b. 1900, Munich, d. 23 May 1945

Himmler was head of the SS from 1929 to 1945, and Germany’s Minister of the Interior from 1943 to 1945. In 1933, as head of the Munich police, Himmler established the first Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. Himmler succeeded in establishing the SS as an organization that had a fair amount of autonomy from the Nazi Party. Before the war, he was the third most important Nazi leader, after Hitler and Goring. In October 1939 Himmler was given sweeping powers in the parts of Poland annexed directly into the Reich; in the next year more than 300 000 Jews and more than one million Poles were deported to the Generalgouvernment and replaced by Volkdeutsche. After being appointed Minister of the Interior, Himmler directed the Final Solution and oversaw the system of forced labor.

As Germany’s fortunes in the War began to turn, Himmler sought to start peace negotiations with the Allies; at the beginning of 1945 he ordered a halt to the Final Solution. By this point completely divorced from reality, Himmler believed that the Allies would make him Germany’s new leader after Hitler was removed and peace re-established. After Germany’s surrender, the Allies captured Himmler. On 23 May 1945 he killed himself with a cyanide capsule.