Heinrich Himmler

Peter Longerich

Book - 2012

"In this, the first-ever comprehensive biography of the Reichsführer-SS, leading German historian Peter Longerich puts every aspect of Himmler's life under the microscope. Masterfully interweaving the story of Himmler's personal life and political career with the wider history of the Nazi dictatorship, Longerich shows how skillfully he exploited and manipulated his disparate roles in the pursuit of his far-reaching and grandiose objectives. In the process, he illuminates the extr...aordinary degree to which Himmler's own personal prejudices, idiosyncrasies, and predilections made their mark on the organizations for which he was responsible--especially the SS, which in so many ways bore the characteristic hallmarks of its leader, and whose history remains incomprehensible without a detailed and intimate knowledge of its deeply sinister commander-in-chief"--Dust-jacket.

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New York : Oxford University Press 2012.
Item Description
Originally published in German as: Heinrich Himmler : Biographie. München : Siedler, 2008.
Physical Description
xviii, 1031 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (p. [749]-991) and index.
Main Author
Peter Longerich (-)
Other Authors
Jeremy Noakes (-), Lesley Sharpe
  • Himmler's early years: Childhood and youth ; The student of agriculture ; Struggle and renunciation ; A new start in Lower Bavaria ; The Party functionary ; Reichsführer-SS
  • Inside the Third Reich: The takeover of the political police ; From Inspector of the Prussian Gestapo to Chief of the German Police ; The State Protection Corps
  • The Order: Ideology and religious cult ; Himmler's leadership style ; Himmler as educator ; The SS family
  • Into war : ambition and disappointment: War preparations and expansion ; War and settlement in Poland ; A new racial order ; Repression in the Reich ; Shifting borders : The year 1940
  • The greater Germanic Reich : living-space and ethnic murder: An ideological war of annihilation ; From mass murder to the 'Final Solution' ; The murder of the European Jews ; Settlement policy and racial selection ; The 'Iron law of ethnicity' : recruitment into the Waffen-SS ; A Europe-wide reign of terror
  • Downfall in stages: A turn in the war : a new opportunity? ; Collapse
  • Conclusion.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Originally published in German three years ago, this is an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) effort to examine all aspects of the life of the notorious henchman of the S.S. and prime executor of the "Final Solution" to destroy European Jewry. It is a superbly researched account, utilizing many newly available primary sources. Longerich is on an ultimately futile quest to explain how such a seemingly ordinary man could rise to a position where he could play out his monstrous desires. But the "ordinariness"—in fact, the sheer banality—of Himmler leads to long stretches of tedium in the narrative. Himmler lacked the raw charisma of Hitler or the serpentine, merciless quality of Stalin that has made them such attractive subjects for biographers. Longerich does show that Himmler had a degree of bureaucratic skill that he used to expand his power base within the Nazi hierarchy. Still, one must conclude from this useful but unsatisfying biography that Himmler was one of those mediocrities that history occasionally shoves to the forefront. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

This may be the most thorough study of Heinrich Himmler yet written. From Himmler's suicide as his US interrogators overlooked the poison capsule in his mouth, the next thousand pages analyze his boyhood diary entries as he wrestled with adolescent fantasies and soldierly virtues, mythical race theory, and anti-Semitism. Devastated by Germany's defeat in WW I and toughened by postwar political chaos, Himmler became embroiled in the fledgling Nazi party, climbing through the Byzantine labyrinth of paramilitary politics. The majority of this huge volume carefully follows this colorless, crafty bureaucrat who assembled power by tirelessly nurturing contacts and nimbly playing various factions. He created or consolidated the armed SS, the Gestapo, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), Criminal Police (Kripo), Auxiliary and Order Police, and the entire concentration camp system--the Third Reich's permanent instruments of terror and control. Eventually, Himmler was also promoted to Reich Settlement Commissar for the whole of Germany. His interest and control extended even to National Socialist marriage policy and sexuality. Longerich (Royal Holloway, Univ. of London) explores every relationship along the way, as well as Himmler's murderous policies in dealing with Jews, concentration camp inmates, and suspects of every stripe. A superb book, wonderfully translated, whose endnotes alone run to 200 pages. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. A. P. Krammer Texas A&M University Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Noted Holocaust scholar Longerich (history, Royal Holloway, Univ. of London; Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews) presents a thorough, well-researched, and clearly written account of Himmler's life and the history of the SS. Rather than providing groundbreaking new sources or research, this work reframes the existing materials by "integrating biography and structural history" to paint a fuller picture of the infamous Nazi leader and his organization. Longerich successfully weaves primary sources and reputable scholarship into a logical, comprehensive, and unified work. However, with a matter-of-fact tone, a structure more concerned with chronology and clarity than a dramatic arc, and nearly 1000 pages of text and endnotes, it will not appeal to readers of popular biography. VERDICT For popular readers, Katrin Himmler's The Himmler Brothers: A German Family History is a better choice. Scholars of Himmler and the SS at all levels will find this solid, inclusive book an excellent resource.—Audrey Barbakoff, Milwaukee P.L. [Page 85]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Chronicles the life of the Nazi leader, including his childhood and youth, his transformation of the SS from a small bodyguard unit into a powerful organization within the Nazi Party, and how his political maneuvering and rise in power set the tone for the party's goals.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Heinrich Himmler was an unremarkable looking man. Yet he was Hitler's top enforcer, in charge of the Gestapo, the SS, and the so-called Final Solution. We can only wonder, as biographer Peter Longerich asks, how could such a banal personality attain such a historically unique position ofpower? How could the son of a prosperous Bavarian Catholic public servant become the organizer of a system of mass murder spanning the whole of Europe?In the first comprehensive biography of this murderous enigma, Longerich answers those questions with a superb account of Himmler's inner self and outward acts. Masterfully interweaving the story of Himmler's personal life and political career with the wider history of the Nazi dictatorship,Longerich shows how skillfully he exploited and manipulated his disparate roles in the pursuit of his far-reaching and grandiose objectives. Himmler's actual strength, he writes, consisted in redrawing every two or three years the master plans for his sphere of power. Himmler expanded that spherewith ruthless efficiency. In 1929, he took the SS-a small bodyguard unit-and swelled it into a paramilitary organization with elite pretensions. By the end of 1934 he had become Reich Chief of the Political Police, and began to consolidate all police power in his own hands. As Germany grabbedneighboring territory, he expanded the Waffen SS and organized the "Germanization" of conquered lands, which culminated in systematic mass murder. When the regime went on the defensive in 1942, Himmler changed his emphasis again, repressing any opposition or unrest. The author emphasizes thecentrality of Himmler's personality to the Nazi murder machine-his surveillance of the private lives of his men, his deep resentments, his fierce prejudices-showing that man and position were inseparable. Carefully researchedand lucidly written, Heinrich Himmler is the essential account of the man who embodied Hitler's apparatus of evil.