May 23, 1945: Heinrich Himmler commits suicide.

As Reichsführer-SS, HeinrichHimmler was, for a time, one of Hitler’s most powerful, most trusted officials, but as the war neared its end, even he began to see the futility of Germany’s faltering war effort. In April of 1945, Himmler approached the Allies and proposed to surrender all of Germany’s troops in the West, perhaps in the hope that he might be spared (or at least, shown mercy) when the inevitable war crimes trials came along. By now, however, many of the major concentration camps had been uncovered and liberated by Allied forces, and Himmler, as head of the SS, was now irrevocably associated with these newly-discovered atrocities. 

Hitler, upon receiving the news of his treue Heinrich's betrayal, was enraged. In his last will and testament, he stripped Himmler of all his titles and expelled him from the party, claiming that he and Hermann Göring, by negotiating with the enemy, had “done immeasurable harm to the country and the whole nation”.

Rejected by both the Allied leaders and by his own colleagues, Himmler attempted one last time to avoid prosecution by contacting General Eisenhower (also apparently thinking that he might somehow secure a position in Germany’s postwar government). Naturally, this offer was also rejected - Himmler, to the Allies, was now nothing more than a desperate war criminal. He wandered for several weeks in disguise near the Danish border before being apprehended by Allied soldiers, who recognized him, though his papers gave his name as “Heinrich Hitzinger”. Himmler would have stood trial at the Nuremberg, which would have undoubtedly ended in his hanging, but he committed suicide with a cyanide capsule just a day after his capture. Supposedly, his last words were “Ich bin Heinrich Himmler!”

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