The beliefs and philosophies of Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler’s brutal head of the Nazi special police, or SS, and the Gestapo, can now finally be bared. The personality behind the man, blamed for being the chief architect in implementing Hitler’s “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem,” can now hopefully be understood through a series of photos, personal letters and other documents written by Himmler himself that have recently surfaced in Israel.
The historical collections now kept by a family in Israel were earlier believed to be lost. However, after nearly 70 years since Himmler’s suicide in 1945, the Lapa family has finally decided to reveal their important collection. Vanessa Lapa, an Israeli film director, is set to present her documentary on the life of Heinrich Himmler in February during the Berlin International Film Festival. It is based on the documents her family kept throughout the years. The debut documentary entitled ‘Der Anstandige’ (The Decent) was also created with the financial support from Die Welt, a German newspaper.
It was the team of writers and researchers at Die Welt who first learned of the Himmler private documents kept by the Lapa family. The documents which cover the period 1927 to 1945 are now stored at a bank vault in Tel Aviv and consist of love letters written by Himmler to his wife Margarete, letters to his daughter Gudrun, diaries, several photos and recipe books.
According to Avner Shalev, the chairman of the directorate of Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, the collection has great importance for researchers of the Holocaust because it can possibly reveal in detail how ordinary human beings like Himmler could have implemented their beliefs to the extreme and influenced people to support them. “These were not monsters; they were human beings, however twisted.” added Shalev.
There are currently two versions as to how the documents came into the hands of the Lapa family. According to one version, Chaim Rosenthal, a former consul for cultural affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York bought the documents for $40,000 in 1982 from the former assistant of Gen. Karl Wolff. Wolff was Himmler’s liaison officer with Hitler, as well as the commander of the SS stationed in Italy. The assistant stole the documents and sold them to Rosenthal who then sold them to the father of Vanessa Lapa.
The other version portrays Rosenthal, who died in 2012, as securing the documents from a Brussels flea market. The documents came to the flea market through two American soldiers who picked-up hundreds of letters and other documents from Himmler’s home in Bavaria after the war. The father of Vanessa Lapa then purchased the documents from Rosenthal. The authenticity of these documents is verified because the replies from Himmler’s wife, which are now stored at the German Federal Archive (Bundesarchiv), correspond exactly to Himmler’s letters.
Heinrich Himmler was born in Munich on October 7, 1900. He took part in a failed coup in Munich in 1923 and the leader, Hitler, was jailed. In Himmler’s mind, Hitler became a hero because of this incident. Also during this time, his anti-Semitic beliefs and ideology became apparent. Because of Himmler’s dedication and loyalty to the cause of the Nazi movement, Hitler appointed him to lead the Schutztaffein (SS) or the “protection squads.”.In a letter to his wife, Himmler admitted “Believe me, if Hitler tells me to shoot my mother – I’ll do that.”
Himmler in later years, started organizing the machinery and the horrifying death camps that would carry out terrorizing, torturing and murdering six million people to implement Hitler’s “Final Solution.” He particularly liked killing Jewish women and children because he believed that this would prevent the younger generation from avenging the deaths of their fathers. Sensing defeat was imminent at the hands of the advancing Allied forces, Himmler ordered his remaining commanders not to hand prisoners to the Allied forces alive.
In one letter to his wife, Himmler, who had no qualms about killing millions of people wrote, “I am off to Auschwitz. Kisses, Your Heini.” In May 23, 1945, or three days after his capture near Luneberg by the British soldiers, Himmler committed suicide by biting into a cyanide capsule hidden in his mouth.
With the recently discovered personal documents of Heinrich Himmler, historians and researchers may now be able to reveal how the feared Nazi leader started to evolve his beliefs and world view (Weltanschauung) of his early years up to the time he unleashed his ruthless personality during the peak of the Nazi power.
By Roberto I. Belda