Gudrun Burwitz, ever-loyal daughter of Nazi mastermind Heinrich Himmler, dies at 88
WASHINGTON — Gudrun Burwitz, the true-believing daughter of Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany’s highest-ranking official after Adolf Hitler, died May 24 in or near Munich. She was 88.
Her death was first reported by the German newspaper Bild, which also confirmed that Ms. Burwitz had worked for two years in West Germany’s foreign intelligence agency. The agency’s chief historian, Bodo Hechelhammer, told the newspaper that Ms. Burwitz worked as a secretary under an assumed name in the early 1960s. The agency does not comment on current or past employees until they have died.
Ms. Burwitz, who was sometimes called a ‘‘Nazi princess’’ by supporters and detractors alike, remained unrepentant and loyal to her father to the end. She denied the existence of the Holocaust and, in later years, helped provide money and comfort to former Nazis convicted of war crimes.
At the time of her birth in 1929, her father was consolidating power as leader of the elite Nazi paramilitary corps known as the SS. Himmler also commanded the German secret police, the Gestapo, and established the system of prison and concentration camps in which more than 6 million people — primarily Jews but also Roma, homosexuals, and others — would perish.
Ms. Gudrun, who was Himmler’s oldest child, was exceptionally devoted to her father. Himmler and his wife later adopted a son, and had two other children with his mistress.
Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, the bespectacled, undistinguished-looking Himmler enjoyed having Ms. Gudrun at his side, as a blond, blue-eyed symbol of Aryan youth. In a diary later seized by Allied authorities, she noted that she liked to see her reflection in her father’s polished boots. She attended Christmas parties with Hitler.
When she was 12, Ms. Gudrun accompanied her father to the Dachau concentration camp, which was the site of Nazi medical experiments and the execution of tens of thousands of people. She recalled the visit in her diary: ‘‘Today we went to the SS concentration camp at Dachau. We saw everything we could. We saw the gardening work. We saw the pear trees. We saw all the pictures painted by the prisoners. Marvelous.
‘‘And afterward we had a lot to eat. It was very nice.’’
As the Third Reich was collapsing in May 1945, Ms. Gudrun, 15 at the time, and her mother fled to northern Italy, where they were arrested by US troops. Himmler was seized by Russian forces on May 20, 1945, and transferred to British custody. Three days later, he killed himself by biting on a cyanide capsule he had concealed.
Ms. Gudrun and her mother were held for four years in various detention facilities. After their release, mother and daughter settled in the northern German town of Bielefeld.
In 1961, she joined the German intelligence service as a secretary under an assumed name at the agency’s headquarters near Munich. She was dismissed in 1963, when West German authorities were reviewing the presence of former Nazis in the government.