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Heinrich Himmler.

Heinrich Himmler. Peter Longerich. Jeremy Noakes and Lesley Sharpe, translators. Oxford University Press. [pounds sterling]25.00. xix + 1031 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-959232-6. With 748 pages of text this must rank as the definitive biography of Himmler. The research undertaken over many years is prodigious and has led Prof. Longerich to question Himmler's early commitment to the 'final solution'. He admits that Himmler is a 'mystery' and a dichotomy--a bland creature who organised mass murder. The key is to examine every aspect of the Reichsfuhrer's life to discover patterns of development which could help us to understand his evil work and the work of the SS. To the author it is 'the only adequate way' to see the history of the man and of his organisation in a regime that was created round the personalities of its leaders. The author eschews psychobiography and portrays a man who possessed enormous self-discipline to overcome ill health, physical weakness and a lack of self-confidence. Frustrated at not being able to fight in the Great War he assumed the character of a soldier caught up in the paramilitary world of post-war Germany. This naturally led to the Nazis because of their paramilitary organisation, not their political ideology. Early failures were compensated by a growing fanaticism and devotion to fantasies to replace rejected Catholicism. The SS became his army and he, its 'father'. He was no faceless bureaucrat--his powerful position was 'an extreme example of the almost total personalization of political power'. The 'final solution' was a way to enhance and secure his power after setbacks but his greatest success was in keeping a hold on German life so as to secure the Reich until the very end. He was in effect Hitler's minister of repression and order without whom the Nazi state would have been very different. Of all the books written on or about Himmler this is the most complete and the one which allows the reader actually to understand the man or at least to try to do so. (H.V.K.)

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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2012
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