THE STRANGE DEATH OF HEINRICH HIMMLER: A Forensic Investigation

Hugh Thomas, Author . St. Martin's $25.95 (288p) ISBN 0-312-28923-5

Thomas established himself as an expert on Nazi forensics in his previous work, The Murder of Adolf Hitler, and here he speculates that Himmler never committed suicide in 1945—or, at any rate, that the corpse buried under his name belonged to someone else. And he isn't the first to suspect this, he reveals: British inquiries into the suicide began back in 1946, and certain contemporaneous accounts suggest that Himmler's protégé, Walter Schellenberg, did not identify the body on the Lüneburg heath as his former mentor's. Most of Thomas's story, though, is a biography of the evil genius who ran the SS and oversaw the death camps that were his particular pride. Himmler was an unlikely leader of men: he was a dull, unpopular boy and, as an adult, he was initially considered a sycophantic hanger-on by top Nazi brass. And yet he created the SS, an elite corps of soldier-bureaucrats recruited from the highest circles of German society and placed directly under his command. This parallel army became so powerful that Hitler himself could not control it, and Thomas details the many diplomatic maneuverings that Himmler, backed by the SS, was able to make behind the Führer's back. When it was apparent that Germany had lost the war, Himmler began a secret project that transferred huge amounts of German capital into dummy corporations and secret subsidiaries abroad—a move that was responsible, in Thomas's view, for West Germany's "miraculous" postwar recovery, as well as for the ease with which so many Nazi war criminals set themselves up in South America and elsewhere. The forensic evidence the author puts forward to debunk the identity of Himmler's corpse is compelling, but the real story here is that of Himmler's life. 16 pages of photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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