The Strange Death of Heinrich Himmler: A Forensic Investigation

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9780312289232: The Strange Death of Heinrich Himmler: A Forensic Investigation

On 22 May 1945, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the Allies celebrated the capture of the most important member of the Nazi hierarchy, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. The SS leader was arrested and interrogated but committed suicide in Allied custody by ingesting poison from a capsule concealed in his mouth. Then he was buried at a secret site on Lüneberg Heath. But Himmler did not rest in peace, if Himmler it was who was buried there. Months later the British disinterred, re-examined, and cremated his body. Yet in 1946 MI6's most talented, if treacherous, agent, Kim Philby, was still not convinced that the story of Himmler's death made any sense at all. Philby realized that a man of Himmler's organizational genius, a plotter of great intricacy and sophistication who recognized Germany's inevitable defeat as early as 1943, was unlikely to have just blundered into the arms of the Allies. What really happened? Hugh Thomas set out to answer Philby's question and uncovered a maze of corruption, high finance, political gambles, and international intrigue. The Strange Death of Heinrich Himmler unearths not just Himmler's grave, but reveals secrets that have long remained buried, and shadowy figures who would rather stay that way.

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Review:

On May 23, 1945, SS leader Heinrich Himmler committed suicide while in British custody, thus escaping trial and execution for war crimes. Or did he? British surgeon and forensics expert Hugh Thomas looks at the evidence and offers a surprising--and controversial--scenario.

Available evidence is sketchy, and it doesn't help that the British government is keeping the files on the Himmler case sealed until 2045. Still, Thomas suggests, on the strength of forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony, that Himmler's presumed corpse was in fact that of another person. And as for Himmler? It is unlikely, Thomas believes, that Himmler could have fallen by accident into Allied hands; Thomas suggests that he may have gone underground, aided by parties unknown, to direct the SS in its postwar guise, the stuff of Frederick Forsyth's novel, The Odessa File. Thomas's argument is plausible and sometimes persuasive, especially when he discusses the negotiations Himmler's agents conducted with the Allies, well before the war's end, offering to provide a Nazi buffer state against the Soviet Union in exchange for clemency. Highly speculative but well reasoned, Thomas's book should intrigue readers inclined to question received wisdom. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Hugh Thomas is a surgeon and forensic expert of international repute. His first book, The Murder of Rudolf Hess, caused a worldwide furor. His second book, Hess: A Tale of Two Murders, precipitated a six-month Scotland Yard inquiry which saw its report immediately suppressed. His most recent book, The Murder of Adolf Hitler, was published in nine different countries.

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