Saturday, October 27, 2007

Book Review: The Himmler Brothers

Sydney Morning Herald
October 27, 2007

Author - Katrin Himmler
Genre - History
Publisher - MacMillan
Pages - 333
RRP - $32.95

The ordinary lives of the three Himmler brothers and the real person who grew up to be the head of Hitler's SS.
... He was not some kind of monster. He was a well-educated, middle-class German whose father was a school principal and mother a cliched image in later life of a sweet old granny.

This is the incredible revelation of Katrin Himmler, Heinrich's great-niece who, spurred on by her father and her fascination with the family's history, discovered the ordinary lives of the three Himmler brothers and the real person behind Heinrich. This is an intimate story told by a woman who explores the family archives, then talks to other members of the family and slowly pieces together a history that has always been clouded by what Heinrich did rather than who he was.

And what a story! Heinrich's father was a friend of Bavarian royalty and named his second son after Prince Heinrich. Like many Germans of his generation he believed in "industry, devotion to duty, pure morals and obedience". Heinrich worked hard, went to church, had an extensive dry flower collection and collected stamps and coins.

In 1918 he joined the German Army; after the war he completed a three-year diploma in agriculture. During the 1920s he was attracted to the emerging right-wing groups that were eager to restore Germany's status. He was at the Munich beer hall for the abortive putsch in 1923 and, when unemployment in Germany soared, he got a job with the Nazi Party. The rest of the story is well known.

Oh, yes, and there is a dark irony in the story. Katrin Himmler has a half-Jewish son. Her Jewish husband grew up in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto.

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