Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (German: [ˈʁaɪnhaʁt ˈtʁɪstan
ˈɔʏɡn̩ ˈhaɪdʁɪç] ( 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
Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei (Senior Group Leader and
General of Police) as well as chief of the Reich Main Security Office
(including the Gestapo, Kripo, and SD). He was also Stellvertretender
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 Prague,
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.
Heydrich was critically wounded in
Prague on 27 May 1942 as a result
of Operation Anthropoid. He was ambushed by a team of Czech and Slovak
agents who had been sent by the
Czechoslovak government-in-exile to
kill the Reich-Protector; the team was trained by the British Special
Operations Executive. Heydrich died from his injuries a week later.
Nazi intelligence falsely linked the assassins to the villages of
Lidice and Ležáky. Both villages were razed; all men and boys over
the age of 16 were shot, and all but a handful of the 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 Holocaust
5.1 Death in Prague
6 Summary of career
6.1 Association with fellow SS officers
6.2 SS record
7 See also
9 External links
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich was born in 1904 in Halle an der
Saale to composer and opera singer
Richard Bruno Heydrich
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
Wagner's 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).
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 (a
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 anti-Semitic organisation.
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.
Reichsmarine cadet in 1922
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 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.
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
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.[a] 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
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.
Nazi Gauleiter 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
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 Gestapo
on 22 April 1934. On 9 June 1934,
Rudolf 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 killed, 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
the authority to arrest citizens on the suspicion that they might
commit a crime, and the definition of a crime was at their discretion.
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
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
Seyß-Inquart, Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Heydrich in Vienna,
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 the
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
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 its 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. In the
Anschluss on 12 March, Hitler declared the
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
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-
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 and other
Red Army commanders. The material was delivered
to the NKVD. The
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
Commemorative plaque of the French victims of the Night-and-Fog Decree
at 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
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 with 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 to the
Reich Main Security Office
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.[b] 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
Acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia
Further information: Resistance in German-occupied Czechoslovakia
Heydrich (left) with
Karl Hermann Frank
Karl Hermann Frank at
Prague Castle in 1941
On 27 September 1941, Heydrich was appointed Deputy Reich Protector of
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, 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
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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
Prague and 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
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 Jewish question
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 to and taking orders from only 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
Gestapo offices, 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
Kristallnacht the beginning of the
When Hitler asked for a pretext for the invasion of Poland in 1939,
Himmler, Heydrich, and Heinrich Müller masterminded a false flag plan
code-named 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[c]
"By order of the Reichsführer-SS, residency without possession of an
identification card is punishable by death" – Heydrich,
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 RSHA[d] in
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
Theresienstadt, 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
Death in Prague
Main article: Operation Anthropoid
The Mercedes-Benz 320 Convertible B in which Heydrich was mortally
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
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
well. 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.
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.
The massacre at Lidice
Heydrich's assailants hid in safe houses and eventually took refuge in
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
Bullet-scarred window in the Church of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in
Prague, where Kubiš and his compatriots were cornered
Infuriated by Heydrich's death, Hitler ordered the arrest and
execution of 10,000 randomly selected Czechs. But after consultations
with 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
Lidice and Ležáky. A
Gestapo report 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 – they were
subjected to forced abortions 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
Karl Hermann Frank
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).
Association with fellow SS officers
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
Walter Schellenberg may have stemmed from their independence
Heinrich Himmler and Heydrich, listening to Konrad Meyer
Generalplan Ost exhibition (Hitler's genocidal plans against
Poles and other Slavs), 20 March 1941
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 Auschwitz, as
an uneducated thug. Within upper SS administration, Heydrich was
friendly towards Karl Wolff. 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 early 1940s.
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, Luftwaffe
Pilot's Badge, bronze and silver combat mission bars, and the Iron
Cross First and Second Classes.
Military of Germany portal
World War II
World War II portal
Dramatic portrayals of Reinhard Heydrich
Glossary of Nazi Germany
Nazi Party leaders and officials
List of rulers of the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia
^ 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 Pohl
case at the Nuremberg Trials. A translation of the text is available
^ This description of the meeting was employed by
Raul Hilberg in The Destruction of the European Jews. Hilberg 1985,
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^ a b c Ramen 2001, p. 8.
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^ a b Gerwarth 2011, p. 30.
^ Waite 1969, pp. 206–207.
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^ Gerwarth 2011, pp. 43, 44.
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^ a b Dederichs 2009, p. 12.
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^ a b
Reinhard Heydrich at the SS service record collection, United
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^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 309–12.
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^ Reitlinger 1989, p. 90.
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^ Weale 2010, p. 132, 135.
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^ Kitchen 1995, p. 40.
^ Delarue 2008, p. 85.
^ Blandford 2001, pp. 135–137.
^ Evans 2005, p. 655.
^ Lehrer 2000, p. 55.
^ Lehrer 2000, p. 61–62.
^ Goldhagen 1996, p. 158.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 696.
^ Longerich 2012, pp. 469, 470.
^ Headland 1992, p. 22.
^ Dederichs 2009, p. 83.
^ a b Williams 2001, p. 85.
^ Blandford 2001, p. 112.
^ Williams 2001, p. 88.
^ Conquest 2008, pp. 200–202.
^ Bracher 1970, p. 418.
^ Snyder 1994, p. 242.
^ "Night and Fog Decree". United States
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Retrieved 27 January 2012.
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^ Horvitz & Catherwood 2006, p. 200.
^ a b Bryant 2007, p. 140.
^ a b c d Bryant 2007, p. 143.
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^ a b c Williams 2003, p. 100.
^ a b c Bryant 2007, p. 144.
^ Garrett 1996, p. 60.
^ MacDonald 1989, p. 133.
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^ Sereny 1996, p. 325.
^ Evans 2005, p. 53.
^ Gerwarth 2011, p. xiii.
^ "Document: Page 3". United States
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^ "Kristallnacht". The
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^ Shirer 1960, pp. 518–520.
^ Calic 1985, pp. 194–200.
^ Longerich 2012, p. 425.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 958–963.
^ Rhodes 2002, p. 257.
^ Donnelley 2012, p. 48.
^ a b Aly, Götz; Roth, Karl Heinz; Black, Edwin; Oksiloff, Assenka
(2004). The Nazi Census: Identification and Control in the Third
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^ Hillgruber 1989, pp. 94–96.
^ Hilberg 1985, p. 164.
^ "The Path to the Mass Murder of European Jews, part 2. Notes from
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^ "The Wannsee Conference". Holocaust-history.org. 4 February 2004.
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^ a b Williams 2003, p. 155.
^ Williams 2003, p. 165.
^ Lehrer 2000, p. 86.
^ Höhne 2000, p. 495.
^ a b Dederichs 2009, pp. 148–150.
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^ a b Dederichs 2009, p. 107.
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Days of remembrance
Memorials and museums
Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos
Franz Walter Stahlecker
Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
Gustav Adolf Nosske
Karl Eberhard Schöngarth
Udo von Woyrsch
8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer
Schutzmannschaft (Belarusian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian,
Lithuanian Security Police
Burning of the Riga synagogues
Kaunas June 1941
Kaunas 29 October 1941
Ninth Fort November 1941
Gully of Petrushino
The Black Book
Special Prosecution Book-Poland (Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen)
Chief of German Police
Minister of the Interior
Himmler's service record
Ideology of the SS
Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS
Reichsführer-SS ("Circle of Friends of the
Reinhard Heydrich (Chief of the RSHA)
Ernst Kaltenbrunner (successor as Chief of the RSHA)
Karl Wolff (Chief of Personal Staff)
Hedwig Potthast (secretary)
Rudolf Brandt (Personal Administrative Officer to RFSS)
Hermann Gauch (adjutant)
Werner Grothmann (aide-de-camp)
Heinz Macher (second personal assistant)
Walter Schellenberg (personal aide)
Karl Maria Wiligut (occultist)
Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion
Crimes against Poles
Crimes against Soviet POWs
Slavs in Eastern Europe
Persecution of homosexuals
Persecution of Serbs
Suppression of Freemasonry
Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses
Persecution of black people
Margarete Himmler (wife)
Gudrun Burwitz (daughter)
Hedwig Potthast (mistress)
Gebhard Ludwig (older brother)
Ernst (younger brother)
Katrin Himmler (great-niece)
Heinz Kokott (brother-in-law)
Richard Wendler (brother-in-law)
Army Group Oberrhein
Army Group Vistula
Claus von Stauffenberg
Henning von Tresckow
Erhard Heiden (predecessor as Reichsführer-SS)
Karl Hanke (successor as Reichsführer-SS)
Falk Zipperer (closest friend)
Karl Gebhardt (personal physician)
Felix Kersten (personal masseur)
Hugo Blaschke (dentist)
Sidney Excell (man who arrested Himmler)
National Socialist German Workers' Party
Anton Drexler (1919–1921)
Adolf Hitler (1921–1945)
Martin Bormann (1945)
Germany and World War I
Treaty of Versailles
Occupation of the Ruhr
German Workers' Party
National Socialist Program
Ranks and insignia
Beer Hall Putsch
Brown House, Munich
Adolf Hitler's rise to power
Night of the Long Knives
Enabling Act of 1933
Greater German Reich
World War II
Article 21 Paragraph 2 (de facto prohibition)
Anti-Semitism in Germany
NSDAP Office of Racial Policy
NSDAP Office of Foreign Affairs
NSDAP Office of Colonial Policy
NSDAP Office of Military Policy
Nazi Party Chancellery
Das Schwarze Korps
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Richard Walther Darré
Baldur von Schirach
Black Front (Strasserism) / German Social Union
Deutsche Rechtspartei (through entryism) /
Deutsche Reichspartei /
National Democratic Party of Germany
Socialist Reich Party
ISNI: 0000 0001 2212 3851
BNF: cb11939159k (data)