A Meeting with Himmler

In the early hours of April 21st, 1945, Swedish Jew Norbert Masur met with Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler as a representative of the World Jewish Congress. Just showing up was dangerous, and the diplomacy required for such a talk was fraught with peril. But by that time, Himmler knew the war was lost and that Hitler was losing his mind. The negotiations with Masur would be more about Himmler’s legacy: explaining himself and covering his tracks. Masur writes,   

I tried very carefully to get him away from the unfortunate thought to defend his policies against the Jews in front of a Jew, because such an attempt would force him to add lie upon lie to his argument. But it was impossible to do so. It seemed that he had the need to express his defense to a Jew, as he probably felt that the days of his life, or at least the days of his freedom were numbered. And Himmler continued: “In order to stop the epidemics we were forced to cremate the bodies of the many people who died of the diseases. That was the reason we had to build the crematoria, and now, because of this, everyone wants to tighten the noose around our neck.” This was the most convulsing try by Himmler to cover up his deeds. I loathed this explanation of the crematoria to such an extent that I could only remain silent.

Himmler also tried to defend the concentration camps, Germany’s war losses, and the value of the Nazi party in opposing Communism. As a result of Masur’s visit, Himmler allowed around 7000 women to leave the Ravensbruck concentration camp with the Swedish Red Cross. Read Masur’s report of the meetings in this .pdf document. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: German Federal Archives)

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