SS-Reichsfuhrer (among other things) Heinrich Himmler is probably the most underestimated (in terms of actual power wielded) Nazi leaders. In 1944, when he was at the peak of his power, he was in full control of all security services (order and criminal police, political police, internal and external intelligence services, personal protection services, concentration camps, POW camps, etc.) and wielded substantial power (via the Reserved Army and related organizations that he commanded in the Wehrmacht).
Through the SS-run enterprises, the “Circle of friends of SS-Reichsfuhrer”, control over supply of the slave labor and the SS-men carefully implanted into German economic system, he all but controlled the whole Nazi economy.
By bestowing high SS ranks on key government officials (and even business executives) he essentially made them his subordinates and thus acquired enormous influence on these organizations. Hey, he even had his own army – a million-strong Waffen-SS. True, it was under the operational command of Army generals, but it still was his army.
Thus, he was, no doubt, the second most powerful individual in the Third Reich (after Adolf Hitler, of course), feared by everyone, except The Führer. The latter considered Himmler to be almost as loyal as Goebbels – which was a mistake which almost became fatal.
Heinrich Himmler got his first name after his godfather, Prince Heinrich of Bavaria. True, the latter was not a heir apparent to the Bavarian throne (Crown Prince Rupprecht was), but he was still a member of the royal family of Bavaria (House of Wittelsbach).
Unlike his boss Adolf Hitler, Himmler was a believer in the occult and was said to have seen himself as the reincarnation of Henry I the Fowler (876-936), who is generally considered the founder of the medieval German state (and thus the first king of Germany).
On July 2nd, 1936, exactly one millennium after the death of Henry the Fowler, Himmler for the first time visited his grave in Quedlinburg Abbey – a women’s catholic monastery (currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in what is now the state of Saxony-Anhalt in Germany.
These pilgrimages (and quasi-religious ceremonies performed by Himmler at Henry’s grave) subsequently became regular. Interestingly enough, Himmler did not keep these trips private – he publicly declared Henry the Fowler “the first German king” and his grave – a recommended pilgrimage site for all Germans.
These two facts, IMHO, provide the most realistic explanation for all key decisions and actions of Heinrich Himmler. Bavaria was a semi-autonomous state within the German Empire (the Second Reich); consequently, it is no surprise that Himmler began to carefully, diligently and steadfastly build his SS-Staat – essentially his own state within the new Reich – the third one. And became the king, the emperor of this state.
But his ambitions went much further than that. Although he very carefully (and very successfully) cultivated the image of der treue Heinrich (“the faithful Heinrich” – faithful to Hitler that is), in reality he was nothing but.
Considering himself to be a reincarnation of Henry the Fowler, he wanted to become not only the first King of New Germany, but the first Emperor of the New Holy German Empire – like Henry’s son Otto the Great. “Holy” in the occult (neo-pagan) sense, of course. The pan-European Aryan empire.
There was a minor problem, however – Adolf Hitler stood in the way. Hitler, who had a very different vision for Germany and Europe, to put it mildly. A vision totally incompatible with Himmler’s – and thus with his grandiose ambitions.
So Himmler predictably (he was the chief of security services and thus a professional murderer) began to plot the physical elimination of his boss and his own ascent to power.
What was Himmler’s real perception of – and attitude towards – Adolf Hitler? We will never know – and it really does not matter (although I suspect that Himmler probably considered himself an aristocrat by blood and spirit and Hitler – a despicable plebeian).
What matters is that Himmler was very serious about doing away with his boss – and smart enough to make someone else to do it. And to do it at exactly the right time – and in a way that could never ever be traced to SS-Reichsfuhrer.
By September 1938 he was probably ready to take over the Reich – he had a full control over the security services, a decent control over the economy, had his people infiltrate just about all government entities that mattered and recruited a sufficient number of government officials of a required influence.
He was not concerned about most of Wehrmacht generals – if handled properly (and Heinrich Himmler was a Gross Master at that) they would serve the next Führer as loyally as they served the previous one.
He already had the three regiments of SS-VT – the nucleus of the future Waffen-SS. It was commanded by Paul Hausser – one of the most talented and efficient generals the German army could offer.
Through his personal undercover agent Hans Gisevius (and possibly others), he knew about every step of the plotters – long before the set was actually taken. However, he was well-informed by Ausland-SD that there is no chance whatsoever of Germany or France would defend Czechoslovakia from German invasion and that Poland (out of well-founded fear of being occupied by the Soviet Union) will never allow the Soviet troops to pass through its territory to fight for the Czechs.
Hence his assessment of the situation was far more realistic than that of the plotters and he was 100% sure that the Brits and the French will accept Hitler’s ultimatum. Hence, the chances of the war breaking out (and thus of the military coup by Oster, Halder & Co.) were precisely nil.