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The Himmler Brothers [Unabridged] [Hardcover]

Katrin Himmler , Mike Mitchell
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 July 2007

Once upon a time the Himmlers were just a normal German family, middle-class, hard-working, well-educated. There were three brothers, Gebhart, Heinrich and Ernst. Heinrich grew up to become the head of Hitler’s SS, mastermind of the concentration camp system and chief perpetrator of the Holocaust.

When Katrin Himmler, Heinrich’s great-niece, was fifteen, one of her school mates asked during a history lesson if she was related to the Himmler. ‘Yes’, she stammered, at which there was a deathly hush in the classroom and the teacher, embarrassed and unsure, quickly moved the lesson on. As she grew older, Katrin gave her family history a wide berth, but married to an Israeli whose family was confined to the Warsaw Ghetto and with a young, half-Jewish son, she realizes that she cannot evade the past so easily. Katrin Himmler’s cool but meticulous examination of the Himmler story reveals – in all its dark complexity – the gulf between the ‘normality’ of bourgeois family life and the horrors perpetrated by one member and a more nuanced portrait of Heinrich himself emerges – not a lone evil executioner, but a middle-class family man, loved and fully supported by his respectable German family.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (20 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230529070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230529076
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 12.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 703,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

It took courage and imagination for Katrin to confront the assumptions and half-truths that had taken root in the family . . . You get a vivid sense of a particular kind of German conservatism and of how, weirdly, it found an outlet in the upstart, part-pagan thuggery of Nazisim . . . The Himmler Brothers raises more questions than it answers, but that doesn't lessen in the slightest my admiration of Katrin Himmler for having written it. --.

One can only admire the bravery of Katrin Himmler . . . In a way, Katrin Himmler's book is not a story about the past, but one about the present. The most interesting details are the ones she gives of her own quest. --.

Katrin Himmler's book is important: in its meticulous detail, we see the enduring truth of the phrase "the banality of evil". It shows how a family from a cultured Munich background could produce the greatest mass murderer in the history of the world and how its other members willingly followed him on a Faustian pact with evil. --Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

Once upon a time the Himmlers were just a normal German family, middle-class, hard-working, well-educated. There were three brothers, Gebhart, Heinrich and Ernst. Heinrich grew up to become the head of Hitler’s SS, mastermind of the concentration camp system and chief perpetrator of the Holocaust. When Katrin Himmler, Heinrich’s great-niece, was fifteen, one of her school mates asked during a history lesson if she was related to the Himmler. ‘Yes’, she stammered, at which there was a deathly hush in the classroom and the teacher, embarrassed and unsure, quickly moved the lesson on. As she grew older, Katrin gave her family history a wide berth, but married to an Israeli whose family was confined to the Warsaw Ghetto and with a young, half-Jewish son, she realizes that she cannot evade the past so easily. Katrin Himmler’s cool but meticulous examination of the Himmler story reveals – in all its dark complexity – the gulf between the ‘normality’ of bourgeois family life and the horrors perpetrated by one member and a more nuanced portrait of Heinrich himself emerges – not a lone evil executioner, but a middle-class family man, loved and fully supported by his respectable German family. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a most interesting piece of family history research into the background, upbringinging and subsequent fate, of the three Himmler brothers Gebhard, Heinrich and Ernst. It vividly portrays a picture of an industrious and clever middle class family with useful connections to the Bavarian royal family. The prevailing political views of the time and the profound effect of the First World War upon the family and their careers are carefully documented. This book gets away from the 'one-dimensional monster' descriptions of modern journalism and illustrates well the relationship with friends when the family is exalted and then in disgrace. This excellent translation is well written and faced paced throughout apart from a small section which illustrates the competition between the various Nazi agencies for control of the radio industry. I have no hestitation in commending this well balanced book to all those interested in the history of the Third Reich and the shaping of one of the main players.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Course of German History 14 July 2010
By Neutral VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Katrin Himmler is the granddaughter of Heinrich Himmler's younger brother Ernst. Growing up she was aware her great uncle was known as "the greatest murderer of the century". She studied German history but shied away from examining the history of her own family. Anyone familiar with Laurence Rees's "The Nazis : A Warning From History" will be aware of the way in which many who lived during the Nazi regime were relectant to talk about what they did. For them it was a time best forgotten, as was their role in what took place. In some cases they invented a fictional account of their personal history. According to family legend Ernst was a non political person who occupied the position of Chief Engineer of the Reich Broadcasting Company in Berlin. He left Hitler's bunker shortly after the Furher killed himself in a bid to reach the Allied lines. He stumbled, and bit into the cynanide capsule in his mouth and died immediately, leaving open the question of whether it was an accident or suicide.

When Katrin Himmler started her research she found that Ernst Himmler joined the Nazi Party in 1931, was a member of the SS from 1933 and "had been a convinced Nazi who, in return for a helping hand in his career from his brother Heinrich, the Reichfuhrer SS carried out dubious tasks for him." One such task was his written recommendation that the protection accorded to a Jewish engineer, Major Schmidt, be removed. Ernst did not need to make such a recommendation and, while it was obvious such action could lead to Schmidt's death, his comment, "irrespective of the way such cases will be dealt with later on" suggested support for the Nazis' programmes. The letter destroyed the cautious empathy which she had previously had for her unknown grandfather.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageously digging up poisonous roots 23 Aug 2007
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Katrin Himmler has had the unfortunate experience of having Adolf Hitler's second in command, Heinrich Himmler as her Great Uncle. Throughout her life, her family have down-played the role of her own grandfather, Himmler's brother Ernst, who she was told, "went along with things" and was a very minor Nazi. However, over the last few years she has conducted an in-depth investigation into her family history, and the result is this excellent book.

Katrin Himmler begins by describing the childhood and youth of the three Himmler brothers, and the home life they had with their parents. They were by any account a fine family, the parents strict, but involved in every aspect of their sons' lives, and the three boys being in turn respectful of their parents and working hard at the various activities around home and school. Their parents were proud, upper middle-class people who sought and found recognition from influential people in Munich society. The family were strong Catholics, and despite this, Katrin Himmler shows us the family's strong feelings of nationalism and ethnicity, and an unquestioning dislike for Slavs and Jews who were seen as "dirty" and primitive peoples. We read of family life in the Weimar Republic, with holidays and games, and a rich involvement with friends and relatives, but also increasing money and employment problems due to the rampant inflation which beleagured the nation during the 1920s.

Heinrich joins the emerging National Socialist movement and due to his great skills of organisation, rises up through the ranks until he achieves the terrifying position of Commander of the SS.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By HBH
Format:Paperback
The Himmler Brothers by Katrin Himmler is a fascinating account of how one family tried to deal with the legacy of its most infamous member. It is well-written and very interesting although it does suffer from the usual problems of books which have been translated. It is not a biography but instead an account of how one of the most notorious killers of the twentieth century emerged from a normal family and background and how his family after the war tried to pretend that he was a black sheep who they had had little to do with in order to cover up the fact that the whole family and especially his brothers were involved with the Nazi Party and benefitted from the connection to Heinrich Himmler. All in all a very good book.
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