A character who has been obscured in history but one of the major ideological fanatics within the 3rd Reich who arguably influenced most of their worst policies was Heinrich Himmler. How did this young man originally raised as a Roman catholic develop such an ideology that was so wild and esoteric as it was deadly and dangerous. In this post I am going to look into the background of this man, his upbringing and how he developed his core beliefs.
Born on 7th October 1900, Heinrich Luitpold Himmler named after his godfather Prince Heinrich of Bavaria was born. Born in Munich Bavaria to his father Joseph Gebhard Himmler a headmaster in a catholic school and to his mother, Anna Maria Himmler who also was a devout catholic. Joseph and Anna had three boys altogether with Heinrich Himmler born as the second child of the wealthy family, the two brothers of Heinrich were Gebhard Ludwig Himmler and Ernst Hermann Himmler.
His godfather, Prince Heinrich of Bavaria, a member of the Bavarian royal family who had been taught by Gebhard Himmler, was the originator of Himmler’s initial name, Heinrich. A distinguished Army officer in the First World War, Prince Heinrich of Bavaria (24 June 1884 – 8 November 1916) was a member of the Royal House of Bavaria highlighting the Himmlers family links to royalty which would later go on to benefit Heinrich Himmler.
Heinrich had a strict upbringing with the children’s education was significantly influenced by Catholicism and regional nationalism in the Bavarian region. The Bavarian royal family and the Himmler family had close connections and friendships contributing to Heinrichs experience in his early life.
Heinrich also suffered from bad health, with continual stomach problems as well as other issues. He regularly used weights and exercised to build strength when he was younger. Students at the school which his father was the headmaster of recalled him as a diligent student who did well in his work but also a socially uncomfortable individual.
Heinrich Himmler’s family relocated to Landshut in 1913 after his father accepted a position as assistant principal of the Gymnasium in Landshut. During the period when WW1 broke out Himmler kept with him a number of diaries, these diaries explored various topics and themes including current events, duelling, religion, sex etc. His interest in the military advances during World War I is documented in entries from 1914, when Himmler was 14 years old. These entries include records of official army bulletins and material from Münchner Neueste Nachrichten.
Himmler was a fiercely patriotic young man, He had aspirations of serving on the front lines as an officer during World War I which on January 1, 1918 caused him to drop out of high school to start his training as an officer candidate by taking use of his reluctant father’s connections. But before Himmler had finished his training, on November 11, 1918, Germany ratified the armistice that would put an end to World War I.
This turn of events prevented Heinrich from the chance to serve as an officer or engage in battle. This was due to the restrictions imposed on them in the treaty of Versailles. Heinrich was released on December 18th and he returned to Landshut finishing his grammar school studies. After a brief apprenticeship on a farm and a subsequent sickness, he studied agriculture at the now Technical University Munich from 1919 to 1922 .
By the time he had entered university Heinrich was anti-Semitic, but not particularly so although pupils at his school would shun their Jewish friends. While a student he had remained a devout Catholic and spent the majority of his free time with other fencing students in his fraternity, the “League of Apollo”
This fencing fraternity had a Jewish president and despite Heinrichs developing antisemitism he remained cordial with him and the other Jewish members of the fraternity. Later in his college life Heinrich tried to step up his efforts to pursue a military career in which he did not succeed. However this provided him a gateway into Munich’s paramilitary culture which led him to his first encounter with early National Socialist pioneer Ernst Röhm.
It was also over this period when Heinrich had started reading racial and nationalist literature such as the deeply racist (völkisch). Such material was well-liked by right-wing radical Germans during the interwar period due to the political context. Looking at some further additional diary entries you can see some of the radical views that developed over this period in terms of highly Nationalistic and Esoteric like views popular in Germany at the time which had developed in Heinrichs mind.
The entries pick up again in August 1919 contain details about his work on a farm in Ingolstadt and his intention to become a farmer. Himmler first makes reference to Jews in his diary on December 15, 1919, during his first semester of college and after joining the League of Apollo.
“I had a chat about being Jewish, issues of honor, and other things after supper. A fascinating conversation. While driving home, I was considering it. I believe my religion and I are going to clash. Whatever happens, I will always adore God, pray to him, be a Catholic and support the Church even if I am expelled from it.” It is unclear where this hostility on the basis of his catholic faith came from but did occur more on religious grounds within catholic fraternities at the time.
Interestingly in other entries from 1919 he states plans to move to eastern Europe after the completion of the Russian civil war and he was studying Russian in the evenings.
Another example of his extreme views developing is in the period when he gets sick and leaves the farm for the university. He reads a polemic against Freemasons when he is unwell. The polemic, which was written by Friedrich Wichtl, argued that freemasonry had a significant Jewish influence and blamed freemasons for the outcome of World War I. He does not specify whether he is referring to Jews or Freemasons when he writes in his diary, “A book that throws light on everything and tells us who we have to battle first.”
This gives us insight into this vital period on this impressionable young man. How in the post war years of 1918 to 1923 around his late teens and early twenties he developed these highly racist and extreme ideas which would lead to the catastrophic effects much later down the years.
Himmler’s diary entries from 1922 show a rise in anti-Semitic statements and a lot of conversations about Jews with his classmates as he became increasingly interested in the “Jewish topic.” anti-Semitic publications, German mythologies, and occult tracts dominated his reading lists, as noted in his diary.
Starting in 1923, Himmler’s entries place a heavy emphasis on anti-Semitic material. One comment accuses the author of the book on German criminal culture, which Himmler has just completed reading, of being “someone patronized by Jews and in any event not a Jew hater” In the Power of Dark Forces, a conspiracist book, was read by him in 1924. While rejecting the author’s overall “Paranoia” Himmler does concur with one statement, however: “Description of the Jewish system which is designed to condemn people to a moral death. It’s conceivable that there’s a persecution complex involved in all this to a certain degree. But the system undoubtedly exists and the Jews operate it.”
His Party number was 14,303 when Heinrich joined the National Socialist Party (NSDAP) in August 1923. He participated in the Beer Hall Putsch, an unsuccessful attempt by Hitler and the NSDAP to gain power in Munich, as a member of Röhm’s paramilitary group. His political career would start with this incident and the police questioned him about his involvement in the putsch, but there was not enough evidence to arrest him. Heinrich states that he visited Ernst Röhm at Stadelheim prison after the failed Beer Hall Putsch In a diary entry from February 15 1924:
“Rode out to Stadelheim…talked for twenty minutes with Captain Röhm. We had an excellent conversation and spoke unreservedly. He called Delegate Schaefer the greatest hypocrite and Jesuit of the entire People’s party. We also discussed Neunzert whom he trusts completely. If he only does not deceive himself! I had brought him a Grossdeutsche Zeitung and oranges, which pleased him very much.”
He was forced to live with his parents in Munich after losing his job and failing to find work as an agronomist. He grew increasingly agitated, combative, and opinionated as a result of his failures, alienating both friends and family members. His gradual falling into National Socialist mysticism, occultism, anti-Semitism and volkisch thought can be seen to be almost cemented at this point around the age of 24.
While seeking a worldview in 1923–1924, He came to reject Catholicism and turned his attention to the occult and antisemitism. This developed into his own personal religion based on occult principles and Germanic mythology. Himmler was drawn to the NSDAP because its political stances aligned with his own. He did not at first succumb to Hitler’s allure or the Führer worship cult. He started to see Hitler as a helpful face of the party as he read more about him, and as time went on, he came to adore and even worship him.
He joined the SS as an SS-Führer in the same year with his number being 168. Hitler’s personal protection led to the creation of the SS in 1923, which was reorganized in 1925 as a superior branch of the larger SA. SS-Gauführer or the district leader in Lower Bavaria was Himmler’s first job in the organization starting in 1926. In January 1927 he was then named as the deputy publicity chief and had a lot of freedom in his position which occurred frequently in the party and this freedom grew over time.
With Hitler’s agreement, Himmler took over as Reichsführer-SS after SS chief Erhard Heiden resigned in January 1929; he continued to do his duties at the propaganda headquarters. Organizing SS participants for the Nuremberg Rally in September was one of his first duties. Himmler increased the size of the SS from 290 to 3,000 people during the course of the following year. Although the SS was still formally subservient to the SA, by 1930 Himmler had convinced Hitler to administer it as a distinct entity.
It is well known what develops in the 1930s with the advent of the great depression and rise of the National Socialist party. What I am more interested in reviewing in is how Himmlers views which had developed through his fraternal groups and networks culminated in the tragedy of genocide.
How could a young catholic boy develop such views so far from his original upbringing? Given the nature of the wild and occultic teachings of the National Socialist party which are so far from the teachings of Catholic Christianity its only right that the rise of these belief systems is reviewed properly.
With Himmler now as Reichsfuhrer-SS he established various offices such as the “SS Race and Settlement Main Office”. One of its responsibilities was to supervise the weddings of SS members in conformity with Nazi Germany’s racial policy. The office would only grant a permit to marry after thorough background checks into the racial fitness of both potential parents had been finished and verified both of them to be of Aryan descent going back to 1800 after Heinrich Himmler instituted the “marriage order” on December 31, 1931.
This included the founding in 1935 of the Lebensborn which translates to “Fountain of Life,” and was a state-sponsored, officially recognized organization founded by the SS in Nazi Germany. It had the stated objective of raising the quantity of babies born who adhered to the Nazi ideals of “racially pure” and “healthy” Aryans .
Less than three months after the Nazis seized power, in March 1933, Himmler established the first recognized concentration camp at Dachau. Hitler had made it clear that he didn’t want it to be just another jail or internment facility. In June 1933, Himmler chose the fervent Nazi and convicted felon Theodor Eicke to lead the camp. Eicke created a structure that served as a template for subsequent camps across Germany.
Its characteristics were solitary confinement of the victims, intricate roll calls and work schedules, the use of force and executions to coerce obedience, and a stringent code of conduct for the guards. Both guards and convicts received uniforms; the collars of the guards’ uniforms featured a unique Totenkopf (death’s head) symbol.
These various projects were primarily the brainchild of Heinrich Himmler and demonstrates how those early years in the student fraternity and the reading of the varied literature contributed to these developments. Below is a collection of some of the projects with relevant images alongside which Himmler led as the leader of the SS.
(Ahnenerbe, Lebensborn, Labor camps)
Each of these projects were designed for the implementation of Heinrichs ideological doctrine that developed in the early 1920s and was refined earlier. This doctrine on his belief in a pre-Christian superior Germanic racial identity is what led to the tragedy of the Holocaust and WW2.
Its also important to add how his membership of the student fraternity “League of Apollo” also was a source of much of his beliefs. These fraternities and secret societies have played a large role in the history of these major historical events and competition between them can also be the source of great conflicts.
Just in this case we can see that membership of these secret societies and fraternities including the infamous “Thule society” are the ultimate route sources of these major ideological driven changes in historical events. The tragedy of the war and the holocaust cannot be understated, its much better to be look into the underlying causes with clear eyes and see the damage some of these fraternal secret societies cause such as the “Thule society” along with their ability to infiltrate public life with their ideas.