The Love Letters of Heinrich Himmler

Himmler’s Love LettersSource: Laurie Winer in The Los Angeles Review of Books, October 20

In 2006, a cache of letters and diaries written by Heinrich Himmler and his family came into the hands of Israeli documentary maker Vanessa Lapa, herself the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors. Himmler joined the Nazi Party in 1923 and from the beginning was one of Adolf Hitler’s most passionate, organized, and ambitious followers. He rose to direct the S.S., to organize and oversee the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) as well as the building and running of the extermination camps, to become both the chief of German Police and the head of the Gestapo. He was the worst of the worst.

I met Lapa when she showed her film in Los Angeles and subsequently conducted this interview with her via email.

Two excerpts:

LAURIE WINER: Can you describe some of the emotions you felt while sorting through Heinrich Himmler’s love letters and his loving letters to his daughter, Gudrun?

ANESSA LAPA: First, discomfort, as it meant peering into someone else’s private love letters, which I do not like to do in general. But, because the letters were written by Himmler, I of course felt a sense of curiosity. Then helplessness. Then I tried to disassociate the letters from the man I knew, namely “The Architect of the Final Solution” – how is one to understand a man who discussed gardening and the childrens’ schooling with his wife while he was at the same time planning the slaughter of millions of human beings? I tried to understand his psychology: is it possible that he was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? I realized that the answer is NO. He is the same man in private and in public. He manages to twist and pervert every value, even in his love letters to his wife while he is courting her. He tells her he loves her but feels compelled to say there is something he may love more: the Nation.

Conclusion: I do believe that in the process of trying to understand we all may become better human beings. We often try to learn by studying people who changed history in a positive way. I think we also need to overcome the discomfort it causes us to try and enter the minds of those who changed history in a negative way. It is an intellectual challenge, but one we should practice more often.

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One response to “The Love Letters of Heinrich Himmler

  1. Elisabeth Ecker

    Human beings have a strange capacity to rationalize ideas, especially if they are based on ideology. Himmler would have been under the spell of the idea of Darwinism which was popular at the time, to create under the banner of Nationalism a superior race. That it was a profoundly stupid idea probably did not occur to him. First of all, Jews were so integrated in Germany at the time that it would have been hard to find a German not tainted with Jewish genes. Hitler got around this by creating a law that stated that as long as there were no Jewish ancestors born after 1800 a German belonged to the Arian race. Somehow, it did not occur to the powers that be that by killing your professors, doctors, scientists and artists the race will not be improved. Blond hair and blue eyes alone do not guarantee superiority.

    We don’t realize that we are still rationalizing all sorts of horrendous activities. We get involved in wars for dubious reasons and when innocents are killed they are just collateral damage. How much have the lives of the women in Afghanistan really improved? What did the war in Afghanistan have to do with our freedom in Canada? We rationalize all sorts of things. We know that poverty reduces lifespan but we have no problem paying substandard wages. We wear ridiculously cheap clothes and convince ourselves that the people who make them are better off because they have jobs. Maybe we should analyze some of our actions and beliefs and add to this list.