SEVENTY years ago today one of history’s most notorious monsters died after biting on a cyanide tablet to evade the hangman’s noose that awaited him: Heinrich Himmler, overlord of the SS and architect of the Holocaust.
But one young girl did cry at his loss: his daughter Gudrun. Now aged 85, Gudrun will light a candle for him today, as she has done on every anniversary of his death, to honour the man she called Papi.
She was called Puppi, meaning doll, by him. She has kept faith with his memory down the decades, turning her home into a shrine for him, her heart into a place of sanctuary.
And, more than this, she has devoted her life to the ideals he espoused to become, as one historian has branded her, “the high priestess” of neo-Nazism.
In the ordinary detached home where she lives in Munich’s suburb of Fürstenried she runs the shadowy Stille Hilfe – Silent Aid – organisation that hands out succour and cash to ageing Nazis still trying to evade justice.
As they die off, she has branched out to become a godmother to young female neo-Nazis. They turn to her for advice and passionate nurturing in the politics of hate.
Sources from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution – Germany’s domestic intelligence agency – say she wields immense power within the various female groups who have cast off skinheads and boots for dirndls and plaits.
They infiltrate community groups and kindergartens, preaching the politics of far-Right doctrine to youngsters, mothers and wives susceptible to such extreme nationalism.
Now called Gudrun Burwitz and married to a neo-Nazi, she says that her father did not kill himself on this day 70 years ago but that he was killed by the British.
It is a lie she finds solace in as her peculiar life draws to its close. Just 15 years old when he died, she cut out every picture of him she could find and stuck them into a scrapbook bearing the words My Hero.
Officials of the occupying Allies told her to change her name if she wanted to keep a job or gain qualifications but she would have none of it.
She was and is as proud of him now as the day he took her to Dachau concentration camp when she was 12 and witnessed the skeletal inmates bow and scrape in the presence of her terrifying father.
THE young Burwitz wrote 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. Marvellous. And afterwards we had a lot to eat. It was very nice.”
About 36,000 people were murdered there, many in grotesque medical experiments. “Allied propaganda,” she insists.
In her home lies an unfinished manuscript titled simply Heinrich Himmler. It is a book that she tells sympathisers who come to call “demolishes the lies” told about her father by the Allies after the Second World War.
It has not been published but she hopes that after her death it will make it into print. It is understood that her husband, every bit as fanatical as she is, has compiled extra chapters for the manuscript which tell of her work for Stille Hilfe.
When she meets people who share her extremist views they literally get a sexual thrill from knowing they are in the presence of a woman who had the Reichsführer-SS for her father. Neo-Nazi expert.
In 2010, before his death, Burwitz’s organisation paid for the defence of Samuel Kunz, an SS man wanted for complicity in the murders of 437,000 Jews in the Belzec extermination camp in occupied Poland.
In 2011, two years before he died in his bed, she jumped to the defence of Klaas Carel Faber, 90, a Dutchman who served with the SS in Holland where he murdered defenceless Jews in cold blood, to stop him from being extradited back to his homeland from Germany where he lived in peace and quiet.
In the 1980s and 1990s she travelled across Germany on Stille Hilfe business, visiting ageing Nazis who were either emerging on to the radar of the authorities or those who had stayed submerged.
She was a regular Samaritan of the dark side to these monsters and she revelled in it.
“When she meets people who share her extremist views they literally get a sexual thrill from knowing they are in the presence of a woman who had the Reichsführer-SS for her father.”
Burwitz attended a rally of old Nazis in Ulrichsberg, Austria, several years ago.
“They were terrified of her,” says Andrea Ropke, an authority on neo-Nazism who attended the event. “All these high-ranking former officers lined up and she asked, ‘Where did you serve?’ showing off her vast knowledge of military logistics.”
Sometimes her home is the venue for the Stille Hilfe supporters’ club who arrive and park their cars several streets away. They walk the rest of the way to her door to try to ensure that no journalists or intelligence agents have trailed them.
IN THE 1950s she gave an interview to Norbert Lebert, a German journalist who wanted to record the feelings of the children of all top Nazis. In the 1980s his son Stephan, for his book My Father’s Keeper, revisited those offspring but Burwitz refused to be interviewed again.
He said of her: “The book she means to write about her father – the great book of justification – has never been written, or at least it has never appeared. This does not mean she has put a distance between herself and him, quite the contrary.
“She not only cherishes her father’s memory but she is also keen on appearing at meetings in the neo-Nazi calendar.”
In 1959 she told Lebert she intended to travel to America “where the documents are” that would clear her father’s name. She has never been and the US would probably never allow her entry.
“I don’t believe he swallowed that poison capsule,” she said of the death of her father, just moments before he was to be interrogated for his war crimes. “My mother and I never had official notification of his death. To me the photo of him dead is a retouched photo of when he was alive.”
Today, as on every day since his death, she cherishes a version of humanity and history that few can empathise with.
Yet in a land where neo-Nazi crimes are on the increase the princess of Nazism remains idolised by those still attracted to the grotesque beliefs her father espoused.