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The Himmler Brothers

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When Katrin Himmler, Heinrich's great-niece, was fifteen, one of her school mates asked during a history lesson if she was related to the Himmler. Himmler is one of the protagonists of the television documentary Hitler's Children (in German: "Meine Familie, die Nazis und Ich") [4] of the Israeli director Chanoch Zeevi about descendants of the Nazi elite, amongst them Rainer Höss.

Yes', she stammered, at which there was a deathly hush in the classroom and the teacher, embarrassed and unsure, quickly moved the lesson on.He brought his brothers and family down with him and the book shows how self delusion can mask the most horrible of crimes against humanity. It is written by the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler who suspected that her grandfather, Ernst, Heinrich’s younger brother, was not as innocent as the family would have liked to think.

Once upon a time the Himmlers were just a normal German family, middle-class, hard-working, well-educated.For reasons she does not quite explain, he wanted to see if they shed light on what his father and uncle got up to while their brother was achieving notoriety. That she was able to take on the challenge of writing about a relative which most people would never admit to, and to do so in such a candid and objective manner is admirable. Katrin Himmler's cool but meticulous examination of the Himmler story reveals - in all its dark complexity - the gulf between the 'normality' of bourgeois family life and the horrors perpetrated by one member and a more nuanced portrait of Heinrich himself emerges - not a lone evil executioner, but a middle-class family man, loved and fully supported by his respectable German family. The shame seems understandable from Katrin Himmler's own father's perspective as he is one of the children born to these brothers.

But his actions cast a large shadow that the rest of the family were standing in, many of them hiding in there. She interweaves each brother's story of their journey as a soldier during World War I through to their involvement in the Nazi Party and their work during the war. Doug Johnstone wrote in The List: "Katrin's book is admirably level-headed, a meticulous memoir of an extraordinary family, and the author never resorts to histrionics, preferring to let the facts speak for themselves.In the end, The Himmler Brothers raises more questions about its subject than it is capable of answering, but that doesn't lessen in the slightest my admiration of Katrin Himmler for having written it. This edition of private Himmler documents found in Israel was made in close cooperation with the filmmaker Vanessa Lapa. For her this was a turning point: she realised once and for all just how deeply her grandfather and her great-uncle Gebhard were in thrall to their brother's murderous racial policies. I wanted to give my son as much information as possible, so that when he starts asking questions about my family, at least I can answer him.

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