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Heinrich Himmler

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Sadurian Mike
638227.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:01 am Reply with quote

A thoroughly unpleasant man.

What? You want more?

SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler was one of Hitler's most trusted lieutenants, which was an elevated position indeed for Hitler was notoriously paranoid about his deputies, and loved to play them off against each other to avoid any one of them becoming too powerful.

Himmler was born in the 7th of October 1900 in Munich and quickly showed signs of his future career when his father, the principal of the local school, used him to spy on the other children. His academic years showed him to be intelligent but physically weak, and he struggled during any physical education. During WWI he was fascinated by the news of the war and had his father write to Prince Heinrich of Bavaria, a former pupil and Heinrich's own godfather, to secure Himmler a place in a regiment as an officer. Being physically weak he struggled during the training, but in any case the war ended before he was called to fight.

During the 1920's and early 1930's, Himmler's Catholic upbringing started to clash with his dreams of Aryan superiority and the romantic view of neo-paganism that was the hallmark of the Teutonic Thule Order, of which he was a member. The Nazi Party was a natural place for Himmler, and he took part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, the event at and for which Adolf Hitler was arrested and imprisoned.

After the failure of the Putsch, Himmler first sold fertilizer and later became a chicken farmer (he had studied agronomy after leaving the army in 1918), and developed romantic ideals of living off the land that would later surface in his idealistic view of an Aryan Nazi Germany. He married and seperated from his wife, Margarete, a divorced protestant who was seven years older than he. They had two children, a daughter and an adopted son, but Himmler openly preferred his daughter and supposedly shunned his son.

Failing at chicken farming, Himmler had joined the SS in 1925 and concentrated on rising within its ranks. By 1927 he had risen to the post of deputy leader, deputy–Reichsführer-SS, and became the Reichsführer-SS in 1929 upon the resignation of the then leader, Erhard Heiden.

At that point in German Nazi politics there were two organisations vying for power, the SA (led by Hitler's old political colleague, Ernst Röhm) and the SS. Both were brutal paramilitary groups with an interest in wresting control of the Nazi paramilitary forces. On 30 June 1934, ironically after persuading Hitler that the SA were intent on seizing power, the SS arrested and murdered the senior SA figures and several victims who were unlucky enough to have angered or upset either Hitler or Himmler along the way. The so-called "Night of the Long Knives" saw Himmler and the SS effectively established as the Nazi party's sole paramilitary force.

Over the next few years, the German secret police and investigative forces were merged with the SS, with Himmler being given power over them. The civilian police force managed to remain slightly outside Himmler's power and managed to retain its own heirarchy and independence through WWII until 1943 when Himmler was appointed Minister of the Interior. Concentration camps and the infamous Gestapo were also within Himmler's purview, making him the most powerful and feared man in Germany and the occupied territories except for Adolf Hitler himself.

Himmler had not lost his fascination with war and developed the Waffen SS with the SS proper. The Waffen SS were organised and trained as front-line soldiers, but were answerable to Himmler and the SS rather than to the army. Political meddling meant that the Waffen SS received preferential treatment in terms of equipment and conditions, but they were expected to repay this favoritism with fanatical loyalty and tenacious fighting, which, in the main, they did.

Fondly believing that he had a talent for military command, in 1944 Himmler accepted the position of commander of the Heeresgruppe Oberrhein, or Army Group Upper Rhine, to defend against the advancing Americans and French in the Alsace. His effectiveness can be measured by the fact that the group effectively collapsed after expending its strength on futile counter-attacks which appeared to have been launched to show small tactical successes, but ended up as a strategic disaster.

Before he was blamed for this, however, Himmler was transfered to the Eastern Front to command another army group, Army Group Vistula, this time against the advancing Red Army. Speculation has it that the move was a result of jealous political rivals who knew that he would fail, and were thus looking to discredit him and devalue his political capital. In any case, the command showed his ineptness and Himmler took himself off to a sanitorium where he claimed illness and resigned his position as army group commander.

Bizarrely for the man many hold chiefly responsible for the Holocaust and brutality of the German army and SS towards both conquered and their own people, in early 1945 Himmler attempted to negotiate a seperate peace with the allies through an intermediary in Switzerland. When Hitler heard of this he decreed that Himmler was a criminal and no longer held any position or rank, either in Germany or the Party. Shortly afterwards Hitler committed suicide.

Himmler decided to try once more to negotiate with the Allies, and optimistically offered to free a couple of trainloads of Jews and to surrender Germany at once in return for freedom from prosecution. Needless to say, this offer was bluntly refused and Himmler tried to escape by disguising himself and giving himslef false papers. In a bitterly ironic twist, the rarity of having perfect papers in the chaos of May 1945 aroused the suspicion of the British who examined them, and Himmler was arrested and identified.

He killed himself in prison by biting a cyanide capsule hidden in his teeth, and is reported to have taken 12 agonised minutes to die.

Further to the links, this one made me laugh; Which celebrity is dating Himmler at the moment? I think we should be told.

I dare say that you can buy Heinrich Himmler on eBay as well. Don't you love Google sometimes?

Janet H
638335.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:32 pm Reply with quote

Was he the bastard who murdered his children when it all horribly wrong (for him) at the end?

Soddit, I just notices we share 7th Oct as birthday.

Sadurian Mike
638354.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:35 pm Reply with quote

That was the propaganda minister, Goebbels. Another thoroughly nasty piece of work.

Himmler's daughter, Gudrun, survived the war but was held (with her mother) for four years in detention. Frankly, I would have considered such a detention as being as much protective as anything else at that time. During the war she frequently accompanied her father in his work, including visiting concentration camps.

She is still alive and has never renouced Nazism or its philosophy, but instead has worked in many pro-Nazi and pro-SS causes. Not a very nice woman at all.

Ion Zone
638385.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:31 pm Reply with quote

is reported to have taken 12 agonised minutes to die.


638454.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:35 pm Reply with quote

I'd think that considering her age during WWII which is a time that is very formative for a lot of children, and the supposedly close relationship she enjoyed with her dad it would be hard for her to renounce something he believed in. It's a shaqme, but somewhat understandable.

Sadurian Mike
638473.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:45 pm Reply with quote

I could understand her having a few opinions left over, but to still be as fervently pro-SS and pro-Nazi as she is when presented with the evidence of what they actually did is where I am left scratching my head. She has had plenty of time as an adult to reflect on what happened.

638503.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:01 pm Reply with quote

Is there a different judgement on her to the players of the time, people who knew what was happening at the time but went with it? Is there a difference in the situations, is one easier to fail on than the other?

Sadurian Mike
638508.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:12 pm Reply with quote

It is difficult to say who knew what, mainly because the vast majority of civilians claimed to have no knowledge of things like the Holocaust at the time. Many non-Germans have questioned exactly how they could have not known, but it is feasible that they knew a little and weren't interested in asking any more.

Certainly there are also survivors of that period, and plenty of younger people, who still adamantly hold that Hitler was right and are unrepentent of whatever role they played. Hopefully, their opinions on the past and their intepretations of Nazi Germany's actions are as far as it goes.

Gudrun Himmler (actually Gudrun Burwitz, as she married after the war), however, plays an active role in post-war Nazi organisations. She has helped set up various pro-SS and pro-Nazi groups, and is a willing figurehead for several others.

I don't and can't judge her on the fact that she is the daughter of Heinrich Himmler, nor that her childhood morality was inevitably tainted, but I do feel able to judge her on her actions once she became free to form her own opinions.

No, I don't think that she should be judged differently to others, but not many others are so blatantly still supporting the twisted ideals of Hitler and her father.

638522.  Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:12 pm Reply with quote

Many non-Germans have questioned exactly how they could have not known, but it is feasible that they knew a little and weren't interested in asking any more.

I don't find it surprising that the majority of people at the time knew little of what was going on, or that they were uninterested in finding out. You only have to watch films like "Taking Liberties" to realise how little WE know about our own country - and that's without the secret policemen's balls up.

638702.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 11:43 am Reply with quote

I read a couple of books written by English women who spent the war in Germany because they had married a German man before the war - The Past Is Myself by Christabel Bielenberg and Living Under Hitler by Sybil Bannister. They both seemed to think that very little information leaked out to people who weren't directly working in the camps - there were rumours, but not confirmed news.

Sadurian Mike
638738.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:43 pm Reply with quote

The problem I have there is that the pogrom on Jews was widespread. Very few, in any, people in Germany must have failed to realise that Jews were being arrested for their race/faith and shipped out.

Now granted they may have simply thought that the Jews were being deported or imprisoned, but Jewish (and other) slave labour was used extensively throughout German wartime industry, so the average German (in urban areas at least) must have been aware of the exploitation going on.

As for the camps; the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was only a few miles from the town of Bergen and only a mile from the village of Belsen. The camp had no walls, only wire, and so the state of the inmates was clear to anyone passing. I cannot believe that, for 4 years (1941 - 45), no German civilian saw into the camp. The same, or similar, can be said for plenty of the other death camps.

Janet H
638740.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:49 pm Reply with quote

Dachau is (now) a rather pleasant town very near Munich. It was also a very large 'camp'. I can't imagine how the locals could have failed to wonder why all those people went in and none came out.

Sadurian Mike
638746.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 3:26 pm Reply with quote

Also Buchenwald, which was murdering inmates even before the war. Only five miles from Weimar and one of the largest German concentration camps.

Incidentally, the "human-skin lampshade" story might be a myth, but that the SS skinned Buchenwald prisoners and tanned their skin is strongly supported by eye-wtness and photographic evidence. This skin was reportedly used to bind books.

638864.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:59 pm Reply with quote

judging by the stories my parents (both born in 1940) tell about their childhoods, people knew some of what was happening, but not the full extent of it. they definitely knew that there were concentration camps (dachau etc.), and they had some idea who was sent there. what they must likely didn't know about were the extermination camps (auschwitz etc.). they were built in the very far east of the reich for a reason, the government didn't want its people to know what was going on there. so - people did know jews, gypsies, gays etc. went to camps, but they didn't know some of these camps existed only as killing facilities.



Sadurian Mike
638869.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 8:11 pm Reply with quote

That's pretty much what I believe; people knew something sinister was happening but had no real interest in poking their heads above the parapet to ask about it further. The SS and Gestapo did not exactly encourage people to start their own investigations and I'm also sure that, in such a situation, the majority of people would do the same to keep themselves and their families safe.

What I find difficult to believe, however, are those people who have claimed that they knew nothing at all of what was happening.


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