When she asked what grandpa Ernst did in the Third Reich, Katrin Himmler’s father used to tell her that he was basically an apolitical man who was prodded into joining the Nazi Party by his elder brother, Heinrich, and took an innocuous job in German radio. Apart from that, Heinrich, the powerful head of the SS, had little to do with his brothers. For a long time this explanation ‘sounded plausible’.
Then, in 1997, Katrin’s father asked her to look at the Nazi Party files that had recently been returned to Germany by the Americans. For reasons she does not quite explain, he wanted to see if they shed light on what his father and uncle got up to while their brother was achieving notoriety. Katrin quickly discovered that the ‘plausible’ version was full of cracks.