As I have already mentioned, SS-Reichsfuhrer had at least one personal agent inside the coup – one Hans Bernd Gisevius. Consequently, he knew everything he needed to know about the Oster/Halder conspiracy in 1938… and in 1941 (we are in the realm of alternate history here).
After he received sufficiently detailed information about Oster/Halder Conspiracy II, Himmler had two options. The first one was obvious – expose the conspiracy to his boss Adolf Hitler, get his permission to arrest the conspirators, arrest them… in other words do just about the same thing he will do after the miserable failure of July 20th plot. Only this time “before it happens”.
However, saving the life of Adolf Hitler was not exactly what SS-Reichsfuhrer wanted. In fact, he wanted exactly the opposite – get the former killed and become a de-facto Führer himself.
So I am pretty sure that Heinrich Himmler (a really devious character) would have chosen a very different – and a far riskier – option. He would have allowed Commando Oster (or whoever its actual commander would be in this case) to ambush and kill Hitler – but annihilated (he had plenty of resources to make it happen) the teams sent to kill him and official successors – Göring and Hess (the latter by that time would have triumphantly returned to Germany).
And then used his Waffen-SS, Fallschirmjäger units and other ground forces of the Luftwaffe (even the Stuka dive bombers, if necessary) to suppress the coup, arrest the plotters, take full control over the Wehrmacht and integrate it into the State Protection Corps (thus executing the very much hostile takeover).
Officially acting on the orders of Hermann Göring – the official successor of Adolf Hitler in the case of the latter’s death (Rudolf Hess was the next in line after the Reichsmarschall).
In reality, Göring who had neither the desire, nor the ability (nor the resources for that matter) to govern the Reich, would have eagerly made Himmler the de-facto Führer immediately after becoming one de-jure.
And in a few months (at most) would retire to his beloved Carinhall northeast of Berlin in picturesque Schorfheide forest, opening the way form Himmler to become the Führer de-jure. Allowing the latter to become the transformation of Germany and German-controlled territories into SS-Staat.
Could SS-Reichsfuhrer have pulled it off? IMHO, his chances were roughly 70/30 versus the Wehrmacht generals.
What would have been the consequences? Had the generals won, we would most likely have seen the reincarnation of Imperial Germany – the Fourth Reich (possibly even officially) that would have been even more elitist and thus even less democratic than the Second one.
In the West, Germany would have returned to then 1914 borders; however, the new government would have made sure that Germany would have always remain one of three global superpowers (the other two being the British Empire and the USA).
And very probably the #1 superpower as Germany would have surely annexed and incorporated into the Reich the whole Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic nations and a significant chunk of Russian territory.
Would it have been a change for the worse for the Poles? Oh, yes. And for the Czechs, too – compared to their independence. For much worse, I would think. The same will be true for the Baltic nations – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, I am sure. As for Belarus, Ukraine and Russia – I do not think so. Generalplan Ost and Imperial Germany are not compatible at all (to put it mildly) so it is very much possible that under the German rule “all of the above” would have been far better off than under the murderous Bolshevik regime.
Had Himmler won… I would expect all West European nations conquered by Wehrmacht to become German protectorates. Their independence will be a thing of the past and they will be ruled by and iron fist of the SS. “The Man in the High Castle” would probably have been a reasonably accurate portrayal of the regime in those countries.
In the East… in the East the Nazi regime (surprise, surprise) would have been almost completely the same as in the West. For a very simple reason – Heinrich Himmler was a pragmatist (unlike the Wehrmacht, his Waffen-SS was a truly multinational and multicultural force and it was him, not Wehrmacht generals who let General Vlasov form the Russian Liberation Army).
Himmler had no desire to fight the nationwide revolt in occupied territories (an inevitable reaction to the genocide of the native population). Nor would he want to see the resurgence of the Red Army and of the Soviet state (also inevitable in that case).
Consequently, he would probably try to arrive at some kind of a win-win situation (for the local population, compared to life under Bolsheviks, of course). The Jews, however, would have been annihilated (there would have been no Holocaust under the new German Empire, of course).
The bottom line: Adolf Hitler would have been gone regardless of who would have won – the SS or the Wehrmacht; Himmler or the generals. Western Europe would have been much better off under the generals and in both cases much better off than in reality – as there would have been no destruction or any loss of life.
Greater Germany would have been much better off under the Generals (the second Imperial Germany would have been still way better than the totalitarian SS-Staat) and much, much better off than in reality (no loss of lives, no destruction of infrastructure, acquisition of colossal territories, etc.).
Poland and Czechoslovakia would have been much better off under Wehrmacht generals than under Himmler (obviously), but much worse off in terms of territories and regime (in both cases) than in reality.
For the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union life under the Fourth Reich would have been far better than under the SS-Staat. And way, wat better than in reality (no Communist dictatorships, no loss of life and no wholesale destruction). Life under SS-Staat would have been probably comparable to that under Communist regime (minus the destruction and colossal loss of life).
The abovementioned analysis leads us to the following conclusions (which the “mainstream” historians would not like one bit). Had Adolf Hitler won the war, there was about 30% chance that this outcome would have been far better for all parties involved compared to what happened in reality.
And a 70% chance that the outcome would have been highly uneven – for some (i.e. Germany and even Britain who would have kept its empire intact) it would have been far better than what actually happened, for others (Western Europe, Poland, etc.) it would have been worse while for some (territories of the former Soviet Union) it would have been neither much better nor much worse.
On several occasions, Adolf Hitler used to state that he had “a Prussian Army; a Christian Kriegsmarine and a National-Socialist Luftwaffe”. Obviously, he would have preferred to make the Army and the Kriegsmarine national-socialist as well, but it is still highly unlikely that he would have attempted such a radical reengineering of the Wehrmacht on his own initiative.
SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler was a different matter entirely. He had no doubt at all (and was diligently working on convincing the Führer), that the all security services (including Wehrmacht which is also a security service, obviously) had to be combined into a single State Protection Corps (a super-RSHA, if you will).
And commanded – at all levels – by fanatical national-socialists fiercely loyal to Adolf Hitler. He implied (and very probably stated it explicitly) that SPC had to be managed by him – SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. And be a part of the SS, of course.
It is not clear how long would it have taken Himmler to convince Adolf Hitler to integrate Wehrmacht (or at least its Army and Abwehr) into the SS. But the generals had some very serious reasons to be worried for their very lives.
First, less than two months after the Night of the Long Knives that did away with the SA – the “second Army” of the Nazi state, Hitler publicly violated his solemn promise to the Reichswehr (that there will be never a “second Army” in the country) by creating exactly such a thing – SS-VT.
Recently renamed Waffen-SS, by November of 1941 this fearsome force consisted of seven divisions – over 100,000 men. And growing fast. The generals also were well aware of the fact that Hitler was not averse to repeat – if necessary – Operation Hummingbird.
And due to his quite open admiration of how Stalin dealt with his real and perceived political enemies (including top Red Army commanders), there was little doubt as to what his next target might be.
They were also well aware of Himmler’s firm intention to incorporate Wehrmacht (or at least the Army + Abwehr) into his beloved State Protection Corps (i.e., RSHA) via a “hostile takeover” of sorts. Bloody hostile (in a very literal sense), if needed.
Although only a small number of generals took active part in Oster/Halder conspiracy, the fact of this conspiracy was well-known to all top Army commanders. And although Gestapo (i.e. Himmler) were by law prohibited from spying on Wehrmacht, there was little doubt that such creative individuals as Himmler, Heydrich and “Gestapo” Müller would have easily found a way to get around this ban.
Consequently, the chances of Himmler finding out about the September Conspiracy and using this knowledge to physically eliminate – one way or the other – the key Wehrmacht commanders and replace them with the Waffen-SS ones (of which by that time there already were plenty), were very real.
Real enough for the Wehrmacht commanders to make a firm commitment to planning and executing a military coup – the “1941 plot”. Starting right after the Great Britain signed a peace treaty with the Third Reich.
This plot (most likely) would have been almost a carbon copy of the Oster Conspiracy (or July 20th plot, for that matter). The coup again will have been led by Franz Halder and Hans Oster and the latter will (again) assemble team(s) of special ops commandos to capture, arrest and (most likely) kill Hitler, Himmler, Göring and other key Nazi leaders.
After that has been accomplished, the conspirators will (Valkyrie-style) announce the suppression of the coup by the “rogue Nazis” and the establishment of a military dictatorship.
As Himmler’s intentions were a threat to all Wehrmacht commanders, this time there will be no “putschists” and “loyalists”. All top Wehrmacht commanders will take part in the coup and with no one to have the resources to oppose them (neither Waffen-SS nor the Luftwaffe ground units were a match for a regular Army), their success would be guaranteed.
Unless Heinrich Himmler figured out how to stop them.
Now imagine that the Wehrmacht launched Operation Typhoon one month earlier – on August 31st, 1941. Actually, it could have started a month earlier – at the end of July, had Franz Halder (Chief of the Army General Staff), Fedor von Bock (commander of Army Group Center – AGC) and Heinz Guderian (commander of the 2nd Panzer Group – a key component of AGC) convinced Hitler to focus all efforts and resources on capturing two key Soviet cities – its capital Moscow (first and foremost) and Leningrad (previously St. Petersburg – the capital of the Russian Empire).
Had that happened (and it very well could), Stalin, the Soviet government (military and civilian) and the whole population of the USSR (first and foremost, of its two capitals) would have faced the abovementioned disaster in mid-September of 1941 (of not at the beginning of that month).
However, in this case, Wehrmacht would not have halted its offensive – because it had sufficient supplies of everything it needed to press on; there would have been no mud on the infamously bad Soviet roads to stop the German armor and there would have been no blizzards to ground the murderously efficient Luftwaffe.
A little known fact is that about half of the heavy and medium tanks used by the Red Army (light tanks were all but useless against German Panzers) during its Moscow counteroffensive in December of 1941, were British.
Deliveries were made in October in November meaning that in September of 1941, the Red Army would have had no tanks to fight the Panzerwaffe (had Operation Typhoon began in August – let alone in July).
Also, Murmansk – the Soviet port through which just about all lend-lease deliveries were made, was protected by Hawker Hurricanes which began to arrive in early October. Had Operation Typhoon began in July, there would have been no Hurricanes to protect the convoys – and hence no lend-lease deliveries to the USSR.
Consequently, in this case the Wehrmacht would have entered Moscow practically unopposed at the end of September at the latest. Two to three weeks earlier the panic (which would have been way more powerful – irresistible, actually) would have engulfed both the military and civilian government (as it did in every large city attacked by the Wehrmacht previously).
Consequently, instead of defending the city, both the military and the civilian militia (the Soviet equivalent of Volkssturm) would have simply left the city (again, it happened before pretty much everywhere). In short, the Moscow defense would have collapsed allowing the Wehrmacht to capture the city in a matter of a few days (if not hours).
By that time Leningrad was already surrounded by the German troops (it has been all but completely encircled since September the 8th). The fall of Moscow would have made the position of the besieged city totally and utterly hopeless.
Which, in turn would have led to a wholesale exodus of both the military and the civilians from the city – with no will to fight left and a complete collapse of the defense system everyone will have only one option – run. Making Leningrad essentially and open city which will be occupied by the Wehrmacht in a matter of a few hours (a day at the most).
After the fall of Moscow and Leningrad, the Southern and Southwestern fronts of the Red Army would have surrendered in a few days at most – which would have taken care of the “Kiev problem”.
Although they still presented a formidable force (even after taking a severe beating from the Germans), their commanders were incompetent at counterattacking (to put it mildly). So keeping them at bay during the whole Operation Typhoon would not have been a major problem. In fact, not a problem at all.
In the abovementioned scenario, Stalin would have found himself in a situation similar to Hitler’s in late April of 1945. True, Napoleon has taken Moscow and still lost the war, but at the time it was but a provincial town (though the largest) – the capital was St. Petersburg which was completely out of reach for the French.
Besides, it was the logistics problems that led to the defeat of Napoleon’s Great Army – but he did not have trucks, trains and cargo aircraft. Wehrmacht did not have this problem – at least not in September – or even in October of 1941.
Unlike Hitler in late April of 1945, Stalin could have left the capital (for Kuybyshev), but it made no difference whatsoever. After the complete collapse of the Red Army and the Soviet State (inevitable after the fall of Moscow and Leningrad due to their critical functional, emotional and even spiritual value), German Panzers would have entered Kuybyshev in no time.
Like Hitler, Stalin was addicted to his messianic idea (at least as powerfully, as an addict to a hard drug). For Hitler, it was making Germany #1 global superpower and acquisition of the Lebensraum in the East necessary for complete self-sufficiency in foodstuffs and key natural resources.
For Stalin it was the territorial expansion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics until the “last republic” is accepted and integrated (or annexed) into this global Communist state.
Under this scenario, it would have been obvious to Stalin in September of 1941 (as it was for Hitler in April of 1945) that his chances of ever making his messianic dream a reality were reduced to precisely zero by his victorious enemies.
Faced with a very similar situation, Adolf Hitler predictably chose to commit suicide (although he did have numerous opportunities to escape Berlin and go into hiding) as he had nothing left to live for. Consequently, it would be fair and reasonable to conclude that Stalin would have done exactly the same thing.
It would also be reasonable and realistic to construe that he would have been succeeded with Lavrentiy Beria – the “Soviet Himmler”. Like his German counterpart, he was a head of the country’s security service – NKVD (a rough equivalent of the German RSHA).
Actually, he was even better suited for running the country as (unlike Himmler) he already had an experience of managing the whole Soviet republic (a rough equivalent to the German federal state – Land).
Besides, he was a ruthless pragmatist (a technocrat even) who – as he proved beyond the reasonable doubt after Stalin’s death in 1953 – did not care much about Communist ideology. Or any ideology for that matter.
Hence there is little (if any) doubt the after Stalin’s suicide (inevitable under the abovementioned scenario), Beria would have signed a Brest-Litovsk-style treaty with the victorious Third Reich.
Would have Adolf Hitler signed it? IMHO, yes he would. Despite the collapse of the Red Army and the Soviet State, the USSR was still a gargantuan country that Germany simply did not have the resources to control.
Besides the Civil War (that ended only 20 years ago) made the Soviets extremely adept at guerilla warfare – which would have decimated Wehrmacht in no time (a nationwide uprising was something the Germans simply could not afford).
And Russia has already proven beyond the reasonable doubt its capability of rebuilding itself – after suffering almost complete collapse of the Army and a State (and a humiliating defeat in the Great War). Which was something that the Germans did not want at all.
Consequently, the Nazis (most likely, convinced by the generals) would have almost certainly developed and signed Brest-Litovsk II (possibly a hybrid with the “reversed Versailles treaty” as well).
The only reason Great Britain kept fighting the Third Reich in 1940-41 (after the fall of France) was the deep-seated belief of its leaders (first and foremost, Winston Churchill) that (1) the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union was inevitable; and (2) that due to its enormous superiority in population and other resources the Soviet Union will win.
After the defeat of the USSR and signing of the “Brest-Litovsk II”, these hopes would have been dashed. The war with the Third Reich would have been hopeless and even suicidal for the UK – as now nothing prevented the Germans from destroying the British Air Force, then the Navy and then crossing the English Channel and landing on the British Isles. And for the British Empire – as the war with Germany would have left Britain with insufficient resources to protect its Asian part from the Japanese.
Hence, there is little (if any) doubt that Winston Churchill or (more likely) the one who would have replaced him, would have had no choice but to sign a peace treaty with the victorious Third Reich (most likely, with not territorial or other losses suffered by the British Empire).
The interesting question is: what would have happened in the Far East? Would the Imperial Japan have attacked British colonies? Probably not, because after Britain signed a peace treaty with Nazi Germany, all of its Army, Navy and Air Force were available for protecting the Far Eastern colonies. Which would have undoubtedly shifted the odds in British favor.
However, Japan would have certainly grabbed oil-rich Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) – there is little doubt that the peace treaty with Germany would have prevented Britain from going to war with Japan over the territory that belonged to German-occupied Netherlands.
Would the United States have gone to war with Japan over the Dutch East Indies? Not if Japan had not attacked the United States. Which it would most certainly had not done as it would have solved its oil problems (and problems with other resources) by colonizing what is now Indonesia. Hence the American oil embargo would not have been such a big deal.
It is also quite possible (very likely, actually) that the terms of the peace treaty with the Third Reich would have required Great Britain to supply Japan with all natural resources that it needed, ignoring its atrocities in China.
Hence, under this scenario there would have been no war in the Pacific at all. Except the colonial war in China, of course which rather sooner than later would have resulted in the Japanese victory (it is unlikely that in this global configuration the USA – or the Soviet Union for that matter – would have supported the Chinese for a long time).
However, it is far more interesting what kind of impact the victory in the Second Great War would have made on Germany, the Nazi regime and on Adolf Hitler personally
As I have already mentioned, this statement made sense only if the whole thing was a deception. Had Himmler wanted to avoid capture, he would have chosen a totally different escape route (and procedure) and equipped himself and his entourage with far more appropriate documents.
Had he wanted to surrender to the Allies and be taken to their Supreme Command, he would have done it openly and officially – by simply waiting for them in Flensburg. Had he wanted to commit suicide (which he vowed to never do), he would have done it openly and publicly (again, in Flensburg).
Selvester informed the headquarters of the British Second Army at Lüneburg of his captive, and Major Rice, an Intelligence staff officer, was dispatched to confirm the prisoner’s identity. Meanwhile, Selvester carried out a body search of his captive (or so he told his superiors).
He ordered the latter to strip naked and as each item of clothing came off he examined and handed it to a sergeant, who examined it again. Selvester later stated in his report:
ll the orifices of his body were searched, also his hair combed, and any likely hiding place examined. At this stage he was not asked to open his mouth, as I considered that if the vial were hidden in his mouth and we tried to remove it, it might precipitate some action that would be regretted.
I think it was a blatant lie. In reality, Selvester surmised that if Himmler decided to reveal his identity to the Allied officers, he wants to surrender and probably to negotiate some kind of deal, given the information and other assets that he had.
Consequently, the risk of him committing suicide by self-poisoning was pretty much nil – hence there was no need for time-consuming (and very much insulting and humiliating) whole body search.
In fact, the latter could have triggered a radical change of mind in Himmler – and made him commit suicide by biting on a vial (if it was, indeed, hidden in his mouth). Hence, the decision not to search the prisoner was the right one under the circumstances… but only if the latter was, indeed, Heinrich Himmler.
Then Selvester made another totally appropriate decision – he his prisoner with “thick cheese sandwiches and tea”. Had Himmler hidden a poison vial in his mouth, he had to somehow take it out – which would have been immediately noticed by Selvester or his sergeant.
After sandwiches and tea, “Himmler” was allowed to shave (the fact made evident by post-mortem photos and the previous report which stated that prior to identifying himself as Himmler, “Sgt. Heinrich Hi[t]zinger had several days’ growth of beard”.
Himmler’s self-identification was very important, of course, but (like in any criminal investigation – and SS-Reichsfuhrer was obviously a major criminal) the British need an independent confirmation of his identity. Hence, the mission of Major Rice and his team was ‘to establish the identity of Himmler beyond all reasonable doubt’.
They failed – and failed miserably. First, they had preciously little (almost nothing) for comparison. No dental records, no fingerprints – and the DNA will be described only eight years later (and used for identification 43 years later).
All they had were a snapshot that showed just one ear, a two-paragraph summary of his career, his Nazi Party number, his SS number, his date of birth, and a specimen signature.
Although ears can be (and are used) for identification purposes, in 1945 it was a highly unreliable method. Even when you have two ears for comparison and even when you employ a highly skilled ear shaped analyst (the British in 1945 had neither).
Actually, the first sufficiently reliable system for the use of the outer ear for identification purposes was developed only in 1963 – almost 20 years after the Lüneburg incident.
Consequently, the claim of the interrogation team that the ear of the prisoner was found to be identical with the one [partly] visible in the photograph was wishful thinking at best (they really wanted their guy to be Himmler because it meant fame, promotion, decorations, etc.) and a blatant lie to their superiors (and to the whole world) at worst.
The results of the interrogation of their captive proved to be even more discouraging. When asked to give his Nazi Party number, the prisoner replied that ‘it was in the 14,000 series’.
The number given on the SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) card was 14,303, so the reply was not, strictly speaking, inaccurate. However, every officer of every military and every paramilitary force in the world is drilled to recite this number by heart any time – day and night in any condition.
Besides, Himmler had a phenomenal memory and an obsession with detail (especially his personal details). So it is simply inconceivable that he would forget this number – one of the two most fundamental numbers in his life (the second being his SS number).
Which he had the same problem remembering: when asked about it, he answered “it was 169 or thereabouts”. It was both impossibly (for the real Himmler) vague and no less impossibly wrong – his real SS number was 168.
The only rational explanation is that his impostor was chosen not because of his memory (which probably was quite faulty), but for his physical resemblance to Himmler. Hence, under a severe stress (he was hours away from taking his own life and under a hard-pressed interrogation), his memory slipped. Happens all the time.
To complete his examination, Rice asked the man for a signature, and the prisoner gave one, only on condition that it was instantly destroyed (which pretty much gives away the whole deception game). The interrogators had no choice but to agree, and “Himmler” duly signed his name. Major Rice, driven by the overwhelming which that his prisoner was, indeed, Heinrich Himmler rather than relying on expert analytical technique (he was no handwriting expert), decided that the new signature corresponded well enough with then one they had on the card.
As soon as the question of identity was settled (or so it seemed), another message was sent to the headquarters in Lüneburg, whence Colonel Michael Murphy, Chief of Intelligence in the Second Army, set off to take charge of the prisoner.
That evening he was unwell (to put it mildly), suffering from a severe stomach problem thanks to the excessive celebrations for the end of the war. Which made his behavior towards the prisoner… quite nasty.
Presented with Rice’s findings, Murphy ordered the prisoner to strip for a second search (he was not aware of the fact that there was no strip search) and put on fresh clothes.
Initially, the man refused to do either,. Threatened with forcible stripping, he did eventually undress, but still refused the battledress (because it was the uniform of his enemies), and after the search dressed himself again in a grey shirt, underpants and socks. His uniform was taken away, and he was given an army blanket to wrap around his shoulders.
Although this search also failed to reveal the missing phial, Murphy felt it was still possible for the man to have a poison capsule hidden about him, ‘the most obvious places being the mouth and buttocks’.
So he decided to conduct a thorough medical search – which meant that they had to take the prisoner to a doctor. In fact, he was taken to local police HQ to be examined by one Army Captain Clement Wells – a former general practitioner.
As the headquarters had already lost one important Nazi prisoner – General Pruetzmann, who had committed suicide – Sergeant Major Austin asked Colonel Murphy for permission to sandbag the man to render him unconscious – just in case. Murphy refused with a slight shake of the head, but still warned Wells that he feared a phial of poison was concealed somewhere on the prisoner’s body.
As the doctor looked into the suspect’s mouth for the first time, he thought he saw a gleam of a dark, silvery object. The sergeant held the light higher so that he could see better into the back of the mouth.
‘Open your mouth,’ he ordered. Instead of complying, the prisoner panicked, bit down hard, and instantly keeled over. At once Murphy shouted for a needle and cotton, with which he transfixed the prisoner’s tongue, pulling it forward while the doctor sloshed a basin of water into the moribund man’s mouth. Already he had turned pale green, and despite attempts at artificial respiration he died at 11.14 p.m. on May 23rd, 1945.
Such is the “gospel according to the Army”. The “gospel according to W. Hugh Thomas” is quite different. However, it does not really matter (although it is different, it is not different enough to provide any really valuable knowledge).
What does matter is whether there were any attempts to perform any post-mortem identification of the body. According to the official “gospel” (seconded by W. Hugh Thomas), neither fingerprints, nor dental impressions were taken.
I think it was not the case. At the time, British intelligence was the best in the world (by far) and employed the best minds the United Kingdom could offer. So it is simply inconceivable that (1) the body was buried without the permission from the very top; and (2) that no identification attempts were made.
I think that both the fingerprints and the dental impressions (and X-rays) were taken; that the ones belonging to the real Himmler have been found (at least fingerprints that could have been lifted from quite a number of places), that they were compared with those of the deceased… and that they did not match.
I am confident that within weeks (if not days) after the suicide of “Heinrich Himmler” the British intelligence knew for a fact that the deceased was NOT Heinrich Luitpold Hitler.
Actually, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that the British suspected it from Day One. First, they had not shown the body to Himmler’s brother Gebhard for identification.
Nor (which is even more telling) to Himmler’s mistress Hedwig Potthas, who, like Gebhard, were in American custody. And – even more tellingly – when the members of the press were taken to view the body, their cameras were confiscated and they were only allowed to look at it from the doorway (which, however, did not prevent pictures from being taken by other individuals).
However, most of these pictures were confiscated by the authorities; the only ones that have been made available to the public are those taken at disadvantageous angles and from a distance, limited tools for identification.
In fact, I am confident that the only reason why the body was buried just three days later and with maximum possible secrecy (and why the Military Board of Inquiry – a standard procedure in such cases – was not convened) was that by that time the British were already almost 100% certain that they were dealing with the impersonator, not with the real Heinrich Himmler.
Someone at the very top (i.e., then Prime Minister Clement Attlee and/or the military top brass) was still unconvinced and ordered a new investigation (complete with exhumation, autopsy, etc.).
Which predictably produced the same results… after which the body was probably destroyed completely (just in case) – as were all relevant documents and evidence (fingerprints, dental records – everything).
So even if whatever is still top secret is declassified in 2045 (and it is a big IF), there will be nothing there that would prove that the individual who identified himself as Heinrich Himmler on May 22nd, 1945 while in British custody was, in fact, his impersonator.
Why didn’t they go after him in full force? Well, for one, someone has already leaked to the press the fact of the suicide of someone claiming to be Heinrich Himmler.
Someone who was far too confident that the identity of the deceased was established without a shadow of the doubt (while in reality it wasn’t). A typical blunder of a military bureaucracy – happens much more frequently than you might think.
Publically backtracking – i.e. stating “Sorry, we got it wrong – it was not Himmler” was politically impossible. Besides, SS Reichsfuhrer had enough dirt on far too many far too powerful people on the both sides of the Atlantic (and very likely made it known to the right people in no uncertain terms).
And, finally, the Cold War was just around the corner and Himmler (and his ODESSA) were now the allies of the West, not an adversary. So the whole thing was buried (some of it literally) and forgotten. And will definitely stay buried and forgotten – unless Die Neue SS decides to go public with irrefutable evidence of what really happened.
Fortunately for the British (for all Allies, in fact), in May and June 1945 the free world’s media had enough to report as war continued in the Far East, and Soviet forces occupied Eastern Europe.
Nobody – neither the press nor the population seemed to have the energy or the inclination to question Himmler’s death – they had far more interesting stories to tell (and read).
However, there is still some pretty strong photographic evidence that contradicts the official version (that the individual who committed suicide on May 23rd, 1945 was Heinrich Himmler).
The surviving drawings, photographs and film all powerfully illustrate a classic congenital abnormality, the reason for the deviation of the nose. Such cases of facial asymmetry are very common.
This condition results from an unequal amount of tissue on the sides of the face in late embryonic development before those tissues fuse to create nose and lips. Consequently, the developing child shows a discernible facial imbalance that is obvious in early childhood, usually getting less, but sometimes more obvious as they age.
A deviation of the nose dating from childhood causes a disparity in the nostrils, and exactly such a flattened area on top of the larger nostril, as nature tries in vain to correctly align the tissues.
All the evidence agrees that the man who lay dead in 31a Ülzenerstrasse had a noticeably (and naturally as there was no sign of physical injuries) asymmetrical face with a skewed nose (a finding confirmed by the doctors who did the autopsy) – a condition that Heinrich Himmler definitely did not have. Unlike the corpse of the deceased, Heinrich Himmler had an unusually even face, with no evidence of any facial skew.
Another piece of physical evidence that supports the deception theory is the scar (just one scar found during the autopsy) on the body of the deceased, oval-shaped and one inch by half an inch, on the upper inner border of the right kneecap.
The description places it slightly too high for the customary surgical scar that accompanied removal of knee joint cartilage. The scar could feasibly have resulted from such an operation, although it is more probable it was caused by trauma.
And that presented a major problem for the official version. Himmler was never recorded as having sustained any trauma to his knee. Never.
Still another piece of physical evidence that delivered a heavy blow to the official version was… the moustache. Himmler was supposed to have shaved off his moustache prior to heading off south on or around 10 May. When a moustache is shaved off after many years it leaves a paler area of skin.
No such patch is visible on the photographs of the corpse. Neither was it recorded in the post-mortem report, nor recalled by Browne who should have noticed it during his dental examination.
The legs of the corpse were also quite telling. They were muscular – which contrasted markedly with the supposedly frail physique of the Reichsführer. Schellenberg described his master as a ‘stork in a lily pond’ because of his spindly legs. Albert Speer laughed when asked whether Himmler’s legs were muscular, replying with confidence ‘Not at all – the very opposite’.
On 20 June 1943 an attempt on Himmler’s life resulted in a superficial flesh wound in his upper right arm; however, such wound always leaves a scar. However, the autopsy report mentions no such scar, which he should have found in the area he was carefully searching for needle pricks (the deltoid muscle was the usual site for intra-muscular injection in 1940s British practice).
Heinrich Himmler was widely known to have sustained a facial wound during his university days, a dueling scar that was the essential “badge of courage” for members of the fencing fraternity.
Himmler’s diary states that he required five stitches and one ligature or tie – a surgical procedure that always leaves a very specific kind of scar. Existence of this scar was confirmed by many individuals who knew Himmler personally… however, no scar was found during the autopsy.
When one of the doctors who performed the first autopsy on the body of “Himmler” – Lieutenant-Colonel Browne was asked whether he had seen any facial scar, he replied :
‘Absolutely not, I can absolutely guarantee that there was no facial scar, we were looking very carefully for anything like that.’
In short, there was no facial scar on the corpse of ‘Heinrich Hitzinger’. There was also a problem with teeth. A big problem. A very big problem. Kathé Heusermann, the assistant of Professor (and SS-Brigadeführer) Hugo Blaschke, who was Himmler’s dentist, recalled that SS-Reichsfuhrer had a whole set of unusually white and healthy teeth. All 32 of them.
The body of ‘Heinrich Hitzinger’ had only 27 teeth – and several gold caps. Himmler had none of the latter. When shown a photocopy of dental diagram developed during the autopsy and asked whether this could possibly have been Himmler’s dentition, she immediately replied with great certainty, ‘No.’ Asked to explain, she pointed at the gold cap, dead tooth and fillings – which she stated were definitely incorrect.
From the forensics perspective, “all of the above” can mean only one thing. Heinrich Himmler can not be declared dead on the basis of forensic evidence that would not satisfy a county coroner’s court (and it doesn’t).
Almost nothing is known about the name on the ID that this man used as a cover (other than that he was known to bear a remarkable resemblance to Heinrich Himmler – to such an extent that he was almost his double/twin). He also had the same first name which certainly helped.
One theory is that Hitzinger was a rural policeman who in the beginning of 1945 had been tried by an infamous Volksgerichtshof (“People’s Court) for defeatism. At the time such a charge meant an automatic death sentence so he was probably promptly beheaded (even during the last days of the Third Reich its courts and executioners were ruthlessly efficient).
The story has it that one day (well before May) Himmler happened to see Hitzinger’s identity papers and appropriated them “for his own purposes”. Most likely, he asked the RSHA forgery department to produce fake GFP ID using the real pictures of Hitzinger from the dossier.
On May 11th, five days after the real Heinrich Himmler safely landed in Spain (it probably took some time to deliver this message to his impersonator), the man who claimed (initially) to be “Heinrich Hitzinger” set out on his final journey from Flensburg. Thus starting one of the most creative cover-ups in the history of secret ops.
“Hitzinger” traveled in a group of fifteen (!) men united only by their allegiance to their Reichsfuhrer – almost all were members of his staff. There is little (if any) doubt that they have been aware of the substitution and each one knew precisely what to do (and what not to do) and what to say (and what not to).
The most notable members of the party were SS Obergruppenführer Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician; SS Obergruppenführer Karl Gebhardt, Himmler’s surgeon; SS Obergruppenführer Otto Ohlendorf; SS Sturmbannführer Josef Kiermaier, Himmler’s personal aide and secretary, and Himmler’s adjutants, Waffen SS Obersturmbannführer Werner Grothmann and Sturmbannführer Heinz Macher. The group also included two officers from the escort battalion of the Waffen SS, and seven non-commissioned officers from Himmler’s personal staff.
The obvious question is: why did they agree to take part in this deception and not to try to go into hiding by themselves (as many of their SS comrades did)? They obviously knew that they could be prosecuted for the crimes that they committed while in offices and even if not, they were guaranteed a lengthy stay in POW camps.
The answer to this all-important question is surprisingly simple. First, they all were SS officers who took the oath to unquestionably obey any order given by their commander – even if it meant a certain death (in this respect they were, indeed, similar to the Japanese Samurai).
Second, they were not aware of how seriously and passionately the Allies intended to go after the Nazi war criminals (for one, the former desperately needed to cover up their own war crimes). And how harsh the sentences dispensed by the Allied military courts could be.
When it became obvious how wrong they were on the second count, at least one of them – the abovementioned Otto Ohlendorf – began to spread rumours that Himmler was still alive.
Rumors were picked up by Göring, who in August 1945 wondered aloud to his interrogators at Nuremberg ‘if SS-Reichsfuhrer was really dead’. These rumors most likely, became one more reasons to exhume “Himmler’s” body and conduct the second autopsy five months later.
None of the members of the party had any insignia on his uniform and all of them carried military document that identified them as members they were a newly demobilized unit of the GFP who were sick and on their way to Munich hospital under the supervision of Dr. Gebhardt..
Which was a 100% guarantee of them being detained by the first Allied patrol they encountered – the fact that Himmler, with his incredible memory, access to intelligence and no less remarkable data processing abilities was obviously well aware of.
And still he chose for his group the documents that attracted the most (not the least) attention of the enemy (hell, the Soviets could very well have shot them right then and there – without any trial or even a semblance of due process).
The presence of almost all Himmler’s entourage makes it seem unlikely that Hitzinger was anyone but Himmler, yet what better way to establish the identity of a leader than surround him with his customary crew?
It is difficult to believe that such a smart, cunning, knowledgeable and politically experienced man as Himmler could choose to behave in such an obvious and dangerous way.
The group’s progress south through Schleswig-Holstein was slow. Having left Flensburg in four large cars on 10 May, they took two whole days to cover the sixty-odd miles to Marne, in the south-west corner of the peninsula.
At the north bank of the Elbe estuary, they then had to abandon their vehicles and take a ferry to the small town of Neuhaus on the southern shore. From there on they had to proceed on foot.
By 18 May they had got no further than Bremervörde, a little town on the river Oste some 25 miles south-east of Marne, where they made a decision that made no sense at all… unless they really wanted to get caught.
They could have easily crossed the river upstream of the town, as hundreds of other refugees were doing, or they could have headed south across country, avoiding the river altogether. Instead of these simple options they chose to cross on one of the bridges guarded by the British army with its very visible checkpoints. Looks like they really, really wanted to get caught.
A witness confirmed that stating later that “these people” were crazy to use the bridge at all, as they could easily have avoided the checkpoint by wading across the river like everyone else.
Not surprisingly, they were all arrested… except Macher, Grothmann and Hitzinger were nowhere to be seen. Incredibly, their comrades notified the British about that fact (which made sense only if they really wanted “Hitzinger” to be arrested by the British).
The British soldiers were of the same opinion. If the first twelve men had been allowed through unhindered, it would have made sense for them to draw attention to their sick companions; but after they had been arrested, it seemed crazy (or at least extremely disloyal) to inform their captors about the existence of missing men.
To make the undercover party’s very strange behavior (to put it mildly) even more bizarre, on a later visit to the farm Britton discovered a valise in a loft, which contained pajamas, slippers and a manicure set, helpfully engraved with the letters R.F.SS.
What man intent of going into hiding and facing a certain death if discovered arms himself with possessions bearing inscriptions revealing his true identity? Definitely not Heinrich Himmler… unless he wanted his impersonator to be caught.
24 hours later, having attracted sufficient attention from the British, the three “missing persons” finally showed up. on the afternoon of 22 May, the bizarre trio walked openly through the town of Bremervörde along the straight, east–west high street.
Himmler’s adjutants, wearing long, dark green overcoats with felt collars, were clearly military men. They flanked a far less impressive figure wearing an odd collection of civilian clothes under a blue raincoat.
They moved slowly, and the third man seemed especially reluctant to hurry. As soon as the British saw them, they got the impression that the two tall officers were in charge of the smaller man.
They drew even more attention to themselves (which was their objective from the beginning of the whole endeavor), one witness recorded, by the way the officers glanced around from time to time as if ‘to ensure that their charge was still there’.
Not surprisingly, they were immediately stopped by the British and (unexpectedly politely) asked for their IDs. They all claimed to be Unterfeldwebels (Sergeants) but, in addition to identifying tem as the NCOs of GFP (by itself more than sufficient for detention), their documents looked faked.
Had the third man been Himmler, surely he would have arranged to equip himself with discharge papers of a decent caliber (forgers at RSHA were very, very good at their jobs and could fool even the most diligent investigator).
Given the resources it had enjoyed until a few days before, the group could have furnished itself with any fake identity it chose. But instead of assuming the name of some harmless unit, it opted to identify its members as belonging to the Geheime Feldpolizei, an organization that was on every Allied automatic arrest list (the fact that could not have been missed by Himmler as he had a copy of such list on his desk).
It is very important to note that despite obvious problems with his documents, None of the British recognized their weedy-looking third prisoner as anybody special, and his identity as ‘Heinrich Hitzinger’ surprisingly survived preliminary investigation.
Still, his impressive personal magnifying glass with its tell-tale eagle wings was confiscated). The prisoner was fast running out of personalized items that would serve to prove the identity he was so carelessly trying to conceal.
At 7 a.m. the next morning, Wednesday May 23rd, three captives set off for the civil internment camp at Westertinke, and for the rest of the day they moved in fits and starts (mostly due to a total mess that the German roads were in at that time).
Finally, almost 12 hours later, they reached the special interrogation camp at Kolkhagen (that hosted the officers and NCOs of SD and GFP), on the western edge of the village of Barnstedt, near now-famous town of Lüneburg (about 60 km from Hamburg airport and 215 km from Berlin).
By that time, “Hitzinger” had been subjected to several interrogations and none of his captors had even a suspicion that he had been talking to the SS-Reichsfuhrer. Fearing that the British either were much more stupid (or ignorant, or both) than was initially thought or simply did not care enough (which put the whole deception in jeopardy), the impersonator decided to help them. And in a big way. A very dig way. A colossal way.
he and his two companions soon began making a fuss and demanding an interview with the camp commandant, Captain Thomas Selvester. Which was extremely strange, bordering on bizarre, because usually, the SS officers (and even the NCOs) were the quietest and most docile of the prisoners. Hoping to live down their reputations, they behaved as meekly as possible and strove to create a good impression.
They were ignored for a while but sometime later they became so so boorish and abusive that they finally succeeded in getting themselves brought before the commandant.
When the trio entered the commandant’s office, the first man to come in, according to Selvester, was ‘small, ill-looking and shabbily dressed’ and still wearing his eye patch.
Which he promptly removed, put in his glasses and calmly stated: “I am Heinrich Himmler”.