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4.2 out of 5 stars27
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 21 January 2014
This biography of Himmler brings the radical Nazi movement to life. The rivalries and ruthlessness of the Third Reich is perfectly shown through the life of Heinrich Himmler. The books strength is how it manages to consistently web together the complex personality of Himmler and the events that led to his joining the radical Nazi party in its infancy. I found the early chapters especially intriguing as it showed how Himmler went from a shy awkward schoolboy to being one of the most powerful people in Germany. A must read for anyone interested in the history of Nazi Germany and World War Two.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 March 2012
This detailed, lengthy, well researched and scholarly book on the life of the architect of Hitler's SS elite is by no means a quick or easy read. It is aimed squarely at readers with an interest in the history of the Third Reich and is not perhaps best suited to the casual reader. It is detailed and intricate at times and some prior knowledge of characters, incidents and situated referred to is assumed.

That said the book is very well written and an entertaining read. At times it does get bogged down in details, so it seems to me, particularly in the early section which draws very heavily on Himmler's juvenile diary from which it quotes extensively and in detail.
Also, this is very much a political biography and we seldom see much of Himmler as a man, husband or father.

This is book has academic gravitas to it and and I am happy to accept the factual accuracy of everything within it, not a thing that can be said of very many works on the Nazi period. If you have the time and inclination to devote to a detailed and scholarly biography aimed more at professional historians than the the general reader then you will not be disappointed. This is a serious biography of one of the most feared,loathed and influential figures of the twentieth century and deserves serious study.

The Good
Masses of information and detail
Well written
Has an air of academic authority

The Bad
Overly immersed in details at times
Gives little insight into the private man
Not suited to the casual reader
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on 17 November 2011
This is a big book for scholarly study. It is not an easy read, and it is crammed with facts and very detailed information about the organisation of the SS, the Gestapo, the German Police, and about Himmler's rise and acquisition of more and more power within the Third Reich, yet it sometimes skirts over significant events (like the faked attack at Gleiwitz which precipitated the invasion of Poland). Himmler comes across as a boring sycophantic little pedant - albeit extremely powerful and exceptionally evil, with a pathological hatred of Bolshevism and Jews (which he equated together as the joint evils of the World responsible for the War). It is claimed he was a great organiser, but he spent much of his time organising and re-organising his evil empire with the intention of maintaining and augmenting his own sphere of power, not to make his organisation more efficient. None of his so-called resettlement plans came to anything, and his warped world view condemned millions to death, whilst he showed himself to be a coward by attempting to secure an armistice with the Allies on the Western Front to save his own skin when Germany's fate was sealed. Overall, a well researched and impressive biography about this bizarre little man who became the greatest mass murderer in history. A must read for scholars of Third Reich history. Helpful additional reading "The Himmler Brothers" by Katrin Himmler - this gives a more personal view of Himmler.
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on 17 July 2012
The author is "One of the world's leading authorities on the Third Reich and the Holocaust".
This book makes that very clear.
It offers a somewhat facile and polemic psychological analysis of the early Himmler based on very good diary and writings references which is actually quite informative. Although I will make my own psychological conclusions based on the quite comprehensive information provided.

It offers prodigious information on Himmler's role in the Holocaust and persecution of the Jews and other races and peoples of Europe. The range of information and detail is excellent. Perhaps the only weakness is the author's inability to prove Hitler fully responsible for orders given in his name. I am sure readers will know that such proof is extremely elusive and this author does a fine job of connecting all the circumstantial evidence together.
Interwoven is a very detailed exposition of Himmler's rise to power within the Third Reich - his machinations and maneuverings, his success and failures. One learns a very great deal of how this weak man became so very powerful and also the day to day operations of the Nazi state apparatus.
These two parts of the book are truly five star and justify the purchase of the book.

However the Waffen-SS and Himmler's controlling role are only mentioned briefly and then mainly in connection with foreign Germanic recruitment.
The author is not expert in Military History and that shows throughout the narrative. The few references to the military aspects of the war show a strongly anglophile and rather limited view.

Also the book loses detail quickly after the time of the major killings connected with the Holocaust (the author's main period of expertise). Himmler's activities in 1944 are only explained in lesser detail. The published Goebbels' diaries are almost the only primary source material to explain the provided brief story of Himmler in 1945.

I can only suggest you acquaint yourself thoroughly with the hugely significant military role of the SS before reading this book. The Waffen-SS probably contributed far more to the huge death toll of World War 2 than the rest of Himmler's domain. They contributed so much to the prolongation of the war and to making it increasingly violent.

In summary, an excellent book on parts of Himmler's life but certainly not comprehensive.
Five star in parts but with a lot missing altogether.
Indeed, we await a complete biography of Himmler
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on 5 November 2012
As an avid amateur WW2 researcher I looked forward to reading this book. It got off to a good start, detailing Himmler's early family background and his just too late signing up in the Army during the end of the First World War. The author is pretty well versed about Himmler's psyche - almost a neo Freudian explanation in parts. The rise of Himmler through the ranks of the SS is clearly explained, particularly his flair for detailed bureaucracy.

The exposition of Himmler's obsession with the early roots of Aryanism, mixed with bizarre theories of world creation, is well written and highly readable. The author is not a military historian and unfortunately it does show throughout the book. There was a great opportunity to explore Himmler's leadership (or lack of it) of Army Group Vistula in the closing stages of WW2 but sadly this was missed altogether.

The book is strangely inconsistent at times. While you get an insight into Himmler the man, there is little about his wife and more so his lover. Himmler's relationship with Heydrich - fundamental to the latter's rise in the SS - is hardly discussed. In essence the book is the proverbial curate's egg: good in bits, not so good in others and some not even there.
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A rather dry, and at times leadely paced biography, this is nontheless fitfully fascinating. However the author spends too much time on Himmler's unremarkable conventionally dull childhood. He also rushes the ultimate downfall and death of Himmler. This and a pedantic interest in the mechanics of the SS at the expense of any cogent characterisation of Himmer or any of the Nazis, deadens the chilling effects of their crimes.

If you're interested in all things Nazi, well give this a whirl - but we must wait a little longer for the definitive biography.
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on 6 July 2015
This is a book for the scholar of the Third Reich; it is not a book for the casual reader. It tries to explain the development of the career of one of the most influential figures of the Nazi Party - a man whose notion of the superiority of the Teutonic race and demonic influence of the Jew, brought the creation of the SS and justified ethnic cleansing on an unimaginable scale. The details of this brutal cleansing and the deportation of millions of Europeans to bring about the Greater Germanic Reich are recounted at great length. The writing is at times ponderous with some sentences awkwardly constructed, perhaps because of translation. Disappointingly, Himmler's first contacts with the embryonic Nazi Party and Hitler are poorly recounted. presumably because of lack of sources. A monumental reading task but worth the effort, especially the last chapter..
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on 15 October 2014
Thorough account and plenty on how the SS and other state agencies developed. It was complex, and the intrinsically if not formally federal nature of Germany from the 1871 start has to be appreciated.
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on 9 February 2015
This is one of those bio's that seems to start off well, nicely written, has a flowing narrative then all of a sudden it twists and turns on tangents of boredom... Yes, perhaps it was just me but there seemed to be so much left out and an opportunity lost to get onto what the real man may have been thinking without telling us what we already know what was happening around him during Hitler's reign... It does shine in places, but unfortunately not the most important of ones. 3/5
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on 7 September 2013
Focuses on the facts and Himmler's activities out of which comes the startling realisation that the terror of the Nazi regime simply could not/would not have happened without him. Totally obliterates the "Himmler was a bureaucrat civil servant" image and shows him to be a genius of organisation, empire building and out of the box thinking - a true entrepreneur sadly dedicating his talents to destruction, misery and death.
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