So What's It All About
SO WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Susan Griffin’s “Our Secret” is a study in psychology. It is a look into the human mind to see what makes people do the things they do and in particular what makes people commit acts of violence. She isolates the first half of the twentieth century and in particular the era of the Second World War as a basis for her study. The essay discusses a number of people but they all tie in to Heinrich Himmler. He is the extreme case, he who can be linked directly to every single death in the concentration camps. Griffin seeks to examine Himmler because if she can discern a monster like Himmler than everyone else simply falls into place. The essay also tries to deduce why something like the Holocaust, although never mentioned directly, can take place. How can so many people be involved and yet so few people try to end it.
Griffin questions the cause of violent tendencies. Is it the way one is raised? To answer this question, she looks at Himmler’s childhood. He was raised in a stern and regimented manner with his father controlling every aspect of his life. His father ruled even an act as simple as keeping a journal. Griffin writes, “The very act of keeping a journal, I sensed, would help me into this life that would now be my own” (Griffin 407). She is speaking of the benefits of keeping a journal and how it can act as a way to express your feelings and that it can be an outlet for your emotions. Himmler did not have this luxury. “Gebhard writes the first entry in his son’s diary, to show the boy how it is to be done. July 13 Departed at 11:50 and arrive safely on the bus in L. We have a very pretty house. In the afternoon we drink coffee at the coffee house” (Griffin 407). As we can see, Himmler is not even allowed to write as he wants but instead is taught to record the facts and nothing more. This was not a source of anger for Himmler but rather began the shaping process of his life.
“The earliest entries in this diary betray so little. Like the words of a schoolboy commanded to write what the teacher requires of him, they are wooden and stiff. The stamp of his father’s character is so heavy on this language that I catch not even a breath of a self here.” (Griffin 407-408)
He became a man who thought not for himself but preferred to have others give him commands. That is why he rose to power in the Nazi party, he did not question orders but rather thrived on them. “Following Hitler with unwavering loyalty, he is known as der treur Heinrich, true Heinrich. He describes himself as an instrument of the Fuhrer’s will” (Griffin 421).
Did the violence in Himmler stem from his adoration of his brother, the perfect physical specimen. Heinrich tried his whole life to be like his older brother, strong and masculine. So much so that while serving as Reichsfuhrer he devised a set of standards for the “Aryan Race” to live up to. One could argue that these standards were modeled after his brother. Himmler’s belief in physical superiority led to the suppression and deaths of many who did not measure up which is ironic because Himmler himself was frail and did not meet any of his own standards. Influenza struck Himmler as a child which prevented him from becoming strong as an adult. Compared with his brother he is weak. He sees his brother and how popular he is. This led Himmler to associate the two together. Strength became synonymous with popularity and then with power.
While in the Nazi party, Himmler surrounded himself with people who were fit. He was the one they went to for orders and he had power over them. For once in his life, Heinrich Himmler, the frail and weak man, controlled the physically fit. He was in control for the first time in his life and it was time for revenge. Himmler inflicted on the Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals what was inflicted on