Heinrich Himmler was born on October 7, 1900 in Munich, Germany. His father was a schoolmaster and had two other sons besides Heinrich. As a child, Heinrich studied at the local high school and graduated in 1918.
At this time, Germany was involved in World War 1 and Heinrich was appointed an Officer Cadet in the German Army. He was assigned to the 11th Bavarian Regiment, but the war ended just before he was sent to the front lines. As a result, he missed all of the combat and was discharged from the military.
In 1919, Himmler enrolled in the agronomy program at the Technische Hochschule in the city of Munich. While studying there, he joined the Freikorps, a group of ex-military Germans who were angry with Germany's loss in World War 1. In 1923, he joined the Nazi Party's stormtroopers and took part in the Beer Hall Putsch later that year.
In 1925, Himmler joined the SS and became one of its most shining members. In 1927, he was appointed Deputy Reichsfuhrer-SS and began to make the organization his life. When his superior, Erhard Heiden, resigned, Himmler took the position of Reichsfuhrer-SS and found himself in command of 280 SS men.
Over the next several years, Himmler oversaw the massive growth of the SS from hundreds to tens of thousands of members. By 1933, the group had over 50,000 members and great amount of influence. However, the SS at this time was still considered a subset of the SA, a fact that Himmler did not like. Himmler ordered the SS to begin wearing black uniforms in 1933 in an effort to differentiate them from the brown-shirted SA. He was subsequently promoted in rank to SS-Obergruppenfuhrer, obtaining influence equivalent to that of the senior SA leaders.
Himmler became instrumental in the removal of Ernst Rohm, the leader of the SA, and further increased his influence as an effect. He teamed up with Hermann Goering and managed to convince Hitler that Rohm was planning to use the SA to stage a coup and seize power in the Nazi Party. On June 30, 1934, Himmler participated in the execution of Rohm and several of his associates in an operation known as "The Night of the Long Knives".
By 1936, the SS had been established as officially independent of the SA. Himmler succeeded in consolidating all of Germany's law enforcement agencies under the SS, giving him great control over Germany. He was also placed in command of the secret police, then known as the Sicherheitspolizei. He also established a more militant branch of the SS known as the Waffen-SS.
In the 1930s, Himmler implemented a plan for the extermination of Jews and other ethnic undesirables in Germany and its conquered territories. The SS organized concentration camps to house these individuals and submit them to slave labor and eventual extermination. The first such camp was opened in Dachau on March 22, 1933, followed by other camps in Poland. The program caused the deaths of an estimated six million people.
In 1942, Himmler's right hand man in the SS, Reinhard Heydrich, was killed by Czech assassins while stationed in the Prague. Himmler ordered an immediate reprisal that resulted in the killing of all men living in and around the city. In 1944, when a plot against Hitler was discovered, Himmler was promoted to take charge of the Abwehr and all intelligence in Germany.
As the war advanced an Germany's position was placed in jeopardy, Himmler found himself getting more involved with the German military. In 1944, he was made commander of the Upper Rhine army, which was in charge of holding back American and French forces. In 1945, he was placed in charge of defending Germany from the advancing Red Army on its eastern border. However, due to his lack of military experience, Himmler was relieved of command.
By the spring of 1945, Himmler had lost faith in Germany and was convinced that it was doomed to suffer defeat. He contacted a Swedish man named Count Folke Bernadotte and proceeded to negotiate the surrender of German forces in the west. Hitler discovered the plan and named Himmler a traitor shortly after.
Unfortunately for Himmler, his negotiations failed and he was forced to hide out in western Germany until the end of the war. When Karl Donitz was chosen to lead the Flensburg government, Himmler joined him, but was dismissed on May 6, 1945. He then contacted the headquarters of Dwight Eisenhower, promising the surrender of all German forces if he was spared execution, but he was ignored and declared a war criminal.
Later that month, Himmler decided to make the desperate move of returning to Germany by posing as a refugee. However, he was captured by British soldiers in the city of Bremen on May 22, 1945. Soon after his capture, he was identified as the wanted war criminal Heinrich Himmler and scheduled for transfer to Nuremberg for the trials. However, he escaped a certain execution by committing suicide with a potassium cyanide capsule on May 23, 1945.