German National Socialist (Nazi) official, notorious as the head of the Nazi police forces. He joined the party in 1925, and from 1926 to 1930 he was its director of propaganda. In 1929 he became chief of the Schutzstaffel (known as the SS, or Black Shirts), an elite military force of the party, and in 1934 he won control of the Gestapo (secret police). As head of all German police forces from 1936 to 1945 he carried out a ruthless program for the extermination of Jews and the suppression of all opposition to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. Hitler appointed him minister of the interior in 1943, and in 1944 Himmler became director of home-front operations and chief of the German armed forces operating within the borders of Germany.
In April 1945 he was captured by the British army. He was scheduled to stand trial with the other German leaders as a major war criminal, but committed suicide shortly after his arrest.