Article excerpt


It is a simple sign-off in a love letter from husband to wife - but just a few words betray the brutal and horrific reality of the author's day job... "I'm off to Auschwitz. Kisses. Yours, Heini."

For Heini is Heinrich Himmler, the SS chief who ordered the extermination of six million Jews during the Second World War and grew to be one of Nazi Germany's most feared men.

And he was off to inspect the death camp that saw more than 1.2 million people slaughtered as part of the Third Reich's Final Solution.

A newly-discovered collection of letters, diaries, notes and pictures - thought to have been lost forever - has shed light on the private life of the man who organised the Holocaust.

In his own words, Himmler reveals himself as an insecure romantic fantasist who kept his mass murder programme from those closest to him. He was happy to have millions killed, but did not want to upset wife Marga with details of the horrors committed under his command.

Himmler gives away only fragments of information about his role in the Nazi regime. Letters and photos of his trips across occupied Europe were sent home but the detail of what he was doing and what he experienced was not.

He leaves out the horrors of his mission to track down and kill millions of Jews. And there is hardly a mention of the ghettos and extermination camps he oversaw and which were manned by his SS and police force. Mass murderer and family man - Himmler was both. He had millions of people executed and always felt "decent" doing it, reveal the documents, which were published yesterday in the German newspaper Die Welt.

As Himmler prepared for an inspection of camps in occupied Poland in July, 1942 and a demonstration involving the gassing of several hundred innocent people, he wrote mundanely:

"In the next few days I'll be in Lublin, Zamosc, Auschwitz, Lviv and then in the new quarters. I'm curious if and how I will be able to phone, it will probably be around 2,000 kilometres to Gmund. All the best, have a nice trip and enjoy your days with our little daughter. Many warm greetings and kisses! Your Daddy."

His favoured sign-offs to Marga were "Euer Pappi" (Your Daddy) or "Dein Heini" (Your Heini) and he would often address her as "My dear sweetheart" and "Dear Mummy".

The pair met on a train from Munich to Berchtesgaden in 1927. It was around the time the 26-year-old Himmler was put in charge of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's "protection squads", the monstrous Schutzstaffeln that would come to be known more commonly as the SS.

He and his new love shared a pathological hatred of Jewish people, the letters reveal. In early correspondence between the courting couple, their radical anti-Semitism is stark. In the run-up to their 1928 wedding, Marga - who was seven years older than Himmler - writes of "Jewish scum" that scared her. Later she simply referred to them as "scum".

Her fiance only encouraged her: "Poor Lovey, you have to deal with the miserable Jews because of money".

When Marga sold her shares in a private clinic to the Jewish co-owner Dr Bernhard Hauschild, she wrote: "This Hauschild! A Jew will always be a Jew!"

Himmler replied: "But don't get worked up about the Jews, dear, dear woman, if I could only help you."

Within a decade, Himmler had matured into one of the most sinister top Nazis and was co-ordinating the Hitler regime's sick ethnic policies.

He orchestrated the attacks of November 9, 1938 - known as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass - that saw Nazi stormtroopers ransack and smash Jewish homes, hospitals, schools and synagogues.

At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and 30,000 were locked away in concentration camps. For many, it signalled the start of the Nazis' Final Solution, the plan to exterminate Jews in Europe. …