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Heinrich Himmler: A Life Hardcover – 27 Oct 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1072 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (27 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199592322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199592326
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 5.7 x 16.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 179,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


There have been several studies of this enigmatic man, but Peter Longerich's massive biography, grounded in exhaustive study of the primary sources, is now the standard work and must stand alongside Ian Kershaw's Hitler, Ulrich Herbert's Best and Robert Gerwarth's Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich as one of the landmark Nazi biographies. As the author of a celebrated study of the Holocaust, Longerich is better able than his predecessors to situate Himmler within the vast machinery of genocide. And he brings to his task a gift for capturing those mannerisms that are the intimate markers of personality. The most thorough study of Himmler yet written. Christopher Clark, London Review of Books

[The book's] bulk is consummate with the seriousness of its subject matter and, as the definitive life if this why-faced monster of terror, it is unlikely to be bettered. History Today

Excellent ... well crafted and engaging ... comfortably surpassing the offerings of previous biographers, it is surely set to become the definitive work for a generation. Roger Moorhouse, BBC History

supremely enlightening New York Times Book Review

There have been many attempts to describe the life and opinions of Heinrich Himmler, but this one ... is the first thorough scholarly biography to appear New Statesman

very well documented Mail on Sunday A superbly researched account Booklist

a work of staggering scholarship Literary Review splendid Sunday Telegraph

A masterpiece. Richard J. Evans

A highly impressive biography, resting on exhaustive exploration of available sources. Ian Kershaw

Gigantic book The Sunday Times

Splendid...Longerich gives it a depth and breadth it has previously lacked. Sunday Telegraph
--Christopher Clark, London Review of Books

[An] almost encyclopaedic coverage --Jane Caplan, Times Literary Supplement

... A superb book, wonderfully translated. --Choice

About the Author

Peter Longerich is Professor of Modern German History at Royal Holloway University of London, and founder of Royal Holloway's Holocaust Research Centre. He has published extensively on Nazi Germany, including the acclaimed Holocaust: The Nazi Murder and the Persecution of the Jews, The UnwrittenOrder: Hitler's Role in the Final Solution, and The Systematic Character of the National Socialist Policy for the Extermination of the Jews.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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).
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