Heinrich Müller (Gestapo)

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Heinrich Müller
File:Müller, Heinrich.jpg
Heinrich Müller
Nickname(s) "Gestapo Müller"
Born 28 April 1900
Munich, Bavaria, German Empire
Died May 1945 (assumed)
Berlin (assumed)
Allegiance  German Empire
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Munich Police 1919–33
Gestapo 1933–45
Years of service 1914–18, 1933–45
Rank SS-Gruppenführer Collar Rank.svg SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei
Commands held Chief of the Gestapo 1939–45
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords
War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords
War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords
Iron Cross 1st Class with 1939 Clasp
Iron Cross 2nd Class with 1939 Clasp
Bavarian Military Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords
Golden Party Badge 50px
Sudetenland Medal
Anschluss Medal
Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918

Heinrich Müller (28 April 1900; date of death unknown, but evidence points to May 1945)[1][2] was a German police official under both the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. He became chief of the Gestapo, the political secret state police of Nazi Germany, and was involved in the planning and execution of the Holocaust. He was known as "Gestapo Müller" to distinguish him from another SS general named Heinrich Müller. He was last seen in the Führerbunker in Berlin on 1 May 1945 and remains the most senior figure of the Nazi regime who was never captured or confirmed to have died.

Early career

Müller was born in Munich, Bavaria, the son of working class Catholic parents. After service in the last year of World War I as a pilot for an artillery spotting unit, during which he was decorated several times for bravery (including the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class, Bavarian Military Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords and Bavarian Pilots Badge), he joined the Bavarian Police in 1919. Although not a member of the Freikorps, he was involved in the suppression of the communist risings in the early post-war years. After witnessing the shooting of hostages by the revolutionary "Red Army" in Munich during the Bavarian Soviet Republic, he acquired a lifelong hatred of communism.[3] During the years of the Weimar Republic he was head of the Munich Political Police Department, and became acquainted with many members of the Nazi Party including Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, although Müller in the Weimar period was generally seen as a supporter of the Bavarian People's Party (which at that time ruled Bavaria). On 9 March 1933, during the Nazi putsch that deposed the Bavarian government of Minister-President Heinrich Held, Müller had advocated to his superiors using force against the Nazis.[4] Ironically, these views aided Müller's rise as it guaranteed the hostility of the Nazis, thereby making Müller very dependent upon the patronage of Reinhard Heydrich, who in turn appreciated Müller's professionalism and skill as a policeman, and was aware of Müller's past, making Müller rely upon Heydrich's protection.[4]

Historian Richard J. Evans wrote: "Müller was a stickler for duty and discipline, and approached the tasks he was set as if they were military commands. A true workaholic who never took a holiday, Müller was determined to serve the German state, irrespective of what political form it took, and believed that it was everyone's duty, including his own, to obey its dictates without question."[3] Evans also records that Müller was a regime functionary out of ambition, not out of a belief in National Socialism:

An internal [Nazi] Party memorandum ... could not understand how "so odious an opponent of the movement" could become head of the Gestapo, especially since he had once referred to Hitler as "an immigrant unemployed house painter" and "an Austrian draft-dodger".

On 4 January 1937, an evaluation by the Nazi Party's Deputy Gauleiter of Munich-Upper Bavaria stated:

Criminal Police Chief Inspector Heinrich Müller is not a Party member. He has also never actively worked within the Party or in one of its ancillary organisations...

Before the seizure of power Müller was employed in the political department of the Police Headquarters. He did his duty both under the direction of the notorious Police President Koch [Julius Koch, the Munich Police President 1929–33], and under Nortz and Mantel. His sphere of activity was to supervise and deal with the left-wing movement. It must be admitted that he fought against it very hard, sometimes in fact ignoring legal provisions and regulations in the process. But it is equally clear that, if it had been his task to do so, Müller would have acted against the Right in just the same way. With his enormous ambition and his marked 'pushiness' he would win the approval of his superiors... In terms of his political opinions he belonged to the Nationalist camp and his standpoint varied between the German National People's Party and the Bavarian People's Party. But he was by no means a National Socialist.

As far as his qualities of character are concerned, these are regarded in an even poorer light than his political ones. He is ruthless, uses his elbows and continually tries to demonstrate his efficiency, but claims all the glory for himself.

In his choice of officials for the Bavarian Political Police he was very concerned to propose either officials who were more junior than himself or only those who were inferior in ability to himself. In this way he could keep rivals at bay. In his choice of officials he did not take account of political considerations, he only had his own egoistical aims in mind ... The Gau leadership of Munich-Upper Bavaria cannot, therefore, recommend accelerated promotion for Müller because he has rendered no services to the National Uprising.[4]

Himmler's biographer Peter Padfield wrote: "He [Müller] was an archetypal middle rank official: of limited imagination, non-political, non-ideological, his only fanaticism lay in an inner drive to perfection in his profession and in his duty to the state—which in his mind were one ... A smallish man with piercing eyes and thin lips, he was an able organiser, utterly ruthless, a man who lived for his work."[5] Müller became a member of the Nazi Party in 1939 for the purely opportunist reason of improving his chances of promotion and only after Himmler insisted he do it.[6][7]

Gestapo chief

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Reinhard Heydrich as head of the Security Service (SD) recruited Müller, Franz Josef Huber and Josef Albert Meisinger, referred to as the "Bajuwaren-Brigade" (Bavarian Brigade).[8] Müller joined the SS in 1934. By 1936, with Heydrich head of the Gestapo, Müller was its operations chief.[9] Müller continued to rise quickly through the ranks of the SS: in October 1939 he became an SS-Oberführer, in November 1941 – Gruppenführer and Lieutenant General of the police. In September 1939, when the Gestapo and other police organizations were consolidated under Heydrich into the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), Müller was chief of the RSHA "Amt IV" (Office or Dept. 4): Gestapo.[10] To distinguish him from another SS general named Heinrich Müller (a very common German name), he became known as "Gestapo Müller".

As Gestapo chief of operations and later (after 1939) its chief, Müller played a leading role in the detection and suppression of all forms of resistance to the Nazi regime.[11][12] Under his leadership, the Gestapo succeeded in infiltrating and to a large extent destroying the underground networks of the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party by the end of 1935. He was also involved in the regime's policy towards the Jews, although Heinrich Himmler and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels drove this area of policy. Adolf Eichmann headed the Gestapo's Office of Resettlement and then its Office of Jewish Affairs (the Amt IV section called Referat IV B4). He was Müller's subordinate.[13] Reinhard Heydrich was Müller's direct superior until his assassination in 1942. For the remainder of the war, Ernst Kaltenbrunner took over as Müller's superior.[14]

During the Second World War, Müller was heavily involved in espionage and counter-espionage, particularly since the Nazi regime increasingly distrusted the military intelligence service—the Abwehr—which under Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was a hotbed of activity for the German Resistance. In 1942 he successfully infiltrated the "Red Orchestra" network of Soviet spies and used it to feed false information to the Soviet intelligence services.[15]

Müller occupied a position in the Nazi hierarchy between Himmler, the overall head of the Nazi police apparatus and the chief architect of the plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe, and Eichmann, the man entrusted with arranging the deportations of Jews to the Eastern ghettoes and death camps. Thus, although his chief responsibility was always police work within Germany, he was fully in charge and thus responsible to execute the extermination of the Jews of Europe. During 1941 he dispatched Eichmann on tours of inspection of the occupied Soviet Union, and received detailed reports on the work of the Einsatzgruppen, who killed an estimated 1.4 million Jews in 12 months. In January 1942 he attended the Wannsee Conference at which Heydrich briefed senior officials from a number of government departments of the plan, and at which Eichmann took the minutes.

In May 1942 Heydrich was assassinated in Prague by Czech soldiers sent from London. Müller was sent to Prague to head the investigation into Operation "Anthropoid". He succeeded through a combination of bribery and torture in locating the assassins, who killed themselves to avoid capture. Despite this success, his influence within the regime declined somewhat with the loss of his original patron, Heydrich. During 1943 he had differences with Himmler over what to do with the growing evidence of a resistance network within the German state apparatus, particularly the Abwehr and the Foreign Office. In February 1943 he presented Himmler with firm evidence that Wilhelm Canaris was involved with the resistance; however, Himmler told him to drop the case.[16] Offended by this, Müller became an ally of Martin Bormann, the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, who was Himmler's main rival.[17]

After the assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944, Müller was placed in charge of the arrest and interrogation of all those suspected of involvement in the resistance. Over 5,000 people were arrested and about 200 executed, including Canaris. In the last months of the war Müller remained at his post, apparently still confident of a German victory — he told one of his officers in December 1944 that the Ardennes offensive would result in the recapture of Paris.[18] In April 1945 he was among the last group of Nazi loyalists assembled in the Führerbunker in central Berlin as the Red Army fought its way into the city. One of his last tasks was the sharp interrogation of Hermann Fegelein in the cellar of the Church of the Trinity as to what he knew of Himmler's attempted peace negotiations with the western allies behind Hitler's back.[19] Fegelein was Himmler's SS liaison officer and was shot after Hitler had Himmler expelled from all his posts for the betrayal.[20] Oberscharführer Rochus Misch, the telephone operator for the Führerbunker, recalled seeing Müller in the Reich Chancellery on 30 April 1945. He was still in full uniform.[21] That afternoon, Hitler committed suicide.[22] On 2 May 1945, the commander of the Berlin Defence Area, General Helmuth Weidling, surrendered to the Red Army.[23]


Müller was last seen in the bunker on the evening of 1 May 1945, the day after Hitler's suicide.[18] Hans Baur, Hitler's pilot, later quoted Müller as saying, "We know the Russian methods exactly. I haven't the faintest intention of being taken prisoner by the Russians." From that day onwards, no trace of him has ever been found. He is the most senior member of the Nazi regime whose fate remains a mystery. Possible explanations for his disappearance include:

  • That he was killed or committed suicide during the chaos of the fall of Berlin, and his body was not found.[1]
  • That he escaped from Berlin and made his way to a safe location, possibly in South America, where he lived the rest of his life undetected, and that his identity was not disclosed even after his death.
  • That he was recruited and given a new identity by either the United States or the Soviet Union, and employed by one of them during the Cold War, and that this has never been disclosed.

The Central Intelligence Agency's file on Müller was released under the Freedom of Information Act in 2001, and documents several unsuccessful attempts by U.S. agencies to find Müller. The U.S. National Archives commentary on the file concludes: "Though inconclusive on Müller's ultimate fate, the file is very clear on one point. The Central Intelligence Agency and its predecessors did not know Müller's whereabouts at any point after the war. In other words, the CIA was never in contact with Müller."[18]

The CIA file shows that an extensive search was made for Müller in the months after the German surrender. The search was led by the counterespionage branch of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA). The search was complicated by the fact that "Heinrich Müller" is a very common German name. A further problem arose because "...some of these Müllers, including Gestapo Müller, did not appear to have middle names. An additional source of confusion was that there were two different SS generals named Heinrich Müller."[18]

In 1947, U.S. and British agents searched the home of his wartime mistress Anna Schmid, but found nothing suggesting that he was still alive. With the onset of the Cold War and the shift of priorities to meeting the challenge of the Soviet Union, interest in pursuing missing Nazis declined. By this time the conclusion seems to have been reached that Müller was most likely dead. The Royal Air Force Special Investigation Branch also had an interest in Müller with regards to the Stalag Luft III murders, for which he was presumed to have responsibility given his position in the Gestapo.[18]

The seizure in 1960 and subsequent trial in Israel of Adolf Eichmann sparked new interest in Müller's whereabouts. Although Eichmann revealed no specific information, he told his Israeli interrogators that he believed that Müller was still alive. The West German office in charge of the prosecution of war criminals charged the police to investigate. The possibility that Müller was working for the Soviet Union was considered, but no definite information was gained. Müller's family and his former secretary were placed under surveillance in case he was corresponding with them.[18]

The West Germans investigated several reports of Müller's body being found and buried in the days after the fall of Berlin. The reports were contradictory, not wholly reliable and it was not possible to confirm any of them. One such report came from Walter Lüders, a former member of the Volkssturm, who said that he had been part of a burial unit which had found the body of an SS general in the garden of the Reich Chancellery, with the identity papers of Heinrich Müller. The body had been buried in a mass grave at the old Jewish Cemetery on Grosse Hamburger Strasse in the Soviet Sector. Since this location was in East Berlin in 1961, this gravesite could not be investigated, nor has there been any attempt to excavate this gravesite since the reunification of Germany.[24]

In 1961, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Goleniewski, the Deputy Chief of Polish Military Counter Intelligence defected to the West. Goleniewski had worked as an interrogator of captured German officials from 1948 to 1952. He never met Müller, but said he had heard from his Soviet supervisors that sometime between 1950 and 1952 the Soviets had "picked up Müller and taken him to Moscow". The CIA tried to track down the men Goleniewski named as having worked with Müller in Moscow, but were unable to confirm his story.[18] Israel also continued to pursue Müller: in 1967 two Israeli operatives were caught by West German police attempting to break into the Munich apartment of Müller's wife.[25]

In 1967 in Panama City, a man named Francis Willard Keith was accused of being Müller. West German diplomats pressed Panama to extradite him for trial. West German prosecutors said Sophie Müller, 64, had seen photos of Keith and identified him as her long-missing husband. However, Keith was released once fingerprints proved he was not Müller.[18]

The CIA investigation concluded: "There is little room for doubt that the Soviet and Czechoslovak [intelligence] services circulated rumors to the effect that Müller had escaped to the West ... to offset the charges that the Soviets had sheltered the criminal ... There are strong indications but no proof that Müller collaborated with [the Soviets]. There are also strong indications but no proof that Müller died [in Berlin]." The CIA apparently remained convinced at that time that if Müller had survived the war, he was being harboured within the Soviet Union. But when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Soviet archives were opened, no evidence to support this contention emerged.[18]

The U.S. National Archives commentary concludes: "More information about Müller's fate might still emerge from still secret files of the former Soviet Union. The CIA file, by itself, does not permit definitive conclusions. Taking into account the currently available records, the authors of this report conclude that Müller most likely died in Berlin in early May 1945."[18]

In 2008, historian Peter Longerich published a biography of Heinrich Himmler, which appeared in English translation in 2012. Longerich asserts that Müller was with Himmler at Flensburg on 11 May, and accompanied Himmler and other SS officers in their unsuccessful attempt to escape capture by the Allies and reach Bavaria on foot. Longerich states that Himmler and Müller parted company at Meinstadt, after which Müller was not seen again.[26] Longerich provides no source for this claim, which contradicts previous accounts of Müller's disappearance. The source for Longerich's account appears to be the interrogation of one of Himmler's adjutants, Werner Grothmann, the transcript of which contains references to "Müller."[27]

In 2013 Johannes Tuchel, the head of the Memorial to the German Resistance, claimed Müller's body was found in August 1945 by a work crew cleaning up corpses and was one of 3,000 buried in a mass grave on the site of a former Jewish cemetery in Berlin-Mitte.[28] The SS had destroyed the cemetery in 1943.

Fictional portrayal

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 Weale 2010, p. 412.
  2. Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 285.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Evans, Richard (2005). The Third Reich in Power, Allen Lane, p. 97
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Noakes, Jeremy & Pridham, Geoffrey (editors) Nazism 1919–1945 Volume 2: State, Economy and Society 1933–'39, A Documentary Reader, Exeter: University of Exeter, 1983 pp. 500–501
  5. Padfield, Peter (1995). Himmler: Reichsführer SS, Papermac, p. 145
  6. Wistrich, Robert S. (2001). Who's Who in Nazi Germany, Routledge, p. 174
  7. Hamilton, Charles (1996). Leaders & Personalities of the Third Reich, Vol. 2, R. James Bender Publishing, p. 167
  8. Gerwarth 2011, p. 76.
  9. Weale 2010, p. 132.
  10. Lumsden 2002, pp. 80–84.
  11. Lumsden 2002, p. 83.
  12. Weale 2010, p. 132, 141, 142.
  13. Weale 2010, p. 145.
  14. Lumsden 2002, p. 84.
  15. Weale 2010, p. 145, 146.
  16. Padfield, Peter. Himmler, p. 422
  17. Padfield, Peter. Himmler, p. 427
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 18.8 18.9 Timothy Naftali and others, "Analysis of the Name File of Heinrich Mueller", U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (available online here)
  19. Beevor 2002, pp. 341–343.
  20. Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 267, 270–271, 277, 278.
  21. Misch 2014, pp. 170, 171.
  22. Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 160–182.
  23. Beevor 2002, p. 386.
  24. Smale, Alison. "Müller, an Architect of the Holocaust, Is Said to Be Buried in a Jewish Cemetery in Berlin". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Frischauer, Willi (16 November 1967). "This Man Mueller..." (44, 603). Evening Standard.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Longerich 2012, p. 735.
  27. A facsimile of part of the relevant transcript appears at this German website: http://file1.npage.de/003951/70/html/ripper4.html
  28. "Nazi War Criminal Heinrich Müller Buried in Jewish Cemetery in Berlin". Spiegel Online. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


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