History states that Heinrich Himmler, to cheat the gallows, bit on a cyanide tablet embedded in one of his teeth and died as a result. Himmler, after the death of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, was probably the most prized catch out of all the senior figures in Nazi Germany.
Arrested with two other men by a British soldier at a bridge at Bremervorde in Northern Germany as he travelled to Switzerland, the small dishevelled figure with a patch over his left eye, was put into a guardroom. Here he was interviewed by two British Army sergeants who decided that the small man was a member of the ‘field police’ – men who shot anyone in non-occupied Germany who spoke out against the war as it reached its final stages of defeat for Nazi Germany. From the guardroom, ‘Heinrich Hitzinger’ (as his papers stated) was taken to an internment camp where he could be further questioned. It was only at this internment camp that it became obvious that Hitzinger was, in fact, Himmler.
Himmler was searched and two cyanide phials were found on him and removed. It is said that as an Army doctor was about to give Himmler a more thorough examination, he bit on a cyanide capsule embedded in one of his teeth and died as a result.
However, research done by Martin Allen questions this traditional story. He claims that Himmler was killed by British Intelligence to stop any chance of his inter-war peace dealings with the Allies from being made public. These covert dealings started in 1943 – at a time when publically the Allies were calling for the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Any revelations about clandestine peace deals with one of the most notorious men in Nazi Germany, would have been highly embarrassing for the British government.
In 1941, Churchill established the Political Warfare Executive (PWE). Its function was to broadcast propaganda into Nazi Germany to undermine the leadership there. As part of this work, PWE tried to set off one senior Nazi official against others. It was known in PWE that the majority of senior Nazi figures had little time for others in the Nazi hierarchy and that all of them simply wanted to advance their power base at the expense of the others. This belief was confirmed by Albert Speer in his post-war autobiography ‘Inside the Third Reich’. From 1943 on, Himmler had made contact with British Intelligence in an effort to end the war from the Allies point of view. What Himmler is said to have envisioned was the Allies combining their military might with the Germans with one target – Stalin’s Russia. It is said that Himmler had decided that Germany would suffer defeat in the war after the Battle of Stalingrad.
In March 1943, Himmler sent SS general Walter Schellenberg to Sweden where he was to have contacted Victor Mallet, the British ambassador in Sweden. Mallet had little intention of dealing with Himmler but was told to do so by PWE. They also told him to actively encourage more meetings and contact. It seems that PWE’s plan was to completely destabilise the Nazi hierarchy within Germany which would precipitate an early surrender. In October 1943, PWE received a six-point peace plan from Himmler who seemed to believe that he was dealing directly with senior officials at British Intelligence. Himmler stated that peace would lead to German troops being pulled out of occupied Western Europe and that an independent and free Poland would once again come into being. In return he wanted assurances that there would be no Allied invasion of Western Europe and that the Allied bombing of Germany would stop. The head of PWE, Brendan Bracken, wrote
|“Of course HH’s proposal is unrealistic, but it also reveals how desperate the top men of the Nazi regime believe their military situation to be.”|
Towards the end of the war, Himmler openly made overtures of peace to the Allies – much to the fury of Hitler who ordered his arrest. His arrest put PWE in a very difficult position. Churchill had set up PWE to send out propaganda to Nazi Germany. Churchill had been a very vocal supporter of non-negotiation with the Nazis and Churchill had always made it clear that he wanted an unconditional surrender from them. Yet here was a shadowy organisation set up by Churchill doing exactly what Churchill said the Allies would not do – negotiate with Nazi leaders. Any show trial of Himmler may well have brought up other issues.
The death camps were known about in London. RAF intelligence photos and information provided by the Polish Underground movement provided such information. Why didn’t PWE use its potential influence over Himmler to either stop the transport trains to the camps or at the least, reduce the flow of Jews? Also, if Himmler could have pulled off a change in leadership as a result of his contact with GB Intelligence, how many Allied lives might have been saved from D-Day onwards? Would the Red Army have got as far into Eastern Europe as Berlin? Above all, America knew nothing about what PWE had been doing with Himmler.
If Himmler stood trial, all this would come into the open. It might also undermine any case against him. Bracken wrote
|“(the truth) would have devastating repercussions for this country’s standing.”|
At the Public Records Office at Kew, London, Martin Allen found a note dated May 10th 1945 from John Wheeler-Bennett at the Foreign Office to Robert Bruce Lockhart at PWE. The note was marked ‘Personal and Secret’. It states:
|“We cannot allow Himmler to take to the stand in any prospective prosecution, or indeed allow him to be interrogated by the Americans. Steps will therefore have to be taken to eliminate him as soon as he falls into our hands. Please give the matter some thought as, if we are to take action, we will have to expedite such an act with some haste.I have arranged for Mr. Thomas to go for a fortnight“|
What happened next, Allen argues, is open to contention. Allen has found a coded telegram in a Foreign Office file at Kew. It is from a ‘Mr. Thomas’. It states:
|“Further to my orders, we successfully intercepted HH last night at Luneberg before he could be interrogated. As instructed, action was taken to silence him permanently.”|
It is assumed that HH was Heinrich Himmler. Whatever precisely happened, a dead Himmler, according, to Allen, could not embarrass the government. Did Himmler kill himself to cheat the hangman or was he killed by British Intelligence and then buried in an unmarked grave so no autopsy can ever be carried out? Or was the man a double for Himmler – as has been stated – who died while the SS leader escaped justice?