The Himmler Brothers by Katrin Himmler

The Himmler Brothers, by Katrin Himmler, is the story of the young Himmler family, including Heinrich Himmler, who became a leader of the Holocaust. And so Heinrich's brother would marry and have a child, who had another child, whose name was Katrin, who would write a book. This book. In this book, Heinrich is a boy, and his brother, older, is a boy too. His father is an obsessive control freak, a demanding schoolmaster, his mother, makes brief appearances too.

We follow them through Heinrich's inability to get work, his infatuation with Nazism and racism, and ... there it leaves off, for there are dozens of books about Himmler's famous years as a mass killer. But she tells us of his brother, of the 'ordinary nazi', the citizen of Germany who had no aversion to taking a house that had been vacated by Jews, or, in other words, stolen. The citizens who called upon their influential brother / son for favors. The citizens who used party politics for personal politics, to gain job promotions or to oust rivals in, for example, the radio industry, where the brother worked. The citizens who, after the war, would try to pretend this never happened, but whose descendent, Katrin, would pry the story apart, in a search for the truth.

This is a very unusual book. It is an incredible blend of geneaology and horror. The 'banality of evil' does not begin to describe the picture painted here.

The Himmler Family was not extreme. It was apparently somewhat dysfunctional, but I have seen far worse on Jerry Springer. It seemed to be, one of forced outward appearance, and hidden inner truths... it was as though lies and appearance were of utmost important...

The holidays and smiling family photos, do not reveal the anger, of, say, Ernst, beating or scolding his son, on a ski trip, to 'go back' and leave his sisters and father, crying as he is forced to wet himself, for all he was trying to say was that he needed to go to the bathroom and wait up for a minute. Heinrich, writing a 'diary', but one he knew his father would read and 'correct'. Men, educated, sacrifice and 'self denial' for an entire life, unemployed and living with parents... Social climbing, obsessed with career... position, rank, title, relationships to the powerful...

The nazis ended with bigamy. Heinrich and a 'foster son' ignored completely. A hidden mistress and two hidden daughters. A hard, cold, and cruel life, as though these threads, of holidays, and family, fell , like rotted cloth... society disintegrating. . .

I get this sense of shame... and... the brothers fighting what they felt was 'oppression'. Where does this come from, exactly?

In one page, there are intimate letters, punctuated by racist ranting, nihilist expurgations. . .

Katrin has come right up against the limits of this medium... there aren't many books like this, but reason out why.

She must be delicate and careful. She is dealing with living people, and does not reveal names. I wondered why she kept the name Himmler, it gave me great pause, but you understand clearly why she does not use another name. The numbers of insane people attracted to anything nazi like flies, cover over the internet. You can only imagine what they say about the truth.

For nazis were never interested in truth, of the mind, only of physical power, as though truth did not really exist, and words only a tool to bash opponents in this physical battle. Reason only as propaganda, hypocrisy a way of life...

There are no in-line footnotes... I can imagine this is related to the desperate need for the journalistic care needed when revealing facts...

This book turns the stomach. It is no mystery why people create the lies they do about history, the legends and myths. It is hard enough reading it, imagine if it were your own family history, how could your mind possibly bear up under the weight of reality?

Katrin even describes the difficulty she faced herself, the 'mind numbing' things she discovered that put her off the work for months or years.

It is as though this book has opened up a door... I often felt the desire for more detail, more more more. As though just the tip of the iceberg had been shown us here. And yet, this tiny piece of the picture had taken her years to uncover.

This book might depress you about the state of humanity... or it might be, the opposite... to know that eventually, somehow, the truth is revealed.. and even exists....

lyric of 46 and 47th street

well i grew up in a barbaric land

fighting and killing are the way of man

and i cant believe that you cant understand

why i grew up to be no one

oh honey i'm so proud of you

"his father began to keep files with all the newspaper cuttings in which he was mentioned. 'From our d[ear] son Heinrich's political life, 'he inscribed on the covers of the files..."

      -- from The Himmler Brothers, by Katrin Himmler