The SS Way of Life
In June 1936 Himmler was made Chief of the German Police. Himmler was able to effectively remove control of the police from the Interior Ministry, headed by Frick, and the merging of the role of police chief with his role as head of the SS was to bring Himmler overall control of the German security apparatus.
In late summer after Lina Heydrich had abused Marga Himmler behind her back, Himmler arranged for Lina Heydrich and Freida Wolff to attend Kiel Week. While they were away Himmler demanded that Heydrich divorce his wife. Heydrich informed Lina who hastily returned to Berlin; the couple refused to divorce.During 1937 Wolff and his staff, working with academics, were involved in planning a systematic cultural framework to replace Christianity. One draft stated that it was the mission of the SS;
‘In the age of the final showdown with Christianity…….[to provide] the proper ideological foundations [for the German people].’[i]
On 4th January 1937 the Wolff’s held a naming ceremony[ii] for their third child Thorisman[iii] at their villa on the Tegernsee[iv]. Himmler and Heydrich were the child’s sponsors. The ceremony was conducted by Karl Maria Wiligut[v]. The child was laid before an altar and texts from Mein Kampf were read.
Buda Castle in the 1930s
‘Their mother however has brown hair and brown eyes, their appearance is not markedly Nordic.’[vi]At the end of 1937 the ungainly Himmler finally put himself forward for the SS sports badge[vii] and Wolff ensured that his boss passed.
An Eventful Year
German and Austrian police dismantle a border post
In January Himmler placed his Lebensborn[viii] organisation under Wolff’s control. Wolff did not put his head over the parapet in 1938; he had little up front involvement in most of the excitements of that tumultuous year; the dramatic changes in the army leadership, the Anschluss in Austria and the manufactured crisis in Czechoslovakia culminating in the Munich Agreement on 29th September.
Shop damage in Magdeburg
Wolff was however involved in Reichskristallnacht, passing messages from Heydrich, who was coordinating the front line attacks of the SS, to Himmler and Hitler. According to Wolff[ix], Hitler was outraged saying;
‘Find out who is responsible for this. I do not wish my SS to be involved in any of these occurrences for any reason.’[x]The SS were ordered by Heydrich to wear plain clothes during their involvement in these occurrences.
Das Schwarze Korps
Wolff was involved in Himmler’s successful attempts to obtain the worldly goods of Baron Louis de Rothschild caught behind enemy lines in the newly Nazified Austria. He accompanied Himmler on a visit to Baron Rothschild in his attic prison at the Hotel Metropol[xi]. Following which Himmler ordered the replacement of the bed, table, chair, toilet and washbasin. At the beginning of November an article in Das Schwarze Korps[xii] said;
'The Jews living in Germany[xiii] & Italy are the hostages which fate has placed in our hands.'[xiv]The Baron was not released until the following midsummer, having been stripped of his assets by agreement with the Nazis. After the war Wolff claimed he had helped a number of rich Jews to escape Nazi justice during the period leading up to the war.
Decapitation of a State
Wolff was not involved in the logistics of invading the rump of Czechoslovakia[xv]; but he was present for Hitler’s triumphal entry into Prague on 15th March 1939. Travelling in a fleet of Mercedes Hitler and his entourage, that included Martin Bormann[xvi], Himmler, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Heydrich arrived at Hradschin Castle[xvii] where they were to stay the night. The previous resident, President Hacha having been bullied into a heart attack and signing away his country’s right to independence. Hitler claimed;
‘The Bohemian and Moravian lands had belonged to the living space of the German people for 1,000 years.’[xviii]
Gudrun Himmler with her father and Wolff
Wolff was made commander of the castle and he spent the short time that Hitler stayed there ensuring the safety of his Fuhrer. He later wrote to Gudrun Himmler[xix] that Hitler had embraced her father and said;
‘”I don’t want to praise myself, but I really have to say: it was very elegantly done.”’[xx]The Road to War
Wolff was again present with Himmler when the Fuhrer visited the West Wall[xxi] in mid May, inspecting the fortifications. On the 20th Himmler had Felix Steiner’s men of the SS Deutschland give a demonstration of their fighting abilities with live ammunition; Hitler was suitably impressed[xxii].
On 25th May Wolff and Himmler attended the meeting[xxiii] at the Reich Chancellery where Hitler informed those present of his intention to attack Poland at the first opportunity.
‘Our task is to isolate Poland. Success in isolating her will be decisive.’[xxiv]On the 8th June 1939 Wolff’s Personlicherstab der RFSS was made one of the main offices of the SS; with Wolff as its chief. Around this time Wolff was also involved in Himmler’s first attempts at the mass moving of Germanic peoples back into the Reich. The Italians had agreed that the Germanic inhabitants[xxv] of the Sud Tyrol could be moved out of Italy[xxvi] and the SS was in charge of this major influx of non-Germans into Germany.
Wolff was one of those who hung around the Reich Chancellery with Himmler on 25th August to await Hitler’s decision on the invasion of Poland. The invasion was only halted when Mussolini informed Hitler Italy was not ready for war[xxvii]. Before the decision was made not to invade Wolff had passed orders for the Waffen SS units poised to enter Poland. But the orders were held in abeyance for only 6 days.
War’s Early DaysOn 3rd September, as Britain declared war, Wolff was part of the Fuhrer’s entourage as his train left Berlin for the front. Hitler believed that the war would be finished in four weeks. Wolff was to be Himmler’s eyes and ears.
On the 19th September, with the majority of the Polish defence knocked out Hitler gave one of his typically vainglorious speeches at Danzig town hall. Himmler, Wilhelm Bruckner, Keitel and Wolff were in the audience, which was packed with Nazi notables. Hitler claimed that he had no war aims against France and Britain. He also stated his belief that Poland would never be recreated on the Versailles model.
Ludolf von Alvensleben
In the early autumn Wolff accompanied Himmler and Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger on a whirlwind tour of Poland; the party observed the execution of Polish saboteurs by Ludolf von Alvensleben[xxviii]. Himmler was also given a report of executions in Bromberg by the head of one of Heydrich’s einsatzgruppen[xxix].
Himmler planned a screening of all Poles in an attempt to seek out good German blood;
‘A fundamental question is racial screening and sifting of the young. It is obvious that in this mixture of people some very good racial types will appear from time to time.’[xxx]Throughout the war Himmler’s minions were to sift through the conquered people’s they ruled over and many children were snatched from their parents by the Lebensborn organisation and taken to live with families in Germany; many never to see their parents again. The Lebensborn was part of Wolff’s new empire so it is inconceivable that he did not know of these plans.
In late January 1940 Wolff accompanied Himmler on a train trip to Przemysl in Poland where Himmler met the last party of Volhynian Volksdeutsche[xxxi] at the San River crossing. The party included Rudolf Brandt[xxxii], Hans Johst, Ernst Schafer & Joachim Peiper[xxxiii]. The party then travelled to Cracow to meet up with Odilo Globocnik and Hans Frank, the new governor of the General Government of Poland. Throughout the trip much amusement was had from tales of the shootings and atrocities perpetrated against the Jews and Poles.Bibliography
The Architect of Genocide – Richard Breitman, Pimlico 2004Master Race – Catine Clay & Michael Leapman, BCA 1995
The Order of the Death’s Head – Heinz Hohne, Penguin 2000Hitler – Nemesis – Ian Kershaw, Penguin 2001
The Black Corps – Robert Lewis Koehl, University of Wisconsin Press 1983Top Nazi – Jochen von Lang, Enigma Books 2005
Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2012Himmler – Peter Padfield, Cassell & Co 2001
Allgemeine-SS – Mark C Yerger, Schiffer Military History 1997www.wikipedia.en
[i] Himmler - Padfield
[ii] The SS developed a series of ceremonies to replace Christian rites of birth , marriage and death
[iii] Later Karl-Heinz
[iv] Many Nazi officials had villas on the lake including Bormann and Himmler
[v] Also known as Weisthor, a very odd individual who had become a close adviser to Himmler
[vi] Top Nazi – von Lang
[vii] A necessity for all SS officers
[viii] The organisation assisted women who had illegitimate but racially pure children, staying in an SS hospital to give birth. Later the organisation took to kidnapping children in the occupied territories.
[ix] Wolf alleges that Hitler knew nothing of the atrocities, which seems unlikely
[x] Top Nazi - Lang
[xi] The new HQ for the Gestapo in Vienna
[xii] The SS newspaper, read by many in Germany as it gave more news than the general press
[xiii] Austria was considered part of Germany – der Alte Reich
[xiv] Hitler - Kershaw
[xv] The Munich agreement left the Czechoslovaks with little in the way of defences
[xvi] Still relatively low in the Nazi hierarchy at this time
[xvii] The official residence of the Czech head of state
[xviii] Hitler - Kershaw
[xix] Himmler’s daughter
[xx] Heinrich Himmler - Longerich
[xxi] Or Siegfried Line
[xxiv] Hitler - Kershaw
[xxv] Known as Volksdeutsche; this was a precursor to the mass movements of the so-called Volksdeutsche during the war
[xxvi] Whether they wanted to or not.
[xxviii] A friend of Himmler’s
[xxix] Killing squads who were to prove their worth in Russia
[xxx] Master Race – Clay, Leapman
[xxxi] The Volhynian Volksdeutsche were being resettled following an agreement with the Russians
[xxxii] Himmler’s personal assistant