Reinhard Heydrich: Wikis


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Reinhard Heydrich

Official portrait c.1940

In office
29 September 1941 – 4 June 1942
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Konstantin von Neurath
(Protector until 24 August 1943)
Succeeded by Kurt Daluege
(Acting Protector)

In office
22 September 1939 – 4 June 1942
Appointed by Heinrich Himmler
Preceded by Post Created
Succeeded by Ernst Kaltenbrunner

In office
24 August 1940 – 4 June 1942
Preceded by Otto Steinhäusl
Succeeded by Arthur Nebe

Born 7 March 1904(1904-03-07)
Halle an der Saale, Germany
Died 4 June 1942 (aged 38)
Prague-Libeň, Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia (now Czech Republic)
Nationality German
Political party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
Spouse(s) Lina von Osten (married 26 December 1931)
Children Klaus Heydrich (* 17. June 1933; † 24. October 1943 in traffic accident)

Heider Heydrich (born 23. December 1934)
Silke Heydrich ( born 9. April 1939)
Marte Heydrich (born 23. July 1942)

Religion Roman Catholic
below is his informal signature, on top is his formal document signature

Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (7 March 1904 – 4 June 1942) was a high German Nazi official. He was SS-Obergruppenführer (General) and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office (including the Gestapo, SD and Kripo Nazi police agencies) and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor (Deputy Reich-Protector) of Bohemia and Moravia. When the Nazis moved the headquarters of Interpol to Berlin in 1942, he was appointed and served as President of that international law enforcement agency. Heydrich chaired the 1942 Wannsee Conference, which discussed plans for the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German-occupied territory. He was attacked by British-trained Czech agents on 27 May, 1942 sent to assassinate him in Prague (see Operation Anthropoid). He died slightly over a week later from complications arising from his injuries.


Early life

Heydrich was born in Halle an der Saale to composer Richard Bruno Heydrich and his wife Elisabeth Anna Maria Amalia Kranz. Her father was Hofrat Kranz, founder of the Dresden Conservatory.[1] Reinhard's two forenames were patriotic musical references: "Reinhard" from Amen, an opera written by his father, in a portion called "Reinhard's Crime", while his first middle name, 'Tristan' stems from Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. His third name probably derives from military hero Prince Eugene of Savoy, Eugen in German (the German cruiser Prinz Eugen was also named for Eugene of Savoy, as was the 7th Division of the Waffen-SS). He was born into a well-to-do Catholic family. Music was a part of Heydrich's everyday life; his father was an opera singer as well as the founder of the Halle Conservatory of Music. Young Heydrich developed a passion for the violin, which he carried into his adult life, and he impressed listeners with his musical talent.

Children of Richard Bruno Heydrich: Heinz Heydrich (seated), Reinhard Heydrich (centre), Maria Heydrich

His father was a German Nationalist who instilled patriotic ideas in the minds of his three children.[2] The Heydrich household was very strict and the children were frequently disciplined when needed. As a youth, Heydrich engaged his younger brother, Heinz, in mock fencing duels, thus developing strong fencing skills. Heydrich was very intelligent and he excelled in his schoolwork at the Reform-Realgymnasium. He was also a talented athlete and he became an expert swimmer and fencer. However, he was a shy, insecure boy who was frequently bullied for his high-pitched voice and his family's Catholicism (the community was at the time largely Protestant). It was also rumored that he had some Jewish ancestry — his grandmother's second husband had a Jewish-sounding surname  — and these rumours were later used by Heydrich's superiors in the Nazi Party to exercise a measure of control over him.[3]

When World War I broke out in 1914, 10-year-old Heydrich was too young to enlist for military service. He joined Maercker's Volunteer Rifles [the first Freikorps unit to be formed under Defence Minister Gustav Noske's directives], a right-wing paramilitary group that strongly opposed the Communists. He also joined the Deutschvölkischer Schutz und Trutzbund, (The National German Protection and Shelter League), an anti-Semitic organisation.[4] In 1918, the war ended with Germany's defeat. Due to the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, inflation spread across Germany and many families — including Heydrich's — lost their life savings.

Reinhard Heydrich, cadet

In 1922, he joined the Navy, taking advantage of the free education and guaranteed pension it offered. He became a naval cadet at Germany's chief naval base at Kiel. Heydrich was unpopular among his fellow cadets, however, as rumours of his supposed Jewish ancestry resurfaced. In 1926, he advanced to the rank of ensign (Leutnant zur See) and was assigned as a signals officer on the battleship Schleswig Holstein. Finding himself with considerable authority over the subordinate officers who had once bullied him, he got his revenge by ordering them around and treating them like lowly subjects.

Heydrich became a notorious womanizer, having countless affairs. One night in 1930, he attended a rowing club ball and met a young woman named Lina von Osten. The two became romantically involved and soon announced their engagement. A former lover, the daughter of a shipyard director, became infuriated that Heydrich was going to marry another woman, and she then complained to her father, a friend of Admiral Erich Raeder, then Chief Of Naval Operations. A formal complaint was lodged against Heydrich for insulting the honor of a young woman. He was charged with "conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman" and an investigation ensued. Heydrich was called before a court of honour and he protested his innocence, accusing the woman of lying. Though he was exonerated, the officers demanded that he be cashiered for "conduct unbecoming a naval officer". In April 1931, Raeder sentenced Heydrich to "dismissal for impropriety." He was dismissed in 1931.[5] Heydrich was devastated, but he remained engaged to Lina von Osten. He now found himself with no prospects for a career.

Nazi Party and the SS

Reinhard Heydrich (middle) together with Heinrich Himmler (left), Karl Wolff (right) and an unidentified assistant (front) at the Obersalzberg, May 1939

In 1931, Heinrich Himmler began to set up a counter-intelligence division of the SS. Acting on the advice of his associate Karl von Eberstein, who was a friend of Lina von Osten, Himmler interviewed Heydrich. A commonly stated version is that Himmler arranged for an interview with Heydrich and was instantly impressed, hiring him on the spot. His pay was 180 reichsmarks per month (40 USD). In doing so Himmler also effectively recruited Heydrich into the Nazi Party. He would later receive a Totenkopfring from Himmler, for his service.

To begin work, Heydrich set up his office at the Brown House, the Nazi Party headquarters in Munich. He set about creating a counterintelligence service to be reckoned with.

At this time, he was insignificant within the Nazi Party apparatus. Heydrich created his own network of spies and informers and sent them out to dig up information that could be used as blackmail, going after the party's opponents as well as high-ranking Nazis themselves.

In December 1931, Heydrich and von Osten married. That same year, he was promoted to SS major. As early as 1931, Heydrich was becoming one of the most dangerous men in the Nazi Party. With his vast archive of cross-referenced index cards, the fate of Nazi opponents rested upon his whims.

In 1932, however, Heydrich was given a taste of his own medicine by Adolf Hitler. A number of Heydrich's enemies had discovered the old rumours of his possible Jewish ancestry and began to spread them around. Within the Nazis' organisation, such innuendo could be deadly, even for the head of the Reich's counterintelligence service. An investigation was conducted by Dr. Achim Gercke, the top racial expert of the Nazi Party into Heydrich's genealogy. Dr Gercke reported that Heydrich was "...of German origin and free from any coloured and Jewish blood".[6] Nevertheless, Himmler was distressed by the mere suggestion of a man with "tainted" blood heading his counterintelligence service. In 1942 Himmler told Felix Kersten, his personal masseur, that he had discussed the matter ten years earlier with Hitler, back when Himmler was head of the Bavarian political police. Hitler then interviewed Heydrich and found him "a highly gifted but also very dangerous man, whose gifts the movement had to retain".[7] Himmler related to Kersten that Hitler said Heydrich's "non-Aryan origins were extremely useful; for he would be eternally grateful to us that we had kept him and not expelled him and would obey blindly".[7] Himmler said to Kersten that Hitler's appraisal turned out to be accurate—that he did obey blindly.[7] However, Kersten's recollection of this event and the actions involving Himmler and Hitler have been challenged by historian Max Williams, who holds that it should be "viewed with caution" as "...somewhat suspect".[8]

Gestapo & SD

In July 1932, Heydrich's counterintelligence service grew into an effective machine of terror and intimidation. With Hitler agitating for absolute power in Germany, Himmler and Heydrich wished to control the political police forces of all 17 German states, and they began with the state of Bavaria. In 1933, Heydrich gathered some of his men from the SD and together they stormed police headquarters in Munich and took over the police using intimidation tactics. Himmler became commander of the Bavarian political police with Heydrich as his deputy. From there, the duo moved on to the police forces of the 16 remaining German states. With 15 states under their control, they locked horns with Hermann Göring as to Prussia.

Göring controlled the Prussian political police, and he disliked both Himmler and Heydrich. Göring's intentions were that his police force would stand apart from any other police organization and that its officers would obey no laws, they would be a law unto themselves. He named his organisation Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police). For the purpose of a franking stamp, a postal clerk abbreviated the name to Gestapo. Göring wanted to transfer them out of police headquarters and give them their own command centre.

In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, but he still did not have the dictatorial powers that he desired. In order to give himself more power, he pressured President Paul von Hindenburg to sign a series of decrees which would hamper opposition parties such as the Communists and Socialists. With these decrees, the police had the authority to conduct searches, confiscate property, and arrest and detain people without allowing either a hearing or a trial. Heydrich consulted his list of index cards and supplied the SS and the brown-shirted SA (Sturmabteilung) with lists containing the names of "offenders" to be arrested. Since Heydrich's index cards numbered in the thousands, the prisons were soon filled beyond capacity and the first concentration camps were established in order to deal with the overflow of prisoners.

Crushing the SA

SS-Brigadeführer Heydrich, head of the Bavarian police and SD, in Munich, 1934

On 20 April 1934, Göring and Himmler agreed to put aside their differences (largely because of their mutual hatred and growing dread of the Sturmabteilung). Göring transferred full authority over the Gestapo to Himmler, who was also named chief of all German police forces outside of Prussia. Himmler on 22 April 1934 named Heydrich the head of the Gestapo.[9] With the Gestapo under their control, the two men plotted as to its use along with the SS to crush the SA.

Heydrich had his men uncover false "evidence" that SA leader Ernst Röhm was plotting to overthrow Hitler. Himmler put pressure on Hitler to purge Röhm and the leading members of the SA. Meanwhile Heydrich, Himmler, Göring, and Lutze (at Hitler's direction) drew up lists of those who should be "liquidated" starting with seven top SA officials and ending with many more. On 30 June 1934, the SS and Gestapo acted in coordinated mass arrests that continued throughout the entire weekend. Röhm was shot (without trial) along with the leadership of the SA. This Nazi purge became known as the Night of the Long Knives.

With the SA out of the way, Heydrich began building the Gestapo into an instrument of fear. He improved his index card system. Since he created more categories of offenders, the cards were now colour-coded. The Gestapo had the authority to arrest citizens on the mere suspicion that they might commit a crime, and the definition of a crime was at their discretion; Hitler himself said of the agency that "all means, even if they are not in conformity with existing laws and precedents, are permitted if they serve the will of the Führer".[10] People began disappearing throughout Germany, never to be seen again. At a later date, their families would receive an urn containing their ashes. Under Himmler and Heydrich, Germany became a police state. Further, Himmler had been involved in developing his idea of a "Germanic religion" and wanted SS members to leave the church. In the spring of 1936, Heydrich left the Catholic Church. His wife, Lina, had already left the church the year before. Heydrich not only felt he could no longer be a member, but came to consider the political power (and influence) of the church a danger to the state.[11]

Forging together the police force

On 17 June, 1936, all police forces throughout Germany were united with Himmler as the chief. On 26 June, Himmler reorganised the police into two groups[12]:

- Ordnungspolizei (ORPO) which consisted of the national uniformed police and the municipal police.

- Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) which consisted of the Gestapo and the KRIPO or Kriminalpolizel (Criminal Police).

At that point, Reinhard Heydrich was head of the SiPo, Gestapo, KRIPO and SD. Heinrich Müller, was the chief of operations of the Gestapo. Heydrich's first task was the suppression of all possible dissent prior to and during the 1936 Olympics, a task he executed with a cold and systematic ruthlessness that gained him the German Olympia Honour Badge (First Class) (Deutsches Olympiaehrenzeichen).

In September 1939, the SD, and the SiPo (made up of the Gestapo and the KRIPO) were unified under one office, the Reich Main Security Office RSHA, which was placed under Heydrich's control.[13] He was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei on 24 September 1941.

Red Army Purges

In 1936, the SD received information that a top ranking Soviet officer was plotting to overthrow Joseph Stalin. Sensing an opportunity to strike a blow at both the Soviet Army as well as Admiral Canaris of the German Abwehr, Heydrich decided the Russian officers should be "unmasked".[14] Heydrich discussed the matter with Himmler and both in turn brought it to the attention of Hitler. Unknown to Heydrich, the "information" that he received about the officers plot was actually initiated by Stalin himself in an attempt to make his purges of the Red Army high command believable. Stalin ordered one of his best NKVD agents, General Nikolai Skoblin, to pass Heydrich the false information suggesting a plot against Stalin by Marshall Mikhail Tukhachevsky and other Soviet generals. Heydrich received approval from Hitler to act immediately on the information. Heydrich's SD forged a series of documents and correspondence implicating Tukhachevsky and other Red Army commanders. The material was delivered to the NKVD.[14] The Great Purge of the Red Army followed upon orders of Stalin. While Heydrich believed they had successfully deluded Stalin into executing or dismissing some 35,000 of his officer corps, the importance of Heydrich's part is a matter of speculation and conjecture.[15] It is notable that the forged documents were not even used by Soviet military prosecutors against the generals in their secret trial, instead relying on false confessions extorted or beaten out of the defendants.[16] The result of the purge significantly impaired the combat capabilities of the Red Army for sometime.

Night and Fog Decree

By late 1940, Hitler's armies had swept through most of Western Europe. To Hitler's dismay, anti-Nazi resistance was alive and well, especially in Norway, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. In 1941, the SD was given the responsibility of carrying out the Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) decree, designed to crush this resistance. According to the decree, suspects had to be arrested in a maximally discreet way "under the cover of night and fog". People simply disappeared without a trace and no one was told of their whereabouts or their eventual fate. For each prisoner, the SD was required to fill out a questionnaire that listed their personal information, their country of origin and the details of their crimes against the Reich. This questionnaire was to be put into an envelope inscribed with a seal that read "Nacht und Nebel" and submitted to the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA). This decree remained in effect after Heydrich's death. The exact number of people who vanished in the name of the decree has never been positively established, but it is estimated to be roughly 7,000.

Heydrich at Prague Castle in 1941

Reichsprotektor of Bohemia & Moravia

On 27 September, 1941 Heydrich was appointed Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (the part of Czechoslovakia incorporated into the Reich on 15 March, 1939) and assumed effective government of the territory, as Hitler felt Konstantin von Neurath, Heydrich's predecessor, wasn't draconian enough. (Neurath remained titular Protector until 20 August 1943). Heydrich came to Prague to restore production quotas.

As the governor of Bohemia and Moravia, Heydrich applied "carrot-and-stick" methods. The black market was suppressed, food rations and pensions were increased, and unemployment insurance was established for the first time. Those associated with the resistance movement or the black market were tortured or executed. Under Heydrich, conditions in Prague and the rest of the Czech lands were relatively peaceful and industrial output went up. Because of his success in Prague, Hitler considered making Heydrich the governor of Paris.

Heydrich was, for all intents and purposes, military dictator of Bohemia and Moravia; changes to the government's structure left President Emil Hacha and his cabinet virtually powerless. He often drove alone in a car with an open roof — a show of his confidence in the occupation forces and in the effectiveness of his government. (See Czech resistance to Nazi occupation.)

Assassination in Prague

The street corner where Heydrich was mortally wounded
The car in which Heydrich was mortally wounded showing the upholstery fibres credited for causing his death by septicemia.
A similar car to the one in which Heydrich was mortally wounded (currently in the Military History Museum in Prague)

In London, the Czechoslovak government in exile (Prozatímní státní zřízení) was plotting to assassinate Heydrich. Two men specially trained by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, were chosen for the operation. After receiving training from the British, they returned by parachute on 28 December 1941, dropped from a Halifax of 138 Squadron RAF.

On 27 May 1942, Heydrich was scheduled to attend a meeting with Hitler in Berlin. Heydrich would have to pass a section where the Dresden-Prague road merged with a road leading to the Troja Bridge. That intersection was a perfect spot for the attack because Heydrich's car would have to slow down to make a hairpin turn. The attack was, therefore, scheduled for 27 May. On that date, Heydrich was ambushed while he rode in his open car in the Prague suburb of Libeň. As the car slowed to take the hairpin bend in the road, Gabčík took aim with a Sten sub-machine gun, but it jammed and failed to fire. At that very moment, instead of ordering his driver to speed away, Heydrich called his car to a halt in an attempt to take on the two attackers. Kubiš then immediately threw a bomb (a converted anti-tank mine) at the rear of the car. The explosion wounded Heydrich and also Kubiš himself.

It is alleged that when the smoke cleared, Heydrich emerged from the wreckage with his gun still in his hand and he gave chase after Kubiš and tried to return fire. At least one account states that his pistol was not loaded. He ran for half a block, became weak from shock, and sent his driver, Klein, on foot to chase Gabčík. In the ensuing firefight, Gabčík shot Klein in the leg and escaped. Heydrich appeared not to be seriously injured.

One version suggests that a Czech woman went to Heydrich's aid and flagged down a truck delivering floor polish. First, Heydrich was placed in the back seat, but after complaining that the movement of the truck was causing him pain, he was placed in the back of the truck, lying on his stomach, and he was taken to Bulovka hospital. He had suffered a severe injury to the left side of his body with major damage to his diaphragm, spleen, and lung, as well as a broken rib. The doctors immediately performed an operation and, despite a slight fever, his recovery appeared to progress quite well. On 2 June, during a visit with Himmler, Heydrich reconciled himself with his fate by reciting a part of one of his father's operas:

"The world is just a barrel-organ which the Lord God turns Himself. We all have to dance to the tune which is already on the drum."[17]

After Himmler's visit, Heydrich slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. He is said to have died at 4:30am on 4 June at the age of 38. The autopsy states that he died of septicemia. Of peculiar note, Heydrich's facial expression as he passed from the Earth (his "death mask") betrayed an "uncanny spirituality and entirely perverted beauty, like a renaissance Cardinal," according to Dr. Bernhard Wehner, a police official who investigated the assassination. (The Order of the Death's Head, Hohne, p. 495')

Hitler was enraged that his "protector" of Czechoslovakia had been assassinated. He ordered a quick investigation into who was responsible. Intelligence linked the assassins to the town of Lidice, Czechoslovakia and Ležáky. In retaliation, Hitler ordered a series of deportations in Lidice. Children who had blond hair and blue eyes were separated from their families and "adopted" by German families.

Heydrich's grave

Heydrich was buried in Berlin's Invalidenfriedhof, a military cemetery. The location of the grave in the Invalidenfriedhof is not entirely certain. Heydrich's plot may be between those of two famous German war heroes, Adolf Karl von Oven and Gerhard von Scharnhorst (cemetery section C).[18] Hitler wanted Heydrich to have a monumental tomb, but because of the downhill course of the war the tomb was never built. In 1945 Heydrich's temporary wooden grave marker disappeared. The marker was never replaced, because the Allies and Berlin authorities feared Heydrich's grave would become a rallying point for Neo-Nazis, as is the grave of Rudolf Hess in the little Bavarian town of Wunsiedel. When Berlin became a divided city, the cemetery abutted the line between East Berlin and West Berlin, which in the 1960s became the path of the Berlin Wall. During the time when the Wall was standing, Heydrich's grave may have been part of the so-called "death strip" between the two Berlins and inaccessible to the public, though this is unlikely because section C of the Invalidenfriedhof is in the front of the cemetery, near the Scharnhorststraße entrance, and the death strip was in the back (southwest sections E, F, and G and along the Schiffahrtskanal). A letter published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 1992 asserted that Heydrich's grave is in cemetery section A next to General of Infantry Count Tauentzien von Wittenberg, who fought against Napoleon in the wars of liberation (1813).[19] A recent biography of Heydrich also places the grave in Section A. [20] A photograph of Heydrich's burial shows the wreaths and mourners to be in section A, which abuts the north wall of the Invalidenfriedhof and Scharnhorststraße at the front of the cemetery. [21][22]


Infuriated, Hitler ordered the arrest and execution of 10,000 randomly selected Czechs, but, after consultations with Karl Hermann Frank, he reduced his response.[23] Upon Himmler's orders, the Nazi retaliation was brutal. About 13,000 people were arrested, deported, imprisoned or killed. On 10 June, all males over the age of 16 in the village of Lidice, 22 km north-west of Prague, and another village, Ležáky, were murdered. The towns were burned and the ruins leveled.

Heydrich's assassins took refuge in the crypt of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, an Orthodox church in Prague. Their location betrayed by two traitors in the Czech resistance movement, the church was surrounded and the Germans started firing on it. Rather than surrender, the assassins took their own lives. Among those tortured and killed was the church's leader, Bishop Gorazd, who is now revered as a martyr of the Orthodox Church.

There is a special memorial to both the assassins and the dead of Lidice and Lezaky in Jephson Gardens, Royal Leamington Spa, where the Czech forces were stationed during the war, and where their training took place. The memorial fountain is in the form of a parachute, with water running over the centre fold. Planted around the fountain is the special white Lidice Rose, grown in commemoration of the dead. This memorial is believed to be the only place outside of Czechoslovakia where the special rose is grown. The fountain was designed and is maintained by Warwick district council. There are also roses from Lidice at Aston Abbotts in Buckinghamshire.

Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík had trained with the British Special Operations Executive at various Special Training Schools in England and Scotland, including STS21 established at Arisaig House, Arisaig near Lochaber in Scotland.[24]

Stamp memorializing Heydrich

An elaborate funeral was conducted for Heydrich in Prague and Berlin, with Hitler attending (and placing Heydrich's decorations on his funeral pillow, the highest grade of the German Order and the Blood Order Medal). Although Heydrich's death was employed as pro-Reich propaganda, Hitler seemed privately to blame Heydrich for his own death, through carelessness:

Since it is opportunity which makes not only the thief but also the assassin, such heroic gestures as driving in an open, unarmoured vehicle or walking about the streets unguarded are just damned stupidity, which serves the Fatherland not one whit. That a man as irreplaceable as Heydrich should expose himself to unnecessary danger, I can only condemn as stupid and idiotic.[25]

Heydrich's eventual replacements were Ernst Kaltenbrunner as the chief of RSHA, and Karl Hermann Frank 27 - 28 May 1942 and Kurt Daluege 28 May 1942 - 14 October 1943 as the new acting Reichsprotektors.

After Heydrich's death, his legacy lived on; the first three "trial" death camps were constructed and put into operation at Treblinka, Sobibór, and Belzec. The project was named Operation Reinhard in Heydrich's honor.[26]

Himmler and Heydrich

As chief of all police forces, Himmler was technically responsible to Wilhelm Frick, the minister of the Interior, but in practice answered only to Hitler. Himmler's police forces were independent and they obeyed no government laws. Rather than protecting the citizens of the Reich, the role of the police had become that of protecting the Reich from its citizens. Heydrich's ruthless efficiency in this department earned him the nicknames "the blonde beast" and "Himmler's evil genius".

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Heydrich and Himmler had an odd but practical working relationship. Although Himmler was the boss, Heydrich was the true force behind the SD and Gestapo. While they personally disliked each other,[27] the two men formed a solid partnership and became a force to be reckoned within the Party. Their thirst for power took them beyond the periphery of the SD and SS.

While Heydrich's abilities were never doubted by superiors and subordinates alike, his arrogance and combativeness won him few supporters within the Party and occasionally embarrassed Himmler, who had to clean up the messes. Himmler would occasionally lose his patience with Heydrich, berating and abusing him, sometimes calling him "Genghis Khan".

In light of the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, Heydrich braced himself for the possibility of Himmler firing him. Himmler did not fire Heydrich, but he was clearly angered. In a public speech, Himmler stated that he was misguided by his incapable subordinates; Although he did not name Heydrich specifically, Heydrich knew that he was one of them.

Upon the establishment of the Third Reich, Heydrich helped Hitler and Himmler gather information on many political opponents, keeping an extensive filing system listing individuals and organizations who opposed the party and the regime. He is believed to be the creator of the forged documents of Russian correspondence with the German High Command. While it is now known that the Stalinist Great Purge of the Soviet military officer corps was at most tangentially related to these forgeries[citation needed], at the time it was widely believed to have resulted from Heydrich's actions, enormously adding to his prestige. He was also instrumental in establishing the false 'attack' by Poland on German national radio at Gleiwitz, intended to provide the Nazi justification for the beginning of World War II. This fabrication failed, however, and only came to light after the war, when Allied investigators began researching the captured German documents.

Role in the Holocaust

1938 Telegram giving orders during Kristallnacht, signed by Heydrich
July 1941 letter from Göring to Heydrich concerning the "final solution" "in the manner of emigration or evacuation" (sic)

Although ultimate responsibility for the Holocaust falls on Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, Heydrich was also one of the main architects of the Holocaust during the first years of the war, only answering to, and taking orders from Hitler and Himmler in all matters that pertained to the deportation, imprisonment, and extermination of Jews.

During Kristallnacht, November 1938, he sent a telegram to various SD and Gestapo offices, helping to coordinate the program with the SS, the SD, the Gestapo, the Order Police, the Nazi party, and even the fire departments. It talks about permitting arson and destruction of Jewish businesses and synagogues, and orders the taking of all "archival material" out of Jewish community centers and synagogues. The telegram also ordered that "as many Jews -- particularly affluent Jews -- are to be arrested in all districts as can be accommodated in existing detention facilities. . . . Immediately after the arrests have been carried out, the appropriate concentration camps should be contacted to place the Jews into camps as quickly as possible."[28]

After Kristallnacht, Göring assigned him as head of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration. In this position, he worked tirelessly both to coordinate various initiatives for the Final Solution, and to assert SS dominance over Jewish policy.

He was involved in several mass deportations. On 10 October 1941, he was the senior officer at a meeting in Prague that discussed evacuating 50,000 Jewish people from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (mostly in the modern day Czech Republic) to ghettos in Minsk and Riga. Also discussed was the taking of 5,000 Jewish people "in the next few weeks" from Prague and handing them over to the Einsatzgruppen commanders Nebe and Rasch. The creation of ghettos in the Protectorate was also discussed, which would eventually result in the construction of Theresienstadt,[29] where 33,000 people would eventually die, and tens of thousands more would pass through on their way to death in the East.[30]

In 1941 Himmler named Heydrich as "responsible for implementing" the forced movement of 60,000 Jewish people from Germany and Czechoslovakia to the Lodz (Litzmannstadt) Ghetto in Poland.[31]

Most famously in this respect, on 20 January 1942, Heydrich chaired the Wannsee Conference, at which he presented to the heads of a number of German Government departments a plan for the deportation and transporting of 11 million Jewish people from every country in Europe to be worked to death or outright killed in the East.[32]


Einsatzgruppen (German: "task forces", "special-ops units") were paramilitary groups formed under the direction of Reinhard Heydrich and operated by the Schutzstaffel (SS) before and during World War II. Their principal task (during the war), according to SS General Erich von dem Bach, at the Nuremberg Trials: "was the annihilation of the Jews, Gypsies, and Soviet political commissars". They were a key component in the implementation of the "Final Solution of the Jewish question" (German: Die Endlösung der Judenfrage) in the conquered territories. These killing units should be viewed in conjunction with the Holocaust.

During the war these units were formed mainly of men from the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo), the Waffen-SS and local volunteers, e.g. militia groups, and led by Gestapo, Kripo, and SD officers. These death squads followed the Wehrmacht as it advanced eastwards through Eastern Europe en route to the Soviet Union. In occupied territory, the Einsatzgruppen also used the local populace for additional security and manpower when needed. The activities of the Einsatzgruppen were spread through a large pool of soldiers from the branches of the SS and the German Reich. Einsatzgruppen were under the control of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) (Reich Main Security Office); i.e., Reinhard Heydrich (until his death) and later his successor Ernst Kaltenbrunner.


Heydrich and his wife Lina attending a concert in Waldstein Palace in Prague, 26 May 1942, the day before the assassination attempt that led to his death on 4 June 1942

In December 1930, Heydrich met Lina Mathilde von Osten (14 June 1911 - 14 August 1985). She was the daughter of Jürgen von Osten, a minor German aristocrat. They were married on 26 December 1931 in Großenbrode. The couple had four children: Klaus, born in 1933; Heider, born in 1934; Silke, born in 1939; and Marte, born shortly after her father's death in 1942. In 1943, Klaus was killed in a traffic accident. In 1944, Lina Heydrich had Heider, 9 years old then, removed from the Hitler Youth out of fear that he might meet the same fate as his father and as the prospect of using child soldiers became a reality in Germany. Heydrich's younger brother Heinz Siegfried (29 September 1905 in Halle/S), though initially a fanatical Nazi, gradually became disenchanted with the Party and even became involved in obtaining false identification documents for Jews to save them from persecution. When he feared his activities would be uncovered by the Gestapo he committed suicide. He shot himself on November 19, 1944.[citation needed]

As of 2008, Heider, Marte and Silke are reported[citation needed] to still be alive.

Summary of career

Heydrich's time in the SS, often stated by historians to be a "murderous career", is a mixture of rapid promotions, reserve commissions in the regular armed forces, as well as front line combat service. During his 11 years with the SS, Heydrich truly "rose from the ranks", being appointed to every rank from private to full general. He was also a Major in the Luftwaffe, flying nearly one hundred missions until he was shot down behind enemy lines by Soviet AA while flying a combat sortie. After this he was ordered personally by Hitler to return to Berlin and resume his SS duties. Furthermore, his service record gives him credit as a Reserve Lieutenant in the Navy, although during World War II Heydrich had no contact at all with this military branch and the entry was likely made due to his prior service.

Heydrich was also the recipient of several high ranking Nazi and military awards, including the German Order, Blood Order, Golden Party Badge, bronze and silver combat mission bars and the Iron Cross First and Second Classes.

In popular culture


Poster depicting Heydrich

The 1943 Fritz Lang film Hangmen Also Die takes place in Prague and is based on Heydrich's assassination. A second 1943 film Hitler's Madman, directed by Douglas Sirk, starred John Carradine. A documentary/drama film, SS-3: The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, produced and directed by Jan and Krystyna Kaplan, was released on video in 1992.

The events of the Wannsee conference are recreated in the 1984 TV Movie Wannseekonferenz (The Wannsee Conference)[33] directed by Heinz Schirk and starring Dietrich Mattausch as Heydrich; It was remade in 2001 under the title Conspiracy,[34] with Kenneth Branagh playing Heydrich. The conference was also the subject of a 1992 English language documentary film entitled The Wannsee Conference directed by Dutch director Willy Lindwer.[35]

Anton Diffring played Heydrich in the 1975 film Operation Daybreak, about the assassination of the Reichsprotektor. Diffring was 57 years old when he shot this movie; Heydrich died at 38.

Heydrich was portrayed by David Warner twice: in the 1978 TV miniseries Holocaust, and in the 1985 TV movie Hitler's S.S.: Portrait in Evil. The movie followed the career of his subordinate Helmut Hoffmann, played by Bill Nighy.


The plan to kill Heydrich is central to the plot of the 1998 novel As Time Goes By, a sequel to the movie Casablanca, written by Michael Walsh. (ISBN 0-446-51900-6).

Heydrich, as the "Reich's Crown Prince of Terror", plays a leading role in March Violets and The Pale Criminal, the first two novels in Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy (ISBN 0-14-023170-6), in which Bernie Gunther, a Berlin private eye in the tradition of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe who left the Berlin police when the Nazis came to power, finds his investigations embroiling him in the internal feuding of the Nazi High Command.

Heydrich and the events of the Wannsee conference are also the subjects of Robert Harris' novel Fatherland. The book portrays an alternate history where Heydrich is promoted to the rank of Reichsführer-SS (Field Marshal) after Himmler's death. For a brief three seconds at movie's end (an ending in direct contradiction to that in the novel) he is shown standing with two other officials while the evidence of the Holocaust is given to U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy.

Jiří Weil's 1960 novel, Mendelssohn is On the Roof, is set in Prague in 1942, and features Heydrich as a character and his assassination as a major plot point.

The Man in the High Castle, an alternate-history novel by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick set in the 1960s, describes Heydrich as head of the SS and maneuvering to become Reich Chancellor after Hitler and his immediate successor, Martin Bormann, are dead.

In the Robert Ludlum novel The Tristan Betrayal, Heydrich plays a small but pivotal role. In this thriller, Heydrich is the master and father figure to a German assassin, Kleist, who serves as one of the antagonists of the novel.

Heydrich also plays a pivotal role in William Harrington's novel The English Lady.

"The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich" is a short story by Jim Shepard which explores the plot to assassinate Heydrich from the conspirators' perspective.

Harry Turtledove's novel The Man with the Iron Heart posits a world in which Heydrich survived the assassination attempt and went on to coordinate a German resistance after World War II.

Heavy metal band Slayer wrote a song about Heydrich's assassination on their album Divine Intervention. The title of the song, SS-3, comes from the personalized number plate of the car he was in when attacked and the lyrics reference the legend of the curse of the Crown of Saint Wenceslas.

Black metal band Marduk also wrote a song about him, titled The Hangman of Prague, from Plague Angel (2004).

In 'Chapter One' of Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, Heydrich's nickname 'The Hangman' is mentioned by the character Colonel Hans Landa. This is in reference to his own nickname, 'The Jew Hunter'.

In the Japanese Visual Novel "Dies Irae: Also Sprach Zarathustra", one of the main Nazi characters is named Reinhard Heydrich. He possesses the Lance of Longinus (or "Holy Lance") which was a major symbolic artifact for Hitler and the Thule Gesellshaft (or Thule Society) in the 1930s.

See also



  1. ^ "Das Spiel ist Aus — Arthur Nebe" (in German). DER SPIEGEL 6/1950 vom 09.02.1950, page 21. Der Spiegel (German Magazine). Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  2. ^ "Reinhard Heydrich". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  3. ^ "Reinhard Heydrich - Biography". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  4. ^ Waite, p 206-207
  5. ^ (Bullock 1962)
  6. ^ Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1. 2003, page 38.
  7. ^ a b c Kersten, Felix (1957). The Kersten Memoirs, 1940–1945. New York: The MacMillan Company. p. 97. Retrieved 6 March 2010. 
  8. ^ Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1. 2003, page 39.
  9. ^ Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1. 2003, page 61.
  10. ^ "Triumph of Hitler: The Gestapo is Born". The History Place. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  11. ^ Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1. 2003, page 66.
  12. ^ Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1. 2003, p 77.
  13. ^ Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine - SS, p 83.
  14. ^ a b Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1. 2003, page 85.
  15. ^ Williams, Max. Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1. 2003, page 88.
  16. ^ Conquest, Robert, The Great Terror: A Reassessment. 1990, pp 200–202.
  17. ^ Macdonald, Callum. The Killing of SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich. NY, 1989.
  18. ^ Find A Grave.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Mario R. Dederichs. Heydrich: The Face of Evil. Greenhill Books. London 2006, p 176
  21. ^ "Reinhard Heydrich's Grave". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  22. ^ Lehrer, Steven Wannsee House and the Holocaust. McFarland. Jefferson, North Carolina 2000 p87 [1]
  23. ^ "The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  24. ^ "Arisaig House". Secret Scotland. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  25. ^ MacDonald, Callum. The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich: The SS "Butcher of Prague". 1998, page 182.
  26. ^ Arad, Yitzhak, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Indiana University Press. Bloomington, Indiana, 1999, p. 13.
  27. ^ "biography: Reinhard Heydrich". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  28. ^ "Glass". US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  29. ^ "Notes from the meeting on the solution of Jewish questions held on 10.10.1941 in Prague". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  30. ^ "Theresienstadt". US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  31. ^ "Letter of 18 Sept 1941 from Himmler to Greiser". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  32. ^ "Wannsee Conference". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  33. ^ Wannseekonferenz, Die (1984) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  34. ^ Conspiracy (2001) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  35. ^ The Wannsee Conference (1992) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database


  • Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volumes 1 and 2, by Max Williams (Ulric Publishing 2003), ISBN 0-9537577-5-7 and ISBN 0-9537577-6-5.
  • Lehrer, Steven (2000). Wannsee House and the Holocaust. McFarland. p. 196. ISBN 9780786407927. 
  • Lehrer, Steven (2002). Hitler Sites: A City-by-city Guidebook (Austria, Germany, France, United States). McFarland. p. 224. ISBN 0786410450. 
  • Assassination : Operation Anthropoid 1941-1942, by Michael Burian (Avis, Prague 2002)
  • The Assassination of Heydrich, by Jan Wiener (Grossman Publishers, N.Y. 1969)
  • A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine - SS, by Robin Lumsden (Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. 2001) ISBN 0-7110-2905-9.
  • The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich: The SS "Butcher of Prague", by Callum MacDonald (Da Capo Press, N.Y. 1989), ISBN 0-306-80860-9
  • Carsten Schreiber: Elite im Verborgenen. Ideologie und regionale Herrschaftspraxis des Sicherheitsdienstes der SS und seines Netzwerks am Beispiel Sachsens (= Studien zur Zeitgeschichte; Bd. 77), München: Oldenbourg 2008, IX + 501 S., ISBN 978-3-486-58543-8, EUR 69,80
  • Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf (Verlag der Spiegel, Hamburg, 1966), by Heinz Höhne; translated as The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of Hitler’s SS (Richard Barry, transl.) (Pan Books 1972).
  • The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership, by Joachim Fest (Da Capo Press)
  • Heydrich: The Face of Evil, by Mario R. Dederichs, tr. Geoffrey Brooks (Greenhill Books, London 2006)
  • Hitler: A Study In Tyranny, by Alan Bullock (HarperCollins, New York 1962)
  • The Labyrinth, by Walter Schellenberg, with introduction by Alan Bullock (Da Capo Press, original copyright, 1956 by Harper & Brothers)
  • Leben mit einem Kriegsverbrecher ("Life with a War Criminal"), by Lina Heydrich (Ludwig Verlag, Pfaffenhofen 1976) ISBN 3-7787-1025-7
  • The Life and Times of Reinhard Heydrich, by G.S. Graber (Robert Hale, London 1980)
  • Reinhard Heydrich — Der deutsche Polizeichef als Jagdflieger, by Stefan Semerdjiev, Deutsche Militärzeitschrift, No 41 Sept/Okt.2004, pp. 36-38.
  • Reinhard Heydrich's MEMORIAL BOOK, by Ahnenerbe Stiftung Verlag 1942
  • SS Service Record of Reinhard Heydrich, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland
  • Vanguard of Nazism, by Robert G L Waite (1969, W W Norton and Company)
  • The SS: Alibi of a Nation 1922-1945 by Gerald Reitlinger (1956).
  • Letter of 18 September 1941 from Himmler to Reichsstatthalter Greiser, House of the Wannsee Conference, Permanent exhibit - Room 7, part 2. Scan available online at, with translation

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath
Deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (acting)
29 September 1941 - 4 June 1942
Succeeded by
Kurt Daluege
Preceded by
Post Created
Director of the Reich Main Security Office
22 September 1939 - 4 June 1942
Succeeded by
Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Preceded by
Otto Steinhäusl
President of Interpol
24 August 1940 - 4 June 1942
Succeeded by
Arthur Nebe
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Boris Shaposhnikov
Cover of Time Magazine
23 February 1942
Succeeded by
Tomoyuki Yamashita


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

There is no problem down to the smallest egotistical longing which the Gestapo cannot solve. Regarded in this way we are, if a joke is permitted, looked upon as a cross between a general maid and the dustbin of the Reich.

Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (7 March 19044 June 1942) was an SS-Obergruppenführer, chief of the RSHA and Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich chaired the 1942 Wannsee conference, which finalized plans for the extermination of all European Jews in what is now referred to as the Holocaust. Heydrich was wounded in an assassination attempt in Prague on May 27, 1942 and died over a week later from complications arising from his injuries. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was his successor and saw to it that the exterminations were carried out as planned.


  • It is natural that people do not want to be involved with us too much. There is no problem down to the smallest egotistical longing which the Gestapo cannot solve. Regarded in this way we are, if a joke is permitted, looked upon as a cross between a general maid and the dustbin of the Reich.
    • To his officers on German Police Day (February, 1941), as quoted in Gestapo : Instrument of Tyranny (1956) by Edward Crankshaw, p. 103
  • To take the place of emigration, and with the prior approval of the Führer, the evacuation of the Jews to the East has become another possible solution. Although both courses of action emigration and evacuation, must, of course, be considered as nothing more than... temporary expedients, they do help to provide practical experience which should be of great importance in view of the coming Endlösung (Final Solution) of the Jewish question.
    • Speech at the Wannsee Conference, Berlin, (20 January 1942), as quoted in Why Did the Heavens Not Darken : The "Final Solution (1990) by A. J. Mayer, p. 304
Europe is to be combed from East to West for Jews.
  • So far you have been treated as an officer and a gentleman, but don't think that this will go on if you don't behave better than you have done. You have two hours left in which to confess everything. If you don't, I shall hand you over to the Gestapo, who are used to dealing with such gangsters and criminals — you won't enjoy their methods a bit.
    • To Captain Sigismund Payne Best, as quoted in The Venlo Incident (1950) by Sigismund Payne Best, p. 41
Vain as a peacock, but mockingly aware of his vanity, clever, perhaps too clever by half, and contemptuous of the clumsiness of most of his colleagues and superiors, he nevertheless could be clumsy in his use of force and, unlike Himmler, was liable to over-reach himself.

Quotes about Heydrich

  • He was very young, very handsome, save that his eyes were too close-set; an outstanding example of that blond mixture of effeminacy and toughness which may be observed in any Teutonic night-club. He had immense drive, which was liable to carry him too far; total ruthlessness in the attainment of his own ends, which were wrapped up in personal ambition; no active enjoyment of cruelty except sometimes, perhaps, almost as an afterthought; and a devilish sense of humor. Vain as a peacock, but mockingly aware of his vanity, clever, perhaps too clever by half, and contemptuous of the clumsiness of most of his colleagues and superiors, he nevertheless could be clumsy in his use of force and, unlike Himmler, was liable to over-reach himself. He was dynamite, like a character in an American gangster story; and in the S.S. he was able to canalise his nihilism into a constructive purpose.
    • Edward Crankshaw, in Gestapo: Instrument of Tyranny (1956)
  • What ever actions he took he carried them out as a National Socialist and an SS man, from the very bottom of his heart and through his blood, he carried out felt and understood Adolf Hitlers world vision.
He was inordinately ambitious. It seemed as if, in a pack of ferocious wolves, he must always prove himself the strongest and assume the leadership.
  • One of the best national socialists, one of the best believers in the German ideology, and one of the greatest opponents to all enemies of the Third Reich.
  • Truth and goodness had no intrinsic meaning for him; they were instruments to be used for the gaining of more and more power. To debate whether any action was of itself right appeared so stupid to him that it was certainly a question he never asked himself.
  • He was a terribly ambitious man with a great craving for power. This desire for power was measureless, and he was extraordinarily clever and cunning.
  • Himmler was a rival of Bormann, and Heydrich played both against each other. Heydrich pretended to be friendly with Bormann, but Bormann realized that Heydrich was a follower of Himmler. Bormann was trying to use Heydrich. Himmler saw what was happening. Between Himmler and Bormann, Heydrich grew bigger and bigger, until he was personally received by Hitler. But both Bormann and Himmler recognized Heydrich's threat.
    • Ernst Kaltenbrunner, to Leon Goldensohn (22 March 1946)
  • Heydrich had an incredibly acute perception of the moral, human, professional and political weaknesses of others. His unusual intellect was matched by the ever-watchful instincts of a predatory animal. He was inordinately ambitious. It seemed as if, in a pack of ferocious wolves, he must always prove himself the strongest and assume the leadership.

External links

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Simple English

Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (March 7, 1904 in HalleJune 4, 1942 in Prague) was a German SS-Obergruppenführer and General of the police. During the Nazi time, he was the head of the RSHA. In 1941, Hermann Göring gave to Reinhard Heydrich the order to arrange the "Final Solution".

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