ARC Main Page Aktion Reinhard Heinrich Himmler

Himmler's Last Days

Last Update 16 February 2006

Flight Route
Flight Route
Being aware of the impending German defeat, Himmler tried to approach the Allies: Hungarian Jews would be released from KZs in exchange for allied trucks. In November 1944 he permitted the transfer of several hundred KZ prisoners to Sweden, ordered the end of the mass murder of Jews, and proposed surrender on the western front whilst continuing to fight in the East.

From 23 January 1945 Himmler had resided at the private nursing home of his medical adviser, Prof Dr Karl Gebhardt in Hohenlychen, 100 km north of Berlin.
Advised by SS-General Walter Schellenberg and encouraged by his masseur, Felix Kersten, Himmler tried to take up peace negotiations with the Allies (behind Hitler's back) via Count Folke Bernadotte, deputy chief of the Swedish Red Cross, who was mainly interested in obtaining concessions for Scandinavians in German KZs. On 22 April 1945 he met the Count in Hohenlychen, and again on 23/24 April in Lübeck. As a result 20,000 KZ prisoners were released and brought to Sweden.

On 26 April Himmler moved to Schwerin, 100 km east of Hamburg, together with his staff and some of his escort battalion. There he was near Admiral Karl Dönitz, the Commander-in Chief of the German Navy, and the most powerful man in north-west Germany in those days.
Meanwhile Himmler's negotiations had become known and after a related BBC broadcast on 28 April Hitler deprived him of all offices and ordered Himmler's arrest. On 29 April the Commander-in-Chief of the German Air Force, General Ritter von Greim, fled from embattled Berlin to Dönitz's new headquarters in Plön (60 km north of Hamburg), and handed over the arrest order. Dönitz had no power over Himmler and had even established his own bodyguard, consisting of submariners, instead of SS guards.
On 30 April Dönitz was appointed Head of State following Hitler's suicide on the afternoon of that day. He told Himmler that he could not join the new government. Dönitz didn't like Himmler and his unwanted SS staff in his HQ and finally said to him:
"Anybody who is a traitor once, is ready to betray a second time."

On 6 May Himmler received a written order dismissing him from all offices. From that moment on Himmler was no longer Commander-in-Chief of the German Reserve Army, Chief of Police, and Reichsführer-SS. The newly appointed Minister of the Interior, Count Schwerin von Krosigk, advised Himmler "to drive straight to Montgomery's HQ and say that you are Heinrich Himmler and that you want to take full responsibility for everything the SS has done."

From 6 or 7 until 11 May 1945 Himmler and 5 attendants stayed at a farm near Satrup. Himmler decided to go to Bavaria, joined by a few SS-officers and perhaps 7 NCOs: His personal assistant Dr Rudolf Brandt,
probably SS-Obergruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Prof Dr Karl Gebhardt, chief SS surgeon and Himmler's personal medical adviser,
probably SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei Otto Ohlendorf, chief of the RSHA Department III,
SS-Sturmbannführer Josef Kiermayer, his personal aide and secretary,
SS-Obersturmbannführer Werner Grothmann,
SS-Sturmbannführer Heinz Macher, and probably 10 other SS men.

They removed all insignia from their uniforms and placed false documents in their pockets in the expectation that these would prove that they were recently released NCOs of the Geheime Feldpolizei. They did not know that even NCOs of this organization were also on the Allied Wanted List ("Immediate Arrest" category). Himmler’s papers identified him as "Ex-Sergeant Heinrich Hitzinger of a Special Armoured Company, attached to the Secret Field Police, demobilized on 3 May 1945".

On 10 May the group left Dönitz's final HQ in Flensburg and drove southwards in 4 large cars. On 11 May the group appeared in Delve, a small village a few kilometres southeast of Friedrichstadt on the Eider River. On 12 May they probably abandoned their cars in Marne, and
decided to continue their way on foot, towards the Elbe River. In the evening they found a fisherman who ferried them (allegedly for 500 RM) from Brunsbüttel across the Elbe River to Neuhaus, a small town at the mouth of the Oste River, at the south bank of the Elbe River. During the following 5 days the group slowly moved southwards. On their way they merged into the background as this area, already under British control, was teeming with German troops of all services.

From this point there are different possibilities re Himmler's route:

Farmhouse Waldstraße
Farmhouse Waldstraße *
On 18 May the group reached Bremervörde where they planned to cross the Oste River. They may have intended to walk through the sparsely inhabited countryside around the small town of Bremervörde, between Hamburg and Bremen. This provided the only possibility of avoiding the densely populated areas around Hamburg and Lübeck on their way southward.
From 18-22 May the group stayed at a farmhouse on Waldstraße, without telling the owner their true identity. From here Kiermayer investigated the situation at the guarded Oste River bridge, not knowing that the group could have easily crossed the river via an unguarded ford some metres upstream. Twice he demanded passes from the district administration in Bremervörde but Landrat Dohrmann refused.

Lohse's Mill
Lohse's Mill *
When Kiermayer returned to the farmhouse and reported on the situation, the men decided to divide the group. The bulk would try to pass the British check-point at the bridge first. At 3 p.m. Kiermayer and Dr Gebhardt set off for the bridge. They intended to come back if there were no problems. One hour later they arrived at the check-point where they were stopped and taken to Sergeant Ken Baisbrown, a member of the Intelligence Corps, and on duty at the mill of Wilhelm Lohse, which served as an office. The British gave the men the impression that everything was in order, and they were sent back with 2 British Army lorries and an escort to bring in the rest of their "sick comrades" (most of whom were purportedly sick policemen on their way to München (Munich), supervised by Dr Gebhardt, who spoke English). Meanwhile Baisbrown went to the nearby office of the 1003 Field Security Reserve Detachment and told Staff-Sergeant John Hogg about these two suspicious men who allegedly belonged to the Secret Field Police GFP (Geheime Feldpolizei), in itself a reason for automatic arrest.
After a while Gebhardt returned to the check-point, but without Himmler and two others. Sergeant Arthur Britton detected that all their documents bore the same GFP stamp, dated after 1 May 1945. In addition, some members initially denied being part of the group although Dr Gebhardt claimed that the whole party was in his care. Therefore the men were segregated. Britton and Baisbrown grilled the youngest and after a short time he admitted that the GFP stamp was in fact an SD headquarters stamp and that the men belonged together. At 6 p.m. the men were arrested and brought to the Civil Internment Camp in Westertimke near Zeven. Together with Dr Gebhardt, Hogg drove back to the farmhouse, since some of the arrested had expressed concern about three other sick members of their group. Meanwhile Himmler and his two companions had left the farmhouse.
Now British intelligence personnel had been alerted that three more SD-sponsored policemen were on their way to an unknown destination.
Because the others obviously had no problems in crossing the check-point, Himmler, Grothmann, and Macher hid for a further day before trying it themselves. On 22 May, walking on Bremervörde's main road toward the check-point, they were stopped by a patrol and brought to the office besides the mill. Arthur Britton received them at about 5 p.m. They showed their documents but the British were aware that they were forgeries. Corporal Richard Forrest searched their belongings, then they were probably brought to a British office at Dohrmann's bakery, a house on Bahnhofstraße in Bremervörde, for interrogation. Afterwards they were arrested at the mill.
Himmler and his two companions spent the night on the first floor of the mill, sleeping on the grain (official report).

Himmler and his two companions were captured on 21 May by 3 Russians (who were assigned to a British post at the River Oste) in Meinstedt (20 kilometres south of Bremervörde, 2 km northeast of Zeven). Then they were brought to Bremervörde where they spent the night in the mill.

From Bremervörde the men went 6 km southward to the next bridge over the Oste River, located in Minstedt.
2.5 km south of Minstedt the POW Camp "Stalag XB" was located. This camp was liberated by the British Army on 29 April 1945. The British opened the gate and the fence so that the POWs could leave the camp. Therefore hundreds of Russian and Polish POWs crossed out the region in April, May, and June 1945. Some of them might have joined the British troops to look out for their former SS camp guards or soldiers. The British post, reinforced by a tank, could have been deployed on one of the hills near the river, together with the already mentioned 3 Russians, assigned to the post.
The British brought Himmler and his companions to Bremervörde.

Be that as it may, Himmler was taken to the Civil Internment Camp in Westertimke.
At about 7 a.m. next morning, the three GFP suspects were duly driven by Arthur Britton and two guards in a 15 cwt truck to Westertimke for initial processing, a journey of some 30 km. En route, a stop was made at Zeven to report the arrest of three SD men to Captain Excell at 45 Field Security Section HQ. Sergeant Britton was told to continue to Westertimke cage for registration.
The trio spent the greater part of the day - Wednesday 23 May 1945 - being moved about by British Army transport. During the afternoon, a trip was made (probably via Fallingbostel on Lüneburg Heath) to 031 Civil Interrogation Camp which had just moved to Kolkhagen Camp on the western side of the village of Barnstedt, south of Lüneburg. At 6:30 p.m. on 23 May 1945, "Sergeant Hitzinger" and his escorts were booked into 031 CIC Barnstedt. At this time ex-Gauleiter of Hamburg, Karl Kaufmann, a more moderate Nazi, was watching new arrivals from the inner compound of Kolkhagen Camp. He noted an odd figure in military boots and breeches and a civilian jacket and saw him go behind a bush, remove an eye patch, and reappear putting on glasses - he was immediately recognizable as Himmler, whom Kaufmann had met. This must have been the moment when Himmler decided to admit his identity.
At about 7:00 p.m., the camp commandant, Captain Thomas Selvester, was informed that three prisoners were insisting on seeing him, in itself an unusual request. Himmler had presumably re-disguised himself for effect, for when he appeared before the camp commandant, he was again wearing the eye patch.
Selvester thus described the scene: "The first man to enter my office was small, ill-looking and shabbily dressed, but he was immediately followed by two other men (Grothmann and Macher), both of whom were tall and soldierly-looking, one slim, and one well-built. The well-built man walked with a limp. I sensed something unusual, and ordered one of my sergeants to place the two men in close custody, and not to allow anyone to speak to them without my authority. They were then removed from my office, whereupon the small man, who was wearing a patch over his left eye, removed the patch and put on a pair of spectacles. His identity was at once obvious, and he said "Heinrich Himmler" in a very quiet voice."
Captain Selvester immediately informed HQ British Second Army at Lüneburg and Major Rice, an Intelligence staff officer, arrived at 7:30 p.m. to confirm Himmler's identity. The German was asked to sign his name and this was compared with a signature Major Rice had brought with him. The next step was a body search:
"This I carried out personally," said Captain Selvester, "handing each item of clothing as it was removed to my sergeant, who re-examined it. In his jacket I found a small brass case, similar to a cartridge case, which contained a small glass phial. I recognized it for what it was, but asked Himmler what it contained, and he said, 'that is my medicine. It cures stomach cramp.' I also found a similar brass case, but without the phial, and came to the conclusion that the phial was hidden somewhere on the prisoner's person. When all Himmler's clothing had been removed and searched, all the orifices of his body were searched, also his hair combed and any likely hiding place examined, but no trace of the phial was found. At this stage he was not asked to open his mouth, as I considered that if the phial was hidden in his mouth and we tried to remove it, it might precipitate some action that would be regretted. I did however send for thick bread and cheese sandwiches and tea, which I offered to Himmler, hoping that I would see if he removed anything from his mouth. I watched him closely, whilst he was eating, but did not notice anything unusual."

On 23 May, Himmler was taken to the Security Force Headquarters at Uelzener Straße 31a in Lüneburg.
He had to undress himself and was inspected by the military doctor, Captain C. J. Wells, accompanied by Colonel Michael Murphy (Secret Service), Major Norman Whittaker, and Company Sergeant Major Edwin Austin.
When the doctor saw a dark object in a gap in Himmler's lower jaw, he ordered him to come closer to the light and tried to remove the glass capsule. Suddenly Himmler bit on the cyanide capsule and at the doctor's fingers. Himmler fell to the ground (or: he was thrown to the ground) and someone shouted "The bastard beats us!" The smell of prussic acid spread through the room. "We immediately upended the old bastard and got his mouth into the bowl of water which was there to wash the poison out", noted Major Whittaker in his diary. "There were terrible groans and grunts coming from the swine." Himmler's tongue was secured in an attempt to prevent him from swallowing the poison. Dr Wells tried resuscitation but it was in vain. After a quarter hour they stopped. "... it was a losing battle and this evil thing breathed its last at 23:14 hours." (Winston G. Ramsey: Himmler's Suicide. In: After the Battle No 14, London 15th August 1976, p. 35)

At least one death mask of Himmler was taken. On 25 May an autopsy was conducted, the teeth configuration compared, and the brain and part of his skeleton removed.
In the early morning of 26 May, four men (Whittaker, Austin, Weston, and Ottery) brought Himmler's corpse to a forest near Lüneburg and buried it.

See the "Grothmann Protocol" (Page 1, Page 1a, Page 2, Page 8, Page 13)

Uwe Ruprecht
Westertimke Map:

AFTER THE BATTLE Magazine. Issue No 14/1976, and 17/1977. See:
Uwe Ruprecht: Das Grab im Wald on:
Gutman, Israel, ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990

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