Point of view: The teenager who arrested Himmler


By Harriet Jackson

Holocaust survivor Guy Bishop passed away on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 21, 2008. Few people know that he arrested Heinrich Himmler, the Nazi responsible for the mass murder of 6 million Jews.

Guy Bishop was born Günther Brüg on April 9, 1926, in Germany. Twelve years later on November 9, 1938, the Nazis launched a pogrom against the Jews of Germany. In addition to destroying Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues, the Nazis arrested thousands of German-Jewish men, including Günther’s father, Ernst Brüg. The event became known as Kristallnacht, marking the beginning of the Holocaust. Günther’s father was interned in Buchenwald, a concentration camp already infamous for its brutality. Every day, Günther would listen to the radio, waiting for foreign countries to protest the anti-Jewish terror campaign. But no government protested. Günther also waited each evening at the train station for his father to return. Mr. Brüg returned home three weeks after his arrest. His father was so emaciated and sickly that Günther did not recognize him. A few days later, Günther’s father died of pneumonia.

For months Günther’s mother wore the black mourning clothes and veil that was customary for widows. But to shame her fellow Germans, she also pinned to her chest the German military medal awarded to her for the outstanding espionage work she performed during WWI. For Frau Gertrude (Gellis) Brüg, Kristallnacht signaled the need to leave Germany immediately. She sent Günther to England as part of a program to get Jewish children out of Germany, called Kindertransport, in July 1939. With no one to greet him in England, Günther was sent to a refugee camp.

By the summer of 1942, all correspondence from Günther’s sister and mother ceased. Günther could not wait to turn 17, enroll in the British Army, and return to Germany to fight with the British troops. He enrolled in the army in 1943 and trained with the elite Black Watch in Scotland. He now called himself Guy Bishop.

Recognizing Guy’s exceptional intellect and fluency in German, the Black Watch contacted the British Intelligence Corps, urging them to take him. And they did, never finding out that Guy had actually been born in Germany, a fact that would have disqualified him from joining British Intelligence. By age 18, Guy became a British intelligence officer and was assigned to a special unit, reporting directly to General Montgomery, the head of the British forces on the Western front.

After Germany’s defeat on May 8, 1945, Guy became one of several British intelligence agents responsible for interrogating Germans. They had to identify those hiding their Nazi past for further interrogation and eventually arrest. Sometime in May 1945, Guy was routinely interrogating Germans at a release camp near Zeven, not far from Denmark. He noticed three German men together, each wearing the long leather coats that German generals wore.

Guy was immediately suspicious of them, especially since two of the men were extremely deferential to the third. Guy sent them to the interrogation camp for further questioning.

Later, while Guy was eating lunch, he saw one of the waiters whose nickname was “Himmler.” That was the moment when it came to Guy that the man he had sent to the interrogation camp was Heinrich Himmler. Guy immediately notified his superiors.

He never took credit for the arrest, believing it was purely coincidental that he happened to have been the interrogation officer on duty when Himmler presented himself. Other British officials signed the arrest document. But it was this German-Jewish teenager turned British spy who helped prevent the escape of the man responsible for killing 6 million Jews.

This article was written by Harriet Jackson, a historian, living in Riverdale. The sources of information are the Nov. 17, 1998 interview of Mr. Guy Bishop conducted by the Survivor of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (Code 47398-3) in New Town, Conn. and several conversations the author had with her cousin, Mr. Bishop, between 1998 and 2004 and with other relatives. The Himmler dossier kept by British Intelligence is still classified. Competing versions of the arrest exist, with various officers taking responsibility. Mr. Bishop chose to remain anonymous and it is his modest version that Ms. Jackson believes to be historically accurate.