Heydrich, Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard, 1904-1942

By birth and training, Heydrich belonged to the ‘other side’ of HITLER’s Germany, the officer class which the Nazis both envied and disliked. But, cashiered from the Navy for trifling with the affections of a superior officer’s daughter, he transferred his loyalties firmly to the new force in German life, joined the SS and was quickly chosen by HIMMLER as his deputy. He became head of the Reich Main Security Office, the central agency for internal counterespionage and repression, arranged the Gleiwitz incident on the Polish border, which provided Hitler with his pretext for war in September 1939, and, after the invasion of the USSR, took charge of the operations of the extermination squads (Einsatzgruppen) which murdered the Jews of the occupied eastern territories in hundreds of thousands. It was his hand which drafted the protocol for the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Problem,’ endorsed by the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 and led to the systematic murder of European Jews in the extermination camps of the east in 1942-4. He was then appointed Reich Protector (governor) of Bohemia-Moravia (occupied Czechoslovakia) and was assassinated in Prague by a team of Czech agents, specially parachuted into the country for the operation, in June 1942. By way of reprisal, the Germans destroyed the Czech village of Lidice and murdered its adult population. Heydrich stood out from the majority of the Nazi leadership by reason of his remarkable selfassurance, intense ability and apparently total inhumanity, a combination of qualities possessed otherwise only by Hitler himself, whom Heydrich, it is suspected, intended eventually to succeed. He frightened all who knew him, even Himmler.

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