Monday, December 19, 2011
The Testimony of Felix Kersten, masseur of Heinrich Himmler
Dr. Felix Kersten's story is a fascinating one. A talented Finnish masseur of Estonian origin, he was approached by the SS to soothe the stomach cramps of Heinrich Himmler. Although Kersten appears to have exaggerated his role at times, he was also genuinely heroic in using his privileged position to save the lives of many. Himmler seems to have spoken quite freely in Kersten's presence, fulminating against the King of the Belgians on several occasions. Kersten, in turn, secretly kept a diary of his patient's confidences. In 1995, four documents relating to Leopold III were discovered among Kersten's papers by Professor Léon Masset of the University of Amsterdam and published in an issue of La Révue générale dedicated to the Second World War, with a commentary by Jean Vanwelkenhuyzen. King Leopold's devoted widow, Princess Lilian, was intrigued and pleased by the discovery of the documents concerning her late husband, as well as stunned by the fact that it had taken fifty years for the materials to come to light. According to Kersten's testimony, far from viewing Leopold III as a friend, Himmler saw him as an obstinate, bitter foe, a puppet of the Jews and the Roman Catholic Church. He was outraged that the King, the son of a Coburg father and a Wittelsbach mother, should have resisted the German invasion. He was furious that Leopold had rebuffed Hitler's attempts to entice him into collaborating with the Third Reich. Himmler also hated Leopold's sister, Princess Marie-José, for her opposition to Hitler. Like her brother, he insisted, she had betrayed her German blood. With a great deal of patience and tact, however, taking advantage of the fact that Himmler needed his services, Felix Kersten managed to persuade him to treat Leopold in a humane and dignified manner. By March, 1945, however, Himmler had changed his mind, and decided to have him killed. Kersten had to intervene once again to save his life.