|Birth Day:||March 7, 1904|
|Death Date:||4 June 1942(1942-06-04) (aged 38)
Prague-Libeň, Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia
(now Prague, Czech Republic)
|Birth Place:||Halle, Germany|
As per our current Database, Reinhard Heydrich died on 4 June 1942(1942-06-04) (aged 38)
Prague-Libeň, Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia
(now Prague, Czech Republic).
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Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich was born in 1904 in Halle an der Saale to composer and opera singer 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).
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 paramilitary 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.
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 SMS 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 already a Nazi Party follower; she had attended her first rally in 1929. Early in 1931 Heydrich was charged with "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman" for a breach of promise, having been engaged to marry another woman he had known for six months before the Lina von Osten engagement. Admiral Erich Raeder dismissed Heydrich from the navy in April. He received severance pay of 200 Reichsmarks (equivalent to €640 in 2009) a month for the next two years. Heydrich married Lina in December 1931.
On 30 May 1931, Heydrich's discharge from the navy became legally binding, and either the following day or on 1 June he joined the Nazi Party in Hamburg. Six weeks later, on 14 July, he joined the SS. His Party number was 544,916 and his SS number was 10,120. Those who joined the Party after Hitler's seizure of power in January 1933 faced suspicions from the Alte Kämpfer (Old Fighters; the earliest party members) that they had joined for reasons of career advancement rather than a true commitment to the Nazi program. Heydrich's date of enlistment in 1931 was early enough to quell suspicion that he had only joined to further his career, but was not early enough for him to be considered an Old Fighter.
In 1931, Heinrich Himmler began setting up a counterintelligence division of the SS. Acting on the advice of his associate Karl von Eberstein, who was Lina'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.
On 1 August 1931, Heydrich began his job as chief of the new 'Ic Service' (intelligence service). He set up office at the Brown House, the 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 SS-Sturmbannführer (major).
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, but in 1931 he was dismissed for conduct unbecoming an officer with loss of rank, and during World War II he had no contact with the Navy Reserve.
In 1932, rumours were spread by Heydrich's enemies of his alleged Jewish ancestry. Wilhelm Canaris said he had obtained copies of documents proving Heydrich's Jewish ancestry, but these copies 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.
In mid-1932, Himmler appointed Heydrich chief of the renamed security service—the 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 police.
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 Gestapo to 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.
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.
Although the starting monthly salary of 180 Reichsmarks (the equivalent of US$40) (equivalent to €576 in 2009) 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 (equivalent to €1,009 in 2009), a salary he described as "comfortable". As his power and influence grew throughout the 1930s, his wealth grew commensurately; in 1935 he received a base salary of 8,400 Reichsmarks (equivalent to €32,854 in 2009) and an allowance of 12,000 Reichsmarks (equivalent to €46,934 in 2009) and by 1938 his income increased to 17,371 Reichsmarks (equivalent to €65,749 in 2009), annually. Heydrich later received a Totenkopfring from Himmler for his SS service.
With the SA out of the way, Heydrich began building the Gestapo into an instrument of fear. He improved his index-card system, creating categories of offenders with colour-coded cards. The Gestapo had the authority to arrest citizens on the suspicion that they might commit a crime, and the definition of a crime was at their discretion. The 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 killed.
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 state.
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 Hitler, 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 operations chief.
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 Soviet officer should be "unmasked". He discussed the matter with Himmler and both in turn brought it to Hitler's attention. Hitler approved Heydrich's plan to act immediately. 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.
In January 1937, Heydrich directed the SD to secretly begin collecting and analysing public opinion and report back its findings. He then had the 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 emphasising the common Germanic blood of the two countries. In the Anschluss on 12 March, Hitler declared the unification of Austria with Nazi Germany.
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 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 International Criminal Police Commission (later known as Interpol) on 24 August 1940, and its headquarters were transferred to Berlin. He was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei on 24 September 1941.
Heydrich created the "Zentralstelle IIP Polen" unit of the Gestapo in order to coordinate the ethnic cleansing of Poles in "Operation Tannenberg" and the Intelligenzaktion, two codenames for extermination actions directed at the Polish people during the German occupation of Poland. Among the 100,000 people murdered in the Intelligenzaktion operations in 1939–1940, approximately 61,000 were members of the Polish intelligentsia: scholars, clergy, former officers, and others, whom the Germans identified as political targets in the Special Prosecution Book-Poland, compiled before the war began in September 1939.
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 his invasion.
On Himmler's instructions, Heydrich formed the Einsatzgruppen (task 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 measures. The 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. Historian 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 ensured the safety of certain athletes, such as Paul Sommer, a Jewish German champion fencer he knew from his pre-SS days, and the Polish Olympic fencing team that competed at the 1936 Summer Olympics.
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 Quartermaster general Eduard Wagner for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union, which ensured that the Einsatzgruppen and army would co-operate in murdering Soviet Jews.
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). Heydrich was the lead speaker, with support from Adolf Eichmann. At Wannsee, 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.
By late 1940, German armies had invaded most of Western Europe. The following year, Heydrich's SD was given responsibility for carrying out the 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 (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. 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 7,000.
On 27 September 1941, Heydrich was appointed Deputy Reich Protector of the 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 Czechs had 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."
On 10 October 1941, Heydrich was the senior officer at a "Final Solution" meeting of the RSHA in Prague that discussed deporting 50,000 Jews from the 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 Einsatzgruppen commanders 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 "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.
In London, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile resolved to kill Heydrich. Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík headed the team chosen for the operation, trained by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). They returned to the Protectorate, parachuting from a Handley Page Halifax on 28 December 1941, where they lived in hiding, preparing for the mission.
In March 1942, further sweeps against Czech cultural and patriotic organisations, the military, and the intelligentsia resulted in the practical paralysis of the London-based Czech resistance. Almost all avenues by which Czechs could express the Czech culture in public were closed. 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 by the Nazis against any action resisting German rule. Heydrich's brutal policies during that time quickly earned him the nickname "the Butcher of Prague". The reprisals are referred to by Czechs as the "Heydrichiáda".
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, Czechs could 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.
On 27 May 1942, Heydrich planned to meet Hitler in Berlin. German documents suggest that Hitler intended to transfer him to German-occupied France where the French resistance was gaining ground. Heydrich would have to pass a section where the Dresden-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. Heydrich ordered his driver, Klein, to halt and attempted to confront Gabčík rather than speed away. Kubiš, who wasn't spotted by Heydrich or Klein, threw a converted anti-tank mine at the car as it stopped, landing against the rear wheel. The explosion ripped through the right rear fender and wounded Heydrich, with metal fragments and fibres from the upholstery causing serious damage to his left side. He suffered major injuries to his diaphragm, spleen, and one lung, as well as a broken rib. Kubiš received a minor shrapnel wound to his face. After Kubiš fled, Heydrich ordered Klein to chase Gabčík on foot, and Gabčík shot Klein in the leg, before escaping himself.
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:
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 the 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. On 16 December 2019, the BBC reported that Heydrich's unmarked grave had been opened by unknown persons, without anything being taken.
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.
Currently, Reinhard Heydrich is 119 years, 0 months and 19 days old. Reinhard Heydrich will celebrate 120th birthday on a Thursday 7th of March 2024.
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