Lost letters, photographs and diaries by Heinrich Himmler have been discovered in Israel, shedding new light on one of the men most directly responsible for the Holocaust.
The stash of Nazi-era documents is held in a Tel Aviv bank vault, but has been authenticated by the German federal archive, the world's leading authority on material from the period. Its contents are to be published over eight days in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, starting yesterday with Himmler's letters to his wife Margarete.
The letters portray a man whose cheerful mood is often at odds with the historical crime he helped to orchestrate. "I am travelling to Auschwitz. Kisses, your Heini," he wrote to his wife before setting off to inspect the concentration camp where he directed the killing of some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews.
Himmler and his wife shared anti-Semitic feelings, as well as a joint dislike of Weimar-era Berlin. "Poor sweetie, has to tussle with those wretched Jews over money," the SS leader wrote to his spouse on April 16, 1928.
In November 1938, after the Kristallnacht pogroms that her husband had directed, Margarete Himmler wrote in her diary: "All this Jew business, when will this pack leave us so that we can enjoy our lives?"
"I hate and will always hate the Berlin system, which will never latch on to you, you virtuous and pure woman," Himmler wrote in December 1927. "Berlin is contaminated. Everyone only speaks of money," "Marga" wrote a year later.
Himmler, who killed himself in British custody in Luneberg on May 23, 1945, styled himself as a Landsknecht or servant to his country, "toughened up through 10 years of battle" in a letter of January 2, 1928. Margarete describes her husband as "an evil man with a tough and rough heart", but also writes: "I am so lucky to have such an evil good man, who loves his evil wife as much as she loves him."
The couple had a daughter, Gudrun, in 1929. From late 1938, Himmler had an affair with his long-term secretary Hedwig Potthast, with whom he had two children.
The newly discovered collection of documents is thought to have been found by US army officers in May 1945 in one of the Himmler family homes in Gmund, near the Tegernsee lake in the Bavarian Alps.