Reinhard Heydrich was born in March 1904 and died in 1942. Heydrich was to become one of the most feared men in Nazi Germany helping Himmler cement the dictatorship started in March 1933 with the Enabling Act. Heydrich is one of the men most associated with the Holocaust. It is thought that Hitler looked on Heydrich as his natural successor.
Heydrich, on the left, behind Himmler
Heydrich was in charge of the Political Police. He was also a skilled musician, an Olympic class fencer and the mastermind behind the organisation that lead to the Holocaust. It was Heydrich who chaired and lead the meeting at Wannsee where the decision was taken to eradicate the Jews from Europe. He was a devoted Nazi who pursued his anti-Semitism with zeal. Why?
Heydrich had to live with the fact that some of the Nazi hierarchy considered him to be a Jew under Nazi law.
Heydrich’s father was called Bruno Richard Heydrich and had founded the First Halle Conservatory for Music, Theatre and Teaching. But research ordered by Gregor Strasser in 1932-33, came across an entry in the 1916 version of Riemann’s Musical Encyclopedia which read “Heydrich, Bruno, real name Süss”. The name Süss would have been considered by some as a Jewish name.
Martin Bormann kept a card system that held detailed information on leading Nazis. This survived the war. Bormann was as thorough as any person could be and yet the card on Heydrich only goes back one generation on his mother’s side and there is no entry for his grandmother on her side. It would seem that Bormann kept this information out deliberately as he was too meticulous to leave gaps in his research and he certainly would have had access to documents throughout the Reich.
The beliefs of some came to nothing as those higher up in the Nazi Party did not consider a surname to be incriminating evidence. However, Heydrich had to live with the knowledge that some believed he should have held no position in the Nazi Party at all. Perhaps this is why he was so devoted to his work against the Jews to prove to others that he was a true Nazi.
Heydrich joined the SS in 1932 after leaving the navy where he had been an officer. He had left the navy in disgrace after an affair with a young girl. He joined the SS as an unemployed man. His efficiency was soon noticed and he was appointed head of the SS Srcurity Service (the SD) which acted as an intelligence agency.
He was later appointed head of the Gestapo and the criminal police (the Kripo). These positions were combined into one when the Reich Security Office was established.
In 1941, he was appointed Protector of Bohemia and Moravia and in the following year chaired the Wannsee meeting.
Heydrich was killed by British trained Czech partisans as he was driven to work in May 1942. He travelled in an open top car and always used the same route to work. For these assassins, it was simply a matter of waiting for him to arrive at a point where his car had to slow down. One of the assassins was traced to the village of Lidice which was to pay a terrible price for having one of its townsfolk involved in this killing. Hitler ordered that everything should be killed in Lidice – including pets – and that its name should be removed from all future maps of Europe that were printed. The legacy of Heydrich lasted after his death.