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(Oxford University Press), by Peter Longerich

Mild-mannered Heinrich Himmler wasn’t the architect of the Holocaust and other acts of mass murder by the Nazi Germans, but he was the principal engineer and chief operating officer of a terror machine. Peter Longerich’s massively detailed biography is chilling for revealing nothing traumatic or abnormal in his formative years—no sign of his life’s direction as chief of the SS and Gestapo other than the need to compensate for physical weakness and ill health. But in the radicalized, uncertain environment of post-World War I Germany, Himmler rejected his conservative Catholic heritage in favor of racist occultism—a vision of a new world order that dovetailed well with his eventual master, Adolf Hitler. Longerich’s narrative uncovers a man in a hurry, a man with self-pity about the role he felt destiny had placed on his shoulders as he worked tirelessly to destroy the old Europe and replace it with what he regarded as a utopia. (David Luhrssen)