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Peter Longerich. Heinrich Himmler: A Life. Jeremy Noakes and Leslie Sharpe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Reviewers often attach the word "definitive" to biographies of considerable scope and research. In this sense, Longerich's Himmler undoubtedly stands as the most definitive reference on the mastermind of the Nazi SS.
Yet Himmler reaches a level of scholarly excellence far surpassing that of the diligent archivist recording its content.
Longerich's analysis elevates the piece to what should be required reading for all serious scholars of twentieth-century European history. Longerich states he sought to build a "sensible interconnection between biography and structural history" so as to "help us to a better understanding of his [Himmler's] political action" p.
In doing so, Longerich at times incorporates psychoanalysis so as to reveal a "core personality," in which to evaluate Himmler's actions. For Longerich, Himmler's efforts to compensate for his own weaknesses determined his personality more so than any particular action or personal trauma.
Longerich concludes that Himmler suffered from an emotional attachment disorder that made it difficult for him to build strong and lasting relationships. This disorder, in conjunction with his physical weakness, caused Himmler to strive for incredible self-discipline and self-control so as to ensure that he always followed social forms and practices exactly.
His upbringing as a sheltered, conservative, bourgeois Catholic and his experiences as part of the so-called war youth generation accentuated this drive, which naturally lent itself toward glorifying the military. Since Himmler never served in combat, he developed fantasies about the ideal traits of the soldier, namely distance, severity, and objectivity.
Longerich demonstrates how Himmler would consistently attempt to rectify his own difficulties with social interactions especially with women and his lack of self-confidence by striving for a "soldier's" self-discipline.
Unsurprisingly given this analysis, Longerich concludes that many of the stereotypes about Himmler's distant, impassive, and pedantic nature ring true. Furthermore, Longerich argues that one can clearly see how these personality traits manifested themselves in Himmler's running and shaping of the SS. Longerich further examines how Himmler similarly crafted the SS through careful membership screening and strict codes of conduct as the anti-homosexual and anti-Christian faction of the Third Reich, positions which mirrored Himmler's own personal beliefs.
This leads Longerich to conclude that "Himmler was the opposite of the faceless The position he built up Ultimately for Longerich, this "personalization of power" was only possible due to the specific power structures associated with Nazism which ultimately ensured that Hitler wielded incredible political power, but also simultaneously granted his subordinates incredible flexibility in carrying out his wishes.
For Longerich, the unique structure and functionality of the Nazi state facilitated the implementation of individual agendas. So in some sense, structuralism intensified intentionalism. This comes across best through Longerich's analysis of Himmler's centralization of the state police, his efforts to militarize the SS, and his successful push to expand policing by the SS to occupied territory. Longerich's understanding of Himmler's position in the debate over the timing of the decision to commit genocide again seems to reconcile competing historiographical arguments.
Himmler believed the incredible success of the Wehrmacht in the summer and autumn of opened the door to the creation of a racially organized utopian empire. Himmler used that opportunity to implement a more organized effort to direct the atrocities of the Einsatzgruppen and enact the "Final Solution.
This information suggests two things. Firstly, while Himmler undoubtedly celebrated the initial success of Operation Barbarossa and likely would not have considered implementing anything resembling the Holocaust without German expansion into eastern Europe, the direction of the Einsatzgruppen cannot be separated from Himmler's own personal agenda and attempts to seize power in occupied territory in the east.
Secondly, Himmler's initiative to expand the Holocaust to include the deportation of Jews in western Europe was taken, significantly, after the Nazi defeat at Moscow and Wannsee. Regrettably, Longerich does not make a concerted attempt to engage in this debate and instead leaves the reader trying to parse out exactly how he sees Himmler fitting into this equation.
One might also question some of Longerich's analysis of Himmler's character in the context of his rise to power within the Nazi state. For someone who had difficulty creating lasting relationships and observing social etiquette, Himmler, by Longerich's own account, showed a remarkable ability to read inner-party alliances and use them to his advantage. One might not normally expect such perspicacity from someone with Himmler's profile. The tone of the biography noticeably shifts after this chronological point, as even in the years to follow, Longerich seems to lack the same access to Himmler's personal writings in comparison to the years prior.
Longerich himself admits this loss is incredibly unfortunate given that it was precisely during that time that Himmler's views radicalized and he chose to enter politics professionally. Nonetheless, Longerich's Himmler is a remarkable scholarly achievement well worth the time of any scholar of modern Europe. Citation: Ky Woltering. H-German, H-Net Reviews. August, Add a Comment. Michigan State University Department of History.
Heinrich Himmler by Peter Longerich
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Woltering on Longerich, 'Heinrich Himmler: A Life'
In depth biography of Himmler which spends too much time on the SS as an organisation and Himmler's input in to it's organisation and ideology. It's sometimes difficult to understand what was driving Exhaustive—and sometimes exhausting—life of the Nazi functionary who rivaled Adolf Hitler in power and influence. In disfavor for the last couple of decades, psychohistory finds a champion in Heinrich Himmler : A Life.