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The Anatomy of Evil


By 1942, Heinrich Himmler was one of the most powerful men in the Third Reich.  Along with Goring, Goebbels, Speer, and Von Ribbentrop, Himmler was a major player in Hitler’s inner circle.  In the Nazis hierarchy, although it was not his official title in the Nazis hierarchy, Himmler was the “Director of Death and the Enforcer of Terror and Violence”.

As Chief of Police, Commander of the Waffen SS, Head of the Gestapo, and Director of the “Final Solution” – Himmler commanded and extended army of individuals whose main job was to exterminate and incinerate enemies of the state, unwanted occupied populations, and all of European Jewry.  And Himmler accomplished all of this with cold logical efficiency, and without a moment’s hesitation or regret.

Historian Peter Longerich in his new biography on Himmler (Heinrich Himmler, Oxford Press, 2012) centers his research on how this man became the mass executioner of the Nazis Regime.  Himmler’ early life, says Longerich, offers no clues.  He was born in 1900 into a middle class Catholic family.  His father was a teacher and principle of the well-established Wilhelm Grammar School in Munich.  Himmler was a disciplined and conscious student, if not a brilliant one, and he earned a degree from the Technical University in Munich.

The turning point came in 1923 when Himmler joined the forerunner of the Nazis party, the National Socialist German Workers Party.  In the next few years, he embraced three core principles that directed the rest of his public and personal life: A total commitment to Adolf Hitler; The absolute superiority of the German race; And, his fervent belief in an international Jewish conspiracy.  These three beliefs became his religion, his reason for being, his rational, and his philosophical justification for all of his blood curdling atrocities.

As a “true believer”, Himmer felt he had the right and the duty to carry out Hitler’s demonic world view.  If the price for European domination meant 50 million casualties, so be it.  If Poles occupied lands the German people wanted, let them be taken.  If Russian peasants resist German atonement, kill them all.

Longerich argues that Himmler was not merely a clerk, not merely a functionary.  He was, rather, a evildoer whose fanatical beliefs and narcissistic world view eradicated any sense of concern for the rights of others.  Himmler was not mad.  He was not insane.  He was rather, a zelot, a fanatic whose world justified any horror.  He was in fact, “evil personified.”  In the words of Buddhist saying: “Beware of the true believer, for they are often blind to the wants, needs, and rights of others.  And this blindness leads them to evil.”

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