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The Most Terrible Villains of the Past One Hundred Years: Part 5 of 5 - Heinrich Himmler (Includes Series Summary)
Heinrich Himmler was one of the highest ranking members of the Nazi party. He was the head of the SS which was a tyrannical, sadistic, goon squad. The SS started out as bodyguards for Hitler but Himmler eventually grew it into a force of many thousands.
Following Hitler's orders, Himmler set up and oversaw the Nazi concentration camps. In this capacity, Himmler directed the killing of some six million Jews and many more millions of other people. The total number of civilians killed by the regime is estimated to be eleven to fourteen million.
Himmler was born Catholic to a middle-class family. His father was a teacher and his Mother a devout, Roman Catholic. He had two brothers...one older and one younger. He studied agronomy in college and did obtain a degree.
Himmler was somewhat anti-semitic prior to college but became more so while attending. During his time in college, he met Ernst Roum, an early member of the Nazi party. Roum persuaded Himmler to join an anti-semitic, nationalist group. Himmler did join and thereafter became increasingly anti-semitic and interested in German myths and the occult.
Himmler joined the Nazi Party and the SS in 1923. He found the Nazi party appealing because its views were similar to his own. As he grew within the SS, he was assigned to collect statistics on the number of Jews, Freemasons and other "undesirables" in the country.
He quickly moved up the ranks in the SS and grew it from a force of approximately 290 to 3,000. The Nazi Party's rise to power provided Himmler and the SS an excellent opportunity to thrive. By 1933, the SS numbered 52,000 members. Strict membership requirements ensured that all members were of Hitler's, Aryan, master race; applicants were vetted for Nordic qualities.
Each applicant had to provide a genealogical record proving their racial heritage. Prospective members were required to provide proof of the racial background of their spouse. Himmler very much wanted and viewed the SS as an order of purebred Germans. He intertwined his interests in mysticism and the occult with his racist philosophy. He looked for ancient proof of Aryan and Nordic racial superiority and authorized searches the globe over in this regard.
Himmler modified a variety of existing customs to emphasize the central role of the SS. An SS naming ceremony was to replace baptism and marriage ceremonies were altered. A separate SS funeral ceremony was to be held in addition to any other. SS-centric celebrations of the Summer and Winter solstice were instituted.
In March 1933, shortly after the Nazis seized power, Himmler set up the first official concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. It was used as a model for other camps that were to come. Its features included isolation of victims from the outside world, elaborate roll calls and work details and, the use of force and executions to extract obedience. Uniforms were issued for prisoners and guards alike. The guards' uniforms had a special death head insignia on the collar.
in 1934, Hitler appointed Himmler as the Chief of German Police. The police and SS forces were unified under Himmler's command. This gave Himmler operational control over Germany's entire security apparatus.
By the outbreak of World War II, there were six concentration camps holding some 27,000 people.
Hitler authorized the killing of Polish and Jewish civilians in the early part of WW II per Germany's invasion of Poland. Himmler oversaw the outright murder of untold thousands of these victims. SS units were tasked with rounding up Jews and others for placement in concentration camps. A sizable part of Europe was to be conquered by the Nazis and resettled by ten million German citizens. The current residents would be expelled, starved or used for forced labor.
Those thought to be "more German" regarding ethnicity were sometimes spared. There were plans to spare and/or kidnap some children in conquered and occupied territories. For example, if the father of a child was German and the mother Polish, and it was felt the child was more German than Polish, the Nazis would seize and take control of that child. The Polish mother would be sent to a concentration camp; the fate of the father/husband unclear.
Himmler once said:
"Obviously in such a mixture of peoples, there will always be some racially good types. Therefore, I think that it is our duty to take their children with us, to remove them from their environment, if necessary by robbing, or stealing them. Either we win over any good blood that we can use for ourselves and give it a place in our people, ... or we destroy that blood."
The concentration camps initially housed political opponents but over time so called criminals, vagrants, deviants and others were placed there as well. A Hitler decree issued in December 1937 allowed for the incarceration of anyone deemed by the regime to be an undesirable member of society. This included Jews, Gypsies, communists, and persons of different cultural, racial, political, or religious affiliation. People not viewed as part of the master race were considered sub-human.
Hitler had become more and more determined to see the outright extermination of the Jewish people in particular. His designs to this end were referred to as "the final solution". Those Jews able to work would be worked to death and those unable to work would be killed outright.
Himmler carried out these plans on a massive scale with factory like organization and precision. With fanatical zeal and conviction, Himmler did his best to murder as many as possible. The number of Jews to be killed was estimated to be 11 million: the Nazis in fact did end up killing nearly 6 million of them. The most prolific and intense period of the killing spree is referred to as The Holocaust.
Victims were initially killed via small scale exposure to gas or via firing squad but these methods were deemed as too labor intensive. Large gas chambers were built so many could be murdered with greater speed and efficiency. Many were told they were going to be taking a shower or bath when in fact they were going to be gassed to death. Himmler once handed out 28 promotions to fellow Nazis after witnessing a really impressive gassing.
20 million Soviets perished as a result of Nazi Germany's aggression. The Soviet losses then are equivalent to 60 million Americans being killed in current times.
Once the Nazis had taken control of parts of the Soviet Union, many thousands of Jewish, and others deemed undesirable, were put into concentration camps. As many as 500,000 Soviet prisoners of war died or were executed in Nazi concentration camps over the course of the war.
In time however, the tide of the war began to turn. Due to a number of military successes by the allied forces, to a brutal Russian winter and other factors, the Nazis found themselves going backwards. The Soviets finally were able to expel the Nazis and slowly, over time, began to close in on Hitler. Himmler had been put in charge of stopping part of the Soviet advance but could not. This damaged his relations with Hitler. By that time, the inner circle of people which Hitler trusted had rapidly begun to shrink.
In the spring of 1945, Germany's chances of winning the war was zero. Himmler swore loyalty to Hitler in person but was secretly trying to negotiate a peace settlement with the allies. Through diplomatic channels, Himmler declared himself provisional leader of Germany to the allies believing Hitler would be dead within a few days.
News of this however got to Hitler prior to his death. Hitler considered Himmler's actions a terrible act of treachery and stripped Himmler of all of his party and state offices and expelled him from the Nazi Party. Hitler committed suicide the next day as Soviet forces closed in on his bunker. Himmler felt he was entitled (based on what?) to be a high ranking member of the new government that was forming but was rejected.
No longer having power or a political party and knowing he was being hunted by the allies, Himmler attempted to go into hiding. He was captured however and under interrogation, admitted who he was. During a medical exam, Himmler bit into a cyanide pill hidden within his mouth and collapsed onto the floor. He was dead within fifteen minutes and shortly thereafter, was buried in an unmarked grave.
This hub completes this series---The Most Terrible Villains of the Past 100 Years.
Of the five villains, 3 were white Europeans and two were Asian. All five were males. Four of the five were very much involved with WW II...the exception being Pol Pot. Stalin and Mao were both communists, Pot Pol pretty much also, and Hitler and Himmler leading members of the Nazi German party.
The first four villains, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, were fairly easy for me to choose. Villain number 5 however was difficult to choose. I elicited help and input in this regard from others. Other people I looked into were, Vladamir Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Muammar Qaddafi, Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-il, Omar al-Bashir, Saddam Hussein, a few other high ranking Nazis, and others. A few people suggested Americans like Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumseld, Dick Cheney and, George W. Bush...
Who would you have chosen for the five villains? Would you rank the five I chose in the same order? If not, how would you have ranked them?
Thank God all five of the monsters in this series are dead! Unfortunately, other monsters are out there and new ones will likely arise.
*Wikipedia was used as a reference in creating this hub
Here are the other hubs in this series
- The Most Terrible Villains of the Past One Hundred Years: Part 1 of 5 Adolf Hitler
- The Most Terrible Villains of the Past One Hundred Years: Part 2 of 5 - Joseph Stalin
- The Most Terrible Villains of the Past One Hundred Years: Part 3 of 5 - Mao Zedong
- The Most Terrible Villains of the Past One Hundred Years: Part 4 of 5 - Pol Pot