Himmler’s Pursuit of Absolute Power (3)

Not surprisingly, during the Second World War the power and influence of Heinrich Himmler (and the SS) steadily increased. First, the SS became an indispensable provider of the ultra-cheap slave labor (from occupied territories) to German industry – and thus made the enormous, crucial and vital contribution to the German war effort.

Second, the SS played the key role in the “pacification” of all occupied territories (not just in the Lebensraum in the East) by fighting anti-Nazi Resistance of all sorts, stripes and flavors.

Third, the SS provided crucial financing for the German war effort – in the form of liquid assets easily convertible to hard currency (despite all Nazi efforts, the Third Reich still had to acquire a not insignificant amount of strategic materials from neutral nations).

It is important to note that Himmler kept a not insignificant amount of these assets in the SS coffers – which gave the latter an enormous financial power in Nazi Germany and abroad.  

Not surprisingly, these assets were either looted from the occupied territories or taken (by deception or brutal force) from the Jews (who were subsequently murdered either by firing squads or in gas chambers).

In addition, the SS launched a counterfeiting project (“Operation Bernhard”) forging over £125 million (mostly in £5 notes). This money was used for purchase of strategic materials and special operations (including black market guns for pro-Nazi forces).

But the SS contribution to the German war economy did not end there. By the end of the war, the SS (more specifically, the SS-WVHA – SS Main Economic and Administrative Office) owned and operated a gargantuan network of commercial enterprises that manufactured just about everything under the sun – from bricks and cement to military clothing and accessories.

By the same time, the SS took control over all advanced weapons projects (including the famous V-2 ballistic missiles). In March of 1944, Himmler’s close associate Hans Kammler – SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS – became one of the German war economy’s most important managers (even robbing no other than Albert Speer of much of the latter’s influence).

Although limited in overall headcount (just over 1 million in 1944 compared to 13 million Wehrmacht soldiers and officers), Waffen-SS made a critically important contribution to German successes on the battlefield on both fronts (Western and Eastern).

Moreover, on the very next day after the failed July 20th coup in 1944, Heinrich Himmler took control over German Ersatzheer (Replacement Army). Its primary role was to provide replacements for the combat divisions of the regular army; however, it also included command and administrative units as well as training and guard troops.

More specifically, it was tasked with the conscription, recruitment, training and replacement of personnel, testing of new military equipment, and administration, such as responsibility for soldiers on home leave.

For all practical purposes, the commander of Ersatzheer had enough power to de-facto control the whole Nazi German state because his position controlled army procurement and production and command of all army troops inside Germany.

By that time, Himmler already took control of the famous Abwehr (intelligence and counter-intelligence service of Wehrmacht). On February 18th, 1944, Adolf signed a decree that abolished the Abwehr.

The functions of the Abwehr were fully absorbed by Amt VI (SD-Ausland – Foreign Intelligence department of the SS) of the RSHA headed by SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor (one-star general) of Police Walter Schellenberg.

Also by that time Himmler further strengthened his power over Germany by becoming (on August 24th, 1943) the Reichsminister of the Interior. On June 2nd, 1933 he got himself promoted to the rank of Reichsleiter.  

It was the second highest political rank of the Nazi Party (NSDAP), next only to the office of Führer. The Reichsleiter reported directly to Adolf Hitler. This position gave Himmler enormous power in the Nazi Party as well – in addition to his power in the government (state), in the police and subsequently in the military as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s