Thursday, 16 March 2017

CHAPTER 3: THE GRAND INQUISITOR


WITH ROEHM DEAD AND THE SA Vanquished, Himmler and the SS quickly emerged alongside Hitler as the true victors. Within a short time, Himmler would preside over an empire of death whose factories of mass extermination would work around the clock, turning contragenics into ash. He was now the second most powerful man in the Third Reich. And like his master, he now had the opportunity to realise his deepest obsessions. His every whim, however perverse or murderous, was regarded by his SS henchmen as law. The mammoth effort to effect Hitler’s “Final Solution” for Europe’s Jews would increasingly absorb his time and energy. I this, unfortunately, he was largely successful. Himmler had a special horror of homosexuals, whom he was determined to exterminate as well. In this he enjoyed only a partial success. His raging homophobia, which was responsible for a vicious campaign against Germany’s homosexuals, struck fear in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of gays, and resulted in the deaths of thousands of others. In order to understand why he put such an effort into this campaign, we have to try to unravel the strands of his twisted personality.

There have always been two Himmlers: the colourless, sickly bureaucrat, hiding behind his pince-nez and his towers of alphabetised file cases, staying up late to scrutinise the family trees of prospective SS officers or the shape of “Aryan” skulls excavated in Tibet; and the ogre, the creator of the stunningly efficient Gestapo machine, the remote-control mass killer, ordering the elimination of entire populations without any visible sign of remorse. But most people who met Himmler shared the opinion of Walter Dornberger, the officer in charge of a Nazi experimental rocket base: “He looked to me like an intelligent, elementary school teacher, certainly not a man of violence. I could not for the life of me see anything outstanding or extraordinary about this middle-sized… man in grey SS uniform.”

Others, like Helmut Heiber, who collected and edited Himmler’s letters, felt that “there was something threatening about his personality, something inhuman.” Carl J. Burckhardt, the Swiss historian and diplomat, representative of the League of Nations in Danzig, met him twice between 1937 and 1939, before most observers had any inkling of Himmler’s fatal capacities. Burckhardt, an intelligent aristocrat from Basel, who seems rarely to have lost his composure, later wrote:

It has always been said that Himmler had the look of an elementary school teacher. I don’t know whether one can generalise about the looks of elementary school teachers… one really does these people an injustice… Himmler was of medium height, he had a round, pale face, a tiny, thin mouth; because of the pince-nez on his nose, his eyes looked like a caricature… When he tried to imitate his master and gave his eyes a hypnotic Fuhrer stare… or when, saying hello or goodbye, he attempted an expression of firm sincerity, one was tempted to think: Why all these efforts? Himmler was much more intelligent than one would conclude from his deeds and his appearance, and perhaps because of this he was essentially disloyal…Nevertheless, he radiated something much more insidious than did “his Fuhrer.” Whenever I met Hitler, I always had the feeling of a certain weakness, and of being with an obsessed man…. Himmler didn’t seem obsessed. He was sinister through the degree of concentrated subservience, through a certain narrow-minded conscientiousness, an inhuman punctiliousness about which there was something of an automaton.

Himmler was obsessed, all right, but it was another type of compulsion- less visible than Hitler’s, more like that of a reclusive miser constantly counting his hoard of gold. This bureaucratic side, however, was not how most of the world saw him. The world perceived Himmler as the butcher who ordered all Russian prisoners of war to be killed, and as the man who organised the destruction of European Jewry. It was Himmler’s SS that set up and ran the concentration camps, beginning modestly in 1933 with a few criminals, Communists, Catholics, liberals, Socialists, Jews, and homosexuals in Dachau, and that, within ten years, had extended its network of terror over more than half of Europe. It was Himmler’s “Order of the Death’s Head” that supervised the gassing of inmates and the salvaging of the gold fillings in their teeth to be deposited at the federal bank in Berlin in an account credited to the fictitious “Max Heilinger.”

By 1935 and 1936, when the campaign against contragenics, including homosexuals, began in earnest, Himmler’s officers were legally entitled to arrest suspects on any pretext, force admission of crimes not committed, and throw the victims into camps where they were without legal recourse. Next to Reinhard Heydrich, who was assassinated in 1942, Himmler’s name was the most feared throughout Germany and the occupied territories. His image was that of a monster, devoid of any shred of humanity. He did little to dispel that impression. In October 1943, for example, he topld SS leaders assembled in Poznan, Poland:

What happens to the Russians, what happens to the Czechs, is a matter of utter indifference to me… Whether the other peoples live in comfort or perish… interests me only insofar as we need them as slaves for our culture; apart from that it does bot interest me. Whether or not ten thousand Russian women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch, interests me only insofar as the tank ditch is completed for Germany… Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand. To have gone through this and yet, apart from a few exceptions- examples of human weakness- to have remained decent, this has made us hard. This is a glorious page in our history that has never been written.

It was also at this conference that Himmler “specifically made the connection between [the Roehm purge] and the policy of annihilation and confirmed the continuity of crime as a maxim of the regime.”
Himmler was both too pallid and too monstrous, it appears, to captivate the curiosity of most historians. Thus, no book has been written that is equal to the many excellent biographies of Hitler. What I will attempt here is less ambitious: first, to trace Himmler’s career briefly from unhappy pupil to grand inquisitor and, second, to describe his paranoid and homophobic universe of gods and devils, a universe closed to rational argument but endowed with its own peculiar logic.

Heinrich Himmler was born on October 7, 1900, in Munich. His father, Gebhardt, a descendant of minor civil servants and police officers, and was a pedantic, tyrannical headmaster who had met with a bit of luck: he had obtained a position as tutor to the Wittelsbach family, the rulers of Bavaria. For a while he had taught Prince Heinrich, and the prince acted as godfather to the second son, named after his father’s patron. Gebhardt’s first son had carried his father’s name; a third son, Ernst, born five years after Heinrich’s arrival, would play, so it seems, no part in the future SS leader’s life. Heinrich was an ambitious, hardworking, but indifferent learner, overawed by his stern father. He possessed average intelligence and was near-sighted, a little priggish, and unpopular in school. No matter how hard he tried, Heinrich made few friends. Poor health tormented him all his life. The outbreak of World War I filled him with patriotic ardour. He longed to emulate his older brother Gerbhardt, who had joined the armed forces and become a hero. But Heinrich was too young to enlist. Still, he exulted in German victories from afar, dreamed of becoming an officer, worried about the disintegrating battle fronts, and penned a hate-poem against France.

When Heinrich graduated from high school, he was unsure of his next step. He eventually decided to pursue a career in agriculture – a step down, in his family’s eyes- and found work as a trainee on a farm. An attack of typhoid fever, however, made it impossible for him to continue. He was hospitalised, enabling him to read a great deal –mostly books of the reactionary or eccentric right, which were then popular in Bavaria. Because the Imperial Navy refused men who wore glasses, he had to abandon his hopes of entering as an ensign. He then applied to the army. Although his father pulled many strings, the army, too, rejected Heinrich. He was ultimately to be accepted by a reserve unit, but did not see duty on the war front. In later years, Himmler tended to romanticise his past and regale listeners with stirring anecdotes of his “battle exploits.” Finally he enrolled at the agricultural department of Munich University, where he joined several right-wing organisations and a duelling fraternity. Once again, the pattern of his early school years repeated itself. Try as he might to win over his fraternity brothers by running errands, currying favour with older members, and bringing food to the sick, he remained an outsider, shunned by all. He barely managed to fulfil one ambition: when, at last, he found a duelling partner and his face was scarred, he was delighted.

In August 1922, Heinrich received his diploma and took a job at a chemical factory in Schleissheim. A short time later- exactly when is not known - Himmler met Ernst Roehm, who had founded a right-wing paramilitary group named Reichsflagge (Federal Banner). Himmler admired the bellicose Roehm and joined up. Soon afterward he took part in the 1923 abortive overthrow of the Bavarian government, which sent Hitler and Roehm to jail. Around this time, Himmler was introduced to Gregor Strasser, an organiser of the social-revolutionary wing of the budding NSDAP, later led by Hitler. Strasser gave the eager young man a job as office worker and propaganda salesman. Himmler quit the chemical factory and began traveling on his motorbike through rural districts, pushing right-wing politics. During these months he also met and married Margarete Boden. She was a nurse seven years his senior, owner of a nursing home, and interested in some of the esoteric topics – healing herbs, spices, folk medicine- that had long intrigued Himmler.

The marriage turned sour when Himmler’s party activities began to consume all of his time. He kept racing on his motorbike through Bavaria, distributing leaflets, addressing farmers’ meetings, and rarely showing up at the farm in Waltrudering, near Munich, which he had bought with his wife’s money. Himmler grew increasingly radical. He embraced a gospel of hate, focussing especially on Jews, loose women, Socialists, homosexuals, Freemasons, and Communists. Himmler had always been attracted by obscure political philosophies that promised simple formulas to solve life’s riddles. Now he stumbled on two thinkers from whom he borrowed most of his ideological furnishings. Walther Darre, an agricultural specialist, had founded a sect called the Artaman League. He preached a return to “blood and soil,” elevating German farmers to the saviours of Europe; big cities were moral cesspools. Darre,  who in 1934 was appointed agricultural minister and later directed the Central Office for Race and Settlement, wrote on the meaning of race and the ideological significance of agriculture. In The Peasantry as the Prime Source of the Nordic Race (1934), Darre suggested that “Semites do not understand the pig; whereas the animal occupies the first place in the cult of the Nordic people.” In this and other studies he solved the mystery of the origins of all worthwhile events throughout history: they had been carried out only by men of the Nordic race.

Himmler combined these startling, revelations with the concepts of Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis’ in house theoretician. Rosenberg insisted that the vast plains in the East needed to be taken away from the subhuman Slavs and repopulated with Germanic farmer-worker-warriors. His main work of banal bunk, The Myth of the Twentieth Century, was considered unreadable even by ardent Hitlerites, but Himmler didn’t let that deter him from gleaning what he needed to complete his vision.

Strasser could not be bothered with such mystical nonsense, but Himmler believed it, and later acted on it. That he was able to make even a tenth of his fantasies come true, and to organise the wholesale killing of contragenics, has to do with historical accident and the madness of his character. Throughout his life Himmler had obediently served his superiors, particularly his later master, Adolf Hitler; he got much of what he wanted by subterfuge. Himmler developed a feverish industriousness, an insatiable appetite for snooping, filing, and cataloguing dossiers not only on real and potential enemies, but also on his comrades. Hitler, whose own bookkeeping was often slack, recognised Himmler’s special gifts. On January 6, 1929, Hitler rewarded him with the title of Reichsfuhrer SS, although the SS was then a small group of men, nominally under the command of Roehm. Himmler’s zeal paid off. The ranks of the SS began to fill. Himmler carefully guided its growth; he set strict standards for candidates, such as requiring future SS bridegrooms to trace their ancestry back to the eighteenth century. All data, including the genealogy of the bride’s and groom’s grandmothers, had to be kept in a “clan book.” For those who passed muster, Himmler and Heydrich – with whom he had become associated in 1931- built an elite training academy in the Bavarian spa of Toelz. Heydrich also talked Himmler into setting up his own intelligence network, the SD (Sicherheitsdienst), which was designed to spy on rival factions. Himmler and Heydrich pioneered a documentation system that soon expanded to unprecedented proportions. Any seemingly meaningless fact about the opinion or private life of anyone, whether he was working for, against, or outside the Nazi Party, was noted on colour-coded file slips. Any information that one day might be used as a weapon against the person was marked down. Extra attention was given to prominent personalities in all fields. The sexual orientation of males was carefully noted. When, in 1935, the new anti-homosexual laws were put into effect, Himmler’s archives were bulging with the names of thousands of “sociosexual saboteurs.”

In March 1933, Himmler opened the first concentration camp at Dachau, near Munich, built to house five thousand prisoners. This penal colony – the model for all later camps- was run by a volunteer formation of the SS, called the Order of the Death’s Head, which boasted a skull and crossbones on its black uniforms and caps. Himmler put in charge an old associate, Theodor Eicke, one of the two men who would later shoot Roehm. Among Eicke’s assistants was an Austrian named Adolf Eichmann; another, Rudolf Hoess, would go on to become the commandant who organised the gassings in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In 1934, Himmler, as we have seen, helped to engineer the murder of Roehm, his chief competitor. A year later the SS directorates extended Paragraph 175. SS judges used the law to define as criminal even compromising letters between males, and mutual masturbation.

On June 17, 1936, Himmler was appointed chief of all SS and police forces; three months later he established the Federal Security Office for Combating Abortion and Homosexuality. In October 1938 he added another title, Federal Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germanism (Reichskommissar fur de Festigung Deutscheen Volkstums). Years later he became Minister of the Interior and Chief Minister of Prussia. This was followed in February 1944 by the takeover of both the SD, whose chief had been killed two years before, and the counterespionage operation of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, after his dismissal. When, in July 1944, army officers failed to kill Hitler, Himmler directed the rounding up and execution of all possible conspirators. In 1945 his adolescent wish came true: he received permission to lead two regular army units – a disaster so unparalleled that he gladly handed over to General Heinz Guderian and retreated to a sanatorium. Himmler committed suicide on May 23, 1945, after the British troops that had captured him failed to discover a cyanide capsule he kept hidden in a tooth.

The major campaign against Germany’s homosexuals, which began after the Roehm purge, lasted until about 1939 or 1940, when most German men joined the armed forces. Because Himmler’s Gestapo agents had no jurisdiction over the military, it offered a relatively safe refuge for most homosexuals of military age. The “ideas” that prompted Himmler to “purify” the German people and to regulate their sexual behaviour deserve examination. His worldview was endowed with its own special logic that often found expression in his youthful notebooks and diaries, and later in his public and secret speeches. Himmler never followed any specific structure of thought; he simply rambled from one notion to another. He was obsessive and illogical in private as he was in public. His utterances, like his scattered writings, are a jumbled but illuminating guide to the fevered fantasies that fuelled his hatreds and his hopes.

The development of Himmler’s ideas, as reconstructed from twenty-six loose-leaf notebooks kept when he was a teenager, lay bare, on the one hand, the gradual radicalisation of a vaguely conservative adolescent and, on the other hand, a mind-set that remained remarkably unchanged. He apparently had always borne a deep loathing for “alien” and “hostile” people, and a conviction that they should be removed.  His musings on the methods of their destruction reveal a streak of sadism, though without any obvious sexual aspect. Heinrich had slowly abandoned his parents’ staid middle class standards. His readings demonstrate that he increasingly favoured books by right-wing prophets and eccentric historians such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Darre, and Rosenberg. His early notes on women and both hetero and homosexual behaviour display a bent toward prudishness. At first, religion presented a tougher problem than did politics and sex. Both of his parents were strict Catholics; Sunday attendance at church was part of the ironclad schedule that Gebhardt imposed on his three sons. Later, when Himmler began to persecute the Church, he never tried to turn his mother away from her faith. Anna Himmler remained a regular churchgoer long after her son had put the Catholic Church on his list of enemies.

What Himmler confided to his notebooks appears at first glance drab, monotonous, and not much different from what many young Bavarians of the period would have jotted down. Nevertheless, the volcano of repressed revolt can occasionally be sensed simmering beneath the dull surface. His father had instilled in his son a respect for authority, a worship of the military, a disdain for the Weimar Republic, and – this his son does not put on paper- a pronounced fear of paternal tyranny.

Not only did Heinrich suffer from this overpowering figure who was a double authority – both father and school principal- but he also had to contend with his older brother, who was his father’s favourite. His mother preferred Heinrich and tried her best never to loosen her hold on him. The junior Gebhardt outdid his younger brother in precisely those areas in which Heinrich wanted to shine –athletics and personal relationships. The diaries make plain the laborious strivings of a frightened egoist to be financially independent, to be popular, and, above all, to become a star sportsman. He failed in all three endeavours.

That his strategies to be financially independent came to nothing occurred through no fault of his own. The devastating inflation of the 1920s wiped out the middle-class Himmlers. Heinrich constantly had to beg for money. A different picture emerges, however, when we scrutinise his attempts to be a well-liked companion or to be accepted into a duelling fraternity. Whenever it appears that he had made friends, whether on the farm or at the university, he invariably reports that these companions failed him, turned their backs on him, were unworthy, talked dirty, or associated with dubious characters. These “friends” included girls. But Himmler despised “easy women,” although he admits to feeling definite sexual urges- which, however, he was constrained to suppress.

What seems to have hurt Heinrich most, what elicits the most violent self-castigations, is his failure as an athlete. George W. F. Hallgarten, a classmate of Himmler’s, later recalled that when Heinrich was to perform at the horizontal bar, he faltered. He could neither execute the prescribed rotations nor dismount. As his classmates shouted with glee, “he threw them a look, an expression of hatred on his face that boded no good.” Some years later, around 1922, their paths crossed again, when Hallgarten was elected president of the German Student Council. A jealous Himmler called him a “Jew louse.” Himmler resented Hallgarten’s superior social and economic station. Hallgarten’s father was a wealthy, cosmopolitan, American-born German-Jewish banker who had bought a house in Munich’s best neighbourhood. The Hallgartens had remained “burgher aristocrats” while the Himmlers, once at the edge of the nobility, had been reduced to impoverished near-proletarians. “Out of the urge to restore the disturbed old order, Himmler created a theory of a superior race, which automatically makes him a superior member,” Hallgarten later mused in his memoirs. To make things worse for Heinrich, there was an upper class clique in his school that kept strictly to itself. In the high school yearbook of 1918, which put “Himmler, Heinrich,” after “Hallgarten, George,” a circle of smart looking men called “Pages” were prominently featured, distributed over different classes. These boys, youngsters from noble families, were deputised to fill various jobs in the royal Wittelsbach household. Their uniforms were narrow-legged dark trousers, dark-blue jackets buttoned at the neck, and dark-blue visored military caps. Hallgarten believed that their outfits later inspired the SS uniforms. Pages enjoyed privileges denied to the other pupils: mainly, they could not be forced to repeat a class. They were sacrosanct, beyond the grasp of even Heinrich’s father, the school principal. Heinrich envied them so much that he plotted to join them by using his father’s Wittelsbach contacts. He was not accepted. For Hallgarten, the memory of this failure suggested another reason why Himmler, weak, near sighted, unathletic, and utterly inept at friendship, drove so relentlessly to turn himself into the prince of a newly minted aristocracy. The SS was to be a new elite, out to conquer what the old, established Bavarian nobility had so obstinately denied him.

Perhaps, as the historian Bradley F. Smith has observed, young Heinrich’s frantic manoeuvres to belong to a group more powerful than the one into which he had been born explains much of Himmler’s behaviour. Perhaps Himmler’s loathing of homosexuals had some of its roots in a deep belief that they were endowed with certain superior qualities denied to him; he often credited homosexuals with an uncanny gift for recognising one another.

Himmler worshipped authority. In one of his secret speeches, given before an audience of cadets four days after the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20, 1944, Himmler likened schoolmasters to military officers and sovereign states. They must be obeyed under all circumstances. Neither a student nor an ordinary private can be allowed to criticise a superior. “Teachers are officers, too, and they are like gods or at least demigods and must be treated accordingly. This is the base on which our state rests. Both must be granted absolute authority.” Did anyone in the audience recognise that Himmler had given away more than he intended? Even then, less than a year before his suicide, he still felt compelled to square accounts with those who had rejected him: the nobles, the fraternity brothers who had remained aloof, the royal stewards who could defy his father and did not allow him to enter their magic circle.

Himmler’s need to exalt authority was matched by his extraordinary meekness when in its presence. Often, for example, when he had to endure Hitler’s wrath, Himmler would develop stomach cramps; but he never talked back to the Fuhrer. His teenage diaries record no direct outbursts against his father, either, even during later years, when Gebhardt no longer checked the entries. Yet behind Heinrich’s docile front, anger glowed, and the anger spawned a fierce meddlesomeness.

In 1922, when Gerbhardt Himmler, Jr., was engaged to Paula, a distant relative, he wrote to his younger brother asking him to clear up a misunderstanding. He suspected Paula of infidelity. Heinrich agreed to do the favour. Paula apologised and pledged loyalty. Nevertheless, Heinrich dispatched an acid note, saying that this was not enough, that she must totally reform and control herself “with barbaric strength.” Once more, Paula answered in a conciliatory tone. This did not pacify Heinrich. When rumours about Paula’s behaviour reached him a few months later, he resumed his attack. He badgered his mother and father to break off the engagement, and to return the presents. Paula told Gerbhardt that she was being bullied by Heinrich, but Gebhardt was helpless. Heinrich then hired a private detective to watch Paula and pass on any compromising information. Nothing was found. When he heard that Paula had been talking about the Himmler family, he wrote a mutual friend that although he was usually nice, “I will be competently different if anyone forces me to it. Then I will not be stopped by any sense of false pity until the opponent is socially and morally ousted from the ranks of society.”

Here speaks the later grand inquisitor who never showed any “false pity.” Even at twenty-three, he plotted by stealth and employed a detective to dig up incriminating evidence. Here is the Himmler whose favourite activity during his student years was “studying files.” If the writings of young Heinrich often sound drab and repetitious, it is because they are so much concerned with trivia. His mania for putting everything down, for getting hold of the tiniest details, rarely subsides. In 1911, For example, whenever he took a dip in a nearby lake, he would be careful to write in his notebook: first swim; second swim; third swim, etc. Grand total: 37 swims. In June 1921, he kept a journal of expenses:

Carry over: 249 marks
June 10:
      map, 1.00 mark
      stamps, 1.20 marks
      cigarettes, 1.00 mark
June 19:
  trip to Tittmoning, 5.00 marks
  beer and sausage, 8.00 marks
 stamps and postcards, 1.80 marks

As a boy, Himmler had indulged in the game of watching trains, recording every delay. He had to fit everything in its exact nook and “his pedantry went beyond absurdity.” As SS chief, he would keep track of every gift he had given away and how much it was worth.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of his filomania was an invention he engineered with the help of Heydrich and two SS assistants. They constructed a rotating file-card box. In the early 1930s the machine was considered a miracle by the few who were allowed a glimpse of it. The giant enclosed wheel, containing thousands of index cards, was powered by an electric motor; at the touch of a few buttons, the desired card would rotate into view. The dossier collection was started by Heydrich after the Roehm purge. It contained notations on all suspected enemies. No other security organisation in Europe at the time, and for years to come, had a system that could compete with this monster roulette wheel.

The meticulous chronicler of his expenses for beer and sausage clearly anticipates the insatiable collector of suspects he was to become. Himmler was what Freudians would call a hoarder, and his subsequent unrivalled powers as police chief, as head statistician, and as head-hunter gave him a chance to bury himself under a mountain of police blotters. Although he nourished his avenging fantasies even as a student, his scribblings reveal few sentiments of outright brutality. Only in October 1919, while visiting castles in Bavaria, did he confess that he “admired the spirit of honour, greatness, and strictness of the Middle Ages” and that he was fascinated by fortresses and torture chambers.

That Himmler’s diaries shy away from sexual matters is understandable; after all, his father regularly reviewed the entries for years. Still, Heinrich’s prudery emerges early, together with traces of anti-Semitism. He believed that Jews were capable of various sexual misdeeds. In several folk-rooted tracts Himmler found corroboration for his still-vague suspicions that Jews had corrupted German girls. During his search for a better understanding of his sexual problems, young Heinrich came upon a book by Hans Wegener, We Young Men: The Sexual Problems of the Educated Young Man Prior to Marriage (Das Sexuelle Problem des Gebildeten Jungen Mannes vor der Ehe, 1919). He read it with fascination, praising it as “certainly the most beautiful book I have read on this problem.” Wegener strongly urged chastity before marriage as a way of preventing physical and moral damage. He opposed mutual masturbation, warning that loss of semen has fatal consequences. (Himmler was to grow increasingly obsessed with this notion. Laster he would read the works of Albertus Magnus, who, in the thirteenth century, had thundered against homosexual relations and the deadly effects of wasting sperm. Perhaps the most fanciful expression of this preoccupation was a 1939 confidential memo to the armed forces. Wherever possible, a prostitute serving men in officially supervised brothels was to quickly preserve ejaculations in special containers so that SS sperm could be analysed for fertility and other qualities. As one might expect, the procedures were unenforceable.)

Heinrich went on to read “The Priest and the Acolyte,” a story ascribed to Oscar Wilde. He was shocked by its idealisation of homosexuality. Some time later, Heinrich summoned up the courage to discuss sex with several of his fraternity brothers. From one of them he borrowed Bluher’s The Role of Eroticism in Male Society. It upset him greatly, but he conceded that Bluher may well have been right about the inherent dangers of the all-male commune. “In any case, the pure physical homosexuality,” he wrote, “is an error of degenerate individualism that is contrary to nature.”

There are a few more opinions –mostly negative- on sex and women scattered throughout the diaries, but not on homosexuality. While Himmler was to change from an admirer of chastity to a promoter of “sexual assistance” for childless women, and was to organise medically supervised bordellos for the SS and the military, his hostile attitude toward homosexuals never wavered, from the 1920 diary notations to the last directives ordering extermination.

An important key to his cockeyed sexual cosmology is the speech Himmler delivered on February 18, 1937, in Bad Toelz, the site of his elite SS training academy.

Germany, Himmler declared, needed a “National Sexual Budget” to make up for the loss of more than a million of its soldiers killed in World War I. Germany had suffered the sharpest decline in its birth rate of all European nations, reaching an exceptional low in 1933. To be sure, the battered economy probably had been the chief cause, but there were other, less obvious and more insidious reasons for Germany’s weakened condition – corruption by the Weimar Republic, for instance. Venereal diseases had spread throughout the country, especially among younger people, precisely those who could produce children. In addition, the Republic had been beset by another illness; according to statistics, there were two million homosexuals. Himmler made a quick calculation: two million men killed in the last war plus two million homosexuals equalled four million German women without husbands. That, he concluded, was a catastrophe for Germany. It was even worse than the half-million babies he estimated to have been lost through abortion. Homosexuals, Himmler emphasised, corrupted other men, making them unwilling or unable to beget children. “If this vice continues,” he warned, “it will be the end of Germany.”

A “good race” producing few children was destined to be extinct in two hundred years, while “nations with many children can gain supremacy and mastery of the world.” Sex, therefore, was a matter of public concern, not a private affair. Ancient Germany, which had always had “masculine dominance,” knew this. Germany’s Teutonic forebears “knew what to do with homosexuals: they drowned them in bogs. No, it should not be called punishment. It was `extermination of abnormal existence.`” Unfortunately, the new Germany could not apply the same technique – he did not say whether this was due to a scarcity of suitable bogs- but he would see to it that “like stinging nettles we will rip them out [the homosexuals], throw them on a heap, and burn them. Otherwise, if we continue to have this vice predominant in Germany without being able to fight it, we’ll see the end of Germany, the end of the Germanic world.” Further, “All homosexuals are cowards; they lie just like the Jesuits. Homosexuality leads to a state of mind that doesn’t know what it does.” In other words, homosexuals are soft and effeminate; they are not really men; they do not fight. Homosexuality is a crime against nature and must be stamped out.

The Weimar Republic was guilty of criminal laxness. During a six-week period in 1934, the Berlin police and the SS arrested more homosexuals than the Weimar police did in fifteen years. Himmler proposed that any SS man caught in unnatural carnal acts with another man should be publicly disgraced, expelled from the order, put into a camp, and “shot while trying o escape.” But he only issued the pertinent “Fuhrer’s Decree Relating to Purity in the SS and Police” four years later, in1941, when the campaign against homosexuals had already been eclipsed by the effort to destroy Europe’s Jews.

A former puritan who had once advised chastity before marriage, Himmler now declared prostitutes to be necessary to prevent young men from having to “turn to homosexuals for gratification,” since there were often no suitable young women of “good blood” available for marriage. Himmler was not sure what was worse: a young, healthy German male seeking sexual release by turning to a woman of impure race or giving himself to a homosexual. He then sounded the two notes of what was to be a recurring rhapsody: 1) in the old days, before industrialisation, everything was much better; 2) degeneracy is not practiced by the peasantry. Blood laws were strictly enforced in the villages. Even illegitimate children were accepted. Himmler strove to persuade German women that it should be a point of pride to give birth to illegitimate children, that it honoured the Fuhrer and the state, that it was old fashioned to worry about a marriage certificate. He had founded his “Spring of Life” hostels, providing homes for unmarried mothers and their offspring, to carry this through. Himmler was not optimistic about the prospects of rehabilitating men suffering from the disease of homosexuality. Perhaps a few hustlers might be salvaged, but he was doubtful about the immoral homosexual majority. Not long after, he would come to believe that the Final Solution was as inevitable for gays as for Jews and other contragenics. He dubbed it “delousing,” a term favoured by other Nazi theoreticians as well.

Himmler next confessed certain worries about the dangers inherent in the SS project: an all-male commune, enforcing a strictly virile code, ran the risk of glorifying the male body and of wanting to “masculinise” women. “It would be a catastrophe if we foolish males wanted to make women into logically thinking instruments.” Women, by nature, could not think like men: “if we try to masculinise them, well, there we conjure up the danger of homosexuality.” Students must be trained not only through military drill but groomed intellectually; he vented his hatred on those writers, like Bluher, who claimed that certain military heroes were homosexuals. He ridiculed prissy English ladies and everyday sexual life in America. “If a man just looks at a girl in America, he can be forced to marry her or pay damages… therefore men protect themselves in the U.S.A. by turning to homosexuals… women in the U.S.A. are like battle-axes- they hack away at males.” Suddenly, although he had just said that women could not think like men, he now blamed the Catholic Church for furthering “the inferiority of women,” asserting that orders such as the Franciscans had created conspiratorial sects to keep women out. Of course, the Franciscans had another reason. So-called celibacy was part of the homosexual conspiracy. Throughout history, according to Himmler, monasteries were 90 to 100 percent homosexual. In 1937, the Nazi trials of Catholic priests, mostly for illegal transfer of money and for same-sex indecencies, were in full swing, and Himmler hinted that his agents were able to prove these charges beyond doubt. (As it happened, they failed.) He then elaborated upon a sermon he frequently had preached in speeches and memoranda to Hitler Youth leaders, “Spring of Life” administrators, and SS training officers: From early on, we must introduce male teenagers to girls. No one must ever deride a boy who falls in love with a young girl; he asserted that this often occurred. “An adolescent male must be encouraged to fall in love with a girl of good blood; then he will turn away from homosexuals, will not participate in juvenile orgies of a homosexual nature.” Himmler deplored teenagers who ridiculed an adolescent who respected his girl, his sister, his mother. “If we don’t encourage this correct heterosexual behaviour, we will have sexually disturbed youngsters, not the right material for the elite SS, the new Holy Order. It is essential for a nation to guide sex in the right direction.”

Although this 1937 speech was the most extensive account of Himmler’s ideas about homosexuals, he addressed the issue in several other speeches and memoranda. For example, in 1939, before SS leaders in Hamburg, he ranked homosexuality as one of the four illnesses, along with flight from the countryside to cities, suicide, and the decline of the birth rate, whose symptoms must be diagnosed so that the patient – Germany- could be cured. It was unpatriotic to limit the family to two children, especially if the parents were well to do. Abortion must be discouraged; it kills living beings and makes many women sterile. All women must cultivate “joy in begetting,” and barren women must accept the fact that they need children. “Spring of Life” hostels would provide these barren women with suitable quarters and conception partners. “What we need is a new respect for the illegitimate mother who has the courage to play her natural part.”

These schemes often ran into trouble, however, when Himmler sought to make them real. That his proposal for a National Sexual Budget project was unpopular can be inferred from an unofficial talk defending his “Emergency Begetting Decree” (Kinderzeugungsbefehl). On October 28, 1939, he had issued a memorandum urging every SS man to sire as many children as possible, either before going to the front or when at home on furlough. This apparently aroused opposition. Himmler took great pains to justify his human-breeding project. This time he spoke only of 1.5 million homosexuals unable to help patriotic German women to conceive. Because SS losses in Poland were much heavier than anticipated, the state needed more children fathered by the elite: “If both parents are pure Aryans, illegitimate children should be accepted with as much joy as legitimate offspring.” That Himmler had to go on about this for some time suggests that some of his followers were not entirely happy about his propensity to issue bedroom directives.

Himmler’s homophobic ravings in his secret speeches and private memoranda surfaced only in 1974. But his phobias and fantasies were detailed nearly thirty years before by Dr Felix Kersten, a Finnish physiotherapist who had served as Himmler’s personal physician and confidant. Kersten played a singular part in the macabre masque of the feuding third Reich Leaders. His memoirs, published in several different editions, first in 1947, then in 1955, and again in 1957, provide an unrivalled glimpse into Himmler’s universe, tinctured by paranoia, filled with unsated furore against various groups, and abounding in superstitions, archaic medical theories, and grotesque misinterpretations of history. Historians now agree that Kersten’s memoirs are at least as astute and reliable as those of Albert Speer.

At the start of 1939, Hitler was secretly preparing to dismember Czechoslovakia, sign a peace treaty with Stalin, and invade Poland and, later, the West. Although Himmler headed all police forces, Hitler did not always turn to him for advice. Himmler did not belong to the inner circle. Most prominent in the circle was Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary and closest aide, who jealously guarded access to the Fuhrer and played everyone against everyone. From 1939 on, Himmler was not often able to talk directly with his master, a fact that he frequently lamented to Kersten.

It was around this time that Kersten was recruited into the Himmler court. He obtained a privileged position in Himmler’s retinue in just a few months. His rise is easily explained. Himmler had employed a regular masseur named Julius Setkorn to lessen the recurrent and debilitating attacks of muscle spasms, stomach cramps, headaches, and insomnia that afflicted him. Setkon’s methods were a failure. Nor were the injections and narcotics prescribed by previous physicians of any help. When Kersten started his treatment, consisting of what we would now term acupressure combined with yoga relaxation techniques, Himmler immediately responded, the pain vanished, and he begged Kersten to stay on, promising whatever rewards the doctor desired. Kersten was to become much more than the simple “masseur” he has been called by those critics who later tried to discredit him.

Kersten refused payment for his services. This not only continually impressed Himmler but had the advantage of making Kersten less vulnerable to the sniping of adversaries who resented his intimate relationship with the often inaccessible Himmler. Several times, Kersten wanted to quit. But officials at the neutral Finnish embassy urged him to remain so that he could funnel valuable intelligence from the heart of the SS empire to his Finnish contacts. Kersten not only agreed to provide the intelligence, but he started a one-man campaign to rescue victims from the grasp of the Gestapo.

Kersten literally held Himmler in his hands. Only when alone with Kersten did Himmler unburden himself. The corpulent, unflappable doctor had carefully kept aloof from the endless intrigues riddling Himmler’s bloodstained court. He was the only person permitted to minister to the manifold illnesses that attacked Himmler’s body with increasing ferocity as he grew ever more powerful. The Reichsfuhrer SS, otherwise incapable of positive emotional attachment to anyone, fastened on to Kersten and spoke of him in endearing terms and called him the “Magic Buddha.” Kersten functioned not only as a healer but as a confidant. Because he held the key to Himmler’s physical well-being, Kersten learned to manipulate his patient in many ways. How Kersten managed this feat can be seen by a short note, dated March 31, 1942, that he sent Himmler when his father died:

I thank you for your sympathy and the flowers which we have put on his grave. Although my father was very old, his death leaves a very deep gap in my existence, and I would like to stay home for at least a week… At the same time… I want to express my thanks for your having answered my appeal and granted clemency to the seven Catholic clergymen, three nuns, eight Dutchmen, and four Frenchmen…How my father would have rejoiced, had he lived to see this. When Dr. Brandt [Rudolf Brandt, Himmler’s private secretary] telephoned me, I had just returned from the funeral – for the one life I had to lose you have granted me twenty-two lives.

Himmler was apparently willing to pay his physiotherapist with human lives instead of the money that Kersten persistently refused to accept. Kersten repeatedly saved people under arrest from either execution or referral to concentration camps. In March 1941 he quashed a project leaked to him by Brandt. Hitler had planned to force thousands of Dutch men and women to “resettle” in the East, as punishment for the rebellious Dutch who did not appreciate their German invaders and who were given to frequent and disruptive general strikes. Kersten convinced Himmler that this complex resettlement plan would consume too much of his time and endanger his health. Himmler, in turn, repeating his physiotherapist’s arguments, talked Hitler into postponing his punitive action. It was never carried out. For this act alone, the Dutch government, in 1950, made Kersten a Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau. In 1943, Kersten persuaded Himmler to jettison plans to make Finland expel its Jews and join the Nazi war machine. In 1944, with the help of the Swedish Red Cross, Kersten pried loose Danish and Norwegian camp inmates and had them eventually transferred to Sweden. In 1945, with the aid of one of his sympathisers at Himmler’s court, the amicable but slippery Walther Schellenberg, Kersten arranged the transfer of about 1,900 Jewish prisoners from Theresienstadt to Switzerland and facilitated the rescue of Jewish and non-Jewish inmates. In 1944 and 1945 he carried off another coup. Himmler had been shown a devastating report on Hitler’s health. Now Schellenberg and Kersten pushed Himmler to send out, via Sweden, feelers to the Allies about ending the war in the west. Since Himmler refused to believe that Eisenhower would never accept him as Hitler’s successor, the negotiations led only to the ultimate theatre of the absurd: in total secrecy, Himmler received a visitor from Stockholm, Robert Masur, a representative of the World Jewish Congress. Together, Kersten and Masur extracted from Himmler the promise not to blow up the concentration camps, to increase food rations, to release sick and female prisoners through the Swedish Red Cross. Kersten and Schellenberg knew, of course, that they had gambled on Himmler’s fantasy of becoming the new Fuhrer, but their tactics succeeded in saving quite a few lives. As Kersten’s memoirs reveal, he gained an unrivalled glimpse into Himmler’s mind.

While labouring to ease Himmler’s aches and pains, Kersten was forced to listen to his patient’s interminable monologues.  Himmler, forever the schoolmaster, wanted to remake and re-educate the world. He told Kersten of his plans to transform his black-shirted SS men into a new nobility, replacing the former degenerate ruling classes. He dreamed of founding an empire of Nordic worker-peasants, who, after victory, would eat no white bread, but only whole grain, and smoke no tobacco or drink alcohol. He envisioned his Nordic subjects living in the large territories to the east, once the Slavic subhumans had been either eradicated or turned into illiterate slaves. They would live in thatched cottages, surrounded by imported German trees, cultivating herb and fruit gardens, and producing at least four blue-eyed, blond-haired children per couple. Himmler was sure that with proper procedures, within three generations every German would be tall, blond, and blue-eyed. His eugenic utopia would be complete.

But first he had to get rid of the princes and aristocrats of Germany and, later, of all of Europe. He detested German aristocrats because so many had soiled themselves by going into business or industry. Sweden would lose its monarchy; the princes of Prussia and Bavaria would be hanged, as would various dukes, grand dukes, and the parents of the royal house of the Netherlands. Princes were no better than Jews, he said. Goebbels was to arrange the executions in front of the Imperial Palace in Berlin, while workers watched and applauded. The more important nobles would be indicted for espionage and high treason. Others would be accused of degeneracy and sexual perversion. Both charges would be easy to prove.

In a guidebook distributed for the edification of SS leaders, Himmler praised two institutions as models as models for educating the future elite: the Prussian military academies and the public schools of the British upper class. Just as the English often elevated sons of the lower and middle classes into the higher ranks, thus adding “good new blood” to the “thin blood” of the old dynastic families, so too should capable rank-and-file Germans have a chance to become members of his projected princely caste of SS  leaders. Of course, every German pedagogue knew that homoerotic relationships flourished among the adolescents of both establishments. Even during Himmler’s childhood, thinly disguised fictional and nonfictional accounts of intense friendships and sane-sex scandals in the Prussian and English schools had been published. No doubt Himmler would have dismissed them as slander, just as he refused to admit the possibility that Frederick the Great might have been attracted to men.

Kersten confirmed Himmler’s intoxication with these fantastic projects of human engineering when he discussed them with some of the more realistic men on Himmler’s staff, such as Brandt and Schellenberg. Both men had noticed Himmler’s “curious blend of cold political rationalism, German romanticism, and racial fanaticism.” Kersten began slowly to realise that his spasm-ridden patient saw himself as a high priest, the founder of a brotherhood that was destined to change the face of Europe forever. That brotherhood would have no place for homosexuals.

Himmler spent many hours clarifying his reasons for strict measures against homosexuals, abortion, women who refused to become pregnant, and couples with fewer than four children. After the war, all marriage laws would be revised, Himmler predicted. If, within five years of their wedding, a couple had produced no children, the union would be annulled. Himmler sketched his plans for a “Women’s Academy for Wisdom and Culture,” where specially chosen women would be taught to ride, to swim, to speak foreign languages, to dance, and to shoot a pistol. They must be quick-witted, graceful, and, naturally, blue-eyed and blond. The graduates of such academies, when united with his SS thoroughbreds, would create the future noble generations. When Kersten pointed out that even a valiant SS fighter might prefer a more pliable wife, Himmler brushed his objection aside, although he conceded that some brunettes might become “chosen women.” Himmler was never able to put this plan into action.

In one particularly revealing conversation, Himmler told Kersten of the arrest, for the second time, of a respected and promising young SS leader, a blue-eyed Nordic, perfect in every respect but for the fact that he seemed to have a fatal preference for his own sex. He had been charged with “carnal copulation” with another man. After the first arrest, he had been stripped of his rank and demoted to private. What should be done, Himmler complained, with such an otherwise splendid specimen? Kersten tried to play ombudsmen; homosexuality, he explained, was often a medical problem, related to glandular malfunction. This, of course, was one of the approved versions of contemporary German psychiatry. Kersten saw no reason to ruin the man’s life, or why “he should repent for his disposition.” Himmler erupted: `We must exterminate these people root and branch. Just think how many children will never be born because of this, and how a people can be broken in nerve and spirit when such a plague gets hold of it. When someone in the Security Services, in the SS, or in the government has homosexual tendencies, he abandons the normal order of things for the perverted world of the homosexual. We can’t permit such danger to the country; the homosexual must be entirely eliminated.` He recalls again the Teutonic tradition of drowning homosexuals in bogs, but adds: “These wise ancestors let the Roman homosexuals go unpunished and even encouraged them. These were clever measures that we should do well to copy. The homosexual is a traitor to his own people and must be rooted out.”

Himmler’s approval of his ancestors’ decision to allow foreign homosexuals to go unpunished, even to permit them to flourish, was significantly to shape the logic of his sexual cosmology. Himmler’s belief that homosexuality among subject peoples would hasten their degeneracy, and thus their demise, had important consequences for his policies of persecution throughout the Third Reich. Among Germans, homosexuality was to be eradicated ruthlessly to ensure the “purity” of the master race; among the “inferior” peoples of the occupied territories it was to be tolerated as a tactic for weakening their “vigour.” A March 1942 directive by Heydrich, then ruler of Czechoslovakia, makes this plain. Heydrich suggests that it would undermine Nazi interests to promote the vital forces of alien national groups. Therefore, non-German homosexuals were not to be punished like German homosexuals, but exiled from German territories. On another occasion, Himmler extended this selective principle to the problem of abortion. Unlike German women, Dutch and Slavonic women should be encouraged to have abortions. Within the theozoology of the National Sexual Budget doctrine, as propounded by Himmler, this principle can be said to make sense. Thus, homosexuals were the only group of contragenics not singled out for immediate extermination in countries conquered by the Nazis; only German gays faced certain death when caught in the maw of the Nazi machine. The only exceptions seem to have been Alsatian and Dutch gays, whose lands were considered part of the future Greater Germany. Jews everywhere, of course, were at risk.

Kersten finally managed to talk Himmler out of shipping the incriminated SS man to a camp. Instead, Kersten arranged for the culprit to be separated from his former unit and posted to Norway. Himmler next confessed to worrying about the possibility, however remote, of homosexuals having children; perhaps “the homosexual tendency would be inherited.” Perhaps it would be better to have all homosexuals castrated. As their talk drew to an end, Kersten told him that the accused SS officer’s hero was the homoerotically inclined Prussian King Frederick II. Himmler exploded: “[People] should bow in silence before his greatness… if a dozen so called proofs were put before me, I would brush them aside… because my feelings tell me that the man who won for Prussia its place in the sun could not have had any of the tendencies of these homosexual weaklings.”

Himmler knew only gods and devils. Heroes must never be doubted. Even to suspect his Prussian idol of gay leanings was tantamount to treason. If historical research contradicted Nazi doctrine, then the research must be ignored. Himmler reminded Kersten that, for the Catholic Church, respect for ecclesiastical heroes came before all truth. Suddenly the Catholic Church, the target of a vicious campaign unleashed by Himmler a few years before, had all along known the right path.

The incongruous and volatile mixture that Himmler’s manifold phobias present is so hard to assay because his minor obsessions often obscure the major ones with which they are entangled. Himmler’s loathing of homosexuals, Gypsies, and Jehovah Witnesses were numerically the smallest groups slated for eventual elimination. From at least 1942 on, Himmler was kept busy carrying out Hitler’s Final Solution for the Jews –a larger group than any of these three. Huge numbers of Slavs had also to be either wiped out or made into helots. These mass extermination projects were of such a scale that Himmler’s personal “War to Combat Abortion and Homosexuality” was pushed to the background. His campaign against Germany’s homosexuals must be understood- if it is to be understood at all- as but one part of the larger war on eugenic “inferiors.”

Himmler, after one has ploughed through all the copious and tedious diaries, notebooks, letters, speeches, and pronouncements, remains a man of elusive, if evident, evil. Sex, as we have seen, was for him a bundle of bizarre taboos. But we will never know the precise roots of Himmler’s phobias. Such speculation is better left to the more adventurous pop-psychologists. What we do know, and can more accurately assess, are the murderous policies he pursued once he had obtained power. As Reichsfuhrer SS, Himmler considered homosexuals “as useless as hens which don’t lay eggs”; they were “sociosexual propagation misfits.”  Homosexuality was to be diagnosed a contagious disease. The plague was highly dangerous because it affected the young, precisely the group destined to bring future soldiers into the world. Himmler was repeatedly to urge chiefs of the Hitler Youth to purge former leaders of the old Rovers youth movement, which, like Bluher before him, he judged to be strongly homoerotic. In addition, homosexuals, it was thought, felt and acted like women. Even as a teenager, Himmler had held a low opinion of women: they could not think logically, they gossiped; at best, they might be useful as “warriors on the baby front.” Homosexuals also were supposed to prefer passive anal intercourse. This alleged preference was, it was held, analogous to the “penis-vagina” relations of the heterosexual. That the so-called passive partner then was assumed to play the part of a woman, if not become a woman, seems to have been accepted folk wisdom among the rural and lower-class men of Germany.

The supposed preference for passivity left homosexuals even more open to the charge of effeminacy. How could they be true soldiers? Those who do not fight are by definition either defectors or traitors. That Roehm had been a first-rate soldier and an efficient military organiser should have puzzled Himmler; it contradicted his thesis of gays as sissies.

The facts about homosexual behaviour also did not fit into the Nazi doctrine of received truths during a case – much less momentous than that of Roehm- that came before a regional court in Darmstadt in 1940. A nineteen year old labourer from the nearby village of Ober-Ramstadt was sentenced to five years in jail for having violated Paragraph 175. The prosecution had indicted him on more than one hundred counts of alleged indecencies with other men; fifty-one of them were proven. The court’s medical advisers explained these away as adolescent aberrations- after all, the boy was hardly a legal adult. This accounts for the surprisingly mild sentence. But the Nazi press was bewildered: homosexual debaucheries might occur among the corrupt bourgeois middle class or the contaminated street urchins of big-city slums; but that a simple day labourer had seduced so many craftsmen, labourers, and their rustic offspring, that the young men of almost an entire village had given in to unnatural carnal copulation, was incomprehensible. Perhaps the culprit had Jewish blood? Himmler’s comment was simple: the facts must be wrong. “The village is unacquainted with such problems.”

Finally, for Himmler, homosexuals were a subdivision of criminals. What linked homosexuals to the criminal classes was “moral degeneracy.” For a male to be a non-martial type was a sign of degenerate nature. Hitler had said to Rudolf Diels, a Gestapo official, that Greece and Rome had fallen because of their degenerate ruling classes. Himmler’s theozoological dogma of homosexuals as dissolute, pacifist, un-athletic, and therefore subversive of military traditions, was widely accepted by his contemporaries. But few of them had the chance to turn their prejudices into state policies. Himmler did.

Himmler enlarged the scope of Nazi carnage by expanding the list of groups for whom a Final Solution had to be prepared. He developed a theory based on a fiction of “pure blood,” which was endangered and had to be replenished. Contragenics would have to be done away with and a warrior people carefully bred. Thus, Himmler ordered Russian prisoner officers shot so that their skulls could be transferred medical specialists for analysis of bone structure. Thus, at Buchenwald concentration camp,, a Danish SS doctor arranged for the castration of about a dozen homosexuals who were later injected with testosterone. The aim was to see if such measures could restore potency. Himmler, however, was unable to confront personally the consequences of his destructiveness. Once, when he visited Minsk and watched the execution of a group of Jewish women, he nearly fainted. He visited Auschwitz only twice. He spent his time there talking about how to improve certain technical facilities; he refused to listen to Commandant Rudolf Hoess’s complaints about his bloody job.

Himmler never doubted his sexual dogma. Quite late in the war, in 1943, he badgered the German military into accepting Gestapo jurisdiction over all those indicted for such crimes as insubordination, insidious slander, homosexual indecencies, absence without leave, listening to enemy propaganda, and self-mutilation. Himmler’s letters, demanding punishment for homosexual activities, date as late as 1943. There seems never to have been any ebbing of his homophobia. In the end, the reason why he put such extravagant effort into the crusade against such a small group as the homosexuals of Germany must remain an enigma. His rage to destroy remained unchanged. It seems to have been a fundamentally different rage from Hitler’s. Himmler had never experienced the near-erotic joy of Hitler, whose speeches before shouting crowds transported him into ecstasies that, in turn, intoxicated his eager listeners. In Himmler, a core of coldness was allied with a kind of controlled frenzy. While Hitler’s visions of conquest possessed a certain quasi-Napoleonic grandiloquence, Himmler’s eugenic utopia remained anchored in kinky inanities. For Germany’s gays, it did not matter. Himmler was their most efficient and dreaded Grand Inquisitor.

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