Saturday, 9 June 2012

The SS - Mr and Mrs Himmler

An Unlikely Couple
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was born on 7th October 1900 to middle class Bavarian parents. Professor Himmler had been tutor to Prince Heinrich of Bavaria, who agreed to be his godfather. Like many of his generation the Great War was to be a defining element in Heinrich’s boyhood. The army mad boy suffered from poor health and wore glasses.

This standard bearer for racial health, whose face betrayed traces of possible Mongol ancestry, was a virgin when he met his future wife Margarete, who was his senior by 7 years. They met in December 1927, sheltering in a hotel lobby during a downpour. Their relationship was speedily consummated and they corresponded by post, before their marriage on 3rd July 1928. The couple had got engaged in the February and met several times in the intervening period.

Marga was a nurse and part owner of a clinic, which she sold before she married Himmler. As a Protestant divorcee Himmler was afraid that his parents would not approve of the first woman he had ever come into contact with, apart from a few female friends of the family in his student days.

The couple bought land at Waltrudering and set up a chicken farm, which was not as successful as the happy pair had hoped. Himmler was totally committed to the Nazi party; he was Deputy Propaganda Leader for the party as well as Deputy leader of the Schutzstaffel (SS), the protection squad for the party’s leader, Adolf Hitler. His duties kept Himmler away from home and Marga saw little more of her husband than before their marriage. Heinrich had passed his driving test 6 days before the marriage.

Marriage to Heinrich Himmler was a great disappointment to Marga, who appears to have hoped for romance in her second marriage to this much younger man. She was never involved in the Nazi party, unlike Magda Goebbels, who married Josef Goebbels in December 1931. Himmler’s first loyalty was to the Party, Marga came an unhappy third, far behind the couple’s daughter.

To the Devil a Daughter

Gudrun Himmler was born on 8th August 1929. She was to be the couple’s only child. Himmler was a devoted father and, even after he lost interest in Marga, would phone her regularly throughout the rest of his life. During the war years especially Himmler was constantly on the move, but even then he frequently phoned Puppi (his pet name for Gudrun). The doting father even had photographs of himself on the move taken for Puppi.

Eight months before his daughter’s birth Himmler was made Reichsfuhrer SS and he immediately took action to increase recruitment of the fledgling stepchild of the Sturmabteilung (SA); which came under the control of Himmler’s mentor Rohm in January 1931. Rohm immediately put paid to Himmler’s move for autonomy for his SS, which was not achieved until July 1934.

In June 1932 Himmler found for his SS, the man whose name became synonymous with terror – Reinhard Heydrich. He was a disgraced naval officer who formed the nascent Sicherheinstdiest (SD), building it up as an intellectual twin of the terror that was to be the Gestapo.

To Berlin
Himmler with Daleuge (L) and Rohm (R)
The Machtergreifung, bringing the Nazis to power did give Himmler some power; but he lost out on the big prizes seized by his future rivals Goering and Goebbels. In 1933 Himmler was regarded as a small time crank, who just happened to be the leader of the SS

Sometime in 1933 Himmler and Marga sold the property at Waldtrudering; buying a villa at Gmund on the Tergensee. Marga and Puppi were to live here until May 1945. During this year the couple fostered Gerald von der Ahe; the son of an SS man shot during February. Gerald was to cause problems in 1939, when he was expelled from a National Socialist school and his mother did not want him back.
It was not until April 1934, following his appointment as chief of the Gestapo, that Himmler moved his base of operations to Berlin, where he took an apartment at Tiergartenstrasse 6a, while Marga and Puppi remained in Gmund.
 In June 1936 Himmler was made Chief of the German Police, a job that he used to infiltrate his SS staff into the bowels of the security apparatus and then taking it over entirely. Himmler moved to a villa in upmarket Dahlem in July 1937, near to the home of his friend Joachim von Ribbentrop, the future foreign minister.

Private Life
Marga had a few friends; she was friends with Annalies von Ribbentrop, but this friendship may have withered when the two husbands fell out in May 1941. The wife of Hermann, Frieherr von Schade (a member of her husband’s SS) was a close friend.

As was Nini Rascher, wife of Sigmund Rascher, who conducted experiments on concentration camp inmates. Nini was possibly Heinrich’s mistress in the late thirties, although there appears to be little evidence for this. The friendship with Nini Rascher probably finished abruptly when Nini’s husband was arrested in May 1944. Nini and her husband had fraudulently claimed to the credulous Reichsfuhrer SS that they had fathered three children for the Fuhrer, despite Nini’s relatively advanced age.

One woman who decidedly did not get on with the bosses’ wife was Lina Heydrich. Early in 1936 the pair fell out. Marga had been giving coffee mornings for SS wives. Lina organised rival tea parties. Lina made rude comments about the size of Marga’s underpants and blamed her size on Marga’s love of cream cakes.

Lina and Reinhard Heydrich
Himmler quarrelled with Lina in August 1936. She objected to Himmler’s attempts to pressurise her husband into divorcing her. This attempt followed a falling out between Lina and Marga; after Lina had abused Marga. Himmler arranged for Lina to attend Kiel Regatta with the wife of another senior officer Meanwhile Himmler discussed the possibility of divorce with Heydrich, who informed Lina. Lina returned post haste to Berlin.

Himmler and Lina did not speak again until May 1942. The rapprochement occurring, weeks before Heydrich’s assassination in Prague.

Marga was only too keen to capitalise on her husband’s important job, and upset the tradesmen in Gmund by her autocratic demands. Marga’s car had the licence plate SS2 and she was infuriated one day to be overtaken by a nobody. She insisted that the driver re-overtake the car in front. It was not appropriate for SS2 to be overtaken by anybody.

The Mistress

In 1936 a young Hedwig Potthast went to work as a secretary for the Reichsfuhrer SS. It was not until Christmas 1938 that the couple professed their love for one another. She probably became Himmler’s mistress shortly afterwards.
In early 1941 Hedwig left her job as Himmler’s secretary & became his mistress semi-formally. Himmler sent her to live in Bruckenthin in Mecklenburg, near the home of one of his most trusted senior officers – Oswald Pohl.

Hedwig and Himmler’s first child was born in February 1942, a son called Helge. He was followed in 1944 by Nanette Dorothea, born on 20th July. Himmler had already appeared in front of the SS court to claim paternity of the child Hedwig was carrying. He legalised the paternity of both children before the court in September.
Hedwig and Himmler met for the last time on 26th March at their Berchtesgarten home. Himmler had built this with an 85,000 Reichsmark loan from the party, organised by Martin Bormann, a sometime friend of the family. His son says that Himmler and his mistress kept furniture made from human bones, in the attic. Gerda Bormann made friends with the lonely young woman, but was apparently horrified by the secrets in the attic.

The Holocaust
It is unlikely that Marga ever knew about the atrocities perpetrated by her husband, on Hitler’s orders. Himmler kept Marga strictly divorced from his work and her naturally abrasive personality kept many potential friends aloof.

The End
Himmler committed suicide on 23rd May 1945, while in the custody of the British. The files on the death, over which there has been some controversy with claims of murder being raised, are still classified as Top Secret. Marga Himmler and Gudrun were imprisoned by the Allies at an interrogation camp, but were later released.


The Himmler Brothers – Katrin Himmler, MacMillan 2007

The Order of the Death’s Head – Heinz Hohne, Penguin 2000

My Father’s Keeper – Stephan Lebert, Little Brown & Co 2001

Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2011

Heinrich Himmler – Roger Manvell & Heinrich Fraenkel, Greenhill & Lionel Leventhal 2007

Himmler – Reichsfuhrer SS – Peter Padfield – Cassell & Co 2001

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