Alex Constantine - January 26, 2014
"... 'I'm going to Auschwitz, kisses, yours Heinrich.' ..."
One black-and white photo shows Heinrich Himmler on an idyllic family outing, holding his wife's hand while his blond, pigtailed daughter is picking flowers. Others show the SS Nazi leader feeding a little fawn or taking a bath at Lake Tegernsee near his home in Bavaria.
The family-friendly, intimate scenes are part of a previously unseen collection of photos, recipe books and hundreds of letters and notes believed to be written by Himmler, one of the Nazis most responsible for the Holocaust.
Excerpts from the collection appeared in seven full pages of German paper Welt am Sonntag on Sunday. They contained large-sized images of Himmler surrounded by his family and excerpts from his love letters to wife Magda, calling her "my sweet, beloved little woman."
The newspaper said the material is part of an eight-part series it plans to publish.
Welt said it was approached three years ago by Israeli film director Vanessa Lapa, whose family had the documents in its possession. Welt said the documents' authenticity has been independently verified by historians.
The paper said two U.S. Army soldiers found the trove right at the end of the war in May 1945, inside a safe in Himmler's home in Bavaria.
Decades later, in the 1980s, the papers surfaced in Israel in the hands of Holocaust survivor Chaim Rosenthal. Welt says it is not clear how he obtained the papers. Rosenthal kept them until 2007, when he sold the documents to Vanessa Lapa's father, who then gave them to his daughter.
Lapa will debut a documentary she directed on the Himmler files at next month's Berlin International Film Festival.
Almost 70 years after the end of the Third Reich, the documents provide an unprecedented glimpse into the private life of Himmler and evidence of his radical anti-Semitism. The writings trace his career from the early beginnings and rise of the Nazis in the 1920s, all the way to the genocide of Europe's Jews in the 1940s.
He does not explicitly write about the atrocities of World War II. But small letter fragments and quotes reveal his involvement -- often shocking in the banality of its evilness -- as when he writes to his wife "I'm going to Auschwitz, kisses, yours Heinrich."
Himmler committed suicide on May 23, 1945, in Lueneburg, Germany, after he was captured by British forces.