German people as the second man of the Third Reich, Hitler’s indispensable manager-of-state.

For Goring the failure of the Luftwaffe meant the passing of his personal glory as the most popular and colourful figure in the Nazi regime, the jovial air-ace. Alternately elated and deflated by his drug addiction, he also needed to feel indispensable and enjoy the satisfaction of collecting endless offices of state from the master of whom he stood in so great an awe that eventually it verged on panic. Depressed by the failure of the Luftwaffe, Goring turned increasingly to the consolation of his great art collection, amassed by gift, by purchase, but most of all by plunder, until it reached at the end of the war an estimated value of ?30 million. In spite of this gradual fall from Hitler’s favour, he remained until the last days the Fuhrer’s nominal successor; his real power declined after 1943 in the eyes of everyone except himself as he became increasingly self-indulgent and less and less involved in the direction of the war or the conduct of the economy.

It remained for Himmler, the idealist without ideals, at once the most diffident and the most pedantic man in the Nazi hierarchy, persistently uncertain of himself and yet perpetually militant and power-loving, to accumulate in secret the ultimate control of Germany. Looked at from his own point of view, it was Himmler’s personal tragedy that while loving the thought of power so dearly he proved so utterly incapable of using it to any positive ends once he had acquired it. It remained a dead weight in his hands and a constant source of anxiety. While the very mention of his name struck terror into the hearts of millions of people, he himself was nervous to the point of timidity and became utterly speechless if Hitler chose to reprimand him. He cowered behind his own autocracy, and lost all powers of initiative in the face of personalities stronger or more persistent than himself, especially those on whom he came to depend, such as Heydrich, Schellenberg or Felix Kersten, his masseur, the only man who could relieve him of the chronic cramp in his stomach which was exacerbated by worry and despair. Yet it was Himmler who towards the end held most of what trump cards there were left in the hands of Nazi Germany, and who was regarded by many as the certain successor if Hitler collapsed.

The more one learns about the character and behaviour of these men, the more extraordinary does it seem that less than a quarter of a century ago they would have become under Hitler the joint masters of Europe and have held a great part of the world to ransom. Yet this, as we all know, is what happened. To us it seems best now to regard this black history as a warning. In our new world there are many emergent states and many longer established nations without the natural self-discipline to resist men similar in nature to the Nazi leaders should they emerge and either stride or slip to power. Such men are not always easy to recognize for what they are until it is too late. This certainly was the case with Himmler. Hitler at first appeared an absurd fanatic, Goebbels a posturing mob-orator, Goring a good-natured ass, Himmler a nonentity. Yet none of them proved to be what they had seemed, or they would never have won by their wits alone the supreme power in a great nation.

Our aim in writing this series of biographies is therefore to examine what particular qualities they and the men they chose to serve them actually possessed. Also, the reasons for their ultimate failure are as significant and absorbing as the explanation of their initial success. Within the space of only eight years they rose from insignificance and comparative penury to become the absolute masters of Germany. Twelve years later they were dead and utterly discredited. This story is unique in modern history, and it happened not in some lawless period of the past but in the middle of our own century.

Heinrich Fraenkel has made numerous visits to Germany on research for this book. He has interviewed many people, some of them prominent in the S.S. or former members of Himmler’s staff who have asked to remain anonymous. Owing to Himmler’s methodical nature, vast quantities of private papers, official correspondence and secret memoranda have survived and are held in the various official archives we have indicated. Many new facts have come to light during the past two years from captured documents recently handed over by the American government to the German Federal Archives at Koblenz. These and other files have been studied and what they have shown has helped to complete this portrait of Himmler.

Although this is the first detailed biographical study of Himmler, we must express our great indebtedness to the published works of Gerald Reitlinger, whose researches into the activities of the S.S. and the extermination of the Jewish people in Europe, which he published in his two books The Final Solution and The S.S., have been indispensable to us in that they throw so much light on Himmler himself. Willi Frischauer’s study of Himmler has also been useful in points of detail, though his book is devoted at least as much to the S.S. and its activities as to Himmler the man.

We have received valuable assistance from Fraulein Gudrun Himmler, Himmler’s daughter, and from Gebhard Himmler, Himmler’s elder brother; also from the former S.S. General Karl Wolff, at present serving a sentence following his trial in Munich, where he was visited on a number of occasions by Heinrich Fraenkel. Others who have kindly given us significant information include Count Schwerin von Krosigk, Hitler’s Minister of Finance, Dr Otto Strasser, who employed Himmler as an assistant during his initial work for the Party, Dr Werner Best, who became during the Third Reich the Governor of Denmark, Frau Lina Heydrich, widow of the former S.S. leader, Josef Kiermaier, Himmler’s bodyguard, Fraulein Doris Mahner, one of Himmler’s secretaries, Dr Riss, head of the Erding Law Court, and Colonel Saradeth, both former fellow-students of Himmler in Munich, Dr Otto John, Frau Irmgard Kersten, widow of Felix Kersten, Himmler’s masseur, and Colonel L. M. Murphy and Captain Tom Selvester, the British officers in charge of Himmler after his arrest. We must also acknowledge the generous help given us by the staff of the Wiener Library in London, and in particular by Mrs Ilse Wolff, and by the staffs of the German Federal Archives at Koblenz (in particular Dr Boberach), the Institut fur Zeitgeschichte at Munich (in particular Dr Hoch), the Berlin Document Center, the Rijksinstituut voor Oorlog Documentatie at Amsterdam (in particular Dr de Jong), and the International Red Cross Tracing Centre at Arolsen (in particular, Dr Burckhardt). Once more, we would like to thank Mrs M. H. Peters who undertook the arduous task of typing the manuscript of this book.


I. Chaste Youth

At the turn of the century, Professor Gebhard Himmler was already at the age of thirty-five a well-placed and well-respected schoolmaster in Munich. He was a studious, pedantic man, very conscious of the social prestige he had gained from the patronage of the Bavarian royal household of Wittelsbach. For when he had finished his education at the University of Munich, where he studied philology and languages, he had been appointed tutor to Prince Heinrich of Bavaria. Only after this period of service was finished had he taken up teaching in Munich.

In his restricted and very bourgeois world, he remained highly conscious of this link with a royal house. His surroundings, the heavy furniture, the ancestral portraits, the collection of old coins and German antiquities, all reflected his serious and respectable turn of mind and the need he felt to distinguish himself in middle-class society. His father had been a wandering soldier with only meagre resources, but his wife, Anna, who came from Regensburg, had brought him a modest amount of money, since her father was in trade. So it was in a comfortable second-floor flat on the Hildegardstrasse in Munich that Anna Himmler gave birth to her second son on 7 October 1900.1 When their first child, Gebhard, had been born two years earlier, he had been named after his father, but for the second son the special privilege was reserved of being called after no less a person than Prince Heinrich himself, who graciously consented to act as godfather to the child of his old tutor. The draft of a letter dated 13 October 1900 and written in the Professor’s immaculate script with its stiffly sloping loops still survives; in it he expresses the hope that the Prince will honour the family with his presence and partake of a glass of champagne. ‘Our small offspring’, writes the Professor, ‘on the second day of his sojourn on this earth, weighed seven pounds and two hundred grammes.’2

The upbringing of the Himmler brothers — a third son, Ernst, was born in December 1905 — followed the routine of the period. With a schoolmaster for father, the masculine dominance natural in German households was all the more evident in their lives, especially when the boys attended their father’s school in Landshut, the small town to which the family moved in 1913 on the Professor’s appointment to a joint-headmastership.

Landshut is a pleasant place some fifty miles north-east of Munich with the water of the River Isar flowing through its centre. It had a castle and sufficient history to encourage young Heinrich’s growing interest in national tradition and in the ancestral pictures and other mementoes his father collected to show their family’s link with Germany’s past. Professor Himmler did everything he could to encourage serious interests and self-discipline in his sons; he had a willing and assiduous pupil in Heinrich, who always remained devoted to both his parents in his own formal way. He was never to lose touch with them all their lives.

Вы читаете Heinrich Himmler
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату