Definitions

Himmler

Himmler

[him-ler; Ger. him-luhr]
Himmler, Heinrich, 1900-1945, German Nazi leader. An early member of the National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) party, Himmler took part in Adolf Hitler's "beer-hall putsch" of 1923, and in 1929 Hitler appointed him head of the SS, or Schutzstaffel, the party's black-shirted elite corps. When Hitler came to power he made Himmler head of police in Munich and then chief of the political police throughout Bavaria. After the party purge of June, 1934, which eliminated Ernst Roehm, head of the SA, or Nazi militia, Himmler's SS became the major police organ of the state. In 1936, Himmler was named chief of the German police; this brought him formal control over the Gestapo, the secret police that had been set up in 1933 by Hermann Goering. From his preeminent position Himmler terrorized his own party hierarchy as well as all German-held Europe, establishing and overseeing concentration camps and ordering incarceration and death for millions, particularly after the beginning of World War II. A superb bureaucrat and one of the most cold-blooded of the Nazi leaders, he was a fanatic racist. In Aug., 1943, he became minister of the interior, and after putting down the conspiracy against Hitler in July, 1944, he was the virtual dictator of German domestic policy. In Apr., 1945, just before Germany's defeat in World War II, Himmler secretly attempted to negotiate German surrender, hoping to save himself. Upon hearing of this, Hitler expelled him from the party. Himmler attempted to escape, but was arrested by British troops in May, 1945, and committed suicide by swallowing poison.

See biographies by W. Frischauer (1953), R. Marvell and H. Fraenkel (1965, repr. 1972), and B. F. Smith (1971).

Himmler.

(born Oct. 7, 1900, Munich, Ger.—died May 23, 1945, Lüneburg) German Nazi police administrator who became the second most powerful man in the Third Reich. He joined the Nazi Party in 1925 and rose to become head of Adolf Hitler's SS. He was put in command of most German police units after 1933, taking charge of the Gestapo in 1934, and established the Third Reich's first concentration camp, at Dachau. He soon built the SS into a powerful network of state terror, and by 1936 he commanded all the Reich's police forces. In World War II he expanded the Waffen-SS (Armed SS) until it rivaled the army; after 1941 he organized the death camps in eastern Europe. Shunted aside by Hitler's entourage, Himmler, hoping to succeed Hitler, had negotiations with the Allies in the final months of the war over Germany's surrender or its alliance with the Western Allies against the Soviet Union. Hitler ordered his arrest, but when he attempted to escape he was captured by the British and committed suicide by taking poison.

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Himmler.

(born Oct. 7, 1900, Munich, Ger.—died May 23, 1945, Lüneburg) German Nazi police administrator who became the second most powerful man in the Third Reich. He joined the Nazi Party in 1925 and rose to become head of Adolf Hitler's SS. He was put in command of most German police units after 1933, taking charge of the Gestapo in 1934, and established the Third Reich's first concentration camp, at Dachau. He soon built the SS into a powerful network of state terror, and by 1936 he commanded all the Reich's police forces. In World War II he expanded the Waffen-SS (Armed SS) until it rivaled the army; after 1941 he organized the death camps in eastern Europe. Shunted aside by Hitler's entourage, Himmler, hoping to succeed Hitler, had negotiations with the Allies in the final months of the war over Germany's surrender or its alliance with the Western Allies against the Soviet Union. Hitler ordered his arrest, but when he attempted to escape he was captured by the British and committed suicide by taking poison.

Learn more about Himmler, Heinrich with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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