Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Gudrun Burwitz: Heinrich Himmler's daughter who supported Nazi war criminals for decades

Her father was chief architect of the Final Solution and she remained an unrepentant Nazi until the last

Matt Schudel
Monday 04 May 2020 14:18 BST
Gudrun with her father, the Third Reich’s highest ranking official after Hitler, in Berlin in 1938
Gudrun with her father, the Third Reich’s highest ranking official after Hitler, in Berlin in 1938 (AP)

Gudrun Burwitz was the true believing daughter of Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany’s highest ranking official after Adolf Hitler.

Her death in Munich, aged 88, was first reported by the German newspaper Bild last week. It confirmed that Burwitz had worked for two years in West Germany’s foreign intelligence agency. The agency’s chief historian, Bodo Hechelhammer, said that 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.

​Burwitz, who was sometimes called a “Nazi princess” by supporters and detractors alike, remained unrepentant and loyal to her father to the end. Although she had visited a concentration camp, she was a Holocaust denier and, in later years, helped provide money and comfort to former Nazis convicted or suspected of war crimes.

When she was born in 1929, her father was consolidating power as leader of the SS. Himmler also commanded the Gestapo, and established the system of prison and concentration camps in which more than six million people, mostly Jews, would perish.

The only person who outranked Himmler in the Nazi hierarchy was Hitler himself.

Gudrun, who was Himmler’s oldest child and only legitimate daughter, 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 Gudrun at his side, as a blonde, 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, who gave her dolls and chocolates.

Burwitz was active in Stille Hilfe, a group that assisted Nazi fugitives to flee to South America after the war (Rex)

When she was 12, Gudrun accompanied her father to a concentration camp, which was the site of Nazi medical experiments and the execution of tens of thousands of people.

Gudrun 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, 15-year-old Gudrun and her mother fled to northern Italy, where they were arrested by American troops. Himmler was seized by Russian forces on 20 May, and transferred to British custody. Three days later, he killed himself by biting on a cyanide capsule he had concealed.

Gudrun and her mother were held for four years in various detention facilities in Italy, France and Germany. She refused to believe that her father’s death was a suicide and maintained that he had been killed by his British captors.

She was present at some of the war crimes trials of her father’s associates in Nuremberg, Germany.

“She did not weep, but went on hunger strikes,” Norbert and Stephan Lebert wrote in My Father’s Keeper, their 2002 book about the children of Nazi leaders. “She lost weight, fell sick, and stopped developing.”

After their release, mother and daughter settled in the northern German town of Bielefeld, where Gudrun trained as a dressmaker and bookbinder. She found it hard to hold a steady job with her family history.

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.

In the late 1960s she married Wulf-Dieter Burwitz, a writer who became an official in a right-wing political group, and settled in a Munich suburb. They had two children.

Gudrun Margarete Elfriede Emma Anna Himmler was born in Munich. Except for a brief interview in 1959, she is not known to have spoken in public about her father or her later life.

She did, however, often wear a silver brooch given to her by her father, depicting the heads of four horses arranged in the shape of a swastika.

She was also known to be active in a group called Stille Hilfe (Silent Help), which was formed in the 1940s to help Nazi fugitives flee Germany, particularly to South America, and to support their families.

Among followers of the group, Burwitz was “a dazzling Nazi princess, a deity among these believers in the old times”, according to German author Oliver Schrom, who wrote a book about Stille Hilfe.

Burwitz attended underground reunions of Nazi SS officers, often held in Austria, possibly as recently as 2014.

“She was surrounded all the time by dozens of high-ranking former SS men,” Roepke said, after attending one such gathering. “They were hanging on her every word... It was all rather menacing.”

​Burwitz also provided support, through Stille Hilfe, to convicted Nazi war criminals, including Klaus Barbie, the SS officer dubbed the Butcher of Lyon, and Anton “Beautiful Tony” Malloth, who was convicted of killing prisoners at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Malloth was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in the Czech Republic, but Burwitz reportedly helped arrange for him to stay at a retirement facility outside Munich on land once owned by Nazi official Rudolf Hess.

“I never talk about my work,” she said in 2015 when British journalist Allan Hall confronted her at her home. “I just do what I can when I can.”

“Go away,” her husband said to the journalist. “You are not welcome.”

Gudrun Burtwitz, Heinrich Himmler’s daughter, supporter of Nazis and neo-Nazis, born 8 August 1929, died 24 May 2018

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in