Heydrich, Reinhard Tristan Eugen (1904-42).

Chief of the Reich Security Head Office and Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Born in Halle, Saxony, the son of the founder of the Halle Conservatory, Heydrich himself numbered among his many skills and talents the ability to play the violin at concert level. But Reinhard Heydrich inherited more than the musical ability of his father. In a contemporary Lexicon of Music and Musicians the elder Heydrich's name is accompanied by the note `real name Suss'. The clear implication is that Heydrich senior was Jewish, and throughout his life Reinhard Heydrich sought to suppress details of his Jewish ancestry. From his mother's gravestone he is said to have erased the suggestive forename Sarah. As a young man Heydrich had served as an officer in the German navy but in 1931 he was dismissed by an Honour Court (presided over by Admiral Canaris) for dishonourable conduct towards a young woman. Joining the Nazi Party in 1931 as an unemployed ex-officer, Heydrich was introduced to Himmler via his wife's contacts. Many elements in Reinhard Heydrich appealed to Heinrich Himmler: his considerable organizational abilities, his Nordic appearance, his total ruthlessness, the intensity of his antisemitism and, finally and ironically, the fact that he was himself either Jewish, partly Jewish or afraid of being considered Jewish. Perhaps Himmler saw in this fact the means by which he would control his talented associate. Certainly from 1931 he was prepared to promote Heydrich until he became the second most powerful man in the RSHA. He was appointed Obergruppenfuhrer SS in 1941 after a career in which he had become Chief of the SD, the SS security police, and had organized the Einsatzgruppen, the S S murder squads which followed the German armies into Russia. In July 1942, Goring ordered Heydrich to submit a comprehensive draft for the achievement of the `final solution to the Jewish problem'; the Wannsee Conference was clearly part-result of this Goring instruction. Yet it is difficult to see Wannsee any longer as the opening move in the extermination of the Jewish people. At least one extermination camp had been constructed before the date of Wannsee (January 1942). Whatever the precise administrative details, it is certain that Heydrich organized the machinery of genocide in which Eichmann played an executive role. Perhaps in reward for his efforts, certainly in recognition of his considerable talents, Heydrich had been appointed, in September t94r, to succeed Neurath as Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. His administration began in brutality but within months adroitly combined carrot and stick. Reports from Prague showed that Czech industrial production was rising as Heydrich issued additional ration cards and clothing on a productivity basis. The message coming from the Reich Protector in the Hradcany Palace was clear: -collaborate and prosper, or resist and perish. The decision in London to attempt the assassination of Heydrich took place in the early months of 1942 and is to this day shrouded in mystery. Reinhard Heydrich was the only Nazi leader the Allies attempted to assassinate. Inevitably historians have asked why Heydrich, when it was clear that his death would result in massive reprisals against the Czech people. A member of the British government at the time claims that this was precisely the object of the assassination. The argument ran that a period of unrestrained brutality against the Czech people would destroy for ever the fragile co-operation which London feared was growing up in Czechoslovakia and which could be extended to other occupied countries. It is true that the crucial failure of the German administration ofthe occupied territories was its inability to secure (or even its unwillingness to try to secure the freely given co-operation ofthe occupied peoples. Possibly London exaggerated the importance of what Heydrich was doing in Prague, but the intention. it is claimed, was clear: the assassination of Heydrich would bring reprisals which would divide German administration and Czech worker for ever. In late spring 1942, a section of Czech soldiers flew from London and were parachuted into Czechoslovakia outside Prague. Significantly, the Czech resistance, hearing of the plan to murder Heydrich, urgently requested the Czech government in London to persuade the British government to abandon the assassination attempt. The British were unmoved. In Prague the assassination squad struck on 27 May 1942: his open car in which he rode unprotected and unescorted was machine-gunned on the Kirchmayer Boulevard. Heydrich, injured, pulled his pistol and was about to pursue the Czech soldiers when another member of the group hurled a grenade towards him. Pieces of the metal springs and the horsehair stuffing of the car's upholstery penetrated the Reich Protector's body and he died on 4 June in a Prague hospital. The reprisals were as were feared, or possibly hoped for. After the Czech assassins and their helpers had been traced to the crypt of a Prague church and had died in a heroic battle against SS units, the terror began. The village of Lidice, tenuously connected with the operation, was razed to the ground and its inhabitants murdered. Thousands of Czechs were deported to the Austrian concentration camp of Mauthausen. The hostility ofthe people of Czechoslovakia towards the occupiers was secure for ever. The abilities and personality of Reinhard Heydrich have been a matter of considerable comment; it is doubtful that he was even a Nazi in the sense that he was devoted to the ideology of National Socialism. His work for the Nazi state was carried out with an efficiency and lack of pity which often assured success. But even in his destruction of European Jewry he showed no commitment to a grotesque anti- semitism. There is, however, one exception to his disinterested ruthlessness: he hated the Christian churches with a fervour beyond anything else visible in his life; his pathological detestation evident in his administrative memoranda as much as in his conversation. Like Hitler himself he greatly looked forward to the day (which they both recognized would have to be after the war was won) when the Gestapo could deal with `the black crows', the priests and pastors of the Christian churches. Many believe that he might have succeeded or even supplanted Hitler as Fuhrer. Certainly had he done so the world would have faced a formidably calculating opponent.