HEYDRICH, REINHARD (1904–1942)


One must not mince words when it comes to characterizing Heydrich: He was one of the nastiest creatures to emerge in Nazi Germany—birthplace of so many twen­tieth‑century nasties. Heydrich joined the SS (Schutzstaffel) in 1932, the year before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Thanks to another Nazi nasty, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Third Reich’s unified police system, Heydrich enjoyed a meteoric rise in the Nazi pantheon of world-class criminals and mass murderers.

SS-Obergruppenfuehrer (General) and General der Polizei Heydrich was chief of the Reich Security Head Office, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), which included the Gestapo (state secret police) and Kripo (criminal police). In August 1940 Heydrich was appointed and served as President of Interpol, the international law enforce­ment agency. He also served as Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, the autonomous Nazi-administered “protectorate” that was part of Czechoslovakia before the war.

Heydrich helped organize Kristallnacht, “the Night of Broken Glass,” a series of coordi­nated attacks by brown-shirted, paramilitary storm troopers and civilians against Jews throughout Germany and parts of Austria on November 9–10, 1938. Many historians view Kristallnacht, which was followed by further economic and political persecution of Jews, as the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. Indeed, it was Heydrich himself who chaired the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, which laid out plans for the final solution to the Jewish Question—the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German‑occupied territory. Taking the minutes at the 1-1/2 hour conference was SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer (Lt. Col.) Adolf Eichmann.

Upon his arrival in the Czech capital Prague, Deputy Reich-Protector Heydrich sought to eliminate opposition to the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by ruthlessly suppressing Czech culture and deporting and executing members of the Czech resistance. His proudly wore the moniker “Butcher of Prague.”

Heydrich was mortally wounded on May 27, 1942, during Operation Anthropoid, a Czech operation prepared by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) with the approval of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. He died on June 4. Hitler ordered an investi­gation, reprisals, and executions. More than 13,000 people were arrested and according to one estimate 5,000 people were killed. Gestapo intelligence falsely linked the two assassins, Jozef Gabcík and Jan Kubis, to the villages of Lidice and Lezaky, about 10 miles northwest of Prague. In the village of Lidice, which was destroyed on June 10, 1942, 199 men were executed, 95 children were taken most to be gassed (17 sur­vived the war), and 195 women were deported immediately to Ravensbrueck concen­tration camp in northern Germany. All the men and women in the village of Lezaky were murdered. Both towns were burned and the ruins of Lidice were leveled after the church was razed and the cemetery desecrated. In 1947, the Czech government began to rebuild Lidice. The new village rises approximately 200 yards from the former site. The village of Lezaky was never rebuilt.

SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich: 1942 Assassination and Brutal Consequences