Reinhard Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich, the son of an actress, was born in Halle, on 7th march, 1904. He was too young to join the German Army during the First World War but at the age of sixteen joined the right-wing Freikorps. After taking part in battles with socialist revolutionaries in Halle he joined the German Navy.

While training he met and became friends with Wilhelm Canaris. Promoted to lieutenant in 1928, he joined the German intelligence service. However, he lost his job when accused of getting the daughter of important businessman pregnant. Angry at the way he had been treated, Heydrich immediately joined the Nazi Party. He also became a member of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and in 1931 he was introduced to Heinrich Himmler. Later Himmler appointed him to form the SD (Sicherheitsdienst). By 1933 Heydrich had reached the rank of Obergruppenfuhrer.

Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering argued that the Sturm Abteilung (SA) posed a threat to the German Army. In June 1934, Himmler arranged for Heydrich, Kurt Daluege and Walter Schellenberg, to carry out what became known as the Night of the Long Knives.

In 1936 Reinhard Heydrich became head of the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) and the Gestapo. Later both these organizations became part of the Reich Security Administration (RSHA).

Heydrich and his SD successfully convinced Joseph Stalin that the leadership of the Red Army was planning a coup in the Soviet Union. This lead to the Great Purge of the Soviet military that resulted in the execution of Mikhail Tukhachevsky and seven other top Soviet commanders.

Heinrich Himmler and the SS were also put in charge of the Concentration Camps. During the Second World War the SS followed the German Army into invaded countries where they had the responsibility of murdering Jews, gypsies, communists and partisans. Heydrich was given control of Czechoslovakia where he announced that the SS intended to "Germanize the Czech vermin."

In 1941 MI6 decided to help the Czech resistance to assassinate Heydrich. This was the only Nazi leader that the Allies attempted to assassinate. They took this decision knowing that the German Army would take terrible retribution of the people of Czechoslovakia.

Two Czech agents, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabčík, trained in Britain, were parachuted into Czechoslovakia on 29th December, 1941. Five months later, on 27th May, 1942, Heydrich was killed by a grenade while travelling in his car in Prague. The Czech agents involved in the killing hid in the crypt of a Prague church. Three-weeks later they were betrayed and were all killed during a gun battle.

In retaliation for the assassination of Heydrich, Kurt Daluege ordered the destruction of the village of Lidice. The village was razed to the ground and its 173 male inhabitants were murdered. The 198 women were sent to a Concentration Camp in Ravensbueck. Another 256 Czechs were condemned to death for aiding the assassination plot. Thousands of Czech people were also deported to other concentration camps in Austria and Germany as a result of Heydrich's death.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Reinhard Heydrich, instructions for measures against Jews (10th November, 1938)

Following the attempt on the life of Secretary of the Legation von Rath in Paris, demonstrations against the Jews are to be expected in all parts of the Reich in the course of the coming night, November 9/10,1938. The instructions below are to be applied in dealing with these events:

I. The chiefs of the State Police, or their deputies, must immediately upon receipt of this telegram contact, by telephone, the political leaders in their areas - Gauleiter or Kreisleiter - who have jurisdiction in their districts and arrange a joint meeting with the inspector or commander of the Order Police to discuss the arrangements for the demonstrations. At these discussions the political leaders will be informed that the German Police has received instructions, detailed below, from the Reichsfiihrer SS and the chief of the German Police, with which the political leadership is requested to coordinate its own measures:

(a) Only such measures are to be taken as do not endanger German lives or property (i.e., synagogues are to be burnt down only where there is no danger of fire in neighboring buildings).

(b) Places of business and apartments belonging to Jews may be destroyed but not looted. The police are instructed to supervise the observance of this order and to arrest looters.

(c) In commercial streets particular care is to be taken that non-Jewish businesses are completely protected against damage.

(d) Foreign citizens - even if they are Jews - are not to be molested.

II. On the assumption that the guidelines are observed, the demonstrations are not to be prevented by the police, who are only to supervise the observance of the guidelines.

III. On receipt of this telegram, police will seize all archives to be found in all synagogues and offices of the Jewish communities so as to prevent their destruction during the demonstrations. This refers only to material

of historical value, not to contemporary tax records, etc. The archives are to be handed over to the locally responsible officers of the SD.

IV. The control of the measures of the Security Police concerning the demonstrations against the Jews is vested in the organs of the State Police, unless inspectors of the Security Police have given their own instructions. Officials of the Criminal Police, members of the SD, of the Reserves and the SS in general may be used to carry out the measures taken by the Security Police.

V. As soon as the course of events during the night permits the release of the officials required, as many Jews in all districts, especially the rich, as can be accommodated in existing prisons are to be arrested. For the time being only healthy male Jews, who are not too old, are to be detained. After the detentions have been carried out the appropriate concentration camps are to be contracted immediately for the prompt accommodation of the Jews in the camps. Special care is to be taken that the Jews arrested in accordance with these instructions are not ill-treated.

(2) William Stephenson, head of the British Secret Intelligence Servicein the United States, report on Reinhard Heydrich (1937)

The most sophisticated apparatus for conveying top-secret orders was at the service of Nazi propaganda and terror. Heydrich had made a study of the Russian OGPU, the Soviet secret security service. He then engineered the Red Army purges carried out by Stalin. The Russian dictator believed his own armed forces were infiltrated by German agents as a consequence of a secret treaty by which the two countries helped each other rearm. Secrecy bred suspicion, which bred more secrecy, until the Soviet Union was so paranoid it became vulnerable to every hint of conspiracy.

Late in 1936, Heydrich had thirty-two documents forged to play on Stalin's sick suspicions and make him decapitate his own armed forces. The Nazi forgeries were incredibly successful. More than half the Russian officer corps, some 35,000 experienced men, were executed or banished.

The Soviet chief of Staff, Marshal Tukhachevsky, was depicted as having been in regular correspondence with German military commanders. All the letters were Nazi forgeries. But Stalin took them as proof that even Tukhachevsky was spying for Germany. It was a most devastating and clever end to the Russo-German military agreement, and it left the Soviet Union in absolutely no condition to fight a major war with Hitler.

(3) Reinhard Heydrich, document, Jewish Question in Occupied Territory, sent to to Security Police Special Units in Poland (21st September, 1939)

I refer to the meeting that took place today in Berlin and want to point out once again that the overall measures planned (thus, the final objective) must be kept strictly secret.

Distinctions must be drawn between: (1) the final objective (which will require more extensive time periods), and (2) the phases towards fulfillment of the final objective (which will be carried out on a short-term basis).

It is obvious that the task ahead cannot be determined from here in every detail. The following instructions and guidelines will simultaneously serve the purpose of prompting the commanders of Special Units to do some practical thinking.

I. The first prerequisite for the final objective will be, for one, the concentration of Jews from the countryside into larger cities. This must be carried out expeditiously. Attention must be paid to the requirement that only such cities may be designated as areas of concentration which are either railway junctions or are at least situated on a railway line. One prevailing basic rule will be that Jewish congregations of less than 500 members will be dissolved and moved to the nearest city of concentration

II. Jewish Council of Elders.

(1) Each Jewish congregation must set up a Jewish Council of Elders it will be fully responsible, in the truest sense of the word, for an exact and prompt execution of all past or future directives.

(2) In case of sabotage of such directives, the councils will be advised that most severe measures will be taken.

(3) Deadlines given to the Jews for departure into the cities.

(4) Alexander Dubcek, Hope Dies Last (1992)

President Benes had, since 1939, led an untiring diplomatic campaign for nullification of the Munich Pact and rerecognition of the Czechoslovak Republic. Manifestations of resistance both in the occupied Czech lands and in Slovakia were of crucial importance. The need for a spectacular act of anti-Nazi defiance in the so-called Protectorate helped inspire the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in May 1942. Heydrich was the head of the Sicherheitsdienst, or SD, the Nazi secret service, and was sent by Hitler to Prague in early 1942 as the ranking German officer in the occupied Czech lands.

Benes and his chief of army intelligence in London, General Moravec, chose two noncommissioned officers of the Czechoslovak Army in England to parachute into the Protectorate and execute Heydrich. It was no coincidence that one of them - Jozef Gabcik - was Slovak, and the other, Jan Kubis, Czech. This pairing was meant to symbolize the continuing mutuality of Czech and Slovak national interests.