered. The camps also provided workers for cheap forced labour and subjects for involuntary medical experiments.

By 1943 Himmler had become minister of the interior and plenipotentiary for Reich administration. He expanded the Waffen-SS (“Armed SS”) until, with 35 divisions, it rivaled the army. He also gained control of the intelligence network, military armaments (after the abortive attempt on Hitler’s life of July 20, 1944), the Volkssturm (“People’s Storm Troop”), a mass levy of mostly older men, and later the Werwolf, a guerrilla force intended to continue the struggle after the war. He also unsuccessfully commanded two army groups.

Not content with military power alone, Himmler attempted to set up an autonomous SS industrial empire. When that provoked resistance from Hitler’s minister for armaments and war production, Albert Speer, Himmler apparently orchestrated an attempt on the latter’s life in February 1944.

In the final months of the war, Himmler suffered increasingly from psychosomatic illnesses and was progressively shunted aside by Hitler’s entourage. In April 1945 it became known that Himmler hoped to succeed Hitler and that he had negotiated with both Swedish Greve (Count) Folke Bernadotte (to surrender to the Western allies) and the Western Allies (to form an alliance against the Soviet Union). Hitler promptly stripped Himmler of all offices and ordered his arrest. Disguised as a common soldier, Himmler attempted to escape. Captured by the Western Allies, he committed suicide by taking poison.

Himmler was a highly effective administrator and a ruthless and adroit power seeker who was slavishly devoted to Hitler until the final weeks of the war. He combined a penchant for philosophical mysticism with a cold-blooded, fanatical adherence to Nazi racist ideology in his role as the prime architect of the Holocaust. More than any other individual, Himmler was the man who created the network of state terror by which the Third Reich suppressed its opposition, eliminated its internal enemies, and compelled obedience from the German citizenry.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.