cover image Heinrich Himmler: A Life

Heinrich Himmler: A Life

Peter Longerich, trans. from the German by Jeremy Noakes and Lesley Sharpe. Oxford Univ., $34.95 (832p) ISBN 978-1-19-959232-6

With access to new material, Longerich (Holocaust), professor of history at the University of London, delivers an exhaustive biography of the notorious Nazi. Himmler (1900–1945) grew up in a stable, middle-class family, entering adulthood deeply resentful of Germany’s defeat in WWI. Needy and self-critical, he was a good student and voracious reader whose belief in Aryan superiority was not rare in his generation. Joining the Nazis, he played a minor role in Hitler’s 1923 beer hall putsch. In 1929 Hitler appointed him head of the SS, a small organization of bodyguards which Himmler expanded to an elite force. The SS’s fierce loyalty to Hitler won Himmler command of all Nazi security (police, concentration camps, extermination camps, and mobile killing squads) when Hitler liquidated the rowdier, independent paramilitary SA in 1934. Longerich does not reveal why this modestly neurotic man committed so many unspeakable acts; his diligence may render earlier works obsolete, but he includes so many administrative details and political maneuvers that general readers may prefer the shorter (if not short) 2001 Peter Padfield biography. (Jan.)