At the end of June, 1944, it was painfully (in a very literal sense) obvious to Heinrich Himmler (de-facto the second most powerful individual in Nazi Germany outside of Wehrmacht High Command) that the war could end only in a total disaster for Germany.
The Allies landed in Normandy, apparently barely noticing the formidable (or so it seemed) Atlantic Wall and were moving ahead – to the German border – with an astonishing speed.
The mammoth Red Army, using its overwhelming superiority in personnel (4:1) and hardware (10:1) had just launched Operation Bagration – an all-out attack on Army Group Center (AGC) – and in just five days (i.e. in a genuine lightning strike) annihilated the Fourth Army and the bulk of the Third Panzer and Ninth Army.
Thus three out of four armies that formed AGC were either completely or mostly destroyed. Which would allow the Red Army to reach – in a very short time – the Vistula river and Warsaw, putting the Soviet forces within striking distance of Berlin.
Allied aircraft – with all but complete impunity kept pulverizing German cities, leveling military installations, production facilities… everything that had even a miniscule value for the Nazi war effort.
The Italians have ousted Benito Mussolini – the most valuable German ally in Europe – and were now fighting against Germany. Supported by the Allied troops that have already occupied a significant chunk of the country.
Three other German allies – Finland, Bulgaria and Romania – were getting close to follow suit. Which (especially the latter given the importance of Ploesti oilfield for the Wehrmacht) would be a very literal “kiss of death” for the Third Reich.
Worse of all, Der Führer – Adolf Hitler – has all but lost his mind. Getting more and more delusional by the day, he was issuing orders that worsened the situation by the hour – with all but inescapable perspective of a comprehensive catastrophe in a very near future.
Himmler was responsible for the security of all Wunderwaffe projects – as well as with supplying them (all of them) – with slave labor. Hence he knew enough about them (and about their adversaries – thanks to Ausland-SD which now incorporated Abwehr) to have no illusions about their chances (which were exactly nil) of even securing acceptable peace (let alone winning then war) for Germany.
Hence, he had only two options. The first one was to somehow get rid of Hitler and – after it is done – convince his lazy and incompetent official successor (Hermann Göring) to make Himmler a de-facto Führer of Germany. Which would have allowed SS-Reichsfuhrer to achieve acceptable (or at least not catastrophic) for Germany peace settlement with the Allies.
Incidentally, this bold (to put it mildly) plan had a fair chance of success. Despite the formal ban on spying on Wehrmacht top brass, there is little doubt that Himmler knew about the July 20th plot well in advance.
In August 1943, Himmler net the Prussian Finance Minister Johannes Popitz – an associate of Carl Gördeler (one of the key conspirators in July 20th plot who was supposed to replace Hitler as Reich Chancellor).
Popitz offered Himmler the support of the opposition if he would make a move to get rid of Hitler and secure a negotiated end to the war. Nothing came of this meeting, but Popitz was not immediately arrested, and Himmler apparently did nothing to track down the resistance network which he knew was operating within the state bureaucracy.
True, on July 17th an order was issued for Gördeler’s arrest but it was most likely done only to vacate the position of Chancellor (for Himmler, of course) in the post-Hitler government.
However, Himmler (being an excellent judge of character) had no illusions either about the ability of the plotters to succeed. And most likely considered their chances to be roughly equal to the proverbial snowball in Hell.
Hence, the most realistic alternative was to let the Third Reich die a natural (albeit unquestionably violent) death and in a few years (or decades) reincarnate it as the Fourth Reich. Himmler’s Reich. The SS-Staat.
Heinrich Himmler was a genius, no doubt about that. A dark genius, sure, but a genius nevertheless. As only a genius could have built the SS-Empire; a “state within a state”. Himmler’s state within the Third Reich; the SS State within the Nazi Germany.
But Himmler was a very rare breed of a genius. He was a visionary genius. He had a very detailed vision of the Nazi State that was radically different from Hitler’s. For starters, Hitler’s was a Party state and a Führerstaat; Himmler’s was the SS-State.
Hitler’s Reich was fundamentally German; Himmler’s was pan-European (i.e. Aryan in a much broader sense). For Hitler Welthaupstadt Germania was Berlin; for Himmler Mittelpunkt der Welt was in Wewelsburg Castle near Paderborn.
For Hitler national-socialism was ideology based on (pseudo)science; for Himmler it was a full-fledged neo-pagan religion. Hitler was a mystic; Himmler was an occultist; Hitler was the Leader – Himmler was a High Priest.
Consequently, Hitler simply could not exist outside the Third Reich and the demise of the other meant certain death for the former. Failure of Nazi Germany – his baby – was his personal irreparable failure. So Hitler had no other choice but to commit suicide when it became obvious that his Reich, his civilization was dead.
For Himmler, the demise of the Third Reich was not even a failure (as it was not his baby) – it was an opportunity to reincarnate it as his Reich. The Fourth Reich. Hence, I firmly believe that the official version of his fate is a bunch of bull (pardon my French).
In reality, Heinrich Himmler very much survived the war and laid the groundwork for the reincarnation (when time comes) of the Third Reich – this time as Nazi Europe (and possibly not just Europe) – not just Germany.
This groundwork (obviously) required organizational and financial resources. The first problem was taken care of by ODESSA and the infamous “Ratlines”; the second one by financial channels.
Such as the “Wallenberg channel”.