How Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler was caught by a Birmingham soldier with ‘schoolboy punishment’
The incredible moment a notorious Nazi leader was captured by a Birmingham soldier using schoolboy punishment has come to light as key items go up for auction. SS leader Heinrich Himmler, second in command to Adolf Hitler during the Third Reich, was on the run in 1945.
He had planned to escape in disguise after Hitler’s suicide on April 30. But was captured in a group by the Russian army at the Bremervoorde bridge in northeastern Germany on May 20, 1945.
They were handed over to the British Army. But Himmler’s identity was not known at first, as his name was Sergeant Heinrich Hizinger.
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Sergeant Grenville Grayer of Great Barr, serving in the Army Intelligence Corps, encountered one of the most notorious mass murderers of the 20th century on May 22, 1945, when he and a group were handed over to the 45th Field Security Section.
Sgt Hizinger proved particularly suspicious as his papers bore a stamp known to be that used by fleeing SS members. Sergeant Grayer and another sergeant named Britton became even more suspicious of the suspect and ordered him to write lines to verify his identity via a handwriting sample.
“Mr. Grayer would often argue with his family about how one of the soldiers looked uncomfortable and out of place,” said Nick Thompson, militaria specialist at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, who searched the records. of Mr. Grayer at the Lichfield Auction Center in Fradley Park. “When the prisoners were vetted, some were in possession of documents that the Intel Corps knew were forged to conceal true identities.
“The suspect was ordered to write lines to confirm and verify his handwriting. Soon the game ended and the man identified himself as Heinrich Himmler.
Himmler inked lines repeating: “Ich soll das Reinigungsgerät mitnehmen.” The Reinigungsgerät 34 was a cleaning kit for a rifle, so the writing roughly translates to: “I must bring my rifle cleaning kit.” The macabre page of Himmler’s brief incarceration contains perhaps the last words ever written on paper by one of the most evil men in history.
Within hours, he was biting on a cyanide capsule – an “SS cough drop” – secreted in a tooth. The date was May 23, 1945, two weeks after the German surrender and three weeks after Hitler’s own suicide.
Called “treuer Heinrich” – “the faithful Heinrich” – since the early 1930s by Hitler, Himmler was known as the architect of the Holocaust that resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews. Soviets, Poles, Roma, homosexuals and political opponents were also murdered by the Nazi killing machine.
Himmler’s devotion to the Nazi cause disintegrated in the final weeks of the war as he unsuccessfully attempted to broker a truce with the Allies that would see him installed as Germany’s post-war leader.
The inevitable rejection sent Himmler to the ground, attempting to escape disguised as a private. In the hours following Himmler’s death. Mr Grayer released the handwriting samples and a silk toiletry bag that belonged to the SS leader as ‘tropaion’ – war trophies – and the items have remained in his family ever since.
The creepy handwriting sample and toiletry bag are now going under the hammer as part of Mr Grayer’s medal archive, which includes his British Empire medal in the original box, named at 135702 AWO CL 2 Intelligence Corps Grenville Grayer plus Africa, Italy, France and German Star, Defense and War Medals, all unnamed as issued.
The band comes with an original cloth shoulder insignia for 30 Corps and a souvenir medallion celebrating the unit. A host of other documents include a photocopy of Himmler’s arrest report signed by those present, including Mr. Grayer.
Also an original photo of him with colleagues from 45 FSS Intel Corps; original 30 Corps Intelligence Summary documents, including intercepts showing life at the front from the German perspective; as well as many other articles of papers, photos and forms.
And also present is a large double sided silk escape style card.
Born in 1917, Mr Grayer, originally from Oldbury, joined the army in 1939 and served first with the Royal Army Service Corps before joining the new Army Intelligence Corps, completing training in Scotland attached to 45 Field Security Section with the rank of Sergeant.
Other war trophies from the collection of Mr Grayer, who became a businessman in Walsall after the war and died in 1995 aged 78, will be sold separately. These include a rare M41 SS tropical cap – which could fetch up to £2,000 – plus a swastika armband with original manufacturer’s briefs and a Luftwaffe pilot’s parachute harness.
“All things considered, it’s just incredible records,” Mr. Thompson added. Mr Grayer’s nephew, Martyn Grayer, of Walsall Road, Lichfield, runs an advertising and marketing agency in the town.
“It was a fascinating experience to revisit the extraordinary story that recounts his wartime experiences and the event of Himmler’s capture which, with recent events, seems to resonate even more,” he said. “Our ‘Uncle Gren’ fulfilled the entire definition of a ‘favorite uncle’, a unique character, generous, supportive with an anarchic humor but above all loved by everyone he met.
“On behalf of my sister Melanie and my brother Chris, we are thrilled to have her story shared and maintained with the potential to have a place in an enthusiast’s collection.”
The items will be auctioned at Richard Winterton’s The Tamworth auction rooms, Church Street, Tamworth on Thursday 24 March from 10am.
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