REINHARD TRISTAN EUGEN HEYDRICH (German: ( listen )) (7 March 1904
– 4 June 1942) was a high-ranking German Nazi official during World
War II , and a main architect of the
Holocaust . He was an SS
Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei (Senior Group Leader and
Chief of Police) as well as chief of the Reich Main Security Office
Kripo , and SD ). He was also
Reichsprotektor (Deputy/Acting Reich-Protector ) of
Bohemia and Moravia . Heydrich served as president of the
International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC; later known as
Interpol ) and chaired the January 1942
Wannsee Conference , which
formalised plans for the
Final Solution to the
Jewish Question —the
deportation and genocide of all Jews in
German-occupied Europe .
Many historians regard him as the darkest figure within the Nazi
Adolf Hitler described him as "the man with the iron heart".
He was the founding head of the
Sicherheitsdienst (SD), an
intelligence organisation charged with seeking out and neutralising
resistance to the
Nazi Party via arrests, deportations, and murders.
He helped organise
Kristallnacht , a series of co-ordinated attacks
against Jews throughout
Nazi Germany and parts of
Austria on 9–10
November 1938. The attacks, carried out by SA stormtroopers and
civilians, presaged the Holocaust. Upon his arrival in
Heydrich sought to eliminate opposition to the Nazi occupation by
Czech culture and deporting and executing members of the
Czech resistance . He was directly responsible for the Einsatzgruppen
, the special task forces which travelled in the wake of the German
armies and murdered over two million people, including 1.3 million
Jews, by mass shooting and gassing.
He was critically wounded in an ambush in
Prague on 27 May 1942 by a
Special Operations Executive -trained team of Czech and Slovak
soldiers who had been sent by the
Czechoslovak government-in-exile to
kill him in
Operation Anthropoid . He died from his injuries a week
later. Nazi intelligence falsely linked the assassins to the villages
Ležáky . Both villages were razed; all men and boys
over the age of 16 were shot, and all but a handful of their women and
children were deported and killed in
Nazi concentration camps .
* 1 Early life
* 2 Naval career
* 3 Career in the SS and military
Gestapo and SD
* 3.2 Crushing the SA
* 3.3 Consolidating the police forces
Red Army purges
* 3.5 Night-and-Fog decree
* 3.6 Acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia
* 4 Role in the
* 5 Assassination
* 5.1 Death in
* 5.2 Funeral
* 6 Aftermath
* 7 Summary of career
* 7.1 SS record
* 8 See also
* 9 Footnotes
* 10 References
* 10.1 Citations
* 11 Bibliography
* 12 Further reading
* 13 External links
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich was born in 1904 in Halle an der
Saale to composer and opera singer
Richard Bruno Heydrich and his
wife, Elisabeth Anna Maria Amalia Heydrich (née Krantz). His father
was Protestant and his mother was Roman Catholic. His two forenames
were patriotic musical tributes: "Reinhard" referred to the tragic
hero from his father's opera Amen, and "Tristan" stems from Richard
Tristan und Isolde . Heydrich's third name, "Eugen", was his
late maternal grandfather's forename (Professor Eugen Krantz had been
the director of the
Dresden Royal Conservatory
Dresden Royal Conservatory ).
Heydrich's family held social standing and substantial financial
means. Music was a part of Heydrich's everyday life; his father
founded the Halle Conservatory of Music, Theatre and Teaching and his
mother taught piano there. Heydrich developed a passion for the
violin and carried that interest into adulthood; he impressed
listeners with his musical talent.
His father was a German nationalist who instilled patriotic ideas in
his three children, but was not affiliated with any political party
until after World War I. The Heydrich household was strict. As a
youth, he engaged his younger brother, Heinz , in mock fencing duels.
He excelled in his schoolwork—especially in science—at the
"Reformgymnasium". A talented athlete, he became an expert swimmer
and fencer. He was shy, insecure, and was frequently bullied for his
high-pitched voice and rumoured Jewish ancestry. The latter claim
earned him the nickname "Moses Handel."
In 1918, World War I ended with Germany's defeat. In late February
1919, civil unrest—including strikes and clashes between communist
and anti-communist groups—took place in Heydrich's home town of
Halle. Under Defense Minister
Gustav Noske 's directives, a right-wing
paramilitary unit was formed and ordered to "recapture" Halle.
Heydrich, then 15 years old, joined Maercker's Volunteer Rifles (the
Freikorps unit). When the skirmishes ended, Heydrich was part of
the force assigned to protect private property. Little is known about
his role, but the events left a strong impression; it was a "political
awakening" for him. He joined the Deutschvölkischer Schutz und
Trutzbund (National German Protection and Shelter League), an
As a result of the conditions of the
Treaty of Versailles ,
hyperinflation spread across Germany and many lost their life savings.
Halle was not spared. By 1921, few townspeople there could afford a
musical education at Bruno Heydrich's conservatory. This led to a
financial crisis for the Heydrich family.
In 1922 Heydrich joined the German Navy (
Reichsmarine ), taking
advantage of the security, structure, and pension it offered. He
became a naval cadet at
Kiel , Germany's primary naval base. On 1
April 1924 he was promoted to senior midshipman (Oberfähnrich zur
See) and sent to officer training at the
Naval Academy Mürwik . In
1926 he advanced to the rank of ensign (Leutnant zur See) and was
assigned as a signals officer on the battleship Schleswig-Holstein ,
the flagship of Germany's North Sea Fleet. With the promotion came
greater recognition. He received good evaluations from his superiors
and had few problems with other crewmen. He was promoted on 1 July
1928 to the rank of sub-lieutenant (Oberleutnant zur See). The
increased rank fuelled his ambition and arrogance. Heydrich as
Reichsmarine cadet in 1922
Heydrich became notorious for his countless affairs. In December 1930
he attended a rowing-club ball and met Lina von Osten . They became
romantically involved and soon announced their engagement. Lina was
Nazi Party follower; she had attended her first rally in
1929. In 1931 Heydrich was charged with "conduct unbecoming to an
officer and gentleman" for breaking an engagement promise to a woman
he had known for six months before the von Osten engagement. Admiral
Erich Raeder dismissed Heydrich from the navy that April. The
dismissal devastated Heydrich, who found himself without career
prospects. He kept the engagement and married Lina in December 1931.
CAREER IN THE SS AND MILITARY
Heinrich Himmler began setting up a counterintelligence
division of the SS. Acting on the advice of his associate Karl von
Eberstein , who was von Osten's friend, Himmler agreed to interview
Heydrich, but cancelled their appointment at the last minute. Lina
ignored this message, packed Heydrich's suitcase, and sent him to
Munich. Eberstein met Heydrich at the railway station and took him to
see Himmler. Himmler asked Heydrich to convey his ideas for
developing an SS intelligence service. Himmler was so impressed that
he hired Heydrich immediately. Although the starting monthly salary
of 180 Reichsmarks (the equivalent of 40 USD) was low, Heydrich
decided to take the job because Lina's family supported the Nazi
movement, and the quasi-military and revolutionary nature of the post
appealed to him. At first he had to share an office and typewriter
with a colleague, but by 1932 Heydrich was earning 290 Reichsmarks a
month, a salary he described as "comfortable". As his power and
influence grew throughout the 1930s, his salary grew commensurately;
by 1938 his income increased to 17,371.53 Reichsmarks annually (the
equivalent of 78,000 USD). His NSDAP number was 544,916 and his SS
number was 10,120. Heydrich later received a
Himmler for his service.
On 1 August 1931 Heydrich began his job as chief of the new 'Ic
Service' (intelligence service). He set up office at the Brown House
Nazi Party headquarters in Munich. By October he had created a
network of spies and informers for intelligence-gathering purposes and
to obtain information to be used as blackmail to further political
aims. Information on thousands of people was recorded on index cards
and stored at the Brown House. To mark the occasion of Heydrich's
December wedding, Himmler promoted him to the rank of
In 1932, rumours were spread by Heydrich's enemies of alleged Jewish
Wilhelm Canaris said he had obtained photocopies proving
Heydrich's Jewish ancestry, but these photocopies never surfaced.
Rudolf Jordan claimed Heydrich was not a pure Aryan.
Within the Nazi organisation such innuendo could be damning, even for
the head of the Reich's counterintelligence service. Gregor Strasser
passed the allegations on to the Nazi Party's racial expert, Achim
Gercke , who investigated Heydrich's genealogy. Gercke reported that
Heydrich was "... of German origin and free from any coloured and
Jewish blood". He insisted that the rumours were baseless. Even so,
Heydrich privately engaged SD member Ernst Hoffmann to further
investigate and dispel the rumours.
GESTAPO AND SD
Gestapo headquarters on
Prinz-Albrecht-Straße in Berlin, 1933
In mid-1932, Himmler appointed Heydrich chief of the renamed security
Sicherheitsdienst (SD). Heydrich's counterintelligence
service grew into an effective machine of terror and intimidation.
With Hitler striving for absolute power in Germany, Himmler and
Heydrich wished to control the political police forces of all 17
German states. They began with
Bavaria . In 1933, Heydrich gathered
some of his men from the SD and together they stormed police
headquarters in Munich and took over the organisation using
intimidation tactics. Himmler became the Munich police chief and
Heydrich became the commander of Department IV, the political police.
In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany , and through a series
of decrees became Germany's
Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and
chancellor). The first concentration camps , which were originally
intended to house political opponents, were established in early 1933.
By year's end there were over fifty camps.
Hermann Göring founded the
Gestapo in 1933 as a Prussian police
force. When Göring transferred full authority over the
Himmler in April 1934, it immediately became an instrument of terror
under the SS's purview. Himmler named Heydrich to head the
22 April 1934. On 9 June 1934,
Rudolph Hess declared the SD the
official Nazi intelligence service.
CRUSHING THE SA
Beginning in April 1934, and at Hitler's request, Heydrich and
Himmler began building a dossier on
Sturmabteilung (SA) leader Ernst
Röhm in an effort to remove him as a rival for party leadership. At
this point, the SS was still part of the SA, the early Nazi
paramilitary organisation which now numbered over 3 million men. At
Hitler's direction, Heydrich, Himmler, Göring, and
Viktor Lutze drew
up lists of those who should be liquidated, starting with seven top SA
officials and including many more. On 30 June 1934 the SS and Gestapo
acted in coordinated mass arrests that continued for two days. Röhm
was shot without trial, along with the leadership of the SA. The
purge became known as the
Night of the Long Knives . Up to 200 people
were killed in the action. Lutze was appointed SA's new head and it
was converted into a sports and training organisation.
SS-Brigadeführer Heydrich, head of the Bavarian police and SD , in
With the SA out of the way, Heydrich began building the
an instrument of fear. He improved his index-card system, creating
categories of offenders with colour-coded cards. The
Gestapo had the
authority to arrest citizens on the suspicion that they might commit a
crime, and the definition of a crime was at their discretion. The
Gestapo Law, passed in 1936, gave police the right to act
extra-legally. This led to the sweeping use of Schutzhaft
—"protective custody", a euphemism for the power to imprison people
without judicial proceedings. The courts were not allowed to
investigate or interfere. The
Gestapo was considered to be acting
legally as long as it was carrying out the leadership's will. People
were arrested arbitrarily, sent to concentration camps, or killed.
Himmler began developing the notion of a Germanic religion and wanted
SS members to leave the church. In early 1936, Heydrich left the
Catholic Church. His wife, Lina, had already done so the year before.
Heydrich not only felt he could no longer be a member, but came to
consider the church's political power and influence a danger to the
CONSOLIDATING THE POLICE FORCES
Adolf Hitler ,
Heinrich Himmler , and Heydrich
in Vienna, March 1938
On 17 June 1936 all police forces throughout Germany were united,
following Hitler's appointment of Himmler as Chief of German Police.
With this appointment by the Führer, Himmler and his deputy,
Heydrich, became two of the most powerful men in the internal
administration of Germany. Himmler immediately reorganised the police
into two groups: the
Ordnungspolizei (Order Police; Orpo), consisting
of both the national uniformed police and the municipal police, and
Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; SiPo), consisting of the
Geheime StaatsPolizei (Secret State Police; Gestapo) and
Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police;
Kripo ). At that point, Heydrich
was head of the SiPo and SD. Heinrich Müller was the Gestapo's
Heydrich was assigned to help organise the
1936 Summer Olympics in
Berlin. The games were used to promote the propaganda aims of the Nazi
regime. Goodwill ambassadors were sent to countries that were
considering a boycott. Anti-Jewish violence was forbidden for the
duration, and news stands were required to stop displaying copies of
Der Stürmer . For his part in the games' success, Heydrich was
awarded the Deutsches Olympiaehrenzeichen or German Olympic Games
Decoration (First Class).
In January 1937 Heydrich directed the SD to secretly begin collecting
and analysing public opinion and report back their findings. He then
Gestapo carry out house searches, arrests, and interrogations,
thus in effect exercising control over public opinion. In February
1938 when the Austrian Chancellor
Kurt Schuschnigg resisted Hitler's
proposed merger with Germany, Heydrich intensified the pressure on
Austria by organising Nazi demonstrations and distributing propaganda
in Vienna stressing the common Germanic blood of the two countries.
Anschluss on 12 March, Hitler declared the unification of
Austria with Nazi Germany.
In mid-1939 Heydrich created the
Stiftung Nordhav Foundation to
obtain real estate for the SS and Security Police to use as guest
houses and vacation spots. The Wannsee Villa, which the Stiftung
Nordhav acquired in November 1940, was the site of the Wannsee
Conference (20 January 1942). At the conference, senior Nazi officials
formalised plans to deport and exterminate all Jews in German-occupied
territory and those countries not yet conquered. This action was to
be coordinated among the representatives from the Nazi state agencies
present at the meeting.
On 27 September 1939 the SD and SiPo (made up of the
Gestapo and the
Kripo) were folded into the new
Reich Main Security Office or
Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), which was placed under Heydrich's
control. The title of Chef der
Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (Chief
of Security Police and SD) or CSSD was conferred on Heydrich on 1
October. Heydrich became the president of the ICPC (later known as
Interpol ) on 24 August 1940, and its headquarters were transferred
to Berlin. He was promoted to SS-
Obergruppenführer und General der
Polizei on 24 September 1941.
RED ARMY PURGES
In 1936, Heydrich learned that a top-ranking Soviet officer was
plotting to overthrow
Joseph Stalin . Sensing an opportunity to strike
a blow at both the Soviet Army and
Admiral Canaris of Germany's Abwehr
, Heydrich decided that the Russian officers should be "unmasked". He
discussed the matter with Himmler and both in turn brought it to
Hitler's attention. But the "information" Heydrich had received was
actually misinformation planted by Stalin himself in an attempt to
legitimise his planned purges of the
Red Army 's high command. Stalin
ordered one of his best
NKVD agents, General
Nikolai Skoblin , to pass
Heydrich false information suggesting that Marshal Mikhail
Tukhachevsky and other Soviet generals were plotting against Stalin.
Hitler approved Heydrich's plan to act on the information immediately.
Heydrich's SD forged documents and letters implicated Tukhachevsky
Red Army commanders. The material was delivered to the NKVD.
Great Purge of the
Red Army followed on Stalin's orders. While
Heydrich believed they had successfully deluded Stalin into executing
or dismissing 35,000 of his officer corps, the importance of
Heydrich's part is a matter of speculation and conjecture. Soviet
military prosecutors did not use the forged documents against the
generals in their secret trial; they instead relied on false
confessions extorted or beaten out of the defendants.
Commemorative plaque of the French victims of the Night-and-Fog
Hinzert concentration camp
By late 1940, German armies had swept through most of Western Europe.
The following year, Heydrich's SD was given responsibility for
carrying out the
Nacht und Nebel (Night-and-Fog) decree. According to
the decree, "persons endangering German security" were to be arrested
in a maximally discreet way: "under the cover of night and fog".
People disappeared without a trace and none told of their whereabouts
or fate. For each prisoner, the SD had to fill in a questionnaire
that listed personal information, country of origin, and the details
of their crimes against the Reich. This questionnaire was placed in an
envelope inscribed with a seal reading "Nacht und Nebel" and submitted
Reich Main Security Office (RSHA). In the WVHA "Central Inmate
File", as in many camp files, these prisoners would be given a special
"covert prisoner" code, as opposed to the code for POW, Felon, Jew,
Gypsy, etc. The decree remained in effect after Heydrich's death. The
exact number of people who vanished under it has never been positively
established, but it is estimated to be 7,000.
ACTING REICH PROTECTOR OF BOHEMIA AND MORAVIA
Resistance in German-occupied Czechoslovakia
Heydrich (left) with
Karl Hermann Frank at
Prague Castle in 1941
On 27 September 1941, Heydrich was appointed Deputy Reich Protector
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (the part of Czechoslovakia
incorporated into the Reich on 15 March 1939) and assumed control of
the territory. The Reich Protector,
Konstantin von Neurath , remained
the territory's titular head, but was sent on "leave" because Hitler,
Himmler, and Heydrich felt his "soft approach" to the
promoted anti-German sentiment and encouraged anti-German resistance
via strikes and sabotage. Upon his appointment, Heydrich told his
aides: "We will Germanize the Czech vermin."
Heydrich came to
Prague to enforce policy, fight resistance to the
Nazi regime, and keep up production quotas of Czech motors and arms
that were "extremely important to the German war effort". He viewed
the area as a bulwark of Germandom and condemned the Czech
resistance's "stabs in the back". To realise his goals Heydrich
demanded racial classification of those who could and could not be
Germanized . He explained, "Making this Czech garbage into Germans
must give way to methods based on racist thought." Heydrich started
his rule by terrorising the population: 92 people were executed within
three days of his arrival in Prague. Their names appeared on posters
throughout the occupied region. Almost all avenues by which Czechs
could express the
Czech culture in public were closed. According to
Heydrich's estimate, between 4,000 and 5,000 people were arrested by
February 1942. Those who were not executed were sent to
Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp
Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp , where only four per cent of
Czech prisoners survived the war. In March 1942, further sweeps
against Czech cultural and patriotic organisations, the military, and
the intelligentsia resulted in the practical paralysis of Czech
resistance. Although small disorganised cells of Central Leadership of
Home Resistance (Ústřední vedení odboje domácího, ÚVOD)
survived, only the communist resistance was able to function in a
coordinated manner (although it also suffered arrests). The terror
also served to paralyse resistance in society, with public and
widespread reprisals against any action resisting the German rule.
Heydrich's brutal policies during that time quickly earned him the
nickname "the Butcher of Prague".
Excerpt from a speech by
Reinhard Heydrich in 1941
Problems playing this file? See media help .
As Acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, Heydrich applied
carrot-and-stick methods. Labour was reorganised on the basis of the
German Labour Front . Heydrich used equipment confiscated from the
Sokol to organise events for workers. Food rations
and free shoes were distributed, pensions were increased, and (for a
time) free Saturdays were introduced.
Unemployment insurance was
established for the first time. The black market was suppressed.
Those associated with it or the resistance movement were tortured or
executed. Heydrich labelled them "economic criminals" and "enemies of
the people", which helped gain him support. Conditions in
the rest of the Czech lands were relatively peaceful under Heydrich,
and industrial output increased. Still, those measures could not hide
shortages and increasing inflation; reports of growing discontent
Despite public displays of goodwill towards the populace, privately
Heydrich left no illusions about his eventual goal: "This entire area
will one day be definitely German, and the
Czechs have nothing to
expect here." Eventually up to two-thirds of the populace were to be
either removed to regions of Russia or exterminated after Nazi Germany
won the war. Bohemia and Moravia faced annexation directly into the
The Czech workforce was exploited as Nazi-conscripted labour. More
than 100,000 workers were removed from "unsuitable" jobs and
conscripted by the Ministry of Labour. By December 1941,
be called to work anywhere within the Reich. Between April and
November 1942, 79,000 Czech workers were taken in this manner for work
within Nazi Germany. Also, in February 1942, the work day was
increased from eight to twelve hours.
Heydrich was, for all intents and purposes, military dictator of
Bohemia and Moravia. His changes to the government's structure left
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 his government's effectiveness.
ROLE IN THE HOLOCAUST
1938 telegram giving orders during
Kristallnacht , signed by
Heydrich July 1941 letter from Göring to Heydrich concerning the
Final Solution of the
Historians regard Heydrich as the most fearsome member of the Nazi
elite. Hitler called him "the man with the iron heart". He was one
of the main architects of the
Holocaust during the early war years,
answering only to, and taking orders from, Hitler, Göring, and
Himmler in all matters pertaining to the deportation, imprisonment,
and extermination of Jews.
Heydrich was one of the organisers of
Kristallnacht , a pogrom
against Jews throughout Germany on the night of 9–10 November 1938.
Heydrich sent a telegram that night to various SD and
helping to co-ordinate the pogrom with the SS, SD, Gestapo, uniformed
police (Orpo), SA, Nazi party officials, and even the fire
departments. It talks about permitting arson and destroying Jewish
businesses and synagogues, and orders the confiscation of all
"archival material" out of Jewish community centres and synagogues.
The telegram 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."
Twenty thousand Jews were sent to concentration camps in the days
immediately following; historians consider
beginning of the Holocaust.
When Hitler asked for a pretext for the invasion of Poland in 1939,
Himmler, Heydrich, and Heinrich Müller masterminded a false flag plan
Operation Himmler . It involved a fake attack on the German
radio station at Gleiwitz on 31 August 1939. Heydrich masterminded the
plan and toured the site, which was about four miles from the Polish
border. Wearing Polish uniforms, 150 German troops carried out several
attacks along the border. Hitler used the ruse as an excuse to launch
On Himmler's instructions, Heydrich formed the
forces) to travel in the wake of the German armies at the start of
World War II. On 21 September 1939, Heydrich sent out a teleprinter
message on the "
Jewish question in the occupied territory" to the
chiefs of all
Einsatzgruppen with instructions to round up Jewish
people for placement into ghettos, called for the formation of
Judenräte (Jewish councils), ordered a census, and promoted
Aryanization plans for Jewish-owned businesses and farms, among other
Einsatzgruppen units followed the army into Poland to
implement the plans. Later, in the Soviet Union, they were charged
with rounding up and killing Jews via firing squad and gas vans.
Raul Hilberg estimates that between 1941 and 1945 the
Einsatzgruppen and related auxiliary troops killed more than two
million people, including 1.3 million Jews. Heydrich, however, moved
to ensure the safety and well-being of certain Jews, such as Paul
Sommer, the former German champion fencer he knew from his pre-SS
days. He also protected the Polish Olympic fencing team that competed
at the 1936 Summer Olympics.
"... the planned total measures are to be kept strictly secret ...
the first prerequisite for the final aim ("Endziel") is the
concentration of the Jews from the countryside into the larger
cities." – Heydrich, September 1939
"By order of the
Reichsführer-SS , residency without possession of
an identification card is punishable by death" – Heydrich, November
On 29 November 1939, Heydrich issued a cable about the "Evacuation of
New Eastern Provinces", detailing the deportation of people by railway
to concentration camps, and giving guidance surrounding the December
1939 census, which would be the basis on which those deportations were
performed. In May 1941 Heydrich drew up regulations with
Eduard Wagner for the upcoming invasion of the
Soviet Union , which ensured that the
Einsatzgruppen and army would
co-operate in murdering Soviet Jews.
On 10 October 1941, Heydrich was the senior officer at a "Final
Solution" meeting of the
Prague that discussed deporting
50,000 Jews from the
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia to ghettos in
Minsk and Riga . Given his position, Heydrich was instrumental in
carrying out these plans since his
Gestapo was ready to organise
deportations in the West and his
Einsatzgruppen were already
conducting extensive killing operations in the East. The officers
attending also discussed taking 5,000 Jews from
Prague "in the next
few weeks" and handing them over to the
Arthur Nebe and
Otto Rasch . Establishing ghettos in the Protectorate
was also planned, resulting in the construction of
where 33,000 people would eventually die. Tens of thousands more
passed through the camp on their way to their deaths in the East. In
1941 Himmler named Heydrich as "responsible for implementing" the
forced movement of 60,000 Jews from Germany and
Czechoslovakia to the
Lodz (Litzmannstadt) Ghetto in Poland.
Earlier on 31 July 1941,
Hermann Göring gave written authorisation
to Heydrich to ensure the co-operation of administrative leaders of
various government departments in the implementation of a Endlösung
der Judenfrage (
Final Solution to the
Jewish question ) in territories
under German control. On 20 January 1942, Heydrich chaired a
meeting, now called the
Wannsee Conference , to discuss the
implementation of the plan. Historian
Donald Bloxham avows that for
all the discussion over perpetrators in the Final Solution, Heydrich
"barely spared a hateful thought for the Jews" and instead
concentrated his efforts on the scale of his "supranational task".
DEATH IN PRAGUE
Operation Anthropoid The Mercedes-Benz 320
Convertible B in which Heydrich was mortally wounded
In London, the
Czechoslovak government-in-exile resolved to kill
Jan Kubiš and
Jozef Gabčík headed the team chosen for the
operation. Trained by the British
Special Operations Executive (SOE),
the pair returned to the Protectorate, parachuting from a Handley Page
Halifax , on 28 December 1941. They lived in hiding, preparing for the
On 27 May 1942, Heydrich planned to meet Hitler in Berlin. German
documents suggest that Hitler intended to transfer Heydrich to
German-occupied France , where the
French resistance was gaining
ground. Heydrich would have to pass a section where the
Prague road merges with a road to the Troja Bridge. The
junction, in the
Prague suburb of
Libeň , was well suited for the
attack because motorists have to slow for a hairpin bend. As
Heydrich's car slowed, Gabčík took aim with a
Sten submachine gun ,
but it jammed and failed to fire. Instead of ordering his driver to
speed away, Heydrich called his car to halt and attempted to confront
the attackers. Kubiš then threw a bomb (a converted anti-tank mine)
at the rear of the car as it stopped. The explosion wounded both
Heydrich and Kubiš.
When the smoke cleared, Heydrich emerged from the wreckage with his
gun in his hand; he chased Kubiš and tried to return fire. Kubiš
jumped on his bicycle and pedaled away. Heydrich ran after him for
half a block but became weak from shock and collapsed. He sent his
driver, Klein, to chase Gabčík on foot. In the ensuing firefight,
Gabčík shot Klein in the leg and escaped to a local safe house .
Heydrich, still with pistol in hand, gripped his left flank, which was
A Czech woman went to Heydrich's aid and flagged down a delivery van.
He was first placed in the driver's cab, but complained the van's
movement was causing him pain. He was placed in the back of the van,
on his stomach, and taken to the emergency room at
Bulovka Hospital .
He had suffered severe injuries to his left side, with major damage to
his diaphragm , spleen , and one of his lungs . He also had a
fractured rib. A doctor, Slanina, packed the chest wound, while
another doctor, Walter Diek, tried unsuccessfully to remove the
splinters. He immediately decided to operate. This was carried out by
Diek, Slanina, and Hohlbaum. Heydrich was given several blood
transfusions. A splenectomy was performed. The chest wound, left lung,
and diaphragm were all debrided and the wounds closed.
Himmler ordered another doctor,
Karl Gebhardt , to fly to
assume care. Despite a fever, Heydrich's recovery appeared to progress
Theodor Morell , Hitler's personal doctor, suggested the use of
sulfonamide (a new antibacterial drug), but Gebhardt, thinking
Heydrich would recover, declined the suggestion. On 2 June, during a
visit by Himmler, Heydrich reconciled himself to 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.
Bullet-scarred window in the Church of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in
Prague, where Kubiš and his compatriots were cornered
Heydrich slipped into a coma after Himmler's visit and never regained
consciousness. He died on 4 June; an autopsy concluded he died of
After an elaborate funeral held in
Prague on 7 June 1942, Heydrich's
coffin was placed on a train to Berlin, where a second ceremony was
held in the new
Reich Chancellery on 9 June. Himmler gave the eulogy.
Hitler attended and placed Heydrich's decorations—including the
highest grade of the German Order , the
Blood Order Medal, the Wound
Badge in Gold, and the
War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords—on his
funeral pillow. Although Heydrich's death was employed for pro-Reich
propaganda, Hitler privately blamed Heydrich for his own death,
through carelessness: Postage stamp (1943) features the death
mask of Heydrich
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.
Heydrich was interred in Berlin's
Invalidenfriedhof , a military
cemetery. The exact burial spot is not known—a temporary wooden
marker that disappeared when the
Red Army overran the city in 1945 was
never replaced, so that Heydrich's grave could not become a rallying
point for Neo-Nazis . A photograph of Heydrich's burial shows the
wreaths and mourners to be in section A, which abuts the north wall of
Invalidenfriedhof and Scharnhorststraße, at the front of the
cemetery. A recent biography of Heydrich also places the grave in
Section A. Hitler planned for Heydrich to have a monumental tomb
(designed by sculptor
Arno Breker and architect
Wilhelm Kreis ) but,
due to Germany's declining fortunes, it was never built.
Heydrich's widow Lina won the right to a pension following a series
of court cases against the
West German government in 1956 and 1959.
She was declared entitled to a substantial pension as her husband was
a German general killed in action. The government had previously
declined to pay due to Heydrich's role in the Holocaust. The couple
had four children: Klaus, born in 1933, killed in a traffic accident
in 1943; Heider, born in 1934; Silke, born in 1939; and Marte, born
shortly after her father's death in 1942. Lina wrote a memoir, Leben
mit einem Kriegsverbrecher (Living With a War Criminal), which was
published in 1976. She remarried once and died in 1985.
Lidice massacre The massacre at
Heydrich's assailants hid in safe houses and eventually took refuge
Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral , an Orthodox church in Prague.
After a traitor in the Czech resistance betrayed their location, the
church was surrounded by 800 members of the SS and Gestapo. Several
Czechs were killed, and the remainder hid in the church's crypt. The
Germans attempted to flush the men out with gunfire, tear gas, and by
flooding the crypt. Eventually an entrance was made using explosives.
Rather than surrender, the soldiers killed themselves. Supporters of
the assassins who were killed in the wake of these events included the
church's leader, Bishop Gorazd , who is now revered as a martyr of the
Infuriated by Heydrich's death, Hitler ordered the arrest and
execution of 10,000 randomly selected Czechs. But after consultations
Karl Hermann Frank , he altered his response. The Czech lands
were an important industrial zone for the German military, and
indiscriminate killing could reduce the region's productivity. Hitler
ordered a quick investigation. Intelligence falsely linked the
assassins to the towns of
Ležáky . A
stated that Lidice, 22 kilometres (14 mi) north-west of Prague, was
suspected as the assailants' hiding place because several Czech army
officers, then in England, had come from there and the
Gestapo found a
resistance radio transmitter in Ležáky. On 9 June, after
discussions with Himmler and Karl Hermann Frank, Hitler ordered brutal
reprisals. Over 13,000 people were arrested, deported , and
imprisoned. Beginning on 10 June, all males over the age of 16 in the
Ležáky were murdered. All the women in
Ležáky were also murdered.
All but four of the women from
Lidice were deported immediately to
Ravensbrück concentration camp (four were pregnant – their unborn
babies were forcibly aborted at the same hospital where Heydrich had
died and the women were then sent to the concentration camp). Some
children were chosen for
Germanization , and 81 were killed in gas
vans at the
Chełmno extermination camp . Both towns were burned and
Lidice's ruins were levelled. At least 1,300 people were massacred
after Heydrich's death.
Heydrich's replacements were
Ernst Kaltenbrunner as the chief of RSHA
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, implementation of the policies formalised at the
Wannsee conference he chaired was accelerated. The first three true
death camps , designed for mass killing with no legal process or
pretext, were built and operated at Treblinka , Sobibór , and
Bełżec . The project was named
Operation Reinhard after Heydrich.
SUMMARY OF CAREER
Heinrich Himmler , Heydrich and
Karl Wolff at the Berghof .
Silent color film shot by
Eva Braun , May 1939
Heydrich's career in the SS is one of the most extensively studied of
any SS general, with several dramatic portrayals depicting Heydrich at
various stages during his ascent to power in the SS. His leadership
style was to use fear to extract obedience and respect. He was a
serious person, never friendly or jovial, who cultivated a soldierly
demeanor. He exercised daily and took meticulous care of his
appearance, and expected his subordinates to do the same. He had few
close friends, and was highly suspicious, distrusting most of the
other senior SS officers. Himmler was an exception; to him Heydrich
offered blind obedience and was seen as a "true SS man" for his
devotion. Himmler's own motivations for trusting Heydrich lay partly
in Heydrich's lack of interest in taking Himmler's place (a view
Heydrich told Himmler and others on several occasions).
Heydrich developed close professional relationships only within the
circle of the SS security forces. Heinrich Müller was one such
example, and Heydrich appears to have trusted him.
Adolf Eichmann 's
straightforward loyalty impressed Heydrich, and was one reason why he
appointed him as secretary for the Wannsee Conference. Herbert Kappler
, who was appointed as commander of all SS security forces in Rome,
was said to have been a protégé of Heydrich. SS personnel favoured
by Heydrich, especially those who attended the Wannsee conference,
possessed similar traits of devotion to SS, lack of remorse regarding
brutal or genocidal orders, and above all personal loyalty to Heydrich
in his capacity as commander of the security forces. On the other
hand, Heydrich's dislike and distrust of
Arthur Nebe and Walter
Schellenberg may have stemmed from their independence and ambition.
Heydrich was said to despise the Concentration Camp service and held
a particular derision for
Theodor Eicke , whom he referred to as an
"ambitious dwarf". Heydrich had little to do with and did not trust
Oswald Pohl . He characterised
Rudolf Höss , commander of
as an uneducated thug. Within upper SS administration, Heydrich was
Karl Wolff .
Rudolf Hess ,
Heinrich Himmler and
Heydrich, listening to
Konrad Meyer at a
Generalplan Ost exhibition
(Hitler's genocidal plans against
Poles and other
Slavs ), 20 March
In later years, Wolff said he was always wary of Heydrich, who seemed
to be waiting for an opportunity to move against him and disgrace him
with Himmler. Within the
Allgemeine-SS , Heydrich forged relationships
with some of the more powerful
SS and Police Leaders such as Friedrich
Jeckeln . Heydrich maintained a dialogue with him, but cautiously,
especially after Jeckeln ran afoul of Himmler in the late 1930s and
The security and police officials selected to run the camps of
Operation Reinhard were among Heydrich's closest professional
contacts. Heydrich was said to be on particularly good terms with
Odilo Globocnik and
Christian Wirth . In his other realm of
responsibility, that of governor of the Czech Protectorate, Heydrich
behaved coldly towards
Karl Hermann Frank , whom he did not know well
Service record of Reinhard Heydrich
Heydrich's time in the SS was a mixture of rapid promotions, reserve
commissions in the regular armed forces, and front-line combat
service. During his 11 years with the SS Heydrich "rose from the
ranks" and was appointed to every rank from private to full general.
He was also a major in the
Luftwaffe , flying nearly 100 combat
missions until 22 July 1941, when his plane was hit by Soviet
anti-aircraft fire. Heydrich made an emergency landing behind enemy
lines. He evaded a Soviet patrol and contacted a forward German
patrol. After this Hitler personally ordered Heydrich to return to
Berlin to resume his SS duties. His service record also gives him
credit as a Navy Reserve Lieutenant, although during World War II
Heydrich had no contact with this military branch.
Heydrich received a number of Nazi and military awards, including the
German Order ,
Blood Order ,
Golden Party Badge
Golden Party Badge ,
Badge , bronze and silver combat mission bars, and the Iron Cross
First and Second Classes.
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* ^ He joined the SS in Hamburg on 14 July 1931.
* ^ For the coding of prisoners, see IBM and the
Holocaust by Edwin
Black, pp 355 and 362. Black references the "Administration of German
Concentration Camps", 9 July 1945, PRO FO 371/46979 (Public Record
Office, London), as well as "Decoding Key for Concentration Camp Card
Index Files", n.d. NARG242/338 T-1021 Roll 5, JAG (National Archives,
College Park); and in the last source Frame 99 is mentioned.
* ^ A B The telegram is evidence number PS-3363 from the Oswald
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available at yadvashem.org.
* ^ This description of the meeting was employed by Holocaust
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