UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133b Homepage > Hist 133b Book Essays Index page > Student essay

"Recipe for Evil "

Book Essay on:
Bradley F. Smith, Heinrich Himmler:
A Nazi in the Making, 1900-1929

(Stanford: Hoover Institution, 1971), 211 pages.
UCSB: DD247.H46.S6

by Heather Quinn
March 19, 2007

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Germany, 1900-1945
UC Santa Barbara, Winter 2007

About the Author
& Abstract
and Links
Plagiarism Warning
$11 used
at amazon

About Heather Quinn

I am a senior History major who has been interested in the history of Western Europe since I first had a chance to learn about it in high school. Both of my grandparents came to the United States from Germany before the outbreak of WWI. I am also interested in learning how such a violent regime came to power and how they were able to annihilate so many Jews.

Abstract (back to top)

The book Heinrich Himmler: A Nazi in the Making 1900-1929 portrays the evolution of a man that was to become responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews. As a child, Heinrich was troubled with chronic sicknesses that left him physically weak for the rest of his life. He was the son of an overprotective mother and a strict father who forced Heinrich to keep a detailed journal of his everyday life. His father took deep pride in the family’s social status and stressed the importance of knowing the right people and being able to befriend them. Heinrich later became infatuated with anything that had to do with the military. Yet he was repeatedly dismissed from the military either from lack of physical strength or the inability of his paramilitary troop to organize following the disarray of WWI. After the disappointment he experienced as a soldier, Heinrich decided that agriculture was his best shot at training outside the army. Unfortunately he was unable to do the necessary jobs on the farm due to his poor physical condition and returned to pursue his dream of serving in the military. His lack of confidence stemming from his sheltered life, his weak physical body, dealing with disappointment after disappointment, and his ability to keep detailed notes of daily activity made Heinrich Himmler the perfect candidate to become Hitler’s right hand man.

Essay (back to top)


Heinrich Himmler was not raised as an anti-Semitic mass murderer. He was the son of a well-known professor at the Ludwigs Gymnasium and an overprotective and strict mother. He was raised in a traditionalist society in Bavaria, which held strong ties to Germany and with the Catholic Church. His father worked hard to give Heinrich and his two brothers a place in middle class society. Heinrich was well educated and kept a well-documented diary of his life. Beneath this seemingly perfect childhood lay deep troubles. Heinrich suffered from chronic illnesses throughout his life He craved attention and sympathy from his parents even when he was away at school. He failed in all his attempts to become part of the military, and he struggled to interact with the opposite sex due to his strict adherence with the Catholic Church. The culmination of these struggles, coupled with the economic crisis after the First World War, ultimately led Heinrich to become one of the most actively anti-Semitic Nazi in history.


Heinrich Himmler was born in Munich on October 7, 1900, the godson to Prince Heinrich whom his father had tutored. His childhood was filled with illness, which plagued him for the rest of his life. At the age of three, Heinrich contracted a serious respiratory problem that he was never able to fully recover from. When he enrolled in the cathedral school he was troubled with the flu, mumps, measles and reoccurring lung infections (Smith, 24). These chronic illnesses led to his parents becoming overly protective and sheltering.

The Himmler family was built on a strict set of standards from which the boys had little chance to act like children. The rigidity of his father was seen through out Heinrich’s daily diary entries. Heinrich carefully listed events throughout the day while on family vacations, carefully noting the date and time and with whom he came into contact. These entries were very precise and were looked over by his father who would correct and add upon them (Smith, 26). Any emotion that Heinrich showed in his diary mirrored that of his parents. By the time he was eleven, Heinrich was able to sufficiently and accurately record his daily activities, a task that would eventually allow historians to follow Heinrich’s downward spiral into Nazism (Smith, 31).

While in school his father kept close watch on his two boys to make sure that they received an education that would reflect or improve the family social status. His father kept notes on the occupations of the fathers of Heinrich’s classmates to ensure his son did not befriend a boy of lower social status (Smith, 25). The Himmler family’s main goal was to prepare their children for a professional life filled with social connections (Smith, 25). Heinrich was raised to believe that contacts with people of noble status were very important and always noted them in his diary. His father’s stress on meeting the right people allowed Heinrich, later in life, to enter deep into the dark world of Nazism.

Schoolboy to Adolescent

His father’s heavy emphasis on school resulted in Heinrich ranking at the top of his class. Heinrich found it easier to relate with his professors rather than communicating with his classmates (Smith, 32). He was very fond of reading and studied hard in school. With the outbreak of WWI, Heinrich’s attention shifted from schoolwork to recording all the events of the war that he could find in the newspapers. Heinrich, like most young boys at this time, wanted nothing more than to be old enough to fight and support Germany. When he reached the age of fifteen he was able to begin military training. Although he saw these field exercises and lectures as somewhat amateurish, he knew this was a great opportunity to get into the physical shape that the army demanded. However, he often fell ill and had to abstain from training (Smith, 38). The realization that he was too weak and fragile to be a soldier contributed to his inner struggle to find meaning in his life.

After enrolling in military training, Heinrich became more assertive and self-conscious. Although he still looked for sympathy in letters he wrote home to his mother, he was able to develop his own attitudes towards the war. With the requirements relaxed to allow more soldiers to join, both of Heinrich’s friends had left to fight. Knowing that he was too young and too unhealthy to serve as a field soldier, Heinrich wanted to become an officer but needed help from prestigious people. He was eventually accepted as an officer candidate but soon realized that he was not cut out for it. He was constantly homesick. He wrote letters home begging for money to eat somewhere besides the food hall. He sent his dirty laundry home for his mother to do and he constantly complained about his living conditions. Due to his sheltered up bringing, Heinrich found it hard to cut ties with his family (Smith 52). He was often thrown into a panic when he thought about his future position in the army and wrote about it often in the letters he sent to his parents (Smith, 58). His regiment was dismissed in 1918. Heinrich was left with his hopes in ruins and the state of Germany in chaos. At this time, one of his old school buddies became involved in “behind-the-scenes maneuvering” in a secret military organization, which gave Heinrich his first taste in politics (Smith, 60).

At this point in his life Himmler had to make his old values conform to his new values. He needed to find a common ground. The war had shifted the political views of most Germans. “The conservatives had somehow to find their place in a world dominated by the victorious allies and in a republic dominated by liberals and Social Democrats” (Smith, 64). The constitution drafted at the Paris Peace Conference was far too democratic for most conservatives. In Bavaria, paramilitary troops were being assembled to defeat the Soviets Revolutionary Council stationed in Munich, a project that Heinrich was quick to join. Once again Heinrichs’ dreams of serving in the military were soon shattered when his unit was not received into the regular army in 1919. This second wave of disappointment left Heinrich with a dim outlook into his future in the military and shifted his interests into agriculture.

A life in agriculture was not the prestigious career that Heinrich’s parents had in mind. If he pursued a life on the farm he would be associated with peasants and on the fringe of what his parents considered proper (Smith, 68). Heinrich believed that as a farmer he could build up his strength and have a better chance for military service. The following month proved him wrong. He fell ill and was hospitalized for three months. Heinrich was diagnosed with heart hypertrophy due to overexertion. Although doctors today dismiss this as a misdiagnosis, his parents kept an even closer eye on Heinrich in order to protect him. Heinrich’s arduous fight with chronic illness led him to become a nervous hypochondriac later in life (Smith, 72). In 1919 for the third time Heinrich, with his brother Gebhard and his cousin joined a military reserve unit in Munich. He felt proud to once again put on a uniform and noted “for me it is always the most precious clothing one can wear” (Smith, 78). Having finally obtained a military job, Heinrich was able to turn his attention to girls.

Life as a Soldier

Heinrich had never had much luck with the opposite sex. He was unable to write about his true feelings in his journal because his father would read every entry. He was a firm believer in abstinence and looked down on those who did not save themselves for marriage. Caught in the middle of a bizarre love triangle, Heinrich slowly faded out of the scene while his cousin Lu had a full-scale romance and a secret engagement. Heinrich kept up a wall to protect other people from seeing him as fragile and weak. To defend himself, he put on a facade of confidence, which quickly turned to aggressiveness (Smith, 79). He did not fair well with his peers or girls because he came off as very threatening. Underneath it all he was continually plagued by self-doubt and went into periods of deep depression. The only thing that lifted him out of this slump was the ideal he held that personal struggle would lead to “a good end” (Smith, 80). He felt that he needed to find the cause of WWI, which led to his financial troubles. This changed Heinrichs’ taste in books, from schoolbooks on the military to books that illustrate Jewish conspiracies that caused WWI.

Alongside his struggles, Heinrich had to deal with the economic distress that was the result of WWI. He was constantly begging his parents for money. In his diary he notes the exact amount of money he could spend each day (Smith, 84). Notes that were found in the books he read in 1919 show anti-Semitic views that give him answers to the problems he is facing. Although Heinrich had never expressed anti-Semitic feelings before, after reading Wichtl’s book on Freemasonry, which blamed the Jews and Masons for causing WWI, he noted “a book that explains everything and tells us whom we must fight against next time” (Smith, 74). Heinrich was in a place in his life where he knew things needed to change.

Heinrich was constantly worried about money, feared interaction with the opposite sex, held a severe sense of self-doubt, and slowly broke away from his parents’ stiff social beliefs. Heinrich began to read books that illustrated people who had overcome severe obstacles and triumphed. He dug more deeply into more rightwing books and found that allegiance and loyalty were the most important qualities in overcoming struggle. Heinrich was filled with a desire to find his place in the world. This place was Schleissheim near Munich, where he initially went to pursue a career in agriculture but found a job working under Hitler (Smith, 131).

Due to the high inflation in 1923, finding a job that did not have a political agenda was almost impossible. The Bavarian authorities looked favorably upon paramilitary organizations (Smith, 132). After the events of November 8-9,1923 Heinrich had completed his transformation from conservative to radical revolutionary (Smith, 140). By joining these organizations Heinrich came into contact with Rohm, who eventually introduced him into the Volkisch. This radical organization was soon absorbed under Hitler, whom, after reading Mein Kamph, Heinrich idolized as a symbol of suffering and triumph. Heinrich became deeply involved with the Volkisch movement and worked as its secretary, a job his upbringing had prepared him to do. Heinrich finally had his chance to be a part of the military.


Heinrich’s ability to keep organized notes, perfected when he was a child, enabled him to organize and coordinate Nazi affairs. His father’s stress on the importance of meeting the right people allowed Heinrich to rise quickly up the Nazi ladder. Finally Heinrich’s ability to camouflage his weak body and lack of self-confidence under a facade of aggressiveness and degradation made him the perfect candidate to carry out Hitler’s dirty work.

Heinrich’s consecutive failures in his early military career alongside the oppressive economic situation in Germany, lead him to fit comfortably in the Nazi party and as Hitler’s number one man. His childhood dreams of participating in the military were only finally realized when he found his niche in the Nazi party. As the son of a strict father and overprotective mother, Heinrich had personal issues in discovering himself. His rapid turn to Nazism was a product of years of feeling inadequate and weak. By joining the Nazi party he was not only fulfilling his dream of being an officer in the military, he found a way to project his lack of self-confidence onto someone else, the Jews.

Bibliography and Links (back to top)(links last checked 3/x/07)

Book Reviews

  • Robert Koehl The American Historical Review, (Vol. 77, No. 4, 1972), pp. 1144-1145.
    This book review critiques Smith’s belief that Himmler was a product of his childhood. Although WWI influenced his childhood, Himmler did not feel the direct affects of the war until the late 1920’s. Koehl believes that the overwhelming pressure to join the Nazi party or become stuck in the agricultural industry is the main reason for Himmler’s accent into Nazism.
  • Raul Hilberg The American Political Science Review (Vol. 65, No. 4, 1971), pp. 1230-1231.
    Unlike Smith's main argument, Hilberg believes that the stress put on Himmler to make a decent living forced him to put the blame on someone. Since Himmler was not directly affiliated with WWI, he found that the reason why the Germans lost was not only the French but the Jews as well. With Himmler’s continual stress on his financial situation, his only option was to get involved in figuring out the best way to put Germany back on its feet. That option was to join the Nazi party and exterminate the Jews.

Books and Articles

  • Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel, Heinrich Himmler: The SS, Gestapo, His Life and Career (Skyhorse Publishing, 2006), 320 pages.
    This book would be a great source into looking at Himmler’s life from a different perspective. Unlike the book that I used to my research, this book extends beyond 1929 and has details on Heinrich’s career. Although this book doesn’t not try to establish why Heinrich was so ruthless, it does a very good job in detailing his life once he became involved in the Nazi party.
  • Peter Padfield, Himmler: Reichs Fuhrer-SS (Weidenfeld Military: Rev Edition, 2001), 672 pages.
    This is a good source because it begins with Heinrich as a child. It mentions several of the reasons that I think were the cause of his evil. It shows what happens after Heinrich becomes involved in the Nazi party and the effects of what he had to deal with as a child. This book would be a good to read after Bradley Smith’s because it shows the aftermath of his troubled childhood.


  • http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/himmler.html
    This website gives a quick overview of Himmler’s life and career. It talks about his childhood and his family structure. Although the majority of the essay is focused on his career, it continually mentions the parts in his childhood that enabled him to complete his jobs under Hitler. It does a good job in intertwining his career with his past.
  • http://www.auschwitz.dk/Himmler.htm
    This website is a good visual source. It does not go into great detail about his childhood but it includes Himmler’s speeches to the SS and pictures of Holocaust victims. Through the speeches that Himmler gave it is easy to see what effect his adolescence had on him. The reading of antisemitic books and his strict tone symbolize his need to hide his insecurities.


(back to top)

Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 3/21/07; last updated:
back to top, to Hist 133b homepage, 133b Book Essays index page; Prof. Marcuse's Courses page; Professor's homepage