The History Place - Holocaust Timeline

Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS, chief of the German Police, shown with an SS entourage at Mauthausen in 1941, including Sepp Dietrich (left).

"I know there are many people in Germany who feel sick at the very sight of this black (SS) uniform," said Himmler in 1936. "We understand this and we do not expect to be loved...All those who have Germany at heart, will and should respect us. All those who in some way or at some time have a bad conscience in respect to the Führer and the nation should fear us. For these people we have constructed an organization called the SD (SS security service) and in the same way...the Gestapo (secret state police)..."

"Unconditional and highest freedom of will," Himmler instructed his SS, "comes from obedience, from service to our Weltanschauung (world view), obedience which is prepared to render each and every sacrifice to pride, to external honor and to all which is dear to us personally, obedience which never falters but unconditionally follows every order which comes from the Führer or legally from superiors..."

Thus, when the order came from Hitler to exterminate the Jews, they obeyed.

"The Führer has ordered the final solution of the Jewish question," Himmler told Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss in the summer of 1941. "We, the SS, have to carry out this order...I have therefore chosen Auschwitz for this purpose."

In October of 1943, in a speech to SS group leaders, Himmler spoke candidly. "...It is one of those things which is easy to say. 'The Jewish race is to be exterminated,' says every party member. 'That's clear, it's part of our program, elimination of the Jews, extermination, right, we'll do it.' And then they all come along, the eighty million good Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are swine, but this one is a first-class Jew. Of all those who talk like this, not one has watched, not one has stood up to it. Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand. To have gone through this and yet - apart from a few exceptions, examples of human weakness - to have remained decent fellows, this is what has made us hard."

"We have taken from them what wealth they had," he continued. "I have issued a strict order, which SS-Obergruppenführer Pohl has carried out, that this wealth should, as a matter of course, be handed over to the Reich without reserve."

"We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us. Altogether, however, we can say that we have fulfilled this most difficult duty for the love of our people. And our spirit, our soul, our character has not suffered injury from it."

(Photo credit: Mauthausen Museum Archives, courtesy USHMM Photo Archives)

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