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Kisses before Auschwitz trips

Berlin, Jan. 27: The discovery of lost correspondence between Heinrich Himmler and his wife shows that the senior Nazi behind the murder of millions in the Holocaust was “at peace with himself” throughout the slaughter, his great-niece said yesterday .

Himmler, the head of the SS, and his wife, Margarete, often shared their deep anti-Semitism in the 700 letters between them — for example, when she complained about “miserable Jews” and the “Jew pack” in 1928, he wrote back saying: “Don’t get angry about the Jews, good woman, I can help you.”

Their exchanges are most remarkable, however, for the way that Himmler compartmentalised his home life as a husband and doting father from his “work” of butchering Europe’s Jewish population and others deemed by the Nazis to be enemies.

“I’m going to Auschwitz. Kisses, your Heini,” was a typically banal reference made about the biggest death camp run by the Nazis.

“In the coming days, I’ll be in Lublin, Auschwitz, Lviv and then in new parts. I wonder if I’ll be able to phone,” he wrote to his wife on July 15, 1942, about a tour of concentration camps. “Best wishes, have a nice trip and enjoy our little daughter. Many warm greetings and kisses, your daddy.”

The letters were kept hidden for 40 years by a collector of Nazi memorabilia in Israel after he acquired them from a US soldier who looted the Himmler family home in Bavaria shortly after World War II. Welt am Sonntag has published extracts, saying that the Jewish collector sold them to the father of a film-maker whose documentary about Himmler’s private life will be launched at the Berlin Film Festival next month.

“Himmler was not a split personality ... He was at peace with himself. He never had to split anything,” said Katrin Himmler, the granddaughter of Himmler’s brother Ernst and author of The Himmler Brothers, her own book about the family.

Although there is no detail of the Holocaust or wartime strategy among the correspondence and diaries, Himmler believes her great-uncle’s wife knew what his work duties involved, despite her denials after the war.

“Marga was also, from an early age, a convinced National Socialist and anti-Semite,” said Himmler, who married but kept the family name.

“Long before the seizure of power, she joined the Nazi party and moved with her husband in like-minded circles. She noticed and accepted her husband’s progressive radicalisation, and benefited from [his] growing power. It is unlikely that she did not know what her husband did. It may be, however, that she did not want to know more.”

The letters published so far contain only passing references to some of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. After hearing on the radio in June 1941 that Germany had turned on its former ally and invaded Russia, requiring Himmler’s presence at the side of Adolf Hitler at his Wolf’s Lair headquarters in Poland, Margarete wrote to her husband: “There is still caviar left in the fridge. Take it.”

 
 
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