The Architect Of Genocide: Himmler And The Final Solution; Himmler

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The Architect Of Genocide: Himmler And The Final Solution

By Richard Breitman
Knopf, 1991
335 pp. $23.00


By Peter Padfield
Henry Holt, 1991
656 pp. $29.95

Breitman's book is a historian's carefully researched work, based on a vast array of sources, documenting Hitler's and Himmler's responsibility for the murder of European Jewry. The book details the planning and the improvisations, but emphasizes the former and Himmler's fanatical hatred of the Jewish race as the determinative cause of the Holocaust. Dealing with a charged controversy, Breitman makes a powerful case that by March 1941 "the Final Solution was just a matter of time-and timing," i.e., that the Holocaust was not a reflex of Hitler's fear that the war in Russia could not be won. Breitman argues that the Wannsee Conference merely ratified the plans and instructed other agencies to cooperate. Breitman records the instances of resistance or opposition, but notes that of course the cooperation of thousands (many still alive and never tried) and the complicity or silence of millions were needed to carry out the murder. While not a full biography, the book concludes that Himmler's "brutality was more learned than instinctive or emotional"-a methodical murderer impelled by racist dogma.

Padfield provides a very full-length biography, embedded in historical context, some of it erroneous and much of it familiar. He attempts a psychological portrait of Himmler and sheds new light on his private life. The horrors of the camps and executions are depicted through the voices of murderers and victims. The final efforts of Himmler to find an accommodation with the Western allies and Hitler's fury at the betrayal round out the grim summary. Padfield's book covers more ground than Breitman's, less persuasively and economically.

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