Home News Heinrich Himmler: how a fake stamp led to the capture of the SS leader, the …

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Heinrich Himmler: how a fake stamp led to the capture of the SS leader, the …

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A key document for the capture of Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler was made public 75 years after his death.

On May 22, 1945, a trio of attractive men was warned by a patrol at a checkpoint in the Bremervörde region of Germany.

World War II (1939-45) had ended weeks earlier, but many Nazis were on the run and it was feared that they would restructure or flee.

Two of the men wore green overcoats and walked in front of the third member. This, in turn, had an eye patch and looked devastated.

The trio was taken to a military unit where British soldiers asked for their documents. They presented A4-sized papers that were handed to German soldiers at the end of the war as if they were identity cards, with their names, patents, dates of birth and other information.

The man behind the trio introduced himself as Sergeant Heinrich Hizinger. He thought the low-patent document would make it easier for him to pass, but he was wrong.

This is because one of the official stamps used in his document and data from the military unit to which he allegedly belonged drew attention because this information was the same as that found by members of the British intelligence service in false documents used by members of the SS (Nazi police) to try to run away.

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Fake document that Himmler tried to use to escape – Photo: Museum of Military Intelligence / BBC

Fake document that Himmler tried to use to escape – Photo: Museum of Military Intelligence / BBC

The order was to detain everyone with those documents, and the trio was sent to a detention center.

Once there, the man who introduced himself as Hizinger asked to speak to some authority responsible for the prisoners. Even without being unmasked, he feared it wouldn't last long and thought he might bargain his way out. Then he took off his eye patch and calmly revealed who it was.

Hizinger was, in fact, Heinrich Himmler, leader who led the SS and was a key player in the Holocaust, a Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews in Europe. More than 6 million people were killed.

Himmler was in the closest circle to Adolf Hitler and had the title and "Reichsfuehrer SS". He commanded the squads that murdered Jews, Poles, Soviets, Gypsies and other groups classified as "racially inferior".

After Adolf Hitler's death in his bunker, Himmler became one of the most sought after Nazi leaders by the Allies because of his role in front of many of the Third Reich's worst crimes.

While the British were investigating whether that detained man was in fact who he claimed to be, a doctor, Captain Wells, was assigned to examine Himmler. But the two started a fight after the doctor found a blue object hidden in the German military's cheek.

Wells tried to pull it out, but Himmler decided to chew it. It was a cyanide capsule, and he died minutes later.

The fake document that led Himmler to be unmasked remained 75 years shelved, but can now be seen for the first time after being donated to the Museum of Military Intelligence in Shefford, Bedfordshire.

In addition to the historical stamp, there is another bizarre item: the suspenders that the former SS chief wore when he was captured.

Souvenir hunting was common during the war and many of Himmler's personal items were taken away (one of the British military took the slippers that the Nazi leader wore when he was arrested, and another took his shaving items).

The falsified document was donated recently by the granddaughter of British lieutenant colonel Sidney Noakes, a lawyer who joined the intelligence services in 1943 and was later loaned to MI5 (domestic security service). After the war, he resumed his legal career, became a judge and died in 1993.

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Briton Sidney Noakes, who had the documents, is believed to have interrogated Himmler before the German's death – Photo: Museum of Military Intelligence / BBC

Briton Sidney Noakes, who had the documents, is believed to have questioned Himmler before the German's death – Photo: Museum of Military Intelligence / BBC

But how did Himmler's items end him?

Documents dealing with the arrest of the Nazi leader point out that there was an interrogation conducted by MI5. Obviously the names of the agents have not been registered.

"It makes sense to assume that Noakes was one of those investigators, I see no other explanation," says Bill Steadman, curator at the Museum of Military Intelligence.

He believes that Noakes was allowed to keep the documents because the intelligence services had already extracted the information they needed from there.

The objects stayed with Noakes and family until the recent donation, and will be displayed to the public when the museum opens again after the pandemic.

In addition to their curiosity, the items also explain why the Nazi leader was captured. "Without that damned stamp, it is possible that Himmler would have escaped like many other Nazis. What strikes me most about all this is that German leaders considered their disguises perfect," says Steadman.

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