- (1900-1945)Nazi; leader of the Schutzstaffeln (SS). Born in Munich, he was the well-bred Catholic* son of a school head-master. He enlisted in the navy in 1917 and, despite poor health, achieved the rank of ensign by war s end. In 1919 he joined a Freikorps* unit in Bavaria.* After completing studies in agronomy, he joined the NSDAP in August 1923 and participated in the Beerhall Putsch* as Ernst Rohm's* standard-bearer. His romantic nationalism and budding anti-Semitism* led him to break with Ca-tholicism in 1924.Although Himmler dropped his NSDAP membership after the putsch, he re-tained his Nazi connections, worked as Gregor Strasser s* personal secretary in 1924, and rejoined the Party in 1925. Middling positions as deputy Gauleiter of Lower Bavaria (1925) and Upper Bavaria (1926) and as Munich s propaganda chief gave slight evidence of his coming renown. He was working as a poultry farmer* when he was appointed head of the SS in January 1929, thus launching a career that made him one of the most powerful men in the Third Reich.In January 1929 the SS was a small unit attached to the SA.* Himmler dem-onstrated his talents by expanding it to 50,000 by 1933. Meanwhile, as Munich s police chief, he founded the first concentration camp in early 1933 at Dachau. The SS remained subordinate to the SA until it was declared independent soon after the June 1934 Rohm purge. Over the next eleven years Himmler expanded its role, absorbed the Gestapo, and evolved a Party security unit (Sicherheits-dienst, SD). His creation terrorized the state and was responsible for the whole-sale murder of Jews,* Gypsies, socialists, Communists, and partisans. Captured by the British in 1945, Himmler took cyanide before he could be interrogated.REFERENCES:Breitman, Architect ofGenocide; NDB, vol. 9; Bradley Smith, Heinrich Himmler; Ziegler, Nazi Germany's New Aristocracy.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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