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Heinrich Himmler, the Nazi leader of the SS. Specifically, it will discuss his direct involvement with the concentration camps and the extermination of the Jewish people. Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945) was an unsuccessful chicken farmer and fertilizer salesman who became a leader in the Nazi party in the mid-1920s. As head of the SS as well as the Gestapo, he was a cold, efficient, ruthless administrator. He was the organizer of the mass murder of Jews, the man in charge of the concentration and death camps.
HIMMLER THE EXTERMINATOR
Heinrich Himmler was born in 1900, and studied agriculture. He fought in the very end of World War I, and never seemed to make much of himself until he met Hitler. "Himmler was a passionate farmer. He had studied agriculture for several years, had a degree in agriculture, and was later the chairman of the board of the Organization of Agricultural Graduates" (Hss, 268). Later, Hitler made him Reichsfuhrer-SS (Reich SS Leader) and Chief of the German police. At first, the SS was nothing more than a bodyguard for Hitler, but as the Nazi party grew, so did the SS and their authority, and so did Himmler's. It [the SS] was to be in a position to bring to reality the idea of National Socialism among all phases of life and to be strong enough to break all resisting opposition" (Hss 269). Ultimately, he became head of all German police activities, and his power was immeasurable. However, he still had his critics.
On the dark side for Himmler, some Party leaders, and even Hitler on occasion, thought the Reichsfuhrer-SS mentally unhinged. Alte Kampfer noted that Himmler had experimented early in his career breeding super- chickens. It amused the Fuhrer that Himmler dabbled in astrology and Aryan head-measuring (Goldin).
Eventually, it was Himmler's job to manage the concentration camps and the extermination of the Jewish race according to Hitler's maniacal plan to "clean up" the German race by eliminating anything impure. Before he began exterminating the Jews, he eliminated German mental patients, and had over 300,000 alcoholics, homosexuals, and other "deviants" sterilized. Yet, there are those who believe it was Himmler himself who authored these laws of cleansing and extermination (Hss 276).
The largest group of nonsoldiers killed directly through Hitler's exclusionary policies were Jews, beginning in July of 1941. Jews were first murdered in mobile vans, but huge concentration camps with gas chambers and ovens were soon constructed. Those healthy enough were forced to work on short rations; if they fell ill or weak, they were gassed. Young children, the elderly, and pregnant women were generally gassed immediately, unless they had very special skills like forgery, printmaking, high degrees of musical skill, and so forth. Others were brutally tortured or maimed by "medical experiments." By the end of the war, some six million Jews were killed (Devine and Hansen 54).
One of the reasons the SS carried out the gruesome orders at the death camps was their training and unfailing loyalty to Himmler. SS troops underwent stringent training under Himmler's guidance.
Himmler educated the SS, particularly the officers, to carry out this concept no matter what. Years and years of schooling in the SS finally created the SS soldier and especially the SS officers who blindly and tenaciously would obey any order from Himmler or Hitler without any thinking on his part" (Hss 271).
As the concentration camps grew, conditions grew appalling. Himmler once visited Auschwitz and informed the commandant he must make ready for more prisoners, which the commandant replied was impossible. "Himmler just smiled and disposed of their objections saying, 'Gentlemen, this project will be completed; my reasons for this are more important than your objections!'" (Hss 285).
At first, Jews were exterminated by shooting them in mass graves. Later, Himmler realized this was not efficient, and began to design a system for mass extermination, which became the gas chambers, where hundreds of Jews could be killed at once. Himmler also was aware of the unspeakable conditions at the camps, and how even the able bodied, who were needed for work, were dying because of disease, overcrowding, and lack of food and water. "Himmler, and Himmler alone, bears the guilt for this, since he constantly refused to acknowledge any reports from anyone about these conditions and refused to do anything about them" (Hss 286). In a chilling speech he gave in 1943, he summed up his mission…[continue]
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