Heinrich Himmler

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler ( Munich , October 7, 1900 – Lueneburg , May 23, 1945) was a Nazi officer senior, Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), and one of the main leaders of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) during the Nationalist regime. The Nazi leader Adolf Hitler appointed for a short period military commander of the army of replacements and plenipotentiary general of the administration of all the Third Reich. Himmler was one of the most powerful people in Nazi Germany, and also one of the main perpetrators of the Holocaust and many other Nazi crimes.

A member of a reserve battalion during World War I, Himmler did not go into combat. He studied agronomy at the university, and joined the Nazi Party in 1923 and the SS in 1925. In 1929 he was appointed Reichsführer-SS by Hitler. For the next sixteen years he developed the SS from a small 290-strong battalion to a large paramilitary group of about one million men; Under the orders of Hitler, established and controlled the Nazi concentration camps . He was known for his good organizational skills and for selecting highly trained subordinates, such as Reinhard Heydrich in 1931. From 1943 onwards, he was Reich Interior Minister and Chief of the German Police, overseeing all internal and external police forces and Security agencies, including the Gestapo (Secret State Police).

In the name of Hitler, Himmler formed the so-called Einsatzgruppen and built the extermination camps . As a concentration camp supervisor, Himmler led the massacre of some six million Jews , 200,000 to 500,000 Roma , as well as several million Soviet, Polish and / or Yugoslav civilians, among other nationalities; The total number of civilians killed by the Nazi regime ranges from 11 to 14 million dead.

Towards the end of World War II, Hitler appointed Himmler commander of the Army Group of the Upper Rhine and, later, of the Group of Vistula Army ; Despite what Hitler expected, Himmler failed in the direction of military operations and the Fuehrer had to replace him. Realizing that the war was lost, shortly before the end of the war he attempted to initiate peace talks with the Western allies without Hitler’s knowledge. When Hitler found out, he dismissed him from all his posts in April 1945 and ordered him to be arrested. Himmler tried to hide, but was arrested and then put under arrest by the British forces once his identity was discovered. While in British custody, he committed suicide on May 23, 1945.

Youth and first years

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was born in Munich on 7 October 1900 into a conservative-Catholic middle-class family. His father was Gebhard Himmler (17 May 1865 – 29 October 1936), a teacher, and his mother was Anna Maria Himmler (born Anna Maria Heyder, January 16, 1866 – September 10, 1941), a devotee Catholic Heinrich had two brothers, Gebhard Ludwig (1898-1982) and Ernst Hermann (1905-1945). 1

Himmler’s first name, Heinrich, was given in honor of his godfather , Prince Henri of Bavaria , a member of the Bavarian royal family, who had been tutored by Gebhard Himmler. 2 3 Heinrich Himmler attended a grammar school in Landshut , where his father was the deputy principal. He had no problems with the studies, so he began to strive in athletics. 4 Throughout his life he had health problems, suffering frequent stomach aches and other ailments. In his youth he practiced almost daily with weights and physical exercises to strengthen himself. Later on, other school friends would remember him as a studious person but without many social skills. 5

Himmler’s diary, which he kept intermittently from the age of ten, points out that at that time he began to show great interest in matters relating to current affairs, duels, and “serious discussions about religion and sex.” 6 7 In 1915 he began his training with the Landshut Cadet Corps. His father used the connections he had with the Bavarian royal family with the aim of getting Himmler accepted as a pupil to the officer school, being assigned to the reserve battalion of the 11th Bavarian Regiment in December 1917. His brother Gebhard , Served on the Western Front and came to enter into combat, receiving the Iron Cross and being promoted to the rank of lieutenant. In November 1918, while Himmler was still in training, the war ended with the defeat of Germany, denying him the opportunity to become an officer or to fight. After being licensed on 18 December, he returned to Landshut. Referring to Fig.

After the end of the contest, Himmler completed his studies at the grammar school. Between 1919 and 1922, he studied agronomy at the Technische Hochschule in Munich (now Technical University of Munich ) after a brief apprenticeship on a farm and later illness contracted during his farm practices. 9 10

Although numerous regulations discriminating against non-Christians had already been eliminated during the Unification of Germany in 1871, anti- Semitism continued to exist and flourished both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. 11 Himmler was already a convinced anti-Semite for the time when he attended college, although it was not an exceptional case; The students at his school used to avoid dealing with Jewish classmates. 12 While a student, Himmler remained a Catholic devotee and spent most of his leisure time with members of his fencing fraternity, the “League of Apollo,” whose president was Jewish. Despite his growing anti-Semitism, Himmler maintained a kindly attitude towards both the president and other Jewish members of the fraternity. 13 14 During his sophomore year, Himmler redoubled their attempts to start a military career. Although he was not successful, he was able to increase his participation in the paramilitary environment of Munich. It was around this time that he met Ernst Röhm , one of the first members of the Nazi Party and co-founder of the Sturmabteilung (SA) or “Assault Battalion “. 15 16 Himmler felt admiration for Röhm as he was a decorated soldier, and after being invited, Himmler joined a nationalist and anti-Semitic right-wing group, the Bund Reichskriegsflagge (German Imperial Flag Society). 17

In 1922, Himmler already began to show interest in the ” Jewish question “. In his diary there are already entries containing a growing number of anti-Semitic observations and annotations, as well as a series of discussions with his classmates about the Jews. His reading lists, as recorded in his diary, were dominated by anti-Semitic pamphlets, German myths, and occult plots. 18 Following the assassination of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau on June 24, Himmler’s political views turned to the extreme right, and he began to participate in demonstrations contrary to the Treaty of Versailles . During that summer hyperinflation continued to increase, and his parents could not continue to afford the education of their children, including Himmler. Disappointed by his failure to make a career in the Army and the inability of his parents to finance his doctoral studies, he was forced to accept a poorly paid job after obtaining a diploma in agricultural engineering. He held this position until September 1923. 19 20

Nazi activist

Himmler joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in August 1923; His party number was 14 303. 21 22 As a member of the paramilitary unit of Ernst Röhm , Himmler was involved in the Putsch of the Brewery – an attempted Hitler coup and the NSDAP to seize power in Munich. This event meant for Himmler an important change of course in his life. A posteriori would be questioned by the police on his participation in the Putsch, but no charges were filed against him for lack of evidence. However, he ended up losing his job, being unable to find a new job as an agronomist, and had to move to the family home in Munich. Frustrated by these failures, he became increasingly irritable, aggressive and obstinate, moving away from both his friends and family. 23 24

In 1923-24, while seeking a new worldview, Himmler eventually abandoned Catholicism and focused more on occultism and anti-Semitism. The Germanic mythology , reinforced by occult ideas, ended in a religion for him. Himmler found attractive to the Nazi Party because his political positions were close to his own points of view. Initially, he was not attracted by the charisma of Hitler or by the cult of worship to the Fuehrer. However, as was knowing more and more about Hitler from his writings, he began to regard it as a useful symbol of the party, 25 26 and then admired to the point of idolizing. 27 To consolidate and improve in his own position in the NSDAP, Himmler took advantage of the disorder existing in the party after Hitler’s arrest by the Putsch. 27 From mid-1924 he worked under Gregor Strasser as party secretary and propaganda assistant. He traveled all over Bavaria campaigning for the party, giving speeches and distributing writings on National Socialism. Strasser put him in charge of the party’s office in Lower Bavaria in late 1924; He was also responsible for the integration of new members in the area when the party NSDAP was refounded in February 1925. 28 29

That same year he joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) as SS-Führer (SS Leader); Their affiliation number was 168. 22 The SS, which were initially part of the much larger SA, were created in 1923 for the personal protection of Hitler, and were reformed in 1925 as an elite unit of the SA. 30 Himmler’s first leadership post in the SS was that of SS- Gauführer (district leader) in Lower Bavaria, a position he held since 1926. In January 1927, Strasser appointed Himmler as deputy head of Nazi propaganda. As was typical of the NSDAP, in this position he had considerable freedom of action, which also increased with the passage of time. It began drafting statistics on the number of Jews, Freemasons and enemies of the party, and because of their strong need for control, developed an elaborate bureaucracy. 31 32 In September 1927, Hitler Himmler told his idea to transform the SS into a powerful, loyal and racially pure elite unit. Convinced that Himmler was the right man for the post, Hitler appointed him deputy to the Reichsführer-SS , with the rank of SS-Oberführer . 33

By this time Himmler joined the League Artaman , a youth group of type Völkisch . There he met Rudolf Höss , who would later be the commander of the Auschwitz extermination camp , and Walther Darré , whose book The peasantry as the Source of life of the Nordic race , caught the attention of Hitler and would later lead to his appointment as Reich Minister for Food and Agriculture. Darré was a firm believer in the superiority of the Norse race, and his philosophy had a great influence on Himmler. 34 30

Ascension in the SS

In January 1929, after the resignation of SS chief Erhard Heiden , Himmler assumed the position of Reichsführer-SS with the approval of Hitler; 33 35 n. 2 Despite the new position he assumed, Himmler still continued to perform the functions of propaganda in the Nazi Party headquarters. In that sense, one of his first responsibilities was to organize the members of the SS that would participate in the Congress of Nuremberg that was going to be celebrated in September of that year. 37 The following year, Himmler had already increased the SS from a small force of 290 men to about 3000. By 1930 Himmler had persuaded Hitler to authorize the SS constituted a separate, although officially still was subordinated to the SA organization. 38 39

The NSDAP began to skyrocket during the Great Depression . The coalition government of the Weimar Republic was unable to achieve economic improvements, so many voters began to vote for extreme options, including the NSDAP. 40 Hitler used a populist rhetoric , including looking for Turkish heads, particularly the Jews, whom to blame for the economic difficulties. 41 In the June 1932 elections the Nazis obtained 37.3% of the votes and 230 seats in the Reichstag . 42 Finally, on January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg , going to direct a short coalition government between the Nazis and the National German People ‘s Party . The new cabinet initially had only three members of the Nazi Party: Hitler, Hermann Göring as Minister without portfolio and Minister of Interior of Prussia , and Wilhelm Frick as Reichsminister of Interior . 43 44 Less than a month later, the Reichstag came out burning . Hitler took advantage of this event, forcing von Hindenburg to sign the so-called Reichstag fire decree , which suspended basic rights and allowed for detention without trial or any judicial process. Four. Five

The Enabling Law , passed by the Reichstag in 1933, gave the Cabinet – and in particular Hitler – full legislative powers, so that from that moment the country became de facto a dictatorship. 46 On August 1, 1934, Hitler’s cabinet passed a law stipulating that after the death of von Hindenburg, the post of president would be abolished and its powers would merge with the chancellor. Von Hindenburg passed away the next day, and Hitler became at once head of state and head government under the title of Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor). 47

The rise to power of the Nazi Party allowed Himmler and the SS an inestimable opportunity to grow. By 1933, the SS already had 52,000 members. 48 The strict membership requirements pursuing all applicants were of Aryan race . The candidates were examined for their Nordic qualities. 49 There were few who dared to point out that, according to the SS norms themselves, Himmler was the first one who did not fulfill his own ideals. fifty

Himmler’s organization and intellect were useful to him when he began to establish different departments of the SS. In 1931 he appointed Reinhard Heydrich as head of the new Ic Service (intelligence service), which in 1932 was renamed Sicherheitsdienst (SD) or “Security Service”. Subsequently, and officially, Himmler named Heydrich as his deputy. 51 Both Himmler and Heydrich maintained a good working relationship and mutual respect. 52 In 1933, they began to eliminate the control that SA had over SS. With the collaboration of Interior Minister Frick, they hoped to create a unified police force for the whole of Germany. In March 1933, the Reich governor for Bavaria Franz Ritter von Epp appointed Himmler as head of the Munich police. Himmler, in turn, appointed Heydrich commander of Department IV, the political police. 53 That same year, Hitler promoted Himmler to the rank of SS- Obergruppenführer , which ranked in rank to the high command of the SA. 54 From that point on , Himmler and Heydrich were taking control of the political police of other states, one after another; The only one they did not control was Prussia, where Göring had control of the security agencies. 55

Himmler later established the Central Bureau of Race and Settlement ( Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt or RuSHA), a racist and anti-Semitic organization. He named Darré as his first boss, with the rank of SS-Gruppenführer . The department implemented several racial policies and monitored the “racial integrity” of SS members. 56 The members of the SS were carefully examined for their racial origin. On December 31, 1931, Himmler introduced the so-called “Order of Marriage,” which required that SS men who wished to marry had to write genealogical trees demonstrating that both families were Aryan in origin since 1800. 57 If during the Racial research was found to be non-Aryan ancestors, whether inside or outside the family tree, the person in question was automatically excluded from the SS. 58 Each man had to write a Sippenbuch , a genealogical record detailing his genetic history. 59 Himmler hoped that every SS marriage would have produced at least four children, thus creating a community of future genetically superior SS members. However, the program had disappointing results; Less than 40% of SS members had married and had at least one child. 60

In March 1933, less than three months after the Nazis seized power, Himmler created the first official concentration camp at Dachau . 61 Hitler had already stated that he did not want this to be another prison, or another detention camp. In June of that year Himmler named Theodor Eicke , a convicted and ardent Nazi delinquent, to lead the camp. 62 Eicke devised a system that would be used as a model for future fields throughout Germany. 63 Among its main characteristics, it highlights the isolation of the outside world to which victims were subjected, lists of prisoners and events, use of force and executions to force obedience, and a strict code of discipline for guards. The guards of the camps wore uniforms, and had a special badge, the Totenkopf or “skull.” At the end of 1934, Himmler took control of all the fields under administration of the SS and created a separated division for its management , the SS-Totenkopfverbände . 64 65

Initially the camps welcomed political opponents; Over time, all those who were considered by the Nazis as undesirable members of German society – criminals, vagabonds, homosexuals – were also sent to the camps. A decree of Hitler of December 1937 allowed the imprisonment of any person whom the regime considered to be an undesirable member of society. This included Communists, Jews, Gypsies, and those people of cultural, racial, political or religious affiliation who were considered by the Nazis as Untermensch ( subhumans ). Hence, the camps became a mechanism for social and racial engineering. At the beginning of World War II, in the fall of 1939 there were six concentration camps in which 27,000 were held. Mortality rates were very high. 66

Power consolidation

Main article: Night of the long knives

At the beginning of 1934, Hitler and other Nazi leaders began to be worried about the possibility that Röhm was planning a coup d’etat. 67 Röhm had populist and other socialist views, and he believed that the real revolution had not yet begun. It ended up realizing that the SA – whose members now surpassed the three millions of troops, very far from the small German army then – could become the new Army, absorbing the SA to the old armed forces, under its leadership. Röhm pressed Hitler to appoint him Defense Minister, a position held by conservative General Werner von Blomberg . 68

Meanwhile, Himmler continued to increase his power. Göring had created in Prussia a secret police force , the Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapo , and had named to Rudolf Diels like its director. However Göring, Diels was concerned that not being effective enough to use all the effectiveness of the Gestapo and reduce the power of the SA, ended up ceding control of it to Himmler on 20 April 1934. 69 Also that same Day Hitler named Himmler chief of all German police forces, with the sole exception of Prussia, which remained uncontrolled. This was a radical change from the longstanding tradition that the police in Germany was a local and / or federal issue. Heydrich, who was appointed by Himmler’s new chief of the Gestapo on April 22, 1934, continued as head of the SD. 70

Hitler decided on June 21 that Röhm and the other leaders of the SA should be eliminated. On 29 June he sent Göring to Berlin to meet Himmler and Heydrich, and to plan the action. Hitler took charge of the situation in Munich, where Röhm was arrested; Gave Röhm the option of committing suicide or execution. As Röhm refused to commit suicide, he was killed by two SS officers. From 85 to 200 members of the SA leadership and other political opponents of the Nazis, such as Gregor Strasser, were murdered between June 30 and July 2, 1934 during these events, later known in historiography as the Night of The long knives . 71 72 With the now neutralized SA, the SS became an independent organization that since July 20, 1934 answered only to Hitler. The title of Himmler, Reichsführer-SS , formally became the highest rank of the SS, equivalent to the Field Marshal of the Army. 73 The SA continued to exist, but in contrast to the past, they were no more than a mere sports and training organization. 74

On September 15, 1935, Hitler introduced two new laws – known as the Nuremberg Laws – to the Reichstag. The laws prohibited marriage between non-Jews and Jews, and also prohibited the employment of non-Jewish women under 45 years of age in Jewish homes. In addition, the laws deprived the so-called “non-Aryans” of the benefits of German citizenship. 75

Himmler and Heydrich wanted to continue to extend the power of the SS; Therefore, urged Hitler to create a national police force supervised by the SS, to protect Nazi Germany from its many real and / or imaginary enemies. 76 Interior Minister Frick also wanted to have a national police force, but one controlled by him, with Kurt Daluege as chief of police. 77 Hitler left the matter to Himmler and Heydrich to arrange the details with Frick. Himmler and Heydrich had greater bargaining power, since they were allied with Frick’s old enemy, Göring. Heydrich drew up a series of proposals and Himmler sent him to join Frick. An angry Frick then consulted with Hitler, who agreed with the proposals. Finally, Frick had to compromise, and on June 17, 1936 Hitler decreed the unification of all police forces in the Reich, and appointed Himmler chief of the German Police (under the official title of Reichsführer SS und Chef der Deutschen Polizei ). 77 In this role, Himmler was nominally subordinate to Frick still and the Ministry of Interior of the Reich. In practice, however, the police had fallen into the area of ​​influence of the SS, and was not under the control of Frick. This movement gave Himmler operational control over the entire force of German police commissioners and investigators. 78 79 This also allowed him to have authority over the uniformed police forces, which in June 1936 were grouped in the new Ordnungspolizei (OrPo) under the leadership of Daluege. 77

In addition to these changes, Himmler created the Kriminalpolizei (KriPo) as a police organization that grouped together all the criminal investigation agencies that existed in Germany. Subsequently, the Kripo would be unified with the Gestapo in the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo), under the control of Heydrich. 80 In September 1939, shortly after the beginning of World War II, Himmler formed the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA, or “Reich Main Security Office”). The new agency was in charge of coordinating all the police and security forces of the German Reich, so that the RSAP integrated SiPo (which at that time included the Gestapo and Kripo) and SD. As he had done on previous occasions, Himmler put Heydrich at the head of the new organism. 81

Under Himmler’s leadership, the SS developed their own military branch, the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), which later evolved into the Waffen-SS . Nominally under the exclusive authority of Himmler, the Waffen-SS developed a fully militarized command and operations structure. Created initially on the basis of three regiments, during World War II it grew to reach 38 divisions, serving next to Heer (Army), but never being part of it. 82

In addition to his military ambitions, Himmler established the beginnings of a parallel economy under the umbrella of the SS structure. 83 For this purpose, the administrator Oswald Pohl established the Deutsche Wirtschaftsbetriebe (German Economic Enterprises) in 1940. Under the auspices of the SS Central Office of Economy and Administration, this holding owned housing cooperatives, factories, and publishing houses. 84 Pohl proved to be unscrupulous and quickly exploited the companies in order to obtain personal benefits. On the contrary, Himmler was more honest in matters of money and business. 85

In 1938, as part of the preparations for the war, Hitler ended the German Alliance with China, and entered into an alliance with the most modern and aggressive Japan. That same year, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany during the so-called Anschluss , and a few months later, the Munich accords gave Germany control over Sudetenland , which was part of Czechoslovakia . 86 The main reasons for Hitler to go to war included more Lebensraum ( “living space”) for the Germanic peoples, who were considered racially superior by Nazi ideology . 87 A second objective was the elimination of those who were considered racially inferior, especially Jews and Slavs, the territories of the Reich . Between 1933 and 1938, hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrated to the United States, Palestine, Great Britain, etc. Some converted to Christianity. 88

On 31 August, Himmler signed an agreement with the Minister of Public Order of Francoist Spain , Severiano Martínez Anido , which established the mutual extradition of “political offenders” who were detained in both countries. 89 90 The agreement also allowed the installation of a network of Sicherheitsdienst agents under the supervision of the head of the Gestapo in Spain, Paul Winzer .

Anti-Church campaign

See also: kirchenkampf

Himmler regarded as one of the main objectives of the SS to act as a vanguard in overcoming Christianity and restoring the ‘Germanic’ lifestyle as part of the preparations for the conflict between ‘human and subhuman’. 91 biographer Himmler Peter Longerich notes that while the Nazi movement in general was launched against the communists and Jews, Himmler, “by linking dechristianization with the re – Germanisation, provided the SS a goal and a purpose for All yours “. 91 Himmler was vehemently opposed to the Christian sexual morality and the “principle of Christian piety , ” two principles he saw as a dangerous obstacle to their plans to fight the “subhuman”. 91 In 1937, Himmler declared:

We live in the time of the last conflict with Christianity. It is part of the duty of the SS to give the German people during the next half century the non-Christian ideological bases on which to direct and shape their lives. This task does not consist only in overcoming an ideological opponent, but a process that must be accompanied at every step by a positive impulse: in this case it means the reconstruction of the German inheritance in the broadest and most complete sense. 92

World War II

When Hitler and his generals sought a pretext to carry out the invasion of Poland in 1939, Himmler, Heydrich, and Heinrich Müller developed and carried out a false flag operation that was called Operation Himmler . German soldiers dressed in Polish uniforms carried out various border skirmishes that deceptively suggested a Polish aggression against Germany. The incidents were used by Nazi Propaganda to justify the invasion of Poland, which marked the beginning of World War II . 93 At the beginning of the war with Poland, Hitler authorized the murder of Polish civilians, which included both Jews and ethnic Poles. The Einsatzgruppen (special units of the SS) had been formed originally by Heydrich to secure the documentation and the government offices in the territories that Germany conquered before the Second World War. 94 With the authorization of Hitler, and under the direction of Himmler and Heydrich, the Einsatzgruppen -now reoriented as death squads followed the Heer (Army) in its advance through Poland, and by the end of 1939 had already killed about 65,000 Jews, intellectuals, and other Polish civil groups. The militias and Heer units also took part in these murders. 95 96 Under orders from Himmler through the RSHA, these squads were also responsible for bringing Jews and other victims for shipment to ghettos or concentration camps.

Subsequently, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway , the Netherlands , and France , and began bombing Britain in preparation for a future invasion. 97 On June 21, 1941, one day before the invasion of the Soviet Union , Himmler instructed his collaborators preparation called Generalplan Ost (General Plan East); The plan was finalized in July 1942 and envisaged that the Baltic States, Poland, Western Ukraine and Belarus would be conquered and repopulated by ten million German citizens. The native inhabitants of these areas – about 31 million people – would be expelled to the East, killed by famine, or employed as forced labor. The plan would have extended the border of Germany a thousand miles to the east, deep inside Soviet territory. Himmler estimated that it would take 20 or 30 years to complete this plan, at a cost of 67 billion Reichsmark . 98 In this regard, Himmler openly declared: “It is a question of existence, so it will be a racial struggle relentless severity in the course of which between 20 and 30 million Slavs and Jews perish through military action and Consequent crisis in the food supply “. 99

Himmler later declared that the war against the Soviet Union was a pan-European crusade that sought to defend the traditional values ​​of the old Europe against the ” atheist Bolshevik hordes “; This statement attracted many volunteers from all over Europe who enlisted in the Waffen-SS. 100 Initially they selected recruits from northern and western Europe – Scandinavia, Luxembourg, Flanders, the Netherlands and Switzerland – whom Himmler regarded as inhabitants of “nations with a related existence.” The Spain Franco and fascist Italy , both close to Nazi Germany states, also provided men for units of the Waffen-SS. 101 Among Western countries the number of volunteers could vary greatly, from 25,000 from the Netherlands to 300 from Sweden and Switzerland. In Eastern Europe the largest number of volunteers came from Lithuania (50,000) while Bulgaria was the one that provided the least volunteers (600). 102 After 1943 many of the troops of the Waffen-SS from Eastern Europe were actually recruits. The performance of the eastern units of the Waffen-SS was, as a whole, below the standard. 103

In late 1941, Hitler appointed Heydrich as the deputy protector of the Reich for the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia . Heydrich began to classify racially the Czechs, deporting many of them to the concentration camps; Many members of the increasingly strong Czechoslovak resistance were killed by the Germans. All this led to Heydrich earning the nickname “The Butcher of Prague”. 104 This appointment strengthened the collaboration between Himmler and Heydrich, Himmler and the SS was proud to have authority over all the German state. Despite having direct access to Hitler, Heydrich’s loyalty to Himmler remained firm. 105 With the approval of Hitler, Himmler reestablished the Einsatzgruppen in the pre-planned invasion of the Soviet Union period. In March 1941, Hitler addressed his Army leaders, detailing his intention to break the Soviet empire and in turn to destroy the intelligentsia and Bolshevik leaders. 106 His special directive no. 21, better known as Operation Barbarossa , read: “In the area of ​​operations of the Army, the SS Reichsführer has been given special tasks on the Fiihrer’s orders, in order to prepare the In the framework of these tasks, the Reichsführer-SS acts independently and under its own responsibility. ” 107 Unlike previous occasions, this time Hitler did this to avoid internal frictions such as had already occurred in Poland in 1939, when some generals of the German Army protested and attempted to try the Einsatzgruppen leaders for the mass murders they carried out . 107

Following the Army’s advance in the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen detained and murdered thousands of communists, Jews and all those who were considered undesirable by the Nazi state. 108 Hitler received numerous reports of these actions. About 2.8 million Soviet prisoners of war died of hunger, ill-treatment or murder during the eight months following the German invasion, until early 1942. 109 About 500,000 Soviet prisoners of war died in concentration camps for the remainder Of the contest; Most of them died shot or executed in gas chambers. By the spring of 1941, following the Himmler orders, ten concentration camps were built in which the inmates were destined to perform forced labor. 110 Jews from Germany and the occupied territories were deported to the ghettos, or locked up in concentration camps. In December 1941 the Germans were rejected in Moscow , which meant that the invasion of the Soviet Union had failed; Hitler and other Nazi leaders realized that the planned mass deportations to the east would no longer be possible. As a result, instead of being deported, many European Jews were destined to be killed. 111

Repression and extermination

Nazi racial politics, including the concept that populations that were racially inferior had no right to live, dated back to the early days of the party; Hitler already theorized this in his Mein Kampf . 112 In December 1941, shortly after the declaration of war on America produced by Germany, Hitler decided that the Jews of Europe would be “exterminated”. 113 Heydrich organized a meeting, held on 20 January 1942 in Wannsee , a suburb of Berlin. Aided by senior Nazi officials, they all organized plans to carry out the ” final solution to the Jewish question .” Heydrich detailed how these Jews would have to work to the death and how those who could not work would be killed ipso facto. Heydrich estimated that the number of Jews who would have to be killed would be about 11 million, and told those attending the conference that Hitler had put Himmler himself in charge of this plan. 114

In June 1942, Heydrich was assassinated in Prague in an operation carried out by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš , members of the Czechoslovak Army in exile who had been trained by the British Special Operations Directorate. 115 During the two funerals that took place -the main afectado- Himmler took over the two small children of Heydrich, and Berlin gave a eulogy to Heydrich. 116 On June 9, after having discussed with Himmler and Karl Hermann Frank , Hitler ordered the execution of retaliation in response to the death of Heydrich. 115 About 13,000 people were arrested, and the village of Lidice was razed to the ground; All the inhabitants of Lidice, as well as all the adult population of Ležáky , were assassinated. At least 1,300 people were killed by execution squads. 117 118 Himmler assumed the leadership of the RSHA and accelerated the pace of the killings of Jews in the Aktion Reinhard ( Operation Reinhard ), named in honor of Heydrich. 119 He also ordered the fields of Aktion Reinhard , which constituted the first extermination camps were raised in Bełżec , Sobibor and Treblinka . 120

Initially the victims were killed by gassing trucks or execution platoons, but these methods proved impracticable for a large-scale operation. 121 In August 1941, Himmler attended the execution of 100 Jews in Minsk . Nauseous and shaken by the experience, 122 became concerned about the impact that these actions might have on the mental health of SS men. He decided that alternative methods of murder must be found. 123 124 Under his orders, in the spring of 1942 the Auschwitz had been greatly expanded, including the addition of gas chambers, where the victims were killed by exposure to the pesticide Zyklon B . 125 At the end of the war, about 5.5 million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime. 126 Himmler visited the Sobibor camp in early 1943; By then about 250,000 people had been killed there alone. After witnessing a gassing of prisoners, he promoted 28 people and ordered the operations of the camp to be lowered. A few months later, in October, there was a revolt of the camp inmates: the rebels killed numerous guards and SS personnel, and about 200 prisoners managed to escape; Some joined the partisan units operating in the area, while the rest were killed by German patrols. The camp was closed and dismantled in December 1943. 127

Himmler was the chief architect of the Holocaust, 128 129 130 using his Nazi and racist beliefs to justify the murder of millions of people. The Nazis planned the assassination of Polish intellectuals and the restriction of the non-German population in the general government and other occupied territories, allowing only those people who had not passed basic education to remain. 131 The Nazis wanted to reproduce in Germany a superior race of racially pure Nordic Aryans. As an agronomist and farmer, Himmler was familiar with the principles of selective breeding, which he intended to apply to humans. He came to believe that he could transform the German society, for example, through eugenics , so that several decades after the end of the race was already a Nordic population in appearance. 132

Germanization

As Reich commissioner for the consolidation of German nationality ( RKFDV ) and with the collaboration of the VoMi , Himmler was very involved in the program of Germanization of the East, particularly Poland. As established in the General Plan for the East , the aim was to enslave, expel or exterminate the native population and to create in its place Lebensraum (“living space”) for the Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans). It continued with its plans to colonize the East, even when many Germans were reluctant to be relocated there, and despite the negative effects that this plan had on the war effort. 133 134

Himmler’s racial groupings began with the Volksliste , the classification of people considered to be of German blood. This included Germans who had collaborated with the German state before the war, but also those Germans who had remained neutral, those who were partially Polish but “Germanizable”, and those were Germans of Polish nationality. 135 Himmler ordered that those who were rejected to be classified as ethnic Germans should be deported to concentration camps and withdrawn custody of their children, or be assigned to forced labor. 136 137 The belief that Himmler “is in the nature of German blood to resist” led him to conclude that the Baltic or the Slavs who resist Germanization were racially superior to others more submissive groups. 138 came to declare that no drop of blood can not lose to this mix with a “strange race.” 134

The plan also included the kidnapping of children from Eastern Europe by Nazi Germany . 139 In this regard, Himmler commented:

Obviously, in the quest for a mixture of peoples, there will always be some racially good types. Therefore, I believe it is our duty to take their children, to remove them from their environment, stealing if necessary. Whatever the outcome, we would win, because we could bring that blood into our space and find a place among our people … or we would destroy that blood. 140

The “racially valuable” children were to stay away from all contact with the Poles, and in turn be raised as Germans and with German names. 139 Himmler even declared: “We have a special faith in our own blood that has flowed into a foreign nationality through the vicissitudes of German history are convinced that our own philosophy and ideals will feel the spirit. These children who belong to us racially. ” 139Children would be adopted by German families. 137 Those children who passed the tests but who were eventually rejected were sent to a ghetto in źódź , where most of them died. 139

By January 1943, Himmler reported that 629,000 ethnic Germans had been resettled; However, the majority of resettled Germans did not live on planned farms for small families, but on temporary transit camps and in city districts. Half a million residents from the annexed Polish territories, as well as from Slovenia, Alsace, Lorraine and Luxembourg, were displaced to the general government or sent to Germany as slave labor. 141 Himmler instructed that all foreign workers taken to Germany should be considered a danger to German blood. 142 According to German racial laws, sexual relations between Germans and foreigners were considered Rassenschande (“racial drift”) and were prohibited. 143

Visit to Spain

Shortly before the interview in Hendaye in October 1940, Himmler paid a visit to the Francoist Spain with the objective of partly supervising the security measures prior to the meeting between Franco and Hitler. The visit took place between 19 and 24 October. 144 Entered the Franco-Spanish border in Irun, where he was received by the Director General of Security, José Finat , and General Lopez-Pinto . 145During these days he passed through the cities of San Sebastián, 146 Burgos, 146 Madrid, Toledo and Barcelona. On October 20, he arrived at the North Station in Madrid, being received by a military entourage, the German ambassador in Madrid and Serrano Suñer . 147

Himmler, received with honors after his arrival to Madrid (1940).

In the capital was welcomed by numerous Falangists and streets decorated with Nazi and Falangist flags. Shortly after, the dictator Francisco Franco received it in the Palace of El Pardo . 147 Himmler came to attend a bullfight that was offered in his honor in the bullring of Las Ventas . 147 During his stay in the capital, Himmler agreed with the Director General of Security strengthen police cooperation between the two states, as well as shipping to Madrid an advisor to the Gestapo. 89 After Madrid, he also visited the old Visigothic capital, Toledo, where he toured the ruins of the destroyed fortress . 146 Some authors relate this visit with their search for the Holy Grail because Toledo was an important templary, alchemist and necromancer headquarters. In his last stage in Spain he was visiting the monastery of Montserrat , by the tradition of the Holy Grail . 144 During his stay, Himmler was surprised by the magnitude and the crudeness of the Francoist repression . 148 Given the depressed atmosphere that was found in Madrid, recommended to the Francoist authorities to pass page “to keep all national life continue to turn around the national tragedy “. 149

The last months

Attack of the 20 of July

Main article: Attack of the 20 of July of 1944

On July 20, 1944 a group of Army officers led by Claus von Stauffenberg – and including some of the highest ranking officers of the German Armed Forces – attempted to assassinate Hitler, but Hitler survived the attack they had organized. The next day, Himmler formed a special commission that arrested more than 5,000 suspected and well-known opponents of the regime. Hitler ordered brutal reprisals that led to the execution of more than 4,900 people. 150 Although Himmler was embarrassed by his blatant failure – not to have discovered the conspiracy against Hitler -, the attack implied that his powers and his authority were increased considerably. 151 152

General Friedrich Fromm , commander-in-chief of the Reserve Army ( Ersatzheer ) and the immediate superior officer to Stauffenberg, was one of those involved in the conspiracy. Hitler removed Fromm from his post and named Himmler his successor. Since the Reserve Army was composed of two million men, Himmler hoped to be able to take advantage of these reserves so that they could be used for the Waffen-SS. He appointed Hans Jüttner , director of the SS-Führungshauptamt , as his deputy and began to appoint members of the SS to the positions of the Reserve Army. By November 1944 Himmler had succeeded in unifying the Reserve Army’s recruiting office with the Waffen-SS recruiting office and had succeeded in lobbying successfully to increase recruitment quotas for SS. 153 In addition to this military post, for this time Himmler was already interior minister and plenipotentiary General for Administration ( Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung ). 154 In August 1944, Hitler authorized him to restructure the organization and administration of the Waffen-SS, the army and the police. As head of the Reserve Army, Himmler was now responsible for the prisoners of war. He was also in charge of the Wehrmacht penal system, and until January 1945 he also controlled the development of the Wehrmacht armaments. 155

Military commands

On 6 June 1944 the Western Allied Armies landed in the north of France during Operation Overlord . 156 The Anglo-Americans began moving toward the German border. In response, a few months later he was created Army Group Upper Rhine ( Heeresgruppe Oberrhein ) to try to stop the advance of the 7th US Army (under the command of General Alexander Patch 157 ) and the 1 st French Army (led by General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny ) in the Alsace region , along the western Rhine valley . 158 In late 1944, Hitler appointed Himmler commander of Army Group Upper Rhine.

On September 26, 1944 Hitler gave Himmler the order to create special military units, which would eventually form the Volkssturm . All men between the ages of sixteen and sixty were recruited to serve in this militia, despite protests by Armaments Ministers Albert Speer , who pointed out that irreplaceable skilled workers were being withdrawn from arms production. 159 Hitler was confident and believed that up to six million men could be enlisted, and that the new units ” would initiate a popular war against the invader”. These hopes proved too optimistic. Youths up to fourteen years old were enrolled. Due to the severe shortage of armament and equipment and the poor training received, the members of the Volkssturm were poorly prepared for combat, and about 175,000 of them lost their lives during the last months of the fighting. 160

On January 1, 1945, Hitler and his generals launched Operation North Wind ( Unternehmen Nordwind ). The objective was to break the lines of liaison between the 7th US Army and the 1st French Army in an operation that sought to support the south flank of the Armed Forces that was now being developed. However, after some small initial successes of the Germans, the Americans managed to stop the offensive. 161 By 25 January, the Nordwind operation could be officially terminated, constituting a failure for the Germans. During the military operations, Himmler hardly emphasized. N. 3

On January 25, 1945, despite Himmler’s lack of military experience, Hitler appointed him commander of the newly created Vistula Army Group ( Heeresgruppe Weichsel ) with the mission of fighting the new Soviet offensive that threatened to enter Pomerania . 163 General Heinz Guderian considered the appointment of Himmler as “idiocy” and criticized the officers elected by Himmler to organize the German defense it were a “uniformly unable to perform their assigned tasks” form. 164 Knowing that Himmler would need all the help, Guderian appointed General Walther Wenck , an experienced officer, as his chief of staff. Himmler established his command center at Schneidemühl, using his special train, the Sonderzug Steiermark , as headquarters . The train only had a telephone line, inadequate maps, and had no detachments of signals or radio equipment with which to establish communication and transmit military orders. Himmler rarely left the train, worked only about four hours a day, and insisted on receiving a daily massage before commencing work and taking a long nap after lunch. 165 On February 16, the Germans launched Operation Solstice , an attack from Pomerania anticipating advancing on the northern flank of the First Belarusian Front commanded by Marshal Georgy Zhukov ; In spite of the German attack force, they could do little against the 61st Army of Pavel Alexeyevich Belov and against the 2nd Tank Army of the Guard of Semyon Bogdanov . Zhukov responded by redirecting two Soviet armies against German forces. In just five days, the Soviet tanks had reached the Baltic Sea and with that they had caught the German forces. While Operation Solstice took place, Himmler was unable to develop viable plans to complete his military objectives. In addition, due to the worsening military situation, Himmler was subjected to an increasing pressure from Hitler, which led him to be extremely anxious and unable to send consistent reports to Hitler. 166

Hitler was unwilling to admit that Himmler’s election had been inadequate. After maintaining a strong argument with Guderian, who insisted on carrying out a change in the direction of Army Group Vistula, 167 Hitler assigned Wenck at Himmler ‘s headquarters to take over the management of a small counteroffensive that would be made To take place; Hitler then realized that he could not dispose of the troops that Guderian needed to be able to perform a double attack of tweezers from the neighboring regions. 168 When the counterattack failed , and failed to stem the Soviet advance, Hitler made Himmler responsible and accused him of not following orders. Himmler’s term ended on March 20, when Hitler was replaced by General Gotthard Heinrici as commander-in-chief of the Vistula Army Group. Himmler had long ago been away from military activities: from 18 February he was under the care of his doctor and had fled to a sanitarium in Hohenlychen. 167 Hitler also got rid of Guderian and March 29 , he handed his post of Chief of Staff General Hans Krebs . 169 Himmler’s failure and Hitler’s response marked the deterioration of their relationship. 170 By then, the inner circle of people he trusted Hitler was shrinking rapidly. 171

Negotiations of peace

In the spring of 1945 the German war effort was near collapse and Himmler’s relationship with Hitler had deteriorated severely. Himmler already considered the possibility of starting negotiations for a separate peace. His masseur, Felix Kersten , who had moved to Sweden, acted as an intermediary in the negotiations with Count Folke Bernadotte , president of the Swedish Red Cross. There was an exchange of letters between Himmler and Bernadotte, 172 and came to be held several meetings organized by one of the chiefs of the RSHA , Walter Schellenberg . 173

Himmler and Hitler met for the last time on April 20, 1945 – Hitler’s birthday – in Berlin, and Himmler showed his total loyalty to Hitler. During a military meeting held on the same day, Hitler declared that he would not leave the capital, despite Soviet advances. Like Göring, Himmler quickly left the city after the encounter. 174 On April 21, Himmler met with Norbert Masur , a Swedish representative of the World Jewish Congress , to discuss the release of the Jews from the concentration camps. 175 As a result of these negotiations, about 20,000 people were freed in the operation called ” white buses “. 176 During the negotiations, Himmler falsely asserted that concentration camp crematorium ovens had been built to deal with deaths from typhus epidemics. He also falsely claimed that there had been high survival rates in the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, even when these camps had already been released by allied troops and it was clear that Himmler’s claims were not true. 177

Two days later, Himmler met directly with Bernadotte at the Swedish Consulate in Lübeck . Representing himself with the provisional leader of Germany, he claimed that Hitler would be dead in the next few days. In the hope that the British and the Americans would fight the Soviets along with the remains of the Wehrmacht, Himmler asked Bernadotte if he could inform General Dwight Eisenhower that Germany wanted to surrender to the west. Bernadotte asked Himmler if he could present this proposal in writing, which Himmler did at the time. 178

However, a few hours earlier Göring had sent a telegram to Hitler asking him for permission to take over the leadership of the Reich – an act Hitler, subjected to the intrigues of Martin Bormann , interpreted as a requirement for him to resign or face To a coup d’état. On April 27, Himmler’s representative at Himmler’s headquarters in Berlin, Hermann Fegelein , was detained in civilian clothes while preparing to defect; Was immediately arrested and taken to the Führerbunker . On the afternoon of April 28, a BBC bulletin , citing a Reuters report, reported that Himmler was trying to establish peace talks with Western allies. Hitler, who had long believed that Himmler was the second man most loyal to his person only after Joseph Goebbels – coming to call Himmler ” der treue Heinrich ” (the loyal Heinrich) – became angry after being aware of the apparent Betrayal of Himmler. Hitler told those still in the bunker complex that Himmler’s act was the worst betrayal he had ever seen, and ordered him to be arrested. Fegelein was tried by a court martial and shot. 179

By that time, the advance of the Soviets had reached Potsdamerplatz , only 300 meters from the Chancellery of the Reich , and were preparing to assault the Chancellery. This situation and Himmler’s betrayal prompted Hitler to draft his will and last will . In the testament, written on 29 April – a day before his suicide – Hitler declared that both Himmler and Göring were traitors. Himmler was stripped of all his posts in the Nazi party and state administration, and finally Hitler expelled him from the party. 180 181

Hitler named the great Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor . Himmler met with Dönitz in Flensburg and offered himself second in command. He maintained that he was entitled to hold a post in the Government of Flensburg as Reichsführer-SS , believing that the SS would be in a good position to restore and maintain public order after the end of the race. Doenitz repeatedly rejected offers of Himmler 182 and began peace negotiations with the Allies. On 6 May – two days before the German surrender – he wrote a letter in which he dethroned Himmler from all his posts. 183

Capture and suicide

Rejected by his former comrades and sought by the allies, Himmler attempted to go underground. He had made no great preparations for this eventuality, but it had been done with documentation that credited him with the name of Sergeant Heinrich Hitzinger. With a small group of companions, May 11 headed south, to Friedrichskoog , but without a final destination in mind. They continued until Neuhaus, where the group separated. On 21 May, Himmler and two aides were arrested and placed under arrest at a checkpoint set up by former Soviet prisoners of war. During the next two days was moving by numerous prison camps, 184 and on May 23 was taken to 31. er field of civil interrogations, near Lueneburg . 185

The Commanding Officer, Captain Thomas Selvester, began the routine interrogation. Himmler then admitted to being who he really was. He was taken to the 2nd British Army headquarters in Luneburg, where Dr. Wells undertook a medical examination of Himmler. The doctor tried to examine Himmler’s mouth, but the prisoner refused to open it and turned his head away. Himmler then bit a cyanide capsule and collapsed to the ground. Fifteen minutes later he was already dead. 186 The body of Himmler was buried in an unknown location near Lueneburg. To the present day it is unknown where he is buried. 187

Private life

Mysticism and symbolism

From an early age, Himmler was interested in mysticism and occultism. He linked this interest with his racist philosophy, looking for evidence of Aryan racial superiority and the Nordic countries since antiquity. He promoted a cult of ancestor worship, especially among members of the SS, as a way of maintaining the pure race and providing immortality to the nation. Seeing the SS as a “order” in the style of the Teutonic Knights of medieval times, he took over the Church of the Teutonic Order in Vienna in 1939. He began the process by which he intended to replace Christianity with a new moral code Which rejected humanitarianism and challenged the Christian concept of marriage. 188 The Ahnenerbe , a research society founded by Himmler in 1935, conducted research around the world to seek evidence of the superiority and ancient origins of the Germanic race. 189 190

All the badges and uniforms of Nazi Germany, and especially those of the SS, used the symbolism in its design. The SS adopted the runic symbols, chosen by Himmler, as official insignia. The stylized rays of the “SS” runes came from the Armanen runes of Guido von List , which had relied freely on the runic alphabets of the Germanic peoples . 191 Himmler modified a variety of existing customs to emphasize elitism and the central role of the SS: an SS nomination ceremony replaced baptism, marriage ceremonies were altered, and celebrations were instituted for the winter and summer solstices at Style of the SS. 192 The symbol Totenkopf (skull), used by German military units for hundreds of years, was chosen for use in the SS by Julius Schreck . 191 Himmler attached particular importance to the SS Rings of Honor ; Could not be sold, and when their owners died, they would have to be returned. Himmler interpreted that the symbols of the skull symbolized the solidarity to the cause and the commitment until the death. 194

Relationship with Hitler

First as second commander of the SS, and then as Reichsführer-SS , Himmler was in regular contact with Hitler controlling the SS who acted as Hitler’s bodyguard; 195 in the years before the seizure of power by the Nazi Party, Himmler was not associated with the party leaders and strategists decision makers. 196 Since the late 1930s, the SS were independent of the control of other state agencies or the government, and only answerable to Hitler. 197

Himmler attending the 50th anniversary of Hitler, Berlin, April 20, 1939.

Hitler’s leadership style was to give contradictory orders to his subordinates and place them in positions where their roles and responsibilities overlapped with those of others. In this way, Hitler fomented mistrust, competition and internal struggle among his subordinates to consolidate and maximize his own power. His cabinet never reconvened after 1938, and discouraged his ministers from carrying out their functions independently. 198 199 Hitler normally not issued written orders, but gave them orally in meetings or telephone conversations; Also counted on Bormann to transmit orders. 200 Bormann used his position to control the flow of information and access to Hitler, 201 earning him many enemies, including Himmler himself.

Hitler promoted and practiced the Führerprinzip . This principle required the absolute obedience of all subordinates to their superiors; Consequently, Hitler regarded the structure of government as a pyramid, with himself at the apex. 202 Consequently, Himmler was placed in a subordinate position with respect at Hitler, and went on to be interested unconditionally obedient. 203 However, Himmler-like other senior officers Nazis had the aspiration that one day happen to Hitler as leader of the Reich. 204 For example, Albert Speer Himmler regarded as a particularly dangerous rival, both in the Reich administration as a potential successor to Hitler. 205 Speer refused to accept the high rank of SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer Himmler offered him, since he understood that this would put indebted to Himmler and this would require it to allow a voice and decision – making in the production of armaments. 206

Hitler went on to say that Himmler’s mystical and pseudoreligious interests were “nonsense.” 207 Himmler did not belong to the inner circle of Hitler; The two men did not have a very close relationship, and were rarely seen together in public. 208 198 Himmler socialized almost exclusively with other members of the SS. 209 His unconditional loyalty and efforts to please Hitler earned him the nickname der treue Heinrich ( “the loyal Heinrich”). However, during the last days of the war, when it became clear that Hitler planned to die in Berlin, Himmler did not hesitate to abandon the one who had been his idolized superior to save himself. 210

Marriage and family

Himmler met his future wife, Margarete Boden , in 1927. Seven years older than her husband, she was a nurse who had an interest in herbal medicine and homeopathy , and was the partial owner of a private clinic. Married in July 1928, and their only child, Gudrun , was born on August 8, 1929. 211 The couple also exercised as adoptive parents of a boy named Gerhard von Ahe, son of an SS officer who had died before war. 212 Margarete sold his share of the clinic and used the money to buy a plot of land in Waldtrudering, near Munich, where they built a prefabricated house. Due to party affairs, Himmler was constantly out of the family, so his wife took over – mostly unsuccessful – efforts to raise cattle for sale. They also had a dog, Töhle. 213

After the Nazis seized power the family moved first to the Möhlstrasse in Munich and in 1934 to Lake Tegern, where they acquired a house. Later, Himmler also received a large house in Berlin, located in the district of Dahlem and tax free since it was an official residence. However, by that time the pair had little contact with each other, since Himmler was completely absorbed by the work. 214 The relationship became strained. 215 216 From then on, the couple only met to attend social events; Were frequent guests at the home of the Heydrich family. Margarete saw in this a social role that she had to fulfill, and she used to invite the wives of the leaders and high SS officers to have tea on Wednesday afternoon. 217

Hedwig Potthast , who since 1936 was the young secretary of Himmler, by 1939 had become his mistress. He quit his job in 1941. Himmler arranged for accommodation for her, first in Mecklenburg , and later in Berchtesgaden , a Bavarian mountain refuge where Hitler had his resting place. Himmler was the father of two children with Hedwig: a son, Helge (born February 15, 1942) and a daughter, Nanette Dorothea (born July 20, 1944 in Berchtesgaden). Margarete, who by then lived in Gmund with his daughter, was aware of the relationship to 1941; She and Himmler were already virtually separated, although she decided to tolerate this relationship because of the love that Himmler had for his daughter. Working as a nurse for the German Red Cross during the war, Margarete was appointed supervisor in the Third Military District (Berlin-Brandenburg). 218 Unlike his wife, Himmler himself had a close relationship with her first daughter, Gudrun, whom he called Püppi ( “doll”); I used to call her every few days and visit her whenever I could. 218 diaries reveal that Gerhard Margarete had to leave the Institute of Political Education in Berlin because of their poor academic results. At the age of sixteen he joined the SS in Brno and shortly afterwards marched “to battle”. Destined to the Eastern Front , it was captured by the Soviets, although later returned to Germany and lived in the North of Germany. 219

Hedwig and Margarete remained loyal to Himmler. Margarete and Gudrun left Gmund when Allied troops advanced over that area. They were arrested by the American troops in Bolzano , Italy, and for some time they were under arrest in several internment camps in Italy, France and Germany. They were taken to Nuremberg to testify at the trials, and were released in November 1946. Gudrun came out bitter about the experience – for his alleged mistreatment – and has since dedicated himself to claiming the memory of his father. 220