Two fundamental (existential even) questions immediately pop up: (1) how did Himmler intend to snatch the dictatorial power in Germany from the hands of Der Führer; and (2) how did he intend to make his power genuinely absolute (in other words, how did he intend to solve the “Wehrmacht problem”)?
No, SS Reichsfuhrer did not plan to assassinate his Führer, of course. Not because he could not make it happen (he could) but because he did not need to. There were plenty of others willing to do this “wet job” for him (albeit without realizing it).
First and foremost, of course, the Wehrmacht top brass. Although officially, Gestapo (and SD) were prohibited from spying on Wehrmacht officers, let alone generals, the reality was very different.
The infamous 1938 Blomberg-Fritsch affair proved beyond the reasonable doubt that Himmler’s Gestapo had the motive, the means and plenty of opportunities to obtain all sorts of damaging information on even the highest-ranking Wehrmacht generals (von Blomberg was Reichsminister of War and von Fritsch was Supreme Commander of the German Army).
Two years earlier, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris discovered that Himmler’s SD was monitoring phone conversations of Abwehr top officers and even planted listening devices inside Abwehr HQ.
In 1943, Himmler’s Gestapo successfully infiltrated the so-called “Solf Circle” – one of several anti-Nazi organizations (its members were subsequently arrested, tried, convicted and executed).
Hence, it is practically certain that Himmler was well aware of just about every assassination plot on Adolf Hitler well before the attempt actually happened… or was supposed to happen.
Actually, at least one of the “July 20th conspirators” (the Prussian Finance Minister Johannes Popitz) who was involved in Goerdeler’s network, came to see Himmler and… offered the Reichsfuhrer support of the anti-Nazi opposition if the latter would make a move to displace Hitler and secure a negotiated end to the war. There were also rumors that Himmler was contacted with a similar proposal by Goerdeler himself (via a mutual acquaintance – Carl Langbehn)… and even by Admiral Canaris himself.
And Himmler did… nothing. Nothing at all. Another very strange case was the assassination attempt on Hitler’s life by one Georg Elser who on November 8th, 1939 assembled, placed and detonated a bomb at the famous (and supposedly very well-guarded) the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich intending to kill Adolf Hitler. The bomb did not kill Hitler, who left earlier than expected, but it did kill 8 people and injured 62 others.
Contrary to standard judicial practices at that time Elser was not tried by the infamous Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) – or in any other Nazi court for that matter.
Instead, he was held without trial first at Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin, and subsequently in a very special (and very comfortable) custody in Sachsenhausen concentration camp between early 1941 and early 1945 (he was shot without trial on April 9th, 1945).
At Sachsenhausen, Elser was held in isolation in a T-shaped building reserved for protected prisoners. Accommodated in three cells (10 square meters each) joined together, there was space for his two full-time guards and a work space to make furniture and other things, including several zithers.
Elser’s apparent preferential treatment, which included extra rations and daily visits to the camp barber for a shave, aroused interest amongst other prisoners, including British SIS officer Payne Best.
The latter subsequently wrote later that Elser was also allowed regular visits to the camp brothel. Martin Niemöller (a German theologian, Lutheran pastor and an active member of anti-Nazi resistance) was also a special inmate in the Sachsenhausen “bunker” and believed the rumors that Elser was… an agent of Himmler.
This very strange case (to put it mildly) has only one explanation. Himmler was well aware of the assassination plot – and most likely even of the exact timing of the explosion (both he and Reinhard Heydrich were present at the event).
Likewise, Himmler was well aware of just about all other coups and assassination attempts – and had contingency plans for each (in other words, had they succeeded in killing Adolf Hitler, the conspirators were in for a very rude awakening).
The central idea (the “common core”) of all Himmler’s contingency plans was plain and simple – ruthlessly suppress the coup, eliminate the putschists, isolate and force to “abdicate” Hitler’s official successor (Rudolf Hess or Hermann Göring), assume the position of “acting Führer of Germany” and then take over the whole Third Reich.
Including the Wehrmacht, of course which was to be have been integrated first into the Waffen-SS and then into Himmler’s brainchild – the Staatsschutzkorps (State Protection Corps). Assuming (probably correctly) that after the abject failure of the military coup the Wehrmacht commanders would be too demoralized to offer any serious resistance to “hostile takeover” by the Waffen-SS.
Why would Himmler want to depose Adolf Hitler and acquire the absolute power in the Third Reich? As typically happens, he most likely had both ulterior (selfish) and noble motives.
First, it appears that Himmler (a) sincerely believed in reincarnation; and (b) no less sincerely believed himself to be a reincarnation of a famous medieval German king – his namesake Heinrich I (nicknamed Der Vogler – the Fowler – because he was netting small birds when informed he had been chosen to be the king of Germans).
From the very early age Heinrich I felt that he was destined for greatness (real greatness) and so was Heinrich Himmler. Heinrich the Fowler is generally considered to be the founder of the medieval German state – and Heinrich Himmler wanted to become the founder of the new German State. The New Reich which subsequently was supposed to take the form (the identity actually) of the SS-Staat (the SS State).
Heinrich I made Germany the dominant power in Europe of that time (subsequently it became the core of the Holy Roman Empire) – and Himmler wanted to do the same in the XX century.
Heinrich I subdued the Slavs who lived on his eastern borders – and Himmler wanted to do the same with Slavs in Poland, Bohemia and Moravia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
In 1936, exactly a millennium after the death of Heinrich the Fowler, Heinrich Himmler made his first pilgrimage to Quedlinburg Abbey where the Fowler is buried. After this pilgrimage, Himmler ordered the king’s remains to be reinterred in a new sarcophagus (it was done the next year). Himmler repeated the pilgrimage several times and even declared the tomb a site of pilgrimage for all Germans.
Second, unlike all other Nazi leaders (and just about anyone in the Third Reich), Heinrich Himmler was at least as spiritually powerful as Adolf Hitler (if not more powerful). After all, the SS-Staat (“the state within a Nazi state”) was in many aspects superior to the “big one” – the Führerstaat.
Hence, Himmler was the only individual in Nazi Germany whom Adolf Hitler could not emotionally and spiritually dominate. Consequently, SS Reichsfuhrer was the only one who could realistically assess strength and weaknesses of Der Führer and with sufficient accuracy predict the decisions and actions of the latter. And thus of the whole Third Reich.
These predictions were (not surprisingly) devastating. For Heinrich Himmler, it was painfully obvious that Adolf Hitler was leading Germany into the worst disaster in its history. Possibly into one of the worst disasters in human history.
And that Hitler’s model of the German state (the Führerstaat – the Third Reich) was a total failure. Regardless of whether he wins the Second Great War – or loses it. Fortunately, Himmler had an alternative vision for the future of Germany (and the alternative model for the German state). The SS-Staat.
Furthermore, Himmler (correctly) perceived himself as being far better qualified to be Der Führer of Germany than Adolf Hitler. It was obvious that the latter was an excellent builder and entrepreneur – but a disastrous manager.
Already by 1939 (if not earlier), Adolf Hitler has already overstretched, overloaded and overstressed himself – with the inevitable disastrous consequences for himself (the total collapse of his mental and physical health) and for Germany – the inevitable colossal blunders that would have inevitably led to no less colossal disaster (and very likely to the total demise) of the Third Reich.
Himmler was no stranger to supernatural (he definitely had certain psychic abilities) so he knew that the blind faith in Hitler’s ability to perform miracles year after year was wishful thinking. He also (correctly) perceived himself as a far better statesman (i.e. CEO of German government and the general manager of Germany) as his boss.
Hence, it is not surprising at all that Heinrich Himmler wanted to depose his boss and acquire the absolute power in Nazi Germany. It would have been surprising (very surprising actually) had he did not want it.