Heinrich Himmler

Heinrich Himmler

Overview
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (ˈhaɪnʁɪç ˈluˑɪtˌpɔlt ˈhɪmlɐ 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 (Secret State Police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

). Serving as Reichsführer
Reichsführer-SS
was a special SS rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945. Reichsführer-SS was a title from 1925 to 1933 and, after 1934, the highest rank of the German Schutzstaffel .-Definition:...

and later as Commander of the Replacement (Home) Army and General Plenipotentiary for the entire Reichs administration (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung), Himmler rose to become one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany as well as one of the persons most directly responsible for the Holocaust.

As overseer of the concentration camps, extermination camps, and Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

(literally: task forces, often used as killing squads), Himmler coordinated the killing of some six million Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

, between 200,000 and 500,000 Roma, many prisoners of war, and possibly another three to four million Poles, communists, or other groups whom the Nazis deemed unworthy to live
Life unworthy of life
The phrase "life unworthy of life" was a Nazi designation for the segments of populace which had no right to live and thus were to be "euthanized". The term included people with serious medical problems and those considered grossly inferior according to racial policy of the Third Reich...

 or simply "in the way", including homosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities
Disability
A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.Many people would rather be referred to as a person with a disability instead of handicapped...

, Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

 and members of the Confessing Church
Confessing Church
The Confessing Church was a Protestant schismatic church in Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to nazify the German Protestant church.-Demographics:...

.
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Quotations

Ich bin Heinrich Himmler. (I am Heinrich Himmler.)

Last words. Quoted in "Himmler, the Evil Genius of the Third Reich" - Page 257 - by Willi Frischauer - Germany - 1953

The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us. But, we don't ask for their love; only for their fear.

Quoted in "Visions of Reality - A Study of Abnormal Perception and Behavior" - by Alberto Rivas - Psychology - 2007 - Page 162

I still lack to a considerable degree that naturally superior kind of manner that I would dearly like to possess.

Diary entry (November 1921), quoted in The Hidden Files (1992) by Derek Raymond

My honor is my loyalty.

Formulated as the watchword of the S.S. Nazi elite, as translated in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), by Hannah Arendt Ch. 10

In the brief monthly reports of the Security Police, I only want figures on how many Jews have been shipped off and how many are currently left.

To Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Quoted in "Hitler and the Final Solution" - Page 137 - by Gerald Fleming - History - 1987

Anti-Semitism is exactly the same as delousing. Getting rid of lice is not a question of ideology, it is a matter of cleanliness. In just this same way anti-Semitism for us has not been a question of ideology but a matter of cleanliness.

Quoted in "Conscience and Memory: Meditations in a Museum of the Holocaust" - Page 29 - by Harold Kaplan - History - 1994

I hope to see the very concept of Jewry completely obliterated.

March 23 1941. Quoted in "Murderous Science" - Page 48 - by Benno Müller-Hill - History - 1998
Encyclopedia
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (ˈhaɪnʁɪç ˈluˑɪtˌpɔlt ˈhɪmlɐ 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 (Secret State Police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

). Serving as Reichsführer
Reichsführer-SS
was a special SS rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945. Reichsführer-SS was a title from 1925 to 1933 and, after 1934, the highest rank of the German Schutzstaffel .-Definition:...

and later as Commander of the Replacement (Home) Army and General Plenipotentiary for the entire Reichs administration (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung), Himmler rose to become one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany as well as one of the persons most directly responsible for the Holocaust.

As overseer of the concentration camps, extermination camps, and Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

(literally: task forces, often used as killing squads), Himmler coordinated the killing of some six million Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

, between 200,000 and 500,000 Roma, many prisoners of war, and possibly another three to four million Poles, communists, or other groups whom the Nazis deemed unworthy to live
Life unworthy of life
The phrase "life unworthy of life" was a Nazi designation for the segments of populace which had no right to live and thus were to be "euthanized". The term included people with serious medical problems and those considered grossly inferior according to racial policy of the Third Reich...

 or simply "in the way", including homosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities
Disability
A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.Many people would rather be referred to as a person with a disability instead of handicapped...

, Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

 and members of the Confessing Church
Confessing Church
The Confessing Church was a Protestant schismatic church in Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to nazify the German Protestant church.-Demographics:...

. Shortly before the end of the war, he offered to surrender both Germany and himself to the Western Allies if he were spared prosecution. After being arrested by British
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 forces on 22 May 1945, he committed suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 the following day before he could be questioned.

Early life


Heinrich Himmler was born in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 to a Roman Catholic Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

n middle-class family. His father was Joseph Gebhard Himmler, a secondary-school teacher and principal of the prestigious Wittelsbacher Gymnasium. His mother was Anna Maria Himmler (maiden name Heyder), a devout Roman Catholic. He had an older brother, Gebhard Ludwig Himmler, who was born on 29 July 1898, and a younger brother, Ernst Hermann Himmler, born on 23 December 1905.

Heinrich was named after his godfather
Godparent
A godparent, in many denominations of Christianity, is someone who sponsors a child's baptism. A male godparent is a godfather, and a female godparent is a godmother...

, Prince Heinrich of Bavaria
Prince Heinrich of Bavaria
Prince Heinrich of Bavaria was a member of the Bavarian Royal House of Wittelsbach and a highly decorated Army officer in the First World War.-Early life:...

 of the royal family of Bavaria
Line of succession to the Bavarian Throne
The Monarchy of Bavaria was abolished in 1918. The current Head of the formerly ruling House of Wittelsbach is Franz, Duke of Bavaria.The succession is determined by Article 2 of Title 2 of the 1818 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bavaria, which states "The crown is hereditary among the male...

, who was tutored by Gebhard Himmler. In 1910, Himmler attended Gymnasium
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

 in Landshut
Landshut
Landshut is a city in Bavaria in the south-east of Germany, belonging to both Eastern and Southern Bavaria. Situated on the banks of the River Isar, Landshut is the capital of Lower Bavaria, one of the seven administrative regions of the Free State of Bavaria. It is also the seat of the...

, where he studied classic literature. Himmler's father—the principal—sent him to spy on and punish other pupils. His father even called him a born criminal. While he struggled in athletics, he did well in his schoolwork. Also, at the behest of his father, Himmler kept a diary from age 10 until age 24. He enjoyed chess
Chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

, harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

, stamp collecting
Stamp collecting
Stamp collecting is the collecting of postage stamps and related objects. It is one of the world's most popular hobbies, with the number of collectors in the United States alone estimated to be over 20 million.- Collecting :...

, and gardening
Gardening
Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants. Ornamental plants are normally grown for their flowers, foliage, or overall appearance; useful plants are grown for consumption , for their dyes, or for medicinal or cosmetic use...

. Throughout Himmler's youth and into adulthood, he was never at ease in interactions with women.

Himmler's diaries (1914–1918) show that he was extremely interested in war news. He implored his father to use his royal connections to obtain an officer candidate position for him. His parents eventually gave in, allowing him to train (upon graduation from secondary school in 1918) with the 11th Bavarian Regiment. Since he was not athletic, he struggled throughout his military training. In 1918, the war
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 ended with Germany's defeat, thus ending Himmler's aspirations of becoming a professional army officer.

From 1919-1922, Himmler studied agronomy
Agronomy
Agronomy is the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, feed, fiber, and reclamation. Agronomy encompasses work in the areas of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology, and soil science. Agronomy is the application of a combination of sciences like biology,...

 at the Munich Technische Hochschule
Technische Hochschule
Technische Hochschule is what an Institute of Technology used to be called in German-speaking countries, as well as in the Netherlands, before most of them changed their name to Technische Universität or Technische Universiteit in the 1970s and in the...

(now Technical University Munich) following a short-lived apprenticeship on a farm and subsequent illness.

In his diaries, he claimed to be a devout Roman Catholic, and wrote that he would never turn away from the Roman Church. However, he was a member of a fraternity, and later the Thule Society
Thule Society
The Thule Society , originally the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum , was a German occultist and völkisch group in Munich, named after a mythical northern country from Greek legend...

, and felt both associations to be at odds with the tenets of the Church. Biographers have defined Himmler's theology as Ariosophy
Ariosophy
Armanism and Ariosophy are the names of ideological systems of an esoteric nature, pioneered by Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels respectively, in Austria between 1890 and 1930. The term 'Ariosophy', meaning wisdom concerning the Aryans, was first coined by Lanz von Liebenfels in 1915 and...

, his own religious dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

 of racial superiority of the Aryan race
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

 and Germanic Meso-Paganism, developed partly from his interpretations of folklore and mythology of the ancient Teutonic
Teutons
The Teutons or Teutones were mentioned as a Germanic tribe by Greek and Roman authors, notably Strabo and Marcus Velleius Paterculus and normally in close connection with the Cimbri, whose ethnicity is contested between Gauls and Germani...

 tribes of Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

. During this time, he was again obsessed with the idea of becoming a soldier. He wrote that if Germany did not soon go to war, he would go to another country to seek battle.

In 1923, Himmler took part in Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's Beer Hall Putsch
Beer Hall Putsch
The Beer Hall Putsch was a failed attempt at revolution that occurred between the evening of 8 November and the early afternoon of 9 November 1923, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler, Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff, and other heads of the Kampfbund unsuccessfully tried to seize power...

, serving under Ernst Röhm
Ernst Röhm
Ernst Julius Röhm, was a German officer in the Bavarian Army and later an early Nazi leader. He was a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung , the Nazi Party militia, and later was its commander...

. In 1926, he met his future wife in a hotel lobby while escaping a storm. Margarete Siegroth (née Boden) was seven years his senior, divorced, and Protestant. On 3 July 1928, the two were married. During this time Himmler worked unsuccessfully as a chicken farmer
Poultry farming
Poultry farming is the raising of domesticated birds such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese, for the purpose of farming meat or eggs for food. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world's poultry meat, and 68 percent of eggs are produced in ways that are described as...

. They had their only child—Gudrun—on 8 August 1929. Himmler adored his daughter, and called her Püppi ("dolly"). Margarete later adopted a son, in whom Himmler showed no interest. Heinrich and Margarete Himmler separated in 1940 without seeking divorce. At that time, Himmler became friendly with a secretary, Hedwig Potthast, who left her job in 1941 and became his mistress. He fathered two children with her: a son, Helge (born 1942), and a daughter, Nanette Dorothea (born 1944).

Himmler was also very interested in agriculture and the "back to the land
Back to the land
The back-to-the-land movement calls for occupants of real property to grow food from the land on a small-scale basis for themselves or for others, and to perhaps live on the land while doing so....

" movement. He and his wife had romantic ideals of making a farming life. He joined the Artamanen society, a sort of idealistic back-to-the-land youth group, but mixed with racist
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 ideology. He became one of the leaders of this movement. Through this movement, he also apparently met Rudolf Höss, who would later preside over Auschwitz, and Richard Walther Darré, who would later work in the RuSHA
RuSHA
The Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt-SS , , was the organization responsible for "safeguarding the racial 'purity' of the SS" within Nazi Germany....

 (race and resettlement office) of the SS. Darre's views on restoring racial purity to Germany, by breeding programs, were a deep influence on Himmler's view of the SS as a core of breeding men.

For the most part, Himmler abstained from drinking alcohol and smoking. He frequently had stomach pains, for which he received massage therapy from his personal masseur Felix Kersten
Felix Kersten
Felix Kersten was before and during World War II the personal masseur of Heinrich Himmler...

.

Rise in the SS



Early SS: 1925–1934


Himmler joined the SS in 1925 as an SS-Führer (SS-Leader). His NSDAP number was 14,303 and his SS number was 168. Himmler's first leadership position was that of SS-Gauführer
Gauführer
Gauführer was an early paramilitary rank used by the Schutzstaffel between 1925 and 1929. Translated as "SS-Region Leader", the SS-Gauführer had command of several SS-Stafflen which were in turn commanded by an SS-Staffelführer....

(District Leader) in Bavaria. In 1927, he became Deputy–Reichsführer-SS, with the rank of SS-Oberführer, and upon the resignation
Resignation
A resignation is the formal act of giving up or quitting one's office or position. It can also refer to the act of admitting defeat in a game like chess, indicated by the resigning player declaring "I resign", turning his king on its side, extending his hand, or stopping the chess clock...

 of SS commander Erhard Heiden
Erhard Heiden
Erhard Heiden was an early member of the Nazi Party and the third commander of the Schutzstaffel . Heiden was a Nazi stormtrooper who, in 1925, joined a small stormtrooper bodyguard unit known as the Schutzstaffel...

, in 1929, Himmler was appointed Reichsführer-SS
Reichsführer-SS
was a special SS rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945. Reichsführer-SS was a title from 1925 to 1933 and, after 1934, the highest rank of the German Schutzstaffel .-Definition:...

(Reichsführer was, at that time, simply a title for the National Commander of the SS). At that time, the SS had 280 members and was merely an elite battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

 of the much larger Sturmabteilung (SA)
Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

. Over the next year, Himmler began a major expansion of the organization and, in 1930, he was promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer.

By 1933, the SS numbered 52,000 members. The organization at that time enforced strict membership requirements ensuring that all members were of Hitler's Aryan
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

 Herrenvolk ("Aryan master race"). Applications had been scrutinized for Nordic qualities, in Himmler's words, "like a nursery gardener trying to reproduce a good old strain which has been adulterated and debased; we started from the principles of plant selection and then proceeded quite unashamedly to weed out the men whom we did not think we could use for the build-up of the SS." (Few dared mention that by his own standards, Himmler did not qualify as an ideal Nordic.)

Himmler and his deputy Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 began an effort to separate the SS from SA control. Black SS uniforms replaced the SA brown shirts in July 1932 and by 1934 enough quantities were manufactured for general use by all. In 1933, Himmler was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1932 as a rank of the SA and until 1942 it was the highest SS rank inferior only to Reichsführer-SS...

. This made him an equal of the senior SA commanders, who by this time loathed the SS and envied its power.

Himmler, Hermann Göring, and General Werner von Blomberg
Werner von Blomberg
Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg was a German Generalfeldmarschall, Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces until January 1938.-Early life:...

 agreed that the SA and its leader Ernst Röhm
Ernst Röhm
Ernst Julius Röhm, was a German officer in the Bavarian Army and later an early Nazi leader. He was a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung , the Nazi Party militia, and later was its commander...

 posed a threat to the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 (Wehrmacht Heer) and the Nazi leadership. Röhm had socialist and populist
Populism
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

 views, and believed that the real revolution
Revolution
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...

 had not yet begun. He felt that the SA should become the sole arms-bearing corps of the state. This left some Nazi, military and political leaders believing Röhm was intent on using the SA to undertake a coup.

Persuaded by Himmler and Göring, Hitler agreed that Röhm had to be eliminated. He delegated this task to Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

, Kurt Daluege
Kurt Daluege
Kurt Daluege was a German Nazi SS-Oberstgruppenführer and Generaloberst der Polizei as chief of the Ordnungspolizei and ruled the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia as Deputy Protector after Reinhard Heydrich's assassination.-Early life and career:Kurt Daluege, a son of a Prussian state official,...

, and Werner Best
Werner Best
Dr. Werner Best was a German Nazi, jurist, police chief, SS-Obergruppenführer and Nazi Party leader from Darmstadt, Hesse. He studied law and in 1927 obtained his doctorate degree at Heidelberg...

, who ordered Röhm's execution (carried out by Theodor Eicke
Theodor Eicke
Theodor Eicke was a SS Obergruppenführer , commander of the SS-Division Totenkopf of the Waffen-SS and one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. His Nazi Party number was 114,901 and his SS number was 2,921...

), along with the purge of the entire SA leadership and other political adversaries (including, Gregor Strasser
Gregor Strasser
Gregor Strasser was a politician of the National Socialist German Workers Party...

 and Kurt von Schleicher
Kurt von Schleicher
Kurt von Schleicher was a German general and the last Chancellor of Germany during the era of the Weimar Republic. Seventeen months after his resignation, he was assassinated by order of his successor, Adolf Hitler, in the Night of the Long Knives....

). These actions took place from 30 June to 2 July 1934, in what became known as the Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives , sometimes called "Operation Hummingbird " or in Germany the "Röhm-Putsch," was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders...

. The great beneficiaries of the action were the SS and the German Army. They both celebrated the demise of their mutual rival, Röhm's SA. Officially, from 20 July 1934 forward, the SS became an independent organization responsible only to Hitler, and Himmler's title of Reichsführer-SS became the highest formal SS rank.

Consolidation of power


On 20 April 1934, Göring formed a partnership with Himmler and Heydrich. Göring transferred authority over the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

(Geheime Staatspolizei)—the Prussian secret police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

—to Himmler, who was also named chief of all German police outside Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

. On 22 April 1934, Himmler named Heydrich the head of the Gestapo. Heydrich continued as head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD: security service)
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

, as well.

On 17 June 1936, Himmler was named Chief of German Police after Hitler announced a decree that was to "unify the control of Police duties in the Reich". Traditionally, law enforcement in Germany had been a state and local matter. In this role, Himmler was nominally subordinate to Interior Minister
Federal Ministry of the Interior (Germany)
The Federal Ministry of the Interior is a ministry of the German federal government. Its main office is in Berlin, with a secondary seat in Bonn. The current minister of the interior is Dr...

 Wilhelm Frick
Wilhelm Frick
Wilhelm Frick was a prominent German Nazi official serving as Minister of the Interior of the Third Reich. After the end of World War II, he was tried for war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials and executed...

. However, the decree effectively merged the police with the SS, making it virtually independent of Frick's control.

Himmler gained authority as all of Germany's uniformed law enforcement agencies
Law enforcement agency
In North American English, a law enforcement agency is a government agency responsible for the enforcement of the laws.Outside North America, such organizations are called police services. In North America, some of these services are called police while others have other names In North American...

 were amalgamated into the new Ordnungspolizei (Orpo: "order police")
Ordnungspolizei
The Ordnungspolizei or Orpo were the uniformed regular police force in Nazi Germany between 1936 and 1945. It was increasingly absorbed into the Nazi police system. Owing to their green uniforms, they were also referred to as Grüne Polizei...

, whose main office became a headquarters branch of the SS. Despite his title, Himmler gained only partial control of the uniformed police. The actual powers granted to him were some that were previously exercised by the ministry of the interior. It was only in 1943, when Himmler was appointed Minister of the Interior, that the transfer of ministerial power was complete.

With the 1936 appointment, Himmler also gained ministerial authority over Germany's non-political detective forces, the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo: crime police)
Kriminalpolizei
is the standard term for the criminal investigation agency within the police forces of Germany, Austria and the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland. In Nazi Germany during 1936, the Kripo became the Criminal Police Department for the entire Reich...

, which he merged with the Gestapo into the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo: security police)
Sicherheitspolizei
The Sicherheitspolizei , often abbreviated as SiPo, was a term used in Nazi Germany to describe the state political and criminal investigation security agencies. It was made up by the combined forces of the Gestapo and the Kripo between 1936 and 1939...

 under Heydrich's command, thus gaining operational control over Germany's entire detective force. This merger was never complete within the Reich, with Kripo remaining mainly under the control of its own civilian administration and later the party apparatus (as the latter annexed the civilian administration). However, in occupied territories not incorporated into the Reich proper, SiPo consolidation within the SS line of command proved mostly effective. In September 1939, following the outbreak of World War II, Himmler formed the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA: Reich Main Security Office) wherein the SiPo (Gestapo and Kripo) along with the SD became departments under Heydrich's command therein.
Himmler oversaw the entire concentration camp system
Nazi concentration camps
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled. The first Nazi concentration camps set up in Germany were greatly expanded after the Reichstag fire of 1933, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime...

. Once World War II began, however, new internment camps, which were not formally classified as concentration camps, were established over which Himmler and the SS did not exercise control. In 1943, following the outbreak of popular word-of-mouth criticism of the regime as a result of the Stalingrad disaster
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, the party apparatus, professing disappointment with the Gestapo's performance in deterring such criticism, established the Politische Staffeln (political squads) as its own political policing organ, breaking the Gestapos monopoly in this field.

The SS during these years developed its own military branch, the SS-Verfügungstruppe
SS-Verfügungstruppe
The SS-Verfügungstruppe was formed in 1934 as combat troops for the NSDAP. By 1940 these military SS units had become the nucleus of the Waffen-SS....

(SS-VT), which later evolved into the Waffen-SS
Waffen-SS
The Waffen-SS was a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of the Third Reich. It constituted the armed wing of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside...

. Even though nominally under the authority of Himmler, the Waffen-SS developed a fully militarized structure of command and operationally were incorporated in the war effort parallel to the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

. Many contemporary commentators refuse to recognize the Waffen-SS as an honorable military organisation. Its units were involved in notorious incidents of murdering civilians and unarmed prisoners. This was one of many reasons that the International Military Tribunal declared the SS to be a criminal organization.

Himmler and the Holocaust


After the Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives , sometimes called "Operation Hummingbird " or in Germany the "Röhm-Putsch," was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders...

, the SS-Totenkopfverbände organized and administered Germany's regime of concentration camps and, after 1941, extermination camps in occupied Poland as well. The SS—through its intelligence arm, the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

, or SD)—dealt with Jews, Gypsies, communists and those persons of any other cultural, racial, political or religious affiliation deemed by the Nazis to be either Untermensch
Untermensch
Untermensch is a term that became infamous when the Nazi racial ideology used it to describe "inferior people", especially "the masses from the East," that is Jews, Gypsies, Poles along with other Slavic people like the Russians, Serbs, Belarussians and Ukrainians...

(sub-human) or in opposition to the regime, and placed them in concentration camps. Himmler opened the first of these camps at Dachau on 22 March 1933. He was the main architect of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

, using elements of mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 and a fanatical belief in the racist
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 Nazi ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 to justify the murder of millions of victims. Himmler had similar plans for the Poles; intellectuals were to be killed
Intelligenzaktion
Intelligenzaktion was a genocidal action of Nazi Germany targeting Polish elites as part of elimination of potentially dangerous elements. It was an early measure of the Generalplan Ost. About 60,000 people were killed as the result of this operation...

, and most other Poles were to be only literate enough to read traffic signs. On 18 December 1941, Himmler's appointment book shows he met with Hitler. The entry for that day poses the question "What to do with the Jews of Russia?", and then answers the question "als Partisanen auszurotten" (exterminate them as partisans").

In contrast to Hitler, Himmler inspected concentration camps. As a result of these inspections, the Nazis searched for a new and more expedient way to kill, which culminated in the use of the gas chamber
Gas chamber
A gas chamber is an apparatus for killing humans or animals with gas, consisting of a sealed chamber into which a poisonous or asphyxiant gas is introduced. The most commonly used poisonous agent is hydrogen cyanide; carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have also been used...

s.

Himmler wanted to breed a master race
Master race
Master race was a phrase and concept originating in the slave-holding Southern US. The later phrase Herrenvolk , interpreted as 'master race', was a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Nordic peoples, one of the branches of what in the late-19th and early-20th century was called the Aryan race,...

 of Nordic
Nordic theory
The Nordic race is one of the racial subcategories into which the Caucasian race was divided by anthropologists in the first half of the 20th century...

 Aryans
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

 in Germany. His experience as a chicken farmer had taught him the rudiments of animal breeding which he proposed to apply to humans. He believed that he could engineer the German populace, through eugenic
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

 selective breeding, to be entirely "Nordic" in appearance within several decades of the end of the war.

Posen speech


On 4 October 1943, Himmler referred explicitly to the extermination of the Jewish people during a secret SS meeting in the city of Poznań
Poznan
Poznań is a city on the Warta river in west-central Poland, with a population of 556,022 in June 2009. It is among the oldest cities in Poland, and was one of the most important centres in the early Polish state, whose first rulers were buried at Poznań's cathedral. It is sometimes claimed to be...

 (Posen). The following is a translation of an excerpt from a transcription of an audio recording that exists of the speech:

Germanization


As Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood, Himmler was deeply involved in the Germanization program for the East, particularly Poland. Its purpose was to remove all non-Germanic peoples from German Lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

and to reclaim any Volkdeutsche (ethnic Germans) living there for Germany, as laid out in the Generalplan Ost
Generalplan Ost
Generalplan Ost was a secret Nazi German plan for the colonization of Eastern Europe. Implementing it would have necessitated genocide and ethnic cleansing to be undertaken in the Eastern European territories occupied by Germany during World War II...

. He declared that no drop of German blood would be lost or left behind for an alien race. Himmler continued his plans to colonize the east despite evidence that Germans did not want to relocate there, and that the activities hindered the war effort; several high-ranking Nazi officials found the latter point obvious.

The plans began with the Volksliste
Volksliste
The Deutsche Volksliste was a Nazi institution whose purpose was the classification of inhabitants of German occupied territories into categories of desirability according to criteria systematized by Heinrich Himmler. The institution was first established in occupied western Poland...

, the classification of people deemed of German blood into those Germans who had collaborated before the war; those still regarding themselves as German, but who had been neutral; partially Polonized but Germanizable; and those Germans who had been absorbed into Polish nationality. Any person classified as German who resisted was to be deported to a concentration camp. Himmler oversaw cases of obstinate Germans, and gave orders for concentration camps, or separation of families, or forced labor, in efforts to break down resistance.

His declaration that "it is in the nature of German blood to resist" led to the paradoxical conclusion that Balts or Poles who resisted Germanization measures were regarded as more suitable material than more compliant ones.

This included the kidnapping of Eastern European children by Nazi Germany. Himmler urged:

The "racially valuable" children were to be culled, removed from all contact with Poles, and raised as Germans, with German names. Himmler declared, "We have faith above all in this our own blood, which has flowed into a foreign nationality through the vicissitudes of German history. We are convinced that our own philosophy and ideals will reverberate in the spirit of these children who racially belong to us." Acceptable children were to be adopted by German families. Children who passed muster at first but were later rejected were used as slave labor or killed. Himmler ordered that parents who were registered on the Volksliste should lose their children if the parent impeded their Germanization.

The colony of Hegewald
Hegewald (colony)
Hegewald was a short-lived German colony in Reichskommissariat Ukraine near Zhitomir during World War II. Its purpose was to hold Poles and Ukrainian settlers who had been classified as Volksdeutsche for Germanization...

 was set up in the Reichskommisariat Ukraine
Reichskommissariat Ukraine
Reichskommissariat Ukraine , literally "Reich Commissariat of Ukraine", was the civilian occupation regime of much of German-occupied Ukraine during World War II. Between September 1941 and March 1944, the Reichskommissariat was administered by Reichskommissar Erich Koch as a colony...

 at his command. His original plans to recruit settlers from Scandinavia and the Netherlands were unsuccessful, and so it was settled with such ethnic Germans as had not been deported by the Soviet Union.

For the Nazi leaders, the land which would provide sufficient Lebensraum for Germany was the Soviet Union. At the Nuremberg trial, SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Erich von dem Bach
Erich von dem Bach
Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski or Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski , was a Nazi official and a member of the SS, in which he reached the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer .- Slavic origin :...

 testified that at a conference in Wewelsburg
Wewelsburg
For the village of Wewelsburg see Village of WewelsburgWewelsburg is a Renaissance castle located in the northeast of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in the village of Wewelsburg which is a quarter of the city Büren, Westphalia, in district of Paderborn in the Alme Valley. The castle has the...

 in 1941 Himmler told SS leaders that to make room for the Germans, Germany would have to exterminate 30 million Slavs
East Slavs
The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples.-Sources:...

 in the Soviet Union.

On July 13, 1941, three weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, Himmler told the group of Waffen SS men:

Anti-Polish measures



For a time, the Polish population would be permitted to remain as slave labor. Himmler forbade that this group, not suitable for Germanization, receive anything above a fourth-grade education. The removal of the racially valuable types would deprive the population of leaders, and ensure that they were available for labor.

He also prescribed that as many ethnic groups as possible be recognized in order to foment disunity.
This is partly reflected in his views on blood and soil
Blood and soil
Blood and Soil refers to an ideology that focuses on ethnicity based on two factors, descent and homeland/Heimat...

, where he came the closest of all Nazis to supporting the views of Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg
' was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government...

. His interest in Richard Walther Darré stemmed from Darré's views on repopulating eastern regions with Germans.

This also reflected Nazi policy on non-Germans. The Posen speech also calls for the merciless use of all Slavonic forced labor on this ground:
He also called for sexual relations between German women and Polish slave laborers to be punished by death for the man and a concentration camp for the woman.

World War II


In 1939, Himmler masterminded Operation Himmler
Operation Himmler
Operation Himmler was a Nazi Germany false flag project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which was subsequently used by Nazi propaganda to justify the invasion of Poland...

 (also known as Operation Konserve or Operation Canned Goods), arguably the first operation of World War II in Europe. It was a false flag
False flag
False flag operations are covert operations designed to deceive the public in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is flying the flag of a country other than one's own...

 project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which was subsequently used by Nazi propaganda to justify the invasion of Poland.

Before the invasion of the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 in 1941 (Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

), Himmler prepared his SS for a war of extermination against the forces of "Judeo-Bolshevism". Himmler, always glad to make parallels between Nazi Germany and the Middle Age
Middle age
Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age, which is around the third quarter of the average life span of human beings....

s, compared the invasion to the Crusades. He collected volunteers from all over Europe, especially those of Nordic stock who were perceived to be racially closest to Germans, like the Danes
Danes
Danish people or Danes are the nation and ethnic group that is native to Denmark, and who speak Danish.The first mention of Danes within the Danish territory is on the Jelling Rune Stone which mentions how Harald Bluetooth converted the Danes to Christianity in the 10th century...

, Norwegians
Norwegians
Norwegians constitute both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway. They share a common culture and speak the Norwegian language. Norwegian people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in United States, Canada and Brazil.-History:Towards the end of the 3rd...

, Swedes
Swedes
Swedes are a Scandinavian nation and ethnic group native to Sweden, mostly inhabiting Sweden and the other Nordic countries, with descendants living in a number of countries.-Etymology:...

, Icelanders
Icelanders
Icelanders are a Scandinavian ethnic group and a nation, native to Iceland.On 17 June 1944, when an Icelandic republic was founded the Icelanders became independent from the Danish monarchy. The language spoken is Icelandic, a North Germanic language, and Lutheranism is the predominant religion...

, and the Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

. After the invasion, Ukrainians
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

ns, Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

ns, and Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

n volunteers were recruited, attracting the non-Germanic volunteers
Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts
The Waffen-SS was the combat arm of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the German Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to a force of over 39 divisions, which served alongside the regular army, but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht...

 by declaring a pan-European crusade to defend the traditional values of old Europe from the "Godless Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 hordes". Thousands volunteered and later many thousands more were conscripted
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

.

Racial restrictions were relaxed to the extent that Tatars, Arabs, Albanians
21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian)
The 21st Division of the SS Skanderbeg was a Mountain division of the SS set up by Heinrich Himmler in March 1944, officially under the title of the 21. Waffen-Gebirgs Division der SS Skanderbeg...

 from Kosovo, Central Asian
Turkestan legion
The Turkestan Legion was the name for the military units composed of the "freiwillige" Turkic peoples who fought in the German Army during World War II...

 and Bosnian
13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)
The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded as part of the Waffen-SS during World War II. Its recruits were composed of Muslim Bosniaks. The Handschar division was a mountain infantry formation, the equivalent of the German "Gebirgsjäger" ...

 Muslims, and even Indians and Mongols
Kalmykian Voluntary Cavalry Corps
The Kalmykian Voluntary Cavalry Corps was a unit of about 5,000 Kalmykian volunteers who chose to join the German Armed Forces in 1942 rather than remain in Kalmykia as the German Army retreated before the Red Army...

 were recruited.

In the Baltic states
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

, many natives were willing to serve against the Red Army due to their loathing of their oppression after the occupation by the Soviet Union. These men were conscripted into the Waffen-SS. Employed against Soviet troops, they performed acceptably. Waffen-SS recruitment in Western and Nordic Europe collected much less manpower, though a number of Waffen-SS Legions were founded, such as the Wallonian contingent led by Léon Degrelle
Léon Degrelle
Léon Joseph Marie Ignace Degrelle was a Walloon Belgian politician, who founded Rexism and later joined the Waffen SS which were front-line troops in the fight against the Soviet Union...

, whom Himmler planned to appoint chancellor
Chancellor
Chancellor is the title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice—ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the...

 of an SS State of Burgundy
SS State of Burgundy
The SS state of Burgundy or Order-State of Burgundy was a proposed state which the leadership of Nazi Germany hoped to create in certain areas of Western Europe during World War II.-History:The name "Burgundy" itself The SS state of Burgundy (German: SS-Staat Burgund) or Order-State of Burgundy...

 within the Nazi orbit once the war was over.

Between 140,000 and 500,000 Soviet prisoners of war died or were executed in Nazi concentration camps, most of them by shooting or gassing
Gas chamber
A gas chamber is an apparatus for killing humans or animals with gas, consisting of a sealed chamber into which a poisonous or asphyxiant gas is introduced. The most commonly used poisonous agent is hydrogen cyanide; carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have also been used...

.

In 1942, Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 (Himmler's right hand man) was assassinated in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 after an attack by British Special Operations Executive (SOE), trained soldiers, Jozef Gabčík
Jozef Gabcík
Jozef Gabčík was a Slovak soldier of Czechoslovak army involved in Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich....

 and Jan Kubiš
Jan Kubiš
Jan Kubiš was a Czech soldier, one of a team of Czechoslovak British-trained soldiers sent to assassinate acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, in 1942 as part of Operation Anthropoid.- Biography :Jan Kubiš was born in 1913 in Dolní Vilémovice,...

 of Czechoslovakia’s army-in-exile. Himmler ordered brutal reprisals. Over 13,000 people were arrested, and the village of Lidice
Lidice
Lidice is a village in the Czech Republic just northwest of Prague. It is built on the site of a previous village of the same name which, as part of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, was on orders from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, completely destroyed by German forces in reprisal...

 was razed to the ground; the male inhabitants there and in the village of Ležáky
Ležáky
Ležáky was a village in Czechoslovakia. In 1942 it was razed to the ground by Nazis during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.Ležáky was a settlement inhabited by poor stone-cutters and little cottagers...

 were murdered. At least 1,300 people were "executed" by firing squads after Heydrich's death.

Interior Minister


In 1943, Himmler was appointed Reich Interior Minister, replacing Frick, with whom he had engaged in a turf war for over a decade. For instance, Frick had tried to restrict the widespread use of "protective custody" orders that were used to send people to concentration camps, only to be begged off by Himmler. While Frick viewed the concentration camps as a tool to punish dissenters, Himmler saw them as a way to terrorize the people into accepting Nazi rule.

Himmler's appointment effectively merged the Interior Ministry with the SS. Nonetheless, Himmler sought to use his new office to reverse the party apparatus's annexation of the civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

 and tried to challenge the authority of the party gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

s.

This aspiration was frustrated by Martin Bormann
Martin Bormann
Martin Ludwig Bormann was a prominent Nazi official. He became head of the Party Chancellery and private secretary to Adolf Hitler...

, Hitler's private secretary
Private Secretary
In the United Kingdom government, a Private Secretary is a civil servant in a Department or Ministry, responsible to the Secretary of State or Minister...

 and party chancellor. It also incurred some displeasure from Hitler himself, whose long-standing disdain for the traditional civil service was one of the foundations of Nazi administrative thinking. Himmler made things much worse still when following his appointment as head of the Reserve Army (Ersatzheer, see below) he tried to use his authority in both military and police matters by transferring policemen to the Waffen-SS.

With Himmler threatening his power base, Bormann could not give him the opportunity fast enough, initially acquiescing in the policies, until furious protests broke out. Then, Bormann came out against the scheme, leaving Himmler discredited, especially with the party, whose gauleiters now saw Bormann as their protector.

20 July plot


It was determined that leaders of German Military Intelligence
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

 (the Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

), including its head, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

, were involved in the 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. This prompted Hitler to disband the Abwehr and make Himmler's Security Service
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 (Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

, or SD) the sole intelligence service of the Third Reich. This increased Himmler's personal power.

General Friedrich Fromm
Friedrich Fromm
Friedrich Fromm was a German army officer. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.-Early life:Fromm was born in Charlottenburg...

, Commander-in-Chief of the Reserve (or Replacement) Army (Ersatzheer), was implicated in the conspiracy. Fromm's removal, coupled with Hitler's suspicion of the army, led the way to Himmler's appointment as Fromm's successor, a position he abused to expand the Waffen-SS even further to the detriment of the rapidly deteriorating German armed forces (Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

).

Unfortunately for Himmler, the investigation soon revealed the involvement of many SS officers in the conspiracy, including senior officers, which played into the hands of Bormann's power struggle against the SS because very few party cadre officers were implicated. Even more importantly, some senior SS officers began to conspire against Himmler himself, as they believed that he would be unable to achieve victory in the power struggle against Bormann. Among these defectors were Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Ernst Kaltenbrunner was an Austrian-born senior official of Nazi Germany during World War II. Between January 1943 and May 1945, he held the offices of Chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt , President of Interpol and, as a Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei und Waffen-SS, he was the...

, Heydrich's successor as chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, and Gruppenführer
Gruppenführer
Gruppenführer was an early paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party, first created in 1925 as a senior rank of the SA.-SS rank:...

Heinrich Müller, the chief of the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

.

Commander-in-Chief


In late 1944, Himmler became Commander-in-Chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the newly formed Army Group Upper Rhine
Army Group Oberrhein (Germany)
The Upper Rhine High Command , also incorrectly referred to as Army Group Upper Rhine , was a short-lived headquarters unit of the German Armed Forces created on the Western Front during World War II. The Upper Rhine High Command was formed on 26 November 1944 and was inactivated on 25 January 1945...

 (Heeresgruppe Oberrhein). This army group was formed to fight the advancing U.S. 7th Army and French 1st Army in the Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 region along the west bank of the Rhine. The U.S. 7th Army was under the command of General Alexander Patch
Alexander Patch
General Alexander McCarrell "Sandy" Patch was an officer in the United States Army, best known for his service in World War II. He commanded Army and Marine forces during the invasion of Guadalcanal, and the U.S...

 and the French 1st Army was under the command of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
Jean Joseph Marie Gabriel de Lattre de Tassigny, GCB, MC was a French military hero of World War II and commander in the First Indochina War.-Early life:...

.

On 1 January 1945, Himmler's army group launched Operation North Wind
Operation Nordwind
Operation North Wind was the last major German offensive of World War II on the Western Front. It began on 1 January 1945 in Alsace and Lorraine in northeastern France, and it ended on 25 January.-Objectives:...

 (Unternehmen Nordwind) to push back the Americans and the French. In late January, after some limited initial success, Himmler was transferred east. By 24 January, Army Group Upper Rhine was deactivated after going over to the defensive. Operation North Wind officially ended on 25 January.

Elsewhere, the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) had failed to halt the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

's Vistula-Oder offensive
Vistula-Oder Offensive
The Vistula–Oder Offensive was a successful Red Army operation on the Eastern Front in the European Theatre of World War II; it took place between 12 January and 2 February 1945...

, so Hitler gave Himmler command of yet another newly formed army group, Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula was an Army Group of the Wehrmacht, formed on January 24, 1945. It was put together from elements of Army Group A , Army Group Centre , and a variety of new or ad-hoc formations...

 (Heeresgruppe Weichsel) to stop the Soviet advance on Berlin. Hitler placed Himmler in command of Army Group Vistula despite the failure of Army Group Upper Rhine and despite Himmler's total lack of experience and ability to command troops. This appointment may have been at the instigation of Martin Bormann
Martin Bormann
Martin Ludwig Bormann was a prominent Nazi official. He became head of the Party Chancellery and private secretary to Adolf Hitler...

, anxious to discredit a rival, or through Hitler's continuing anger at the "failures" of the general staff.

As Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula, Himmler established his command centre at Schneidemühl. He used his special train (sonderzug), Sonderzug Steiermark, as his headquarters. Himmler did this despite the train having only one telephone line and no signals detachment. Eager to show his determination, Himmler acquiesced in a quick counter-attack urged by the general staff. The operation quickly bogged down and Himmler dismissed a regular army corps commander and appointed Nazi Heinz Lammerding
Heinz Lammerding
Heinz Lammerding was aBrigadeführer in the Waffen-SS and a commander of 2...

. His headquarters was also forced to retreat to Falkenburg. On 30 January, Himmler issued draconian orders: Tod und Strafe für Pflichtvergessenheit —"death and punishment for those who forget their obligations", to encourage his troops. The worsening situation left Himmler under increasing pressure from Hitler; he was unassertive and nervous in conferences. In mid-February, the Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

n offensive by his forces was directed by General Walther Wenck
Walther Wenck
-Captive, prisoner, and death:Wenck was captured and put in a prisoner of war camp. He was released in 1947. In 1982, Wenck died in a car accident in Bad Rothenfelde.-See also:* Battle of Berlin - 1945* Battle of Halbe - 1945* Hans Krebs, Chief of Staff...

, after intense pressure from General Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

 on Hitler. By early March, Himmler's headquarters had moved west of the Oder River, although his army group was still named after the Vistula
Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

. At conferences with Hitler, Himmler echoed Hitler's line of increased severity towards those who retreated.

On 13 March, Himmler abandoned his command and, claiming illness, retired to a sanatorium
Sanatorium
A sanatorium is a medical facility for long-term illness, most typically associated with treatment of tuberculosis before antibiotics...

 at Hohenlychen. Guderian visited him there and carried his resignation as Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula to Hitler that night. On 20 March, Himmler was replaced by General Gotthard Heinrici
Gotthard Heinrici
Gotthard Heinrici was a general in the German Army during World War II.-Personal life:Heinrici's was born in Gumbinnen , East Prussia, on Christmas Day, 1886, to Paul Heinrici, a local Lutheran minister of the Prussian Church, and his wife Gisela, née von Rauchhaupt, who was of recent Jewish descent...

.

Peace negotiations


In the winter of 1944–45, Himmler′s Waffen-SS numbered 910,000 members, with the Allgemeine-SS (at least on paper) hosting a membership of nearly two million. However, by early 1945 Himmler had lost faith in German victory, likely due in part to his discussions with his masseur Felix Kersten
Felix Kersten
Felix Kersten was before and during World War II the personal masseur of Heinrich Himmler...

 and with Walter Schellenberg
Walter Schellenberg
Walther Friedrich Schellenberg was a German SS-Brigadeführer who rose through the ranks of the SS to become the head of foreign intelligence following the abolition of the Abwehr in 1944.-Biography:...

. He realized that if the Nazi regime were to survive, it needed to seek peace with Britain and the U.S. He also believed by the middle of April 1945 that Hitler had effectively incapacitated himself from governing by remaining in Berlin to personally lead the defence of the capital against the Soviets.

To this end, he contacted Count
Count
A count or countess is an aristocratic nobleman in European countries. The word count came into English from the French comte, itself from Latin comes—in its accusative comitem—meaning "companion", and later "companion of the emperor, delegate of the emperor". The adjective form of the word is...

 Folke Bernadotte
Folke Bernadotte
Folke Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg was a Swedish diplomat and nobleman noted for his negotiation of the release of about 31,000 prisoners from German concentration camps during World War II, including 450 Danish Jews from Theresienstadt released on 14 April 1945...

 of Sweden at Lübeck
Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

, near the Danish border. He represented himself as the provisional leader of Germany, telling Bernadotte that Hitler would almost certainly be dead within two days. He asked Bernadotte to tell General Dwight Eisenhower that Germany wished to surrender to the West. Himmler hoped the British and Americans would fight the Soviets alongside the remains of the Wehrmacht. At Bernadotte's request, Himmler put his offer in writing. On April 21, 1945, Himmler met with Norbert Masur
Norbert Masur
Norbert Masur was a Swedish representative who aided in the rescue of Nazi concentration camp victims during World War II.Masur was born in Friedrichstadt, Germany, and was the son of Leiser Masur. As an exiled Jewish German, he later moved to Stockholm...

, a Swedish representative of the World Jewish Congress
World Jewish Congress
The World Jewish Congress was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in August 1936 as an international federation of Jewish communities and organizations...

, in Berlin for a discussion concerning the release of Jewish concentration camp inmates. During the meeting, Himmler stated that he wanted to "bury the hatchet
Bury the Hatchet
Bury the hatchet is an American English colloquialism meaning "to make peace." The phrase is an allusion to the figurative or literal practice of putting away the tomahawk at the cessation of hostilities among or by Native Americans in the Eastern United States, specifically concerning the...

" with the Jews.

On the evening of 28 April, the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 broadcast a Reuters
Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

 news report about Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies. When Hitler was informed of the news, he flew into a rage. A few days earlier, Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 had asked Hitler for permission
Göring Telegram
The Göring Telegram was a message sent by Adolf Hitler's designated successor—Hermann Göring—asking for permission to assume leadership of the crumbling Third Reich...

 to take over the leadership of the Reich — an act that Hitler, under the prodding of Bormann, interpreted as a demand to step down or face a coup. However, Himmler had not even bothered to request permission. The news also hit Hitler hard because he had long believed that Himmler was second only to Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 in loyalty; in fact, Hitler often called Himmler "der treue Heinrich" (the loyal Heinrich). Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein
Hermann Fegelein
SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein was a General of the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany, a member of Adolf Hitler's entourage, brother-in-law to Eva Braun through his marriage to her sister, Gretl, and husband of the sister-in-law to Adolf Hitler through Hitler's marriage to Eva...

 (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot. After Hitler calmed down, he told those who were still with him in the bunker complex that Himmler's act was the worst act of treachery he'd ever known.

Himmler's treachery—combined with reports the Soviets were only 300 m (328.1 yd) (about a block) from the Reich Chancellery
Reich Chancellery
The Reich Chancellery was the traditional name of the office of the Chancellor of Germany in the period of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945...

—prompted Hitler to write his last will and testament
Last will and testament of Adolf Hitler
The last will and testament of Adolf Hitler was dictated by Hitler to his secretary Traudl Junge in his Berlin Führerbunker on April 29, 1945, the day he and Eva Braun married. They committed suicide the next day , two days before the surrender of Berlin to the Soviets on May 2, and just over a...

. In the Testament, completed the day before he committed suicide
Death of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler committed suicide by gunshot on Monday, 30 April 1945 in his Führerbunker in Berlin. His wife Eva , committed suicide with him by ingesting cyanide...

, he declared Himmler and Göring to be traitors
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

. He also stripped Himmler of all of his party and state offices: Reichsführer-SS, Chief of the German Police, Commissioner of German Nationhood, Reich Minister of the Interior, Supreme Commander of the Volkssturm
Volkssturm
The Volkssturm was a German national militia of the last months of World War II. It was founded on Adolf Hitler's orders on October 18, 1944 and conscripted males between the ages of 16 to 60 years who were not already serving in some military unit as part of a German Home Guard.-Origins and...

, and Supreme Commander of the Home Army. Finally, he expelled Himmler from the Nazi Party and ordered his arrest.

Himmler's negotiations with Count Bernadotte failed. However, the negotiations helped secure the release of some 15,000 Scandinavian prisoners from the remaining concentration camps in the White Buses
White Buses
"White Buses" refers to a program undertaken by the Swedish Red Cross and the Danish government in the spring of 1945 to rescue concentration camp inmates in areas under Nazi control and transport them to Sweden, a neutral country...

 operation. Himmler joined Grand Admiral
Grand Admiral
Grand admiral is a historic naval rank, generally being the highest such rank present in any particular country. Its most notable use was in Germany — the German word is Großadmiral.-France:...

 Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz was a German naval commander during World War II. He started his career in the German Navy during World War I. In 1918, while he was in command of , the submarine was sunk by British forces and Dönitz was taken prisoner...

, who by then was commanding all German forces within the northern part of the western front, in nearby Plön
Plön
Plön is the district seat of the Plön district in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and has about 13,000 inhabitants. It lies right on the shores of Schleswig-Holstein's biggest lake, the Great Plön Lake, as well as on several smaller lakes, touching the town on virtually all sides...

. Dönitz sent Himmler away, explaining that there was no place for him in the new German government
Flensburg government
The Flensburg Government , also known as the Flensburg Cabinet and the Dönitz Government , was the short-lived administration that attempted to rule the Third Reich during most of May 1945 at the end of World War II in Europe...

.

Himmler next turned to the Americans as a defector, contacting Eisenhower's headquarters and proclaiming he would surrender all of Germany to the Allies if he were spared from prosecution. He asked Eisenhower to appoint him "minister of police" in Germany's post-war government. He reportedly mused on how to handle his first meeting with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF)
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force , was the headquarters of the Commander of Allied forces in north west Europe, from late 1943 until the end of World War II. U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of SHAEF throughout its existence...

 commander and whether to give the Nazi salute
Nazi salute
The Nazi salute, or Hitler salute , was a gesture of greeting in Nazi Germany usually accompanied by saying, Heil Hitler! ["Hail Hitler!"], Heil, mein Führer ["Hail, my leader!"], or Sieg Heil! ["Hail victory!"]...

 or shake hands with him. Eisenhower refused to have anything to do with Himmler, who was subsequently declared a major war criminal.

Capture and death



Unwanted by his former colleagues and hunted by the Allies, Himmler wandered for several days around Flensburg
Flensburg
Flensburg is an independent town in the north of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Flensburg is the centre of the region of Southern Schleswig...

 near the Danish border. Attempting to evade arrest
Arrest
An arrest is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the purported investigation and prevention of crime and presenting into the criminal justice system or harm to oneself or others...

, he disguised himself as a sergeant-major of the Secret Military Police, using the name Heinrich Hitzinger, shaving his moustache and donning an eye patch over his left eye, in the hope that he could return to Bavaria. He had equipped himself with a set of false documents, but someone whose papers were wholly in order was so unusual that it aroused the suspicions of a British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 unit in Bremen. Himmler was arrested on 22 May by Major Sidney Excell
Sidney Excell
Major Sidney Excell was a Major in the British Second Army during World War II. He is remembered for the 1945 arrest of Nazi SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler in Bremervörde, Germany...

 and, in captivity, was soon recognized. Himmler was scheduled to stand trial with other German leaders as a war criminal at Nuremberg
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

, but on 23 May committed suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 in Lüneburg
Lüneburg
Lüneburg is a town in the German state of Lower Saxony. It is located about southeast of fellow Hanseatic city Hamburg. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, and one of Hamburg's inner suburbs...

 by means of a potassium cyanide
Potassium cyanide
Potassium cyanide is an inorganic compound with the formula KCN. This colorless crystalline compound, similar in appearance to sugar, is highly soluble in water. Most KCN is used in gold mining, organic synthesis, and electroplating. Smaller applications include jewelry for chemical gilding and...

 capsule before interrogation
Interrogation
Interrogation is interviewing as commonly employed by officers of the police, military, and Intelligence agencies with the goal of extracting a confession or obtaining information. Subjects of interrogation are often the suspects, victims, or witnesses of a crime...

 could begin. His last words were Ich bin Heinrich Himmler! ("I am Heinrich Himmler!"). Another version has Himmler biting into a hidden cyanide pill embedded in one of his teeth, when searched by a British doctor, who then yelled, "He has done it!" Several attempts to revive Himmler were unsuccessful. Shortly afterward, Himmler's body was buried in an unmarked grave
Unmarked grave
The phrase unmarked grave has metaphorical meaning in the context of cultures that mark burial sites.As a figure of speech, a common meaning of the term "unmarked grave" is consignment to oblivion, i.e., an ignominious end. A grave monument is a sign of respect and fondness, erected with the...

 on the Lüneburg Heath
Lüneburg Heath
The Lüneburg Heath is a large area of heath, geest and woodland in northeastern part of the state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany. It forms part of the hinterland for the cities of Hamburg, Hanover, and Bremen and is named after the town of Lüneburg. Most of the area is a nature reserve...

. The precise location of Himmler's grave remains unknown.

Forgeries, fabrications and conspiracy theories


In a 2005 book, Martin Allen claimed that Himmler had secretly negotiated with the UK as early as 1943, and that he may have been killed on Churchill's order to cover up this fact. The book was based on forgeries
Forgery
Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations. Forging money or...

 of documents at the National Archives. In May 2008 a British police investigation identified 29 forgeries that had been slipped into 12 files to support claims in Allen's three World War II books.

Legacy


As late as 2011, Gudrun Burwitz, Himmler's daughter, leads the Stille Hilfe
Stille Hilfe
Die Stille Hilfe für Kriegsgefangene und Internierte abbreviated Stille Hilfe is a relief organization for arrested, condemned and fugitive SS members, similar to the veterans' association, set up by Helene Elizabeth Princess von Isenburg in 1951...

(which translates as "Silent Help"). Formed in 1951 by those who had held high positions within the then defunct Nazi Party, the group provides "quiet but active assistance to those who lost their freedom during or after the war by capture, internment or similar circumstance and who need help to this day."

Historical views


Historians are divided on the psychology, motives, and influences that drove Himmler. Some see him as dominated by Hitler, fully under his influence and essentially a tool carrying Hitler's views to their logical conclusion. Others see Himmler as extremely anti-Semitic
Anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

 in his own right, and even more eager than his boss to commit genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

. Still others see Himmler as power-mad, devoted to the accumulation of power and influence.

According to Robert S. Wistrich, Himmler's decisive innovation was to transform the race question from "a negative concept based on matter-of-course anti-Semitism" into "an organizational task for building up the SS ... It was Himmler's master stroke that he succeeded in indoctrinating the SS with an apocalyptic ‘idealism’ beyond all guilt and responsibility, which rationalized mass murder
Mass murder
Mass murder is the act of murdering a large number of people , typically at the same time or over a relatively short period of time. According to the FBI, mass murder is defined as four or more murders occurring during a particular event with no cooling-off period between the murders...

 as a form of martyrdom and harshness towards oneself."

The wartime cartoonist Victor Weisz
Victor Weisz
Victor Weisz was a German-British political cartoonist, drawing under the name of Vicky.- Biography :...

 depicted Himmler as a giant octopus
Octopus
The octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms...

, wielding oppressed nations in each of his eight arms.

Wolfgang Sauer—historian at University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

—felt that "although he was pedantic, dogmatic, and dull, Himmler emerged under Hitler as second in actual power. His strength lay in a combination of unusual shrewdness, burning ambition, and servile loyalty to Hitler."

Felix Kersten
Felix Kersten
Felix Kersten was before and during World War II the personal masseur of Heinrich Himmler...

, Himmler's personal masseur, claimed that Himmler had told him that he always carried with him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

, because it relieved him of guilt about implementing the Final Solution
Final Solution
The Final Solution was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust...

. Himmler felt that, like the warrior Arjuna
Arjuna
Arjuna in Indian mythology is the greatest warrior on earth and is one of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. Arjuna, whose name means 'bright', 'shining', 'white' or 'silver' Arjuna (Devanagari: अर्जुन, Thai: อรชุน, Orachun, Tamil: Arjunan, Indonesian and Javanese: Harjuna,...

, he was simply doing his duty without attachment to his actions. Himmler's ideas were probably influenced by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer
Jakob Wilhelm Hauer
Jakob Wilhelm Hauer was a German Indologist and religious studies writer. He was the founder of the German Faith Movement.-Biography:...

's concepts of duty derived from his interpretation of the Gita.

In an extract of Norman Brook's War Cabinet Diaries, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 took a view towards Himmler widely shared during the war, advocating his assassination. According to Brook, responding to a suggestion that Nazi leaders be executed, "this prompted Churchill to ask if they should negotiate with Himmler ‘and bump him off later’, once peace terms had been agreed. The suggestion to cut a deal for a German surrender with Himmler and then assassinate him met with support from the Home Office. ‘Quite entitled to do so’, the minutes record [... Churchill] as commenting."

A main focus of recent work on Himmler has been the extent to which he competed for and craved Hitler's attention and respect. The events of the last days of the war, when he abandoned Hitler and attempted to enter into separate negotiations with the western Allies (an attempt which was rebuffed), are obviously significant in this respect.

Himmler appears to have had a distorted view of how he was perceived by the Allies; he intended to meet with U.S. and British leaders and have discussions "as gentlemen". He tried to buy off their vengeance by last-minute reprieves for Jews and important prisoners. According to British soldiers who arrested him, Himmler was genuinely shocked to be treated as a prisoner.

In 2008, Himmler was named "the greatest mass murderer of all time" by German news magazine Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel is a German weekly news magazine published in Hamburg. It is one of Europe's largest publications of its kind, with a weekly circulation of more than one million.-Overview:...

, reflecting his role as architect of the Holocaust.

Summary of SS service



Heinrich Himmler served in the SS for a total of twenty years, sixteen of which as Reichsführer-SS. In contrast to other contemporary Nazis, such as Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

, Himmler was presented few decorations and never was awarded a combat medal.

See also


  • Ahnenerbe
    Ahnenerbe
    The Ahnenerbe was a Nazi German think tank that promoted itself as a "study society for Intellectual Ancient History." Founded on July 1, 1935, by Heinrich Himmler, Herman Wirth, and Richard Walther Darré, the Ahnenerbe's goal was to research the anthropological and cultural history of the Aryan...

    - Nazi anthropologists, some of whom went to Tibet. Part-founded by Himmler.
  • Glossary of Nazi Germany
  • List of Nazi Party leaders and officials
  • List of SS personnel
  • Racial policy of Nazi Germany
    Racial policy of Nazi Germany
    The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented by Nazi Germany, asserting the superiority of the "Aryan race", and based on a specific racist doctrine which claimed scientific legitimacy...

     — Himmler's involvement
  • Lebensborn
    Lebensborn
    Lebensborn was a Nazi programme set up by SS leader Heinrich Himmler that provided maternity homes and financial assistance to the wives of SS members and to unmarried mothers, and also ran orphanages and relocation programmes for children.Initially set up in Germany in 1935, Lebensborn expanded...

    - a project under the responsibility of Himmler to raise Nordic children

External links



Reichsführer-SS
Ranks and insignia of the Schutzstaffel
The uniforms and insignia of the Schutzstaffel were paramilitary ranks and uniforms used by the SS between 1925 and 1945 to differentiate that organization from the regular German armed forces, the German state, and the Nazi Party....


Heinrich Himmler
Der Führer
Führer
Führer , alternatively spelled Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also...


Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...