Heinrich Himmler’s private life revealed in photos

The collection of pictures and letters was discovered in Himmler's home at the end of the war. Picture: AP
The collection of pictures and letters was discovered in Himmler's home at the end of the war. Picture: AP
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A GERMAN newspaper has published a collection of previously unseen pictures of SS Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler.

One black-and-white photo shows Himmler on an idyllic family outing, his arm around his wife while his blond, pigtailed daughter looks away from the camera. Others show the SS Nazi leader feeding a little fawn or taking a bath at Lake Tegernsee near his home in Bavaria.

The family-friendly, intimate scenes are part of a previously unseen collection of photos, recipe books and about 700 letters and notes believed to have been written by Himmler, one of the Nazis most involved with the Holocaust.

Excerpts from the collection appeared in the German press at the weekend. They contain large-sized images of Himmler surrounded by his family and excerpts from his love letters to wife Marga, calling her “my sweet, beloved little woman.”

The newspaper Welt am Sonntag said it was approached three years ago by Israeli film director Vanessa Lapa, whose family had the documents in its possession. Welt said the documents’ authenticity has been independently verified by historians. It said two US Army soldiers found the trove at the end of the war, in May 1945, inside a safe in Himmler’s home.

Decades later, in the 1980s, the papers surfaced in Israel in the hands of Holocaust survivor Chaim Rosenthal.

Rosenthal kept them until 2007, when he sold the documents to Ms Lapa’s father, who then passed them on to his daughter. Almost 70 years after the end of the Third Reich, the documents provide an unprecedented glimpse into the private life of Himmler.

Himmler’s hatred of Jews was shared by his wife. In their correspondence, they both often refer to Jews in derogatory terms and in a letter from 21 June, 1928, Himmler writes to Marga: “Don’t be upset about those Jews, good, good wife, if only I could help you.”

In the midst of World War Two, when many Germans spent their nights at shelters hiding from the bombing raids of the Allied air forces, the letters show the privileged life of the Nazis’ top families. Letters reveal that Himmler was sending his family chocolate and cheese while the rest of the population was struggling to survive.

The writings also trace Himmler’s career from the early beginnings and rise of the Nazis in the 1920s, all the way to the genocide of Europe’s Jews in the 1940s. He does not explicitly write about the war atrocities, but small letter fragments and quotes reveal his involvement – often shocking in the banality of its evilness – as when he writes to his wife: “I’m going to Auschwitz, kisses, yours Heini.”

Haim Gertner, the director of the Yad Vashem Archives Division in Israel, which houses one of the biggest collections on documents about the Holocaust, praised the release of the documents.

“The collection is important because the question of how the Holocaust was humanly possible is still in the air since the end of the war,” he said.

Himmler committed suicide on 23 May, 1945, in Germany after he was captured by British forces.