A man often seen as the very personification of evil. Heinrich Himmler was not only head of Hitler's SS police, but was also in charge of the death camps in the East. The account of Himmler's life and his impact on the rise and fall of the Nazi state make a gripping and horrifying story. But more than this, it is a profound moral and intellectual inquiry into the nature of evil in the human character.
Although Adolf Hitler held the ultimate responsibility for what became the Holocaust, it was Heinrich Himmler who essentially laid the plans and devised the schemes that led to the killings of six million Jews.
Organised the mass murder of Jews
In a speech to 100 SS generals, he spoke of the extermination of Jews. His handwritten note uses the euphemism Judenevakuierung, meaning evacuation of the Jews. However, in sound recordings of the speech, Himmler defined evacuation as extermination.
In his speech addressing the SS group leaders on October 4, 1943, while in Poznan, Himmler gave his actual thoughts and ideas of how one of his men, on the Waffen SS, should act and hate anyone who was not of their own blood. The purpose of this meeting was to act as a morale-booster for leaders of SS personnel engaged in the monstrous business of the Final Solution. During the course of his speech, Himmler made his now-infamous statement that the Final Solution was to be a never-to-be-written page in our history.
Of course, the irony in this statement is well-known in retrospect, for the Nazis did keep meticulous records of their transports and of camp prisoners, so many that even last-minute attempts at destroying those records could not obliterate the paper trail that linked them inexorably to the murders of millions of Jews and also non-Jews. The pages of history would be written, to be sure, but not in the manner intended by Heinrich Himmler and his accomplices.
Himmler: Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our culture; otherwise, it is of no interest to me. Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interest me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished ...
Heinrich Himmler was born October 7, 1900, as the son of a secondary school instructor and strict Roman Catholic who lived in Luneberg, Germany. By the end of World War I, Himmler had completed secondary school instruction at a school in Landshut and went on to receive a diploma in agriculture from the Munich Technical High School in 1922. Turning 18 when Germany was at an all time low following World War I, Himmler despised the Weimar Republic, expressed hatred for anyone who was anti-Germany, and joined militant right-wing organizations.
Ironically, Himmler worked as a salesman for a firm of fertilizer manufacturers before joining a para- military organization in the Munich Beer-Hall Putsh in November of 1923. In 1925 Himmler joined the Nazi party, 1927 he worked as a Poultry farmer but his future would be imbued following his appointment in January 1929 as leader of the SS, an elite guard of Hitler that was under the control at that point by the SA stormtroopers.
Himmler quickly moved up the ranks, and once Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 Himmler became the head of the Munich police. From this position he organized the first concentration camp at Dachau and began to organize the Nazi political police throughout Germany.
In April of 1934 he was named assistant chief of the Prussian Gestapo, the secret police, and in June of 1934, Himmler successfully crushed the para-military SA, headed by Ernst Röhm, making the SS the dominant organization in Germany.
In June of 1936, a power-thirsting Himmler got full control of the SS, and became SS Reichsführer. From this point he constructed the SS into an armed force in Germany second only to the army itself. Before World War II it constrained itself to providing security services for Hitler and the state, and by initiating campaigns to remove "lower" races from a society composed of the "superior" Aryans.
The Final Solution and Holocaust is generally regarded as the systematic slaughter of not only 6 million Jews, two-thirds of the total European Jewish population, the primary victims, but also 5 million others, approximately 11 million individuals wiped off the Earth by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Not just 11 million deaths, but 11 million people whose lives were cut off because of racism and hate, all in a period of 11 years .
In 1943, Himmler became interior minister, and in July of 1944, he attained the rank of chief of the army's home organization - now second only to The Führer Adolf Hitler.
But Himmler's empire was already crumbling from within and under attack from without. As he indulged in pseudoscientific experiments and later failed as a military commander, disrespect and independence grew among the top SS leaders. Felix Kersten, a masseur who gave Himmler temporary relief from a severe psychosomatic illness, won some influence over him. Weakened on all fronts, he was attacked after 1944 by Martin Bormann, who tried to revitalize the party organization as a rival of the SS. Bormann emerged victorious in April 1945, when Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest because he had tried to propose peace to the Allies.
The chief of the SS sought to win asylum for himself and 200 leading Nazis in the final days of World War II by offering cash and the freedom of 3,500 Jews, according to British intelligence documents released last year. According to the documents, details of which have been held in the secret files of Britain's MI5 intelligence agency, the concentration camp inmates were to be sent to Switzerland in two trainloads. The offer was made by Heinrich Himmler and orchestrated by his intelligence chief, Walter Schellenberg.
But the arrangement was aborted after the first trainload of 1,700 left Germany and Nazi security chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner reported the plan to Adolf Hitler, who ordered it halted immediately.
Heinrich Himmler fled Berlin after the German surrender on May 21, 1945 in the disguise of a discharged Gestapo agent with moustache shaved and wearing an eye patch, but unbeknownst to him, the Allies had set a warrant out for the immediate arrest of any member who worked in an association that shared affiliation with his name. After being captured by the Allies, Heinrich Himmler committed suicide by biting a vial of cyanide that he had hidden in his mouth. The doctors attempted to remove the poison from his stomach by causing him to vomit, but with no success. After 12-minute long death throes, he died. Three days later, the British buried anonymously his remains somewhere in a forest near Lüneburg.
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