WORLD FUTURE FUND
HEINRICH HIMMLER - INTERVIEW
AN INSIGHT INTO TOTALITARIAN THOUGHT
To the best of our information this is the only interview Himmler ever gave to a British or American journalist.
Source: Into The Darkness: Nazi Germany Today (1940) by Lothrop Stoddard
8 PRINZ ALBRECHT STRASSE - SS HEADQUARTERS IN BERLIN
A RARE PICTURE OF THE INTERIOR
There was one [member of the] Gestapo that I did want to see, the Big Chief of them all -- Heinrich Himmler himself. But I was told that seeing him was almost as difficult as getting an audience with the Fuehrer, because he systematically shuns publicity and is therefore journalistically one of Germany's most inaccessible personalities. Naturally, that made me all the more eager to interview him. I finally did, the very day before I left Berlin. It was one of those by-products from my enhanced popularity which I encountered when I returned from Budapest, and which was undoubtedly due to my having strictly kept my word regarding the Hitler audience. Journalistically, this was a clear "scoop," for I was told by the Propaganda Ministry that mine was the first interview Himmler had ever given a foreign correspondent.
Like so many of my experiences in Nazi Germany, the whole affair was quite different from what I had imagined. Off-hand, you would say that the redoubtable Himmler's headquarters would have a mysterious or even a sinister atmosphere. But it didn't. It is a stately old building, made over into offices. You need a special pass to enter, but I went with an official, so there was no delay. Ascending to the second story by a broad stone stairway, we were quickly shown the Chief's quarters, and passed through a suite of offices, light, airy, and tastefully businesslike. There, young men and women were busy with typewriters and filing-cabinets. If the men had not been in uniform, I might have imagined myself about to meet a big corporation executive. Certainly, there was no "police" atmosphere about the place, secret or otherwise; no obvious plainclothes-men, gimlet-eyed sleuths, or other "properties" of a similar nature.
When I finally entered the inner sanctum I was met by a brisk-stepping individual of medium height who greeted me pleasantly and offered me a seat on a well-upholstered sofa. Heinrich Himmler is a South German type, with close-cut dark hair, a Bavarian accent, and dark blue eyes which look searchingly at you from behind rimless glasses. He is only forty years of age, extraordinarily young for the man who heads the whole police force of the Reich, commands the entire S.S., and has charge of the vast resettlement program whereby hundreds of thousands of Germans from the Baltic States, Russia, and Northern Italy are coming back willy-nilly to their racial and cultural Fatherland.
Those are certainly three big jobs for one individual. How he does it all is hard to understand. But you get at least an inkling when you meet and talk with him. The longer you are in his presence, the more you become conscious of dynamic energy -- restrained and unspectacular, yet persistent and efficient to the last degree.
Also you begin to glimpse what lies behind his matter-of-fact exterior. At first he impresses you as a rather strenuous bureaucrat. But as he discusses his police duties, you notice that his mouth sets in a thin line while his eyes take on a steely glint. Then you realize how formidable he must be professionally.
It was this aspect of his activities that I first broached. "I certainly am glad to meet one of whom I have heard so much," was my opening remark. "Perhaps you know that, in America, we hear rather terrible things about the Gestapo. Indeed," I added with a smile, "it is sometimes compared to the Russian Cheka, with you yourself, Excellency, as a second Dzherzhinski!"
Himmler took this in good part. He laughed easily. "I'm sure our police organization isn't half as black as it's painted abroad," was his reply. "We certainly do our best to combat crime of every sort, and our criminal statistics imply that we are fairly successful. Frankly, we believe that habitual offenders should not be at large to plague society, so we keep them locked up. Why, for instance, should a sex-offender who has been sentenced three or four times be again set free, to bring lasting sorrow to another decent home? We send all such persons to a detention-camp and keep them there. But I assure you that their surroundings aren't bad. In fact, I know they are better fed, clothed, and lodged than the miners of South Wales. Ever seen one of our concentration-camps?"
"No," I answered, "I wasn't able to get permission."
"Too bad I didn't know about it," said Himmler. "There you'd see the sort of social scum we have shut away from society for its own good."
That was all very fine, but I felt that Himmler was hedging a bit. So I proceeded: "You refer there to criminals in the general sense of the term. But how about political offenders -- say, old-fashioned liberals? Is any political opposition tolerated?"
"What a person thinks is none of our concern," shot back Himmler quickly. "But when he acts upon his thoughts, perhaps to the point of starting a conspiracy, then we take action. We believe in extinguishing a fire while it is still small. It saves trouble and averts much damage. Besides," he continued, "there isn't any need for political opposition with us. If a man sees something he thinks is wrong, let him come straight to us and talk the matter over. Let him even write me personally. Such letters always reach me. We welcome new ideas and are only too glad to correct mistakes. Let me give you an example. Suppose somebody sees traffic on a busy corner badly handled. In other countries he could write a scathing letter to the newspapers saying how stupidly and badly the police run things. A hundred thousand people who may never have even seen that corner might get all excited, and the prestige of both the police and the State itself might suffer in consequence. With us, all that man has to do is to write us, and I assure you the matter will be quickly righted."
Feeling this traffic simile was a bit ingenuous, I tried to lead him back to the point he knew I had in mind. I nodded sympathetically and said, "That sounds reasonable. But how about a political matter? For instance, take a man like Pastor Niemoeller?"
I felt that ought to bring some reaction, because the Pastor is poison-ivy to most Nazis. Only a few days before, one fairly prominent member of the Party had grown red in the face at the mention of Niemoeller's name and had hissed: "The dirty traitor! If I had my way, I'd order him put up against a wall and shot!"
Himmler took it more calmly. He merely raised a deprecating hand, replying: "Please understand, it was a political controversy which got him into trouble. We never interfere with matters of religious dogma." Then, after a moment's pause, he added: "If foreign attacks upon us in this affair would cease, perhaps he could be more leniently dealt with."
It was clear that Himmler didn't wish to discuss the subject further. His eyes narrowed slightly and a frown appeared above the bridge of his nose. Seeing there was nothing more to be gained on that line, I took another tack.
"Tell me something about the basis of your S.S. organization?" was my next question.
"The Schutzstaffel," answered Himmler blandly, "represents the best and soundest young manhood of our race. It is founded on the ideals of self-sacrifice, loyalty, discipline, and all-round excellence. Besides being soldiers, the S.S. has many cultural sides. For instance, we have our own porcelain factory, make our own furniture, and do much scholarly research. When you leave me, I shall have you taken to the barracks of the Leibstandarte here in Berlin, the elite regiment which guards the Fuehrer. There you will see the type of young manhood of which the S.S. is so justly proud."
"And now, Excellency," I went on, "a few words, if you will, about your resettlement policy?"
"That policy," replied Himmler, "can best be expressed in the words of our Fuehrer: 'To give lasting peace to our eastern borders.' For centuries, that region and others in Eastern Europe have been chronically disturbed by jarring minorities hopelessly mixed up with one another. What we are now trying to do is to separate these quarreling elements in just, constructive fashion. We have voluntarily withdrawn our German minorities from places like the Baltic States, and we shall do the same in Northern Italy. We are even marking out a place for the Jews where they may live quietly unto themselves. Between us and the Poles we seek to fashion a proper racial boundary. Of course, we are going about it slowly -- you can't move multitudes of people with their livestock and personal belongings like pawns on a chessboard. But that is the objective we ultimately hope to attain."
Himmler talked further about his resettlement policies, carefully avoiding the tragic aspects that they involve. He then returned briefly to the subject of his S.S. At that point, a smart young aide entered and saluted.
"The motor is ready, sir," he announced.
"To see the Life-Guards," explained Himmler. "I certainly want you to get a glimpse of my men before you leave."
So saying, the redoubtable head of the Gestapo gave me a muscular handshake and wished me a pleasant homeward journey.
RELEVANT LINKS ABOUT HIMMLER AND THE SS
Our list of Himmler's Speeches (The most detailed list on the web)
Heydrich Funeral Eulogies German
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