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To humanity’s dismay and grief, Adolf Hitler lived a charmed life. He could have died of wounds suffered in the First World War, yet lived on to establish the ghastly Third Reich, create the Holocaust, and initiate World War II, which then resulted in the Cold War and so much tragedy for the world. There were more than forty attempts on his life, some absurd and some very near misses, and yet he survived them all.

The most famous attempt was the conspiracy involving Claus von Stauffenberg on July 20, 1944, and this attempt arguably came closest to succeeding. However, a badly injured Hitler lived on, dragging out the war in an orgy of killing until committing suicide in a dank bunker in Berlin in April, 1945.

But what if Hitler had been killed not by an assassin but in an act of war? And what if that act was largely unexpected and accidental? It would have resulted in enormous unanticipated consequences. With Hitler gone, what would have happened to the Allies’ policy of unconditional surrender? Without Hitler’s nearly insane interference, would the German generals have fought a more intelligent war; thus causing massive and potentially unendurable Allied casualties?

This, of course is the premise of Himmler’s War. Instead of his committing suicide in the spring of 1945, my novel has Hitler dying a messy death in the summer of 1944, a full month before von Stauffenberg’s conspirators would have been in place to effect a coup.

As chaos reigns, a new leader has to step forward in Germany and, in this novel, it is the murderous and sinister Heinrich Himmler. Also, with Hitler dead, this has the potential to devastate political alliances. The impact of Hitler’s premature death would have had huge repercussions, and this is the story of that particular “what if.”

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To reduce any confusion, I have almost entirely used American equivalent ranks when discussing the German military. Aside from being difficult to spell and pronounce, the various military entities, the Waffen SS, the Volkssturm, and the regular army (the Heer), all had their own terminologies for the same ranks. The word Wehrmacht has been generally but incorrectly identified with the army. Wehrmacht is the umbrella term for all three services: the Luftwaffe (Air Force), the Kriegsmarine (Navy), and the Heer (Army). Also, to the best of my knowledge, no such unit as the Seventy-Fourth Armored Regiment existed in the U.S. Army during World War II.

—Robert Conroy, June 2011

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