Reichsfuhrer-SS, head of the Gestapo and the Waffen-SS
Heinrich Himmler was born October 7, 1900, as the son of a secondary school instructor and strict Roman Catholic who lived in Luneberg, Germany. By the end of World War I, Himmler had completed secondary school instruction at a school in Landshut and went on to receive a diploma in agriculture from the Munich Technical High School in 1922. Turning 18 when Germany was at an all time low following World War I, Himmler despised the Weimar Republic, expressed hatred for anyone who was anti-Germany, and joined militant right-wing organizations.
Ironically, Himmler worked as a salesman for a firm of fertilizer manufacturers before joining a para- military organization in the Munich Beer-Hall Putsh in November of 1923. In 1925 Himmler joined the Nazi party, 1927 he worked as a Poultry farmer but his future would be imbued following his appointment in January 1929 as leader of the SS, an elite guard of Hitler that was under the control at that point by the SA stormtroopers.
Himmler quickly moved up the ranks, and once Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 Himmler became the head of the Munich police. From this position he organized the first concentration camp at Dachau and began to organize the Nazi political police throughout Germany.
Adolf Hitler with "der treue Heinrich"
In April of 1934 he was named assistant chief of the Prussian Gestapo, the secret police, and in June of 1934, Himmler successfully crushed the para-military SA, headed by Ernst Röhm, making the SS the dominant organization in Germany.
In June of 1936, a power-thirsting Himmler got full control of Gestapo, and became Reichsführer of the SS. From this point he constructed the SS into an armed force in Germany second only to the army itself. Before World War II it constrained itself to providing security services for Hitler and the state, and by initiating campaigns to remove "lower" races from a society composed of the "superior" Aryans.
Himmler - a man often seen as the very personification of evil. Heinrich Himmler was not only head of Hitler's SS police and Gestapo, but was also in charge of the death camps in the East. The account of Himmler's life and his impact on the rise and fall of the Nazi state make a gripping and horrifying story. But more than this, it is a profound moral and intellectual inquiry into the nature of evil in the human character.
Although Adolf Hitler held the ultimate responsibility for what became the Holocaust, it was Heinrich Himmler who essentially laid the plans and devised the schemes that led to the killings of six million Jews.
Hermann Goering, Successor designate No. 1 to Hitler; Reich Minister for Air; President of the Ministerial Council for the Defense of the Reich; member of the Secret Cabinet Council; Reich Forest Master; Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force; Prime Minister of Prussia; President of the Prussian State Council; President of the Reichstag; Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan; Head of the "Reichswerke Hermann Goering"; Reichsmarschall; SS Obergruppenfuehrer; SA- Obergruppenfuehrer.
Goering was addicted to drugs and his behavior became quite bizarre. He dressed in different uniforms; sometimes as many as four or five different ones on a given day. He wore make-up and jewelry. Sometimes he was elated. Sometimes he was incredibly depressed, but always he was bombastic and egocentric.
Even though Goering became less and less effective, and was seen less and less at Hitler's headquarters, Hitler would not "dump" him. "Der dicke Hermann" was the only Nazi leader, other than Hitler, that Germans could identify with.
Goering was put on trial at Nuremberg in 1946. During his trial Goering, who had slimmed in captivity and had been taken off drugs, defended himself with aggressive vigour and skill, frequently outwitting the prosecuting counsel. With Hitler dead, he stood out among the defendants as the dominating personality, dictating attitudes to other prisoners in the dock and adopting a pose of self-conscious heroism motivated by the belief that he would be immortalized as a German martyr.
Nevertheless, Goering failed to convince the judges, who found him guilty, and Goering was sentenced to death by hanging. On 15 October 1946, two hours before his execution was due to take place, Goering committed suicide in his Nuremberg cell, taking a capsule of poison that he had succeeded in hiding from his guards during his captivity.
Master propagandist of the Nazi regime and dictator of its cultural life for twelve years.
As the war neared its end, Goebbels, the supreme opportunist, emerged as the Fuhrer's most loyal follower, spending his last days together with his family, in the Fuhrerbunker under the Chancellery. Convinced that the Nazis had finally burnt all their bridges and increasingly fascinated by the prospect of a final apocalypse, Goebbels's last words on dismissing his associates were: 'When we depart, let the earth tremble!'
Following the Fuhrer's suicide, Goebbels disregarded Hitler's political testament, which had appointed him as Reich Chancellor, and decided to follow suit. He had his six children poisoned with a lethal injection by an SS doctor and then himself and his wife Magda shot by an SS orderly on 1 May 1945. With characteristic pathos and egomania he declared not long before his death: 'We shall go down in history as the greatest statesmen of all time, or as the greatest criminals.'
Reinhard Heydrich was one of Hitler's most ruthless Nazis. In addition to heading the occupation of Czechoslovakia, he was a leading architect of the Holocaust. There was even talk of his one day succeeding Hitler. For these reasons and others, he became a target--and ultimately the victim--of Allied special operations.
At a villa owned by the SS on the shores of a suburban Berlin lake called the Wannsee, mid-level bureaucrats from a number of Nazi agencies assembled at the request of Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich and his boss, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, were in the process of assuming leadership in the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", i.e., the murder of Europe's Jews by the Nazis.
This meeting was a part of that process, as bureaucratic coordination would be required for the massive efforts to be undertaken throughout Europe to kill the 11,000,000 Jews described in the document. The Nazis ultimately succeeded in killing between five and six million of Europe's Jews, with hundreds of thousands already dead by the time of this meeting.
Heinrich Himmler with Reinhard Heydrich
Heydrich was the speaker at this Wannsee Conference January 20, 1942 and admitted received order for Final solution from Adolf Hitler. Heydrich presided over the conference with the aid of Adolf Eichmann. The conference was attended by all high ranking officials. It began the immediate starting of the overall European Genocide.
In 1942 Heydrich was assassinated in Prague, and so the Czechs saved their nation, but thousands of innocent Czech lives had been lost in executions.
His assignment was to murder all the Jews in Europe. He joined the Nazi party as a young man and quickly rose through the ranks. When Hitler came to power, he was put into the department for "Jewish affairs." In Austria, Eichmann brought together all the bureaucratic agencies needed for Jewish expulsion. He did the same in Czechoslovakia.
Back in Berlin, he led the entire Reich's effort for the "Final Solution" after the Wannsee Conference gave the go-ahead. Eichmann's efficient organization rounded up and transported millions of Jews to their deaths at infamous camps such as Auschwitz, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor and Belsec.
Photo of false identification papers used by Adolf Eichmann in Argentina.
After the war, Eichmann escaped capture and lived in Germany for five years before moving to Argentina where he would live under an alias for another ten years. Israeli agents finally captured him in 1960.
May 23, Ben Gurion, the Prime Minister announced to a startled Knesset that Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer who master-minded Hitler's extermination of six million Jews,was in Israeli hands and was to be put on trial for his life. He described Eichmann as "one of the greatest of the Nazi war criminals".Reports in Israel spoke of a daring operation carried out by the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, to seize Eichmann from Argentina where he had been living under an assumed identity.
Adolf Eichmann was tried for crimes against humanity. In the jailhouse writings, Eichmann, a former traveling salesman, tried to put distance between himself and the Nazi genocide, claiming he was just a bureaucrat. His only defense was that he was "on the lowest rung," that his "position was too insignificant," and he declared repeatedly, "I had to obey." And Eichmann showed no reaction to the horrors that were described in court.
On May 31, 1962, the State of Israel carried out the only death sentence in its history on the man whose defense was, "I was just following orders."
Auschwitz Bergen-Belsen Belzec Sobibor Treblinka
Albert Speer was the architect who served Adolf Hitler with devotion and efficiency, starting with his enthusiastic crafting of Nazi rallies and going on to become the organisational genius whose efforts are credited - if that is the word to use - with keeping the German war machine functioning under the onslaught of the Allied blockade and bombardment. He is said to have prolonged the war for at least a year, with the consequent death of hundreds of thousands and widespread ruin. It also gave the Nazis more time to pursue their mass murder of Jews, Russians, Gypsies and others deemed not fit to live.
Speer was jailed in 1946 for 20 years in the post-war Nuremberg trials. After his release he wrote his memoirs, grew wealthy, and until his death in 1981 worked hard at being a penitent, presenting himself as someone who should have known what was being done, but did not know. He offered himself as the scapegoat for Germany's collective guilt.
The Good Nazi : The Life and Lies of Albert Speer by Dan Van Der Vat, Dan Van Der Vat, Albert Speer
Reviews The New York Times Book Review, David Murray
Dan van der Vat, a Dutch-born British journalist, makes an effective case in The Good Nazi, a well-written and skeptical account, that while the slippery (Albert) Speer knew for years about the atrocities, he was able to pretend that he only "suspected ... that something appalling was happening" to Europe's Jews. As a result, he was one of only two top- ranking Nazis to escape the hangman, drawing a 20-year prison sentence instead.
On the stand at Nuremberg, Albert Speer, the self-described "second man in the Reich," denied any direct knowledge of the Final Solution. But was he really the innocent functionary he claimed to be? And was he sincere in accepting his share of the Nazis' "collective guilt"? This hard-hitting biography says no--that Speer's avowals of ignorance and repentance were a self-serving sham.
Portraying himself during the Nuremberg trials as an "unwitting collaborator, " Albert Speer stood out among the accused as the one "good Nazi." In this hard-hitting biography, Dan van der Vat reveals Speer to be otherwise: a dedicated servant of the party who, as Hitler's minister of wartime production, was the Nazis' principle exploiter of forced labor.
The horrors of Mankind
The defendants at Nuremberg. Front row, from left to right: Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Walther Funk, Hjalmar Schacht. Back row from left to right: Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Franz von Papen, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Albert Speer, Konstantin van Neurath, Hans Fritzsche. Courtesy of the National Archives.