“I'm off to Auschwitz. Kisses, Yours, Heini”. That’s how Heinrich Himmler – the man responsible for organizing Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution” otherwise known as the Holocaust – signed off in a letter to his wife, Marga.
Were it not for the horror now associated with the then secret death camp in Poland, the way he signs off might have seemed sweet.
But the banality of evil is the lesson in a cache of letters being made public for the first time in Germany this week, in an eight day series that began Sunday in the German newspaper Die Welt (Welt am Sonntag published the first day of the series). In introducing the series, the newspaper notes that it had access to 700 never before published letters from Himmler, the head of the Nazi SS, to his wife, Marga and his daughter, Gudrun.
The letters, which the newspaper notes were first taken from the Himmler home by U.S. soldiers in 1945, and eventually made their way into private storage in Israel, are written in the same hand known well to those who study Adolf Hitler’s Germany, and its atrocities. The newspaper notes that it got access to the letters from the maker of the upcoming documentary film “The Decent” about Himmler (the newspaper notes that it financially supported the making of the film).
Die Welt notes that the letters aren’t overly political, and are only rarely devoted to anti-Semitism. In 1928, Marga wrote a letter in which she complained about having to deal with those she called “Jewish scum.” His response: “A Jew will always be a Jew! ... but don't get worked up about the Jews, dear, dear woman, if I could only help you.”
But more commonly, the letters (only a few excerpts of which were published Sunday) appear to be about far more prosaic matters.
Die Welt excerpted typical love letters. On December 26th, 1927, he wrote: “I love Berlin today because it is where you live. But I would love the poorest tiniest village just as much if it would be your home… The system of Berlin, which cannot touch you, you good and pure woman, I do hate and I will always hate.”
The newspaper mentioned a couple racy letters. Referring to what appears to be a sex game between the couple, in 1928 he wrote "our 'revenge' – that will be fun… I'm for nothing but 'Revenge', all the time.” Marga would later respond: “remember 'revenge'. My black soul is thinking up the most impossible things.”
The month after Adolf Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union, Himmler dashed off what would seem a perfectly normal apology from a spouse who’s been overwhelmed by work: “I felt so sorry that I forgot our wedding anniversary for the first time… There was quite a lot going on these days… the fighting is very hard, especially for the SS.”
In the middle of 1942, he wrote of the task that was consuming his days – visiting a series of death and concentration camps, in part to see demonstrations of Jews being gassed to death. The letter he wrote, besides the names of the places he would be stopping, contained no hint of the horrific nature of his trip.
“In the next few days I'll be in Lublin, Zamosc, Auschwitz, Lviv and then in the new quarters. I'm curious if and how I will be able to phone, it will probably be around 2000 kilometers to Gmund. All the best, have a nice trip and enjoy your days with our little daughter. Many warm greetings and kisses! Your Daddy”.
As Die Welt said about the letters, noting that unlike “failures” such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, Himmler came from a solid, middle class family, was well educated and well thought of. Unlike other Nazi leaders, he would have seemed to have had a bright future without the rise of the Hitler’s Third Reich.
“Especially Himmler's early letters to his wife seem to be mundane at first glance. But they reveal a lot about the mindset of a cold-blooded, self-righteous bureaucrat, who became the mastermind and chief organizer of the Holocaust.”