World Battlefronts: BATTLE OF GERMANY: The Man Who Can't Surrender

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Himmler is the creator and chief of the SS (the Schutzstaffel, or black-uniformed "Elite Guard"), as well as the infamous secret police, the Gestapo. He is also Reich Minister of the Interior, and Reich Minister of Home Defense. The Volkssturm and the Volksgrenadiere (TIME, Dec. 25) are his creations, and their members are under his control until committed to action. Although Goebbels holds the imposing title of Reich Plenipotentiary for the Total War Effort, in that role the little man is simply Himmler's assistant, a sort of glorified collector of old clothes, hardware and bric-a-brac for the Army.

Overgrown Bodyguard. The SS, which was first formed as a bodyguard for Hitler, is the core of Nazi fanaticism. Infiltrated throughout the Army (at least eight to every company) the Black Guards serve as spies against defeatism and disloyalty.

Organized in their own units (20 or 25 divisions, at least half armored or partly armored), they constitute a formidable striking force for offense or defense. They are the most pampered, best equipped units in the German Army. Their division strength is kept up to a full 17,000, as against 10,000 or less for the average Wehrmacht division.

When SS divisions were first sent to fight in Russia, the Wehrmacht generals, who disliked both the SS and its boss, let them take some grievous losses. All that has been changed. In the battle of France the SS units were pulled back as nearly intact as possible, leaving second-rate and third-rate troops to take the beating as rearguards. The same thing happened in the battle of the Ardennes.

Professional Tool. In contrast to some Nazis who have been addicts of drink, drugs, homosexuality or women, Himmler seems almost normal. He has never paid much visible attention to the neurotic mysticism of Hitler or to the abstruse ideologies of Rosenberg. Unlike the bestial Julius Streicher, he does not appear to delight in brutality for its own sake. He simply uses terror with absolute cold-bloodedness and efficiency as his main professional tool.

Son of a Catholic schoolteacher, onetime student of agriculture, he joined the Nazis in time for the abortive Beer-Hall Putsch in 1923, and has since applied himself to furthering Heinrich Himmler's career. The fact that he has kept ten to twelve million foreign slaves at work in Germany is a testimonial to his police ability. His continued personal rise in the last five years shows his aptness for political intrigue.

On Sept. 1, 1939, when Hitler told the Reichstag that Germany was at war, he designated Hermann Göring as his successor in case something should happen to him, and Rudolf Hess as the next leader if something happened to Göring. But Hess dropped first into insanity, then into Scotland, now broods his life away as a British captive. Göring has receded into obscurity, although he is still titular chief of the Luftwaffe. Many Gauleiter who used to hang on Göring's coattails have switched their allegiance to Himmler. The Gestapoman showed his contempt for Göring by impressing large clumps of air-force personnel into the SS and Volksgrenadiere. Göring is said to have taken up his old drug habit once more.

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