A Germany led by Himmler and the SS to destroy Russia


Himmler, whose name would be associated with Nazi infamy and forever remembered as a perpetrator of the Holocaust, was driven by two conflicting motives as the war wound down: He was a fanatic Nazi who worshipped Hitler, and a treacherous opportunist terrified of his future as the curtain of defeat descended on the Third Reich. Retribution for his sins, he knew, would be metted out by the victors. Himmler was considered Hitler's trusted acolyte. Yet, because he was convinced that Germany would lose the war and he would be among those held accountable for war crimes by the Allies, he began to entertain thoughts of high treason against his Fuhrer as early as mid-1942—possibly earlier when Hitler's panzers failed to reach Moscow and the United States was drawn into the war. He hoped for absolution from the Western Allies by offering to seize power from Hitler and negotiate peace in exchange for their license, if not their help, in continuing the struggle against the Soviet Union.

The person whose influence on Himmler was probably greatest was his physical therapist, Felix Kersten, a talented masseur of Baltic German origins and Finnish nationality. Kersten, working in tandem with Walter Schellenberg, head of Nazi security intelligence (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD), made contact with the OSS on behalf of Himmler with the intention of conspiring to overthrow Hitler. Based on declassified files, particularly Hewitt's report, a fascinating story unfolds.

Hewitt in Sweden

No stranger to Sweden, Hewitt had many influential contacts there, including wealthy businessman Jacob Wallenberg. He had met Wallenberg in 1932 while in Stockholm representing a trustee in the bankruptcy of the International Match Corporation, an American holding company. In the course of the company's reorganization, the Wallenbergs had assumed control of the Swedish Match Corporation and its far-flung international subsidiaries. More than a decade later, in August 1943, as war raged in Europe, Hewitt made contact again with his old acquaintance. Aware that Hewitt was well connected in the United States and was even a friend of President Roosevelt, Wallenberg, secretly tied in with the German Resistance, confided freely in him. Explaining that he was "in touch with a cross section of the high ranking German financial and manufacturing interests," Wallenberg told him that Resistance "cells were forming in Germany for the purpose of overthrowing Hitler." He asked Hewitt if he "would be willing to meet with representatives of such cells."

In commenting on Hitler, Wallenberg explained to Hewitt that "his friends" in Germany—a euphemistic reference to Resistance members he knew—were somewhat perplexed about Reichsführer Himmler's true motives. While he was supposed to be entirely loyal to Hitler, certain changes were taking place in Germany that could only raise questions in the minds of intelligence observers. Hewitt concluded that Wallenberg, though vague on this score, believed that Himmler was looking to oust Hitler and take over Germany's government himself as a prelude to reaching a peace agreement with the Western Allies. It was Wallenberg's opinion that Himmler was convinced that Germany would lose, and had begun searching for ways to ingratiate himself with the Western Allies. According to Wallenberg, Himmler envisioned using the SS and the Nazi Party security apparatus as bargaining chips in an unrealistic scenario in which Germany, governed by him in alliance with the Western Powers, would turn their guns on the Russians and defeat the mutually hated Communist bogey.

Strangely insensitive to the revulsion felt toward him by the West for atrocities he was known to have committed, but well aware of his fate if the Russians were to capture him upon Germany's ultimate capitulation, Himmler was sending out feelers to the Americans in Sweden and other neutral countries through a variety of go-betweens. His principal point men in this treacherous enterprise were Walter Schellenberg and Felix Kersten. As Hewitt himself discovered, Schellenberg, responsible for foreign intelligence, was useful because of his professional contacts and ability to hide his special tasks for Himmler within his organization. Kersten, who traveled often to Sweden, where he was establishing a permanent home, was able to make contact with the American OSS without attracting attention.

Three months would go by before Wallenberg and Hewitt would meet again. In the meantime, Himmler had been named the interior minister by Hitler, making him still more powerful. When Jacob Wallenberg finally re-appeared—having been in Germany or elsewhere in Europe—he reported that the Resistance situation had changed in Germany because of increased focus by the Gestapo on the military—particularly Abwehr dissidents and certain prominent civilians with whom they were allied in the Widerstand. According to Hewitt's report, it was Wallenberg's opinion that the only alternatives to Hitler were Himmler, backed primarily by the Waffen SS and the Gestapo, or the Wehrmacht secret opposition cells if they could survive Gestapo harassment and rally the main body of the army before Hitler became aware of what was going on and destroyed them. What Hewitt and presumably Jacob Wallenberg did not know at this time was that Hitler's deputy, Martin Bormann, and Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller had found a way to establish secret contact with the Soviets, on whom they were placing their bets for determining the fate of Europe after the War. Nonetheless, it had already become abundantly clear to Hewitt that the secret "organized" opposition to Hitler was a complicated matter.

The Pitch

Hewitt met Kersten in October 1943, on the urging of a Swedish friend who held a key position in Wallenberg's business organization. Although the friend was not acquainted with Kersten personally, he had been told that the therapist was one of the most powerful men in Germany—an exaggeration, perhaps, but Kersten had by then acquired a remarkable influence over the Reichsführer SS. Himmler had become dependent on Kersten because of the masseur's unique ability to alleviate his chronic, sometimes unbearable, stomach pains. A distinguished British World War II intelligence officer and eminent historian has observed that Kersten was able to "manipulate the conscience as well as the stomach of that... inhuman, but naïve, mystical tyrant of the 'New Order.'

Feigning a "bad back" to provide him cover for frequent meetings with the masseur, and realizing that Kersten, too, was interested in the meetings for political reasons, Hewitt got right down to business—but always mythically insisting that he was not speaking for the US government. Dubious about any liaison with emissaries from the Devil's domain, OSS officers had brushed off earlier efforts by the Nazis to make contact. Among other reasons, the Americans were concerned lest Stalin resent and protest any apparent machination that left him out of the picture. Roosevelt, in particular, did not want to aggravate Stalin's paranoia by creating an appearance of weakening the solidarity of the Grand Alliance. Seeing a political action opportunity to sow discord among the Nazi leaders, however, Hewitt was not reticent about responding positively to Kersten. He sensed that the therapist was a victim of circumstances beyond his control; he was not a Nazi, nor was he irrevocably bound to Himmler, witness his having begun the process of moving to Sweden. He believed Kersten was eager to establish his own relationships with the West rather than be compromised by his link to the Reichsführer when the Third Reich crumbled in defeat.

Hewitt reported that the climax of Kersten's several conversations with him was a startling overture urging Western Allies to collaborate in ousting Hitler and join forces with a Germany led by Himmler and the SS to destroy Russia. To quote Hewitt's report: "The doctor [Kersten] urged me to come to Germany to discuss Himmler's position with him, and to see whether a settlement might be possible. He indicated clearly that, on certain conditions, Himmler was prepared to overthrow Hitler and that he was the only man who had power to do so in Germany."

Source: 'Reichsführer Himmler Pitches Washington': https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intel...

Photo: Superheroes and villains take their place alongside some of the most famous names in history in a selection of wartime pictures. The quirky pictures were created by Indonesian artist and illustrator Agan Harahap - Captain America is pictured with Heinrich Himmler as he inspects a prisoner-of-war camp in Russia in 1940-41


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Gepost door: Chun Jiuqien | 07-04-14

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