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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Was the mastermind of The Great Escape also linked to the death of 'Hitler's Hangman'?


Was the mastermind of The Great Escape also linked to the death of 'Hitler's Hangman'?


Research reveals hero could have helped assassinate top Nazi officer

  • New book suggests Roger Bushell was linked to Reinhard Heydrich's death
  • Bushell was the mastermind of the escape from Stalag Luft III
  • The prison break was the inspiration for the 1963 film The Great Escape
  • Bushell was among Prague's resistance fighters at time of assassination

He was the mastermind of the mass prison break from a German camp which inspired the iconic film The Great Escape.

But a new book has now suggested Spitfire pilot Roger Bushell could also have been linked to the assassination of notorious Nazi officer Reinhard Heydrich, known as 'Hitler's Hangman' and the acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia.

Simon Pearson's The Great Escaper places Bushell in Prague at the time Heydrich's car was bombed by Czechoslovakian Jan Kubiš, and Slovak Jozef Gabčík, which led to the Nazi officer's death a number of days later.

A new book has suggested Spitfire pilot Roger Bushell (pictured) could have been linked to the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated by Czechoslovakian soldiers in June 1942

Hero: A new book suggests pilot Roger Bushell, left, may have been behind the assassination of feared Nazi Reinhard Heydrich, right, in June 1942

Mr Pearson writes that although it is not known for certain whether Bushell was involved in the assassination, he had been among Prague's resistance fighters at the time and was even taken in for questioning by the Gestapo, The Times has reported.

Bushell, who was also known as 'Big X', had been hiding in Prague for a number of months.

During his time in the city he was offered shelter by Blažena Zeithammelová, who worked for the resistance.

Her family had also previously attempted to kill the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, while members of the Three Kings underground network.

Mr Pearson, whose book is being serialised in The Times, writes Zeithammelová and her family were executed following Heydrich's death, in a huge purge of Prague ordered by Hitler.

Bushell however was sent to Stalag Luft III following his interrogation by the Gestapo, which became 'an operational outpost of British intelligence' thanks to his system of coded letters.

Bushell was also head of the escape committee at the prisoner of war camp, which saw him come up with a plan to help 200 prisoners out of the camp.

Wing Commander Bob Tuck with Squadron Leader Roger Bushell (right), the man responsible for organising the Great Escape. Upon being recaptured he was murdered by the Gestapo on March 29, 1944

Wing Commander Bob Tuck with Squadron Leader Roger Bushell (right), the man responsible for organising the Great Escape. Upon being recaptured he was murdered by the Gestapo on March 29, 1944

Evil: Reinhard Heydrich, pictured far left with Adolf Hitler, was a high-ranking Nazi and a key figure in the Holocaust

Evil: Reinhard Heydrich, pictured far left with Adolf Hitler, was a high-ranking Nazi and a key figure in the Holocaust

He managed to lead 75 men out of one of three tunnels on March 24, 1944 before guards discovered the escape attempt.

He was 33 when he was shot by the Gestapo on Hitler's personal orders after being recaptured near the French border.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1969-054-16, Reinhard Heydrich.jpg

In 2011 the Daily Mail reported how light had been cast on Bushell's life after letters, diaries and photographs which survived the war had been handed over to the Imperial War Museum.

Squadron Leader Bushell, who lived in South Africa up until he was 14, was a Cambridge graduate, barrister and international skiier.

The mass breakout from the prison camp was highlighted in Paul Brickhill's book The Great Escape and also in the film that featured Richard Attenborough. But in the film the character was renamed Roger Barlett and bore little resemblance to the actual man.

Steve McQueen, as Captain Virgil Hilts, and Richard Attenborough, as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, in the 1963 film The Great Escape

Steve McQueen, as Captain Virgil Hilts, and Richard Attenborough, as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, in the 1963 film The Great Escape.

On the twenty-ninth of May, 1942, Radio Prague announced that Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, was dying; assassins had wounded him fatally. On the sixth of June he died.

Though not yet forty at his death, the blond Heydrich had had a notable career. As a Free Corpsman in his teens he was schooled in street fighting and terrorism. Adulthood brought him a commission in the German navy, but he was cashiered for getting his fiancée pregnant and then refusing to marry her because a woman who gave herself lightly was beneath him. He then worked so devotedly for the Nazi Party that when Hitler came to power he put Heydrich in charge of the Dachau concentration camp. In 1934 he headed the Berlin Gestapo. On June 30 of that year, at the execution of Gregor Strasser, the bullet missed the vital nerve and Strasser lay bleeding from the neck. Heydrich's voice was heard from the corridor: "Not dead yet? Let the swine bleed to death."

In 1936 Heydrich became chief of the SIPO, which included the criminal police, the security service, and the Gestapo. In 1938 he concocted the idea of the Einsatzgruppen, whose business it was to murder Jews. The results were brilliant. In two years these 3,000 men slaughtered at least a million persons. In November of that year he was involved in an event that in some inverted fashion presaged his own death. The son of a Jew whom he had deported from Germany assassinated Ernst von Rath in Paris. In reprisal Heydrich ordered a pogrom, and on the night of November ninth 20,000 Jews were arrested in Germany.

In 1939 the merger of the SIPO with the SS Main Security Office made Heydrich the leader of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt. In this capacity he ordered and supervised the "Polish attack" on Gleiwitz, an important detail in the stage setting for the invasion of Poland on September first. It was he who saw to it that twelve or thirteen "criminals" dressed in Polish uniforms would be given fatal injections and found dead on the "battlefield." It was probably he who chose the code name for these men--Canned Goods.

At this time Bohemia and Moravia had already been raised from independent status to that of Reichsprotektorat, with Baron von Neurath, Germany's now senile former foreign minister, designated the Protector--of the Czechs from themselves, presumably. But a greater honor was in store for them. On 3 September 1941 von Neurath was replaced by SS Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich. The hero moved into the Hradcany Palace in Prague and the executions started, 300 in the first five weeks. His lament for Gregor Strasser became his elegy for all patriotic Czechs: "Aren't they dead yet? Let them bleed to death."

He had come a long way in thirty-eight years. The son of a music teacher whose wife was named Sarah, Reinhard had gone on trial three times because of Party doubts about the purity of his Aryan origin. Now, as chief of the RSHA, which he continued to run from Czechoslovakia, he was Hangman to all occupied Europe. His power was such that he could force Admiral Canaris to come to Prague and at the end of May, 1942, sign away the independence of the Abwehr and accept subordination to the Sicherheitsdienst. It was his moment of sweetest triumph. A few weeks later he was dead, and Himmler pronounced the funeral oration calling him "that good and radiant man."

So much for the story we all know, and on to questions left unanswered by it. Who were Heydrich's assassins? Who could successfully plan his death? Was the motive simply revenge for suffering? How was it accomplished? And the hardest question of all, was it a good thing? Here, for the first time, are the answers to all these but the last, and on that question stuff for pondering.

Need Mothers an Invention

When Heydrich took charge of Bohemia and Moravia, the Czechs learned what it means to live under a master of suppression. The war fronts were far away: it was the period of smashing German successes in the Balkans, Scandinavia, France, and the USSR. The Czechs heard little that Heydrich did not want them to hear. Their underground movement was systematically penetrated and all but destroyed. On October third of 1941, for example, the capture of a single Czech radio operator by Heydrich's men led to the arrest of 73 agents working for Moscow. Underground radio contact with London was monitored. The Czechs were losing heart.

In London the strength of the resistance in all occupied countries was periodically reviewed, and the countries were listed in the order of the assistance each gave the Allied cause. In 1941 Czechoslovakia was always ranked at the very end. Eduard Benes, its president-in-exile, was deeply embarrassed. He was also gravely concerned that the Allies, if his people failed to fight, might give short shrift to any Czech claims after the war. He told his intelligence chief, General Frantisek Moravec, to order an intensification of resistance activity. But it was difficult enough to get even a parachuted courier or coded radio message past the wary Heydrich. Nothing happened in response.

Then President Benes hit upon the idea of contriving to assassinate a prominent Nazi or Quisling inside the tight dungeon of the Protectorate; such a bold stroke would refurbish the Czech people's prestige and advance the status of their government in London. The German retaliation would be brutal, of course, but its brutality might serve to inflame Czech patriotism.

Who should be the target? General Moravec first nominated the most prominent of the Czech collaborators, an ex-colonel whose fawning subservience to his Teutonic masters left the London Czechs nauseated and ashamed. The general also had a personal reason for his choice: the name of the Czech Quisling was Emanuel Moravec, a coincidence that had plagued the general for years. But Emanuel, called the Greasy, was not the right man for the purpose. He was not well known abroad, and Czech prestige would not be raised significantly by crushing a worm. The Germans, too, were likely to regard his death as no great loss; he was only a minister of education, easy to replace, and even the Nazis despised traitors.

Heydrich was totally different. His unique combination of: brilliance and brutality had no peer even in the Third Reich. He had been personally responsible for the execution of hundreds of Czechs and the imprisonment of thousands. The shot that killed him would be heard in every capital of the world. There could be no other choice. General Moravec so recommended, President Benes agreed, and the planning of Operation Salmon began in tense secrecy.

Wanted: Men for Martyrdom

The first problem was finding one or two men who could and would do the job. It must have seemed to General Moravec, at least at the outset, an almost impossible task. The many Czech politicians in London were preoccupied in the unending scramble for posts in the provisional government. There were quite a few Czech businessmen in England, but most of them were too busy making a fast koruna to be interested. There were brave and patriotic Czechs serving in fighter and bomber wings attached to the Royal Air Force, but the Air Ministry would never let them go. And so the choice narrowed to the single infantry brigade of about 2,500 men encamped near Cholmondly.

This pool of prospects had its own disadvantages. An encampment of 2,500 is like a town of that size: everyone knows everyone else and is full of curiosity about everything that anyone does. Here this inquisitiveness was also undissipated by outside contacts, the Czech soldiers speaking little or no English and having few interests beyond the limits of the camp. Each transfer, trip, or trifle thus became news, something to discuss and analyze.

For screening purposes the personnel files of the brigade contained only what each man had told about himself or, in rare instances, about others whom he had known earlier, at home. There was no way to check police files, run background or neighborhood checks, or otherwise obtain independent verification of loyalties. Under such circumstances it is a tribute to General Ingr, Minister of Defense in the exiled government, to General Moravec, and to their subordinates that of 153 parachutists flown from England and dropped into Czechoslovakia, only three proved turncoats.

How many people would have to know? President Benes, General Ingr, General Moravec and his deputy, Lt. Col. Stragmueller, and Major Fryc, chief of operations. Of these, President Benes and General Ingr needed to know only the purpose of the operation and the names of the men chosen to carry it out. Others, required for instruction, would necessarily know that certain men were entering Czechoslovakia to carry out a clandestine action, but not their precise intent. Four instructors would be needed, experts respectively in parachute work, in the terrain of the area, in cover, documentation, clothing, and equipment, and in commando techniques.

Several British officers, representatives of MI-6, would participate in this training. The crew of the plane carrying the men into Czechoslovakia would know where and when they were going, though not their identities or mission. And finally, a large number of men in the brigade personally acquainted with the candidates could be expected to make guesses of varying degrees of accuracy as the preparations for assassination progressed.

Because the number of persons who would be partly or fully informed was so unavoidably much too large, it was essential that the men finally chosen should be as discreet as they were brave. Of the 2,500 Czech soldiers in the brigade some 700, most of them volunteers, were already engaged in parachute training under British instruction. Two officers were assigned to the brigade, one to the parachutists and the other to the ground troops, ostensibly as aides but actually as spotters. These two officers knew only that they were to choose the best candidates for a dangerous assignment.

Men recommended by the spotters were interviewed singly by Lt. Col. Stragmueller. Some were asked whether they would volunteer for special training. Almost all those asked agreed, and they were sent in groups of ten for vigorous physical conditioning and thorough schooling in commando tactics--the use of a wide assortment of small arms, the manufacture of home-made bombs, ju-jitsu, cover and concealment, and the rest. During this intensive drilling the ten-man teams were kept under close observation. It was essential to discover not only the bravest and most capable but also--it having been decided that the assassination was a two-man job--those who worked best in pairs. Other considerations also came into play; men from Prague, for example, were automatically eliminated because of the danger of recognition after arrival.

By now the choice had narrowed to eight men in half as many groups. General Moravec visited these four groups, along with all the others, on a regular schedule. On his orders the instructors drew the eight candidates aside one at a time and passed each a piece of juicy, concocted information with the warning not to mention it to anyone. Each tidbit was different. Soon two new rumors were circulating, and two men were eliminated. One of the remaining six was disqualified by marriage; another was suddenly incapacitated by illness.

General Moravec interviewed the remaining four. Two of them, non-coms, met all tests and were also good friends. Their names were Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik. Kubis was born in Southern Moravia in 1916. After some ten years of schooling he had gone to work as an electrician. He had been in the Czech Army since 1936 and had fought in France in 1940. His excellent physical condition made his 160 pounds, at 5'9", look lean. Slow of movement, taciturn, and persevering, he was also intelligent and inventive.

Gabcik was a year younger than Kubis. An orphan from the age of ten, he too had left school at sixteen. After working as a mechanic for four years, he had entered the Czech Army in 1937. He had been given the Croix de Guerre in France in 1940. He was strong and stocky, an excellent soccer player, and like Kubis lean for all his 150 pounds on a 5'8" frame. His blue eyes were expressive, and his whole face unusually mobile. Talented and clever, good-natured, cheerful even under strenuous or exasperating circumstances, frank and cordial, he was an excellent counterpoise for the quieter, more introverted Kubis.

Both men had gone through the arduous training without illness or complaint. Both spoke fluent German. Both were excellent shots. General Moravec spoke separately to each of them. He explained that the mission had the one purpose of assassinating Heydrich. He stressed to each of the young men the great likelihood that he would be caught and executed.

Escape from encircled Czechoslovakia after Heydrich had been killed would be practically impossible. And the survival of either, hiding inside the country until the war ended, was extremely unlikely. The probability was that both would be killed at the scene of action.

Although neither man had relatives or friends in Prague, both had relatives in the countryside; and the general reminded them of what had happened to the family of a Czech sent from London on a successful clandestine mission to Italy. Somehow the Gestapo had learned his identity and executed all of his relatives in Czechoslovakia, even first and second cousins. "Please understand," General Moravec told each of them, "that I am not testing you now. You have proved that you are brave and patriotic. I am telling you that acceptance of this mission is almost certainly acceptance of death--perhaps a very painful and degrading death--because I do not believe that the man who tries to kill Heydrich can succeed if the awful realization that he too will die comes too late, and unnerves him. I have another reason, too: if you make your choice with open eyes, I shall sleep a little better."

First Gabcik and then Kubis agreed, thoughtfully but without hesitation or bravado. Both were quietly proud to have been chosen. The general then brought them together and explained that from that moment on they would be separated from all the rest, the final preparations would be made in strictest seclusion. If at any moment either man felt that he could not go through with the assassination, he was bound in duty and honor to say so immediately, without false shame.

They glanced at each other. "No," said Gabcik. "We want to do it." Kubis just nodded.

Dress Rehearsal and Curtain Up

Some training was still needed. Kubis had to learn to ride a bicycle. Both had to know Prague as though they had spent years walking its streets and alleys. Both needed instruction in withstanding hostile interrogation. Both had to memorize all the details of separate cover stories which could be "confessed," after initial resistance, to the Gestapo. On the last day of training they were each given a lethal dose of cyanide and told how to conceal it on their persons. It was the last defense against torture.

"One more point," General Moravec told them. "Under no circumstances--and I mean none at all--is either of you to get in touch with the underground, directly or indirectly. You are absolutely on your own. The underground is infested with informants; Heydrich has done his usual masterful job. For this reason we have not sent out one word about you, even to the most trusted leaders there. If anyone approaches you and says that he comes from the underground, he is a provocateur. Treat him as such."

The men nodded.

"Don't forget," the general insisted. "And now, a review. Kubis, where does Heydrich have his office?"

"Prague Palace."

"Show me on the map."

Kubis did so without hesitation.

"Gabcik, where do you land?"

"Here, sir," said Gabcik, pointing to another spot some 50 kilometers southeast of Prague, an area chosen because it was wooded, rolling, and offered good approaches to the city.

"Kubis, what do you do first, after touching ground and removing parachutes?"

"We destroy all traces of the descent, sir."

"Do you proceed to the palace Gabcik?"

"No. It is too heavily guarded. All visitors are thoroughly checked."

"His private residence?"

"The same, sir."

"Kubis, where do you go?"

"Here, sir." Kubis' finger pointed to a spot half way between Prague and the village of Brezary.

"Gabcik, when does Heydrich pass this spot?"

"Daily, sir, going into the city, and at night on his return. We shall observe the time."

"Why have we chosen this particular spot on the road?"

"Sir, there is a sharp curve. His car and the motorcycles must slow down to twenty kilometers."

"How many motorcycles, Kubis?"

"Probably two, sir. We'll find out."

"Good. Now remember--don't rush it. Don't use pistols in any case. If there is any chance that you can't bring it off with the bomb or the machine gun on first try, wait and pick a better spot for the next day. But don't delay too long. Now, a last dry run."

The two men left. General Moravec waited for ten minutes, summoned his car, and asked to be driven down a certain country road at normal speed. He sat in the back, with binoculars, closely scanning all the foliage and other cover wherever the car slowed for a curve. Then he drove back and waited. Soon Gabcik and Kubis reappeared.

"Well?" the general demanded. "Did you kill me?"

"Yes, sir."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, sir."


The escape was planned with equal care. The men would make their way, mostly on foot, to Slovakia, where the German pressure was far less severe. Gabcik, who knew the mountains of Slovakia well, had chosen a safe area where none of his friends or relatives lived. For food they were on their own.

Early April was all fog, wind, and rain. Normally Czech, Polish, and Canadian crews took turns flying paratroopers over Czechoslovakia, but General Ingr had made sure that a Czech team, Captain Anderle and his crew, would be rested and ready for a good day. The fifteenth, at last, dawned clear and still. General Moravec walked to the plane with his two chosen men. They stood at the bottom of the ramp. He looked at them, and they at him, in silence. No speeches, no cheek-kissing, no wet eyes. Gabcik and Kubis seemed as impassive as two farmers starting the day's work. They shook hands briefly.

The general went into the plane and briefed its captain and crew. When he came out, he found Gabcik suddenly flustered. "Sir, may I speak to you for a moment in private?"

So, the general thought sadly. Well, better for it to happen now. We shall have to send him to the Isle of Man until the war ends. "Of course, Gabcik," he said, and moved some yards away.

Gabcik followed, uncomfortable. He said, "Look, sir, I don't know how to tell you this, I'm ashamed. But I have to tell you. I've run up a bill at a restaurant, the Black Boar. I'm afraid it's ten pounds, sir. Could you have it taken care of? I hate to ask, but I haven't got the money, and I don't want to leave this way."

"All right," Moravec managed. "Anything else?"

Gabcik was relieved. "No, sir," he said, "except don't worry. We'll pull it off, Kubis and I."

They climbed in, then, and the plane started down the runway. The general thought of all the courageous men he'd known. "No," he said out loud. "None of them were braver." He felt full of pride and pain.

Death Rides in Spring

Captain Anderle came back on schedule. He reported that the two men had teased his crew about having to go back to the strangeness of England instead of coming home. At the command they had jumped unhesitatingly.

So the waiting started. Gabcik and Kubis had not taken a transmitter or any means to report back: if they were successful everybody would know it. None of the anxious witting talked about the operation. On the tenth day Captain Anderle was shot down and killed in an air battle at Malta. "I am not a superstitious man," General Moravec told himself.

Two weeks, three weeks, four. It must have gone wrong. "If they failed," said General Ingr, "let us hope they failed completely, without getting anywhere near Heydrich."

Six weeks, and May 29, Friday afternoon. Prague radio, indignant, reported that Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich had been severely wounded by murderers in a criminal, dastardly attempt upon his life that very morning. They had thrown a bomb into the Protector's car. Two men had been seen leaving the spot on bicycles. The search for them was under way. They would be found.

The news exploded in the international press. At home and abroad, Czechs stood a little straighter. Several "authentic inside stories" were printed. The favorite was that the Czech underground had struck. Scarcely less popular was the tale that the Abwehr had killed Heydrich because of the humiliating agreement he had just forced Canaris to sign.

At Cholmondly the brigade buzzed. The absent Gabcik and Kubis were talked about, of course; but they had been gone for a long time. And so had many more paratroopers dispatched on one mission or another. There was no reason to pick out these two over others who had never returned. Lieutenant Opalka, for example. He had been gone for five months now. And three men had left the camp just a week before Heydrich was killed.

The battalion talked of little else. One sergeant, a little older than the others, was convinced that the man who took care of Heydrich was a non-com named Anton Kral.

"Kral?" repeated one of the others. "Why Kral? He's been gone as long as Opalka."

"I don't know," the sergeant answered. "It's just a feeling. Remember how tall and dark he was, and silent?"

"And brave," said another. "He fought well in France."

"Well," shrugged a third, "it could be anybody."

Perhaps the sergeant knew more than the others about Anton Kral. Kral had been picked by General Moravec to be parachuted with Lieutenant Opalka into an area northeast of Prague. Their mission was to get in touch with the underground there to deliver instructions. Nothing had been heard from either of them since their departure, and they were presumed lost.

In Prague, Heydrich was dying. The three physicians summoned from Berlin--Gebhardt, Morell, and Brandt--tried hard, but could not save him. Himmler was there too, full of public sorrow, privately perhaps rejoicing. He had his funeral oration down pat before the sixth of June, when Heydrich died. And he seized the chance to direct personally the search for the assassins and the massive reprisals.

First, martial law was proclaimed over all Bohemia and Moravia. A rigid daily curfew at sundown was imposed. Throughout the land public announcements proclaimed that anyone who harbored the assassins or otherwise aided them in any way would be executed summarily and without trial. The illegal possession of arms and even approval of assassination in principle were declared capital crimes. Himmler's chief executive in the subsequent action was the notorious Sudeten German, Deputy Reichsprotektor Karl Hermann Frank.

The mass arrests and mass executions began. Czechs were killed without investigation, without trial, even without interrogation, usually on the basis of some vague or distorted denunciation. For twenty days the slaughter continued. But neither terror nor the special Gestapo details dispatched to Prague could bring the assassins to light.

Then Himmler and Frank had a new idea. Quite arbitrarily, they chose a small settlement near Kladno, fifteen miles from Prague. On 9 June Colonel Rostock marched a military detail into this village of the now memorable name, Lidice. Every male not unquestionably a child was slaughtered. Even the few who chanced to be absent were run down and killed--two hundred men and boys in all. The women were driven into concentration camps. The children were shipped off to Germany. Everything above ground, all structures, were razed, and the ground was ploughed. Lidice became a blank, a field of regular brown furrows.

And still there was no trace of the killers of Heydrich. So they did the same thing to another hamlet, Lezaky, in southwestern Bohemia.

The killers were not found.

On 24 June Frank officially announced that if the assassins were not turned over in 48 hours, the population of Prague would be decimated. He also used a carrot--1,000,000 marks for anyone giving information leading to the death or capture of the wanted men. This worked, apparently. On 25 June, Radio Prague reported that the culprits had been discovered in the basement of the St. Bartholomeus Orthodox Church on Reslova Street. Encirclement was under way and capture only a matter of hours. In London the listeners knew that Gabcik and Kubis were fighting back.

The following day the radio said the fight was over; the assassins were dead. There were four of them, the announcer said flatly, one Gabcik, one Kubis, a certain Opalka, and a man known as Josef Valcik.1

In England Opalka was known, of course. So was Valcik, a reliable member of the Prague underground. But what were they doing in the same cellar with Gabcik and Kubis, sharing their hopeless last stand? General Moravec, at least, felt certain that his men would not have violated his orders and made contact with the underground. And no word had gone to the underground about Gabcik and Kubis.2 Perhaps the two teams had met by chance at the church, driven to the same sanctuary because the priests were known to be patriotic and because all four were desperate.

Even now the Nazis went on murdering. The paralytic SS General Kurt Daluege succeeded Heydrich. During the trial that preceded his execution in Prague in 1946, he admitted that 1,331 Czechs were executed, 201 of them women, in reprisal. From another source it has been established that during this period 3,000 Jews were taken from the Terezin ghetto and exterminated. No one knows how many died in concentration camps. A sober estimate is that at least 5,000 Czechs were killed to avenge the death of one murderous Nazi. Among them were all the priests of St. Bartholomeus, not one of whom would say a word about their guests.

Was It Worth This Price?

In London the jubilation of the Czech leaders gave way to doubt as the murderings continued, and then to recrimination. At first President Benes would have none of it. He listened to Radio Prague as day after day, and several times a day, the numbers and names of the executed were methodically announced. "Why don't they fight?" he asked his staff. "Why don't they die as partisans and men, in the forests and the mountains, taking as many Germans with them as they can? Look at the Poles, the Yugoslavs, the French. They don't line up at the scaffold, waiting patiently like sheep." He was unmoved by arguments about the terrain, the proximity of France to England, the density of the population it Bohemia and Moravia. "Why don't they fight?" he asked again. "It's their duty." Whatever the answer, it was plain by now that one of the hoped-for results, the stiffening of the Czech will to resist, had not been achieved.

In Czech political circles the intensity of criticism mounted, in direct ratio to the mounting toll of German reprisals at home. Although President Benes remained privately convinced that the execution of Heydrich had been both justified and necessary, he began to feel a need for modifying his views, publicly. He reacted to the pressure, finally, by announcing that General Moravec had planned and supervised the assassination; and the accusations of irresponsibility from the political group were turned on the intelligence chief. Those who had lost relatives and friends at home were especially bitter.

As the war went on, General Moravec found that his mind would not stop mulling over the profound questions of right and wrong that attend all action but become sharpest, most nagging, when the action has terrible consequences for others. There was no doubt that the killing of Heydrich had served its intended prestige purpose. In this sense it had been a major success. For a time, at least, Czechoslovakia had jumped from last place to first in the esteem of all the anti-fascist world. Even the suffering of the people, even Lidice and Lezaky, served this cause. But the aim of awakening resistance had been a mirage. The people were not fighting, were not earning the acclaim. They would be remembered as martyrs, not heroes, even though there were heroes--Gabciks and Kubises and Opalkas--among them.

Who had killed these 5,000 civilians? The Germans? General Moravec himself? The civilians at home, inviting slaughter with their meekness? As the toll of war dead mounted into the millions, the 5,000 shrank to perspective and seemed almost insignificant; the war killed thousands every day, women and children as well as soldiers. Yet right and wrong are not a matter of quantity. The same questions would have come whispering in his ear at night, like old ghosts, if only the brave assassins had died because of Reinhard Heydrich's death.

Modern war, total war, kills everyone indiscriminately; women and children drop as fast as soldiers. Millions were dying to destroy the German instruments of war. And clearly Heydrich had been one of the most effective of those instruments. When Hitler escaped the twentieth-of-July bomb in 1944, the general wondered whether the German anti-fascists would have been able to strike even this unsuccessful blow if Heydrich had been alive to trap them before they could act. Was it wrong to have assassinated Heydrich and right to try to kill Hitler? No one who believed that fascism had to be destroyed felt anything but admiration for the Yugoslav partisans, the French Maquis, the brave Norwegians and Poles--for all the people who fought and killed Germans. The Czechs at home were not fighting, so the Czechs abroad had to do the job for them.

It might have been wrong if the target had been the one he first considered, Emanuel Moravec. This would have had the taint of personal motives. But there was no such taint in the assassination of Heydrich, and it had the official and unqualified approval of President Benes. Of course, the general thought wryly, I cannot proclaim this fact today. It is the duty of subordinates to step back when their plans succeed and come forward into the limelight if their plans fail.

Finally, before the war ended, the self-questioning, the drilling inside, apparently hit bed rock. General Moravec found a firm position, he later explained, in the truth that no one ever gets something for nothing. If Czechoslovakia had rejected the Chamberlain capitulation at Munich, a real underground would have been born of its thus-affirmed integrity. Men must die that countries live. If enough of them die at once, the country may be lucky enough to coast for a few generations. But coasting builds no muscles. The cost of the free ride is strength, and the cost of sapped strength is freedom. So in the last analysis you have to kill a Heydrich not because he needs killing but because coasting along with his kind will kill you and everybody else.

By the time the war was over, General Moravec felt sure that the assassination of Heydrich was not a sombre page of history. It was a page that he could turn back to with satisfaction, he and his countrymen and all the rest of us. Turn back to, read again, and know that it was right.

Dregs of the Bitter Cup

At last the war ended, and General Moravec went home to Prague. Everywhere in the city was a kind of gladness; it was over now, and all were thinking of the future. Everywhere, it seemed, except at General Moravec's home, where the callers apparently could not forget the past. They asked, why their fathers and mothers had been executed. They wanted to know if the former general still thought he'd done the right thing. His doubts returned. These people saw him not as the executioner of Heydrich but as the killer of their kin. This post-war period in Prague, he said later, was the most miserable of his life. The men who, now that the war was over, called themselves the leaders of the underground also came to ask questions and pronounce judgment. They said that the Heydrich operation was conceptually faulty. They said they should have been consulted in advance, they never would have permitted so blatant an error. The general, asked them to give a detailed account of their underground activities and a signed estimate of their contribution to the war against fascism, and they went away.

One day a different caller came. He said that the traitor who delivered Gabcik and Kubis to the Gestapo had been discovered and interrogated. He had confessed to a revolutionary tribunal, but he stubbornly refused to give details. His name was Alois Kral.

Kral! So the general's careful choice of men had produced two heroes, and one villain to seal their fate. He put on his coat; he would visit the man in prison and talk to him. He recognized Kral as soon as he saw him; the four full years had not changed him. Tall, swarthy, taciturn, he squinted up at Moravec and said, "Greetings, brother."


"I killed two Czechs. You killed five thousand. Which of us hangs?"

So it went throughout the questioning. Kral kept most of his secret to himself, not to save his neck but because he knew he couldn't. Besides, the revolutionary tribunal was not predisposed to patient inquiry. It consisted of one professional lawyer and four lay judges on the bench, a prosecutor, and a defense attorney appointed ex officio. All of them had been chosen by the Citizens' Committee, which in turn was dominated by the Communists. Each actor in the play had memorized his part, knowing that the function of the court was not to serve justice but to kill Kral. The hand-picked audience was fanatical, a lynch mob. Neither actors nor spectators cared about the fate of Gabcik and Kubis; they were all preoccupied with the million marks Alois Kral had collected for his act of betrayal. While their closest relatives and friends were dying and they themselves were suffering, Kral had been living like a king. There was the unforgivable crime--not murder or treachery, but his comfort in the midst of their pain.

In France Kral had fought well. In England he could not have been serving as a German stool-pigeon, because two operations he knew enough about to wreck had been successful. There was even evidence that he had not betrayed Lt. Opalka to the Gestapo, or any of his underground contacts. Why had he turned traitor at the end? General Moravec went to see him several times. The best he could get was a fuller record of events.

Kral said that Gabcik threw the bomb, Kubis covering with the machine gun. Then the two rode their bicycles straight to the church, where they were given sanctuary. The presence of Lt. Opalka and Valcik was accidental. The four hoped that the storm would subside, and when the intense searching was called off they could escape to Slovakia. Kral hinted that he found out about the fugitives from a prostitute; he was vague at this juncture.

"But why did you tell the Nazis?" asked the general.

"Maybe for the million marks," said Kral. "Or maybe I thought it was better that two men die than two thousand. What does it matter?"

At the church, the Gestapo had shouted to come out, to surrender. The men answered with the machine gun, and later with their pistols. The cellar of the two-hundred-year-old church was a fortress not to be breached or taken by storm. Finally the Germans flooded it. It was then that all four men, out of ammunition and near drowning, swallowed their cyanide. The Gestapo officers reported the great victory; Alois Kral was paid his million marks and lived in luxury for three years.

The next morning General Moravec got up early. He wanted to have a last talk with Kral and get the rest of the story, how Kral found out and why he informed. But before he could leave the house a member of the Citizens' Committee, a leading Communist, came to see him.

"Let's have a little chat," the visitor said, removing his coat.

"I was just leaving."

"It's no use," said the Communist, sitting down and lighting a cigarette. "We've given orders that you're not to be admitted at the jail any more."


"Why do you want to talk to Kral? You have no status in this matter."

"I want to find out the truth."

"We know what you want. You want to keep your glamorous story of the Heydrich case alive. Don't try to pretend that you care about Gabcik and Kabis, or whatever their names were, or Kral either. You just want people to believe that your so-called government in London was a band of heroes and patriots. You're not getting away with it. Keep away from the jail, or we will let you in. There's still room."

The general did not say anything.

"And stop sniffing around trying to get records and names of other people to talk to." The visitor got up. "In fact, former General Moravec, it would be a very fine idea for you to get out of here. I think we understand each other?"

"I understand you," the general said. "Good day."

He knew it was no use to go to the jail, but he did anyway. He was turned away so rudely that he was surprised to be admitted to the trial. It lasted about five minutes. Gabcik and Kubis were scarcely mentioned; Kral was tried and condemned for collaboration with the Gestapo. It was a Marionette show. But just at the end an impromptu line brought it momentarily to incongruous life.

"Why did you do it?" the chief justice recited. "For their rotten German marks?"

"One million of them," Kral retorted. "How much are the Russians paying you?"

They killed him, of course; General Moravec watched the execution. He could not help thinking that Kral was dying for the wrong reason--not for his crime, but for Communist ends. Maybe that's really what keeps bothering me about Heydrich's death, he reflected. Did we kill him and trigger 5,000 other deaths in a just cause, or out of political ambition? Is any human motive ever untainted?

At least the two who did the killing, Gabcik and Kubis, came close to purity of motive. They had been healthy young men, not born martyrs in search of death. They had not killed for pride, greed, envy, anger, or ambition. They had killed like dedicated surgeons removing a cancerous mass. They must have felt deeply that the play had to unfold and that their business was not to choose the actors or criticize the choice of theater but only to play their ordained parts as best they could. Of all forms of courage, theirs was the highest because it is the most humble.

As he walked away, General Moravec met the Communist functionary who had forbidden him to visit Kral.

"Will you please tell me where Gabcik and Kubis are buried?" he asked politely.

"Nowhere," came the sardonic answer. "There are no graves. You foot-kissers of the British are not going to have that excuse to build a statue and hang wreaths. Czech heroes are Communists."

General Moravec felt tired. There were more Heydrichs than a man could destroy. Fascist Heydrichs died and Communist Heydrichs took their places and there was no end to it, as long as people coast.

Some day, perhaps, the wheel would turn and Czechs would grow strong again, and be free to remember the strength of Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis.



Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (German: (7 March 1904 – 4 June 1942) was a high-ranking German Nazi official duringWorld War II, and one of the main architects of the Holocaust. He was SS-Obergruppenführer (General) and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office(including the Gestapo and Kripo) and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor (Deputy Reich-Protector) of Bohemia and Moravia (in what is now known as the Czech Republic). Heydrich served as President of Interpol (the international law enforcement agency) and chaired the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, which formalised plans for the final solution to the Jewish Question—the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German-occupied territory.

Historians regard him as the darkest figure within the Nazi elite; Adolf Hitler christened him "the man with the iron heart".[5] He was the founding head of theSicherheitsdienst (SD), an intelligence organisation charged with seeking out and neutralising resistance to the Nazi Party via arrests, deportations, and killings. He helped organize Kristallnacht, a series of co-ordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938. The attacks, carried out by SA stormtroopers and civilians, presaged the Holocaust. Upon his arrival in Prague, Heydrich sought to eliminate opposition to the Nazi occupation by suppressing Czech culture and deporting and executing members of the Czech resistance.

Heydrich was attacked in Prague on 27 May 1942 by a British-trained team of Czech and Slovak soldiers who had been sent by the Czechoslovak government-in-exileto kill him in an operation code named Operation Anthropoid. He died from his injuries a week later. Intelligence falsely linked the assassins to the villages of Lidiceand Ležáky. Lidice was razed to the ground; all adult males were executed, and all but a handful of its women and children were deported and killed in Nazi concentration camps.

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 Krantz, a Roman Catholic.[7] His two forenames were patriotic musical tributes: "Reinhard" referred to the tragic hero from Amen (an opera his father wrote), and "Tristan" stems fromRichard 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).[8] Heydrich was born into a family of social standing and substantial financial means. Music was a part of Heydrich's everyday life; his father founded the Halle Conservatory of Music and his mother taught piano there.[9] Heydrich developed a passion for the violin and carried that interest into adulthood; he impressed listeners with his musical talent.[10]

Children of Richard Bruno Heydrich:Heinz Heydrich (seated), Reinhard Heydrich (centre), Maria Heydrich

His father was a German nationalist who instilled patriotic ideas in his three children, but was not affiliated with any political party until after World War I.[11] The Heydrich household was strict. As a youth, Heydrich engaged his younger brother, Heinz, in mock fencing duels. Heydrich was very intelligent and excelled in his schoolwork—especially in science—at the "Reformgymnasium".[12] A talented athlete, he became an expert swimmer and fencer.[10] But he was shy, insecure, and was frequently bullied for his high-pitched voice and rumored Jewish ancestry.[13] The latter claim earned him the nickname "Moses Handel".[14] Years later, Wilhelm Canaris said he had obtained photocopies proving Heydrich's Jewish ancestry, but these photocopies never surfaced.[15] Nazi Gauleiter Rudolf Jordan also claimed that Heydrich was not a pure "Aryan". Heydrich ultimately ordered Schutzstaffel (SS) researchers to investigate the rumour. They reported that he had no Jewish ancestors. Nazi official and "race expert" Achim Gercke concluded that Heydrich was a pure Aryan, with no Jewish ancestry.

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. [18] Heydrich, then 15-years old, joined Maercker's Volunteer Rifles (the first 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(The National German Protection and Shelter League), an anti-Semitic organisation.

As a result of the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, hyperinflation spread across Germany and many lost their life savings. Halle was not spared. By 1921, few townspeople there could afford a musical education at Bruno Heydrich's conservatory. This led to a financial crisis for the Heydrich family

Reinhard Heydrich, cadet

In 1922 Heydrich joined the Navy, 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 Mürwik Naval College.[22] In 1926 he advanced to the rank of ensign (Leutnant zur See) and was assigned as a signals officer on the battleship 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 fueled his ambition and arrogance.[23]

Heydrich became a notorious lothario, having 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.[24] In 1931 Heydrich was charged with "conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman" for breaking an engagement promise to a woman he had known for six months before the von Osten engagement.[25] Admiral Erich Raeder dismissed Heydrich from the navy that April. The dismissal devastated Heydrich, who found himself without career prospects. He kept the engagement and married Lina in December 1931.

Career in the SS and military

Reinhard Heydrich (middle) withHeinrich Himmler (left), Karl Wolff (right), and Hermann Esser (far right, back to camera) at the Obersalzberg, May 1939

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 von Osten's friend, Himmler interviewed Heydrich. Himmler was impressed and hired him immediately. His pay was 180 reichsmarks per month (40 USD). His NSDAP number was 544,916 and his SS number was 10,120. Heydrich later received a Totenkopfring from Himmler for his service.

On 1 August 1931 Heydrich began his job as chief of the new 'Ic Service' (intelligence service).[28] 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.[30] Information on thousands of people was recorded on index cards and stored at the Brown House.[31] To mark the occasion of Heydrich's December wedding, Himmler promoted him to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer (major). In just over fifteen months, Heydrich had surpassed his former naval rank and was making what was considered a "comfortable" salary.[32]

In 1932 a number of Heydrich's enemies began to spread rumours of his alleged Jewish ancestry. Within the Nazi organisation such innuendo could be damning, even for the head of the Reich's counterintelligence service. Nazi Party racial expert Dr. Achim Gercke investigated Heydrich's genealogy. Gercke reported that Heydrich was "... of German origin and free from any coloured and Jewish blood".File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R97512, Berlin, Geheimes Staatspolizeihauptamt.jpg

Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Straße in Berlin, 1933

In mid-1932, Himmler appointed Heydrich chief of the renamed security service—the Sicherheitsdienst (SD).[28] 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 police using intimidation tactics. Himmler became the Munich police chief and Heydrich became the commander of Department IV, the political police.[34]

In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and through a series of decrees[35] became Germany's Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor).[36] The firstconcentration camps, which were originally intended to house political opponents, were established in early 1933. By year's end there were over fifty camps.[37]

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.[38] Himmler named Heydrich to head the Gestapo on 22 April 1934.[39] On 9 June 1934, Rudolph Hess declared the SD the official Nazi intelligence service.[40]

Crushing the SA[edit source | editbeta]

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.[41] At Hitler's direction, Heydrich, Himmler, Göring, and Viktor Lutze drew up lists of those who should be liquidated, 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 throughout the weekend. Röhm was shot without trial, along with the leadership of the SA.[42] 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.[File:Bundesarchiv Bild 152-50-10, Reinhard Heydrich.jpg

SS-Brigadeführer Heydrich, head of the Bavarian police and SD, in Munich, 1934

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 color-coded cards.[44] 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 euphemismfor the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings.[45] 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.[37]

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.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 119-5243, Wien, Arthur Seyß-Inquart, Adolf Hitler.jpg

Seyß-Inquart, Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Heydrich in Vienna, March 1938

On 17 June 1936 all police forces throughout Germany were united, following Hitler's appointment of Himmler as Chief of German Police. 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).[47] At that point, Heydrich was head of the SiPo and SD. Heinrich Müller was the Gestapo's operations chief.[48]

Heydrich was assigned to help organise the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The games were used to promote the propaganda aims of the Nazi regime. Goodwill ambassadors were sent to countries that were considering a boycott. Anti-Jewish violence was forbidden for the duration, and news stands were required to stop displaying copies of Der Stuermer.  For his part in the games' success, Heydrich was awarded the Deutsches Olympiaehrenzeichen or German Olympic Games Decoration (First Class).

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.[51] The Wannsee Villa, which the Stiftung Nordhav acquired in November 1940,[52] was the site of the Wannsee Conference (20 January 1942). At the conference, 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.

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 SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt(RSHA), which was placed under Heydrich's control.[55] The title of "Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD" (Chief of Security Police and SD) or CSSD was conferred on Heydrich on 1 October.[56] Heydrich became the President of Interpol (then under Nazi control) on 24 August 1940,[57] and its headquarters were transferred to Berlin. He was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei on 24 September 1941. 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 andAdmiral Canaris of Germany's Abwehr, Heydrich decided that the Russian officers should be "unmasked".[58] He discussed the matter with Himmler and both in turn brought it to Hitler's attention. But the "information" Heydrich had received was actually misinformation planted by Stalin himself in an attempt to legitimize his planned purges of the Red Army's high command. Stalin ordered one of his best NKVDagents, General Nikolai Skoblin, to pass Heydrich false information suggesting that Marshall Mikhail Tukhachevsky and other Soviet generals were plotting against Stalin. Hitler approved Heydrich's plan to act on the information immediately. Heydrich's SD forged a series of documents and letters implicating Tukhachevsky and other Red Army commanders. The material was delivered to the NKVD. The Great Purge of the Red Army followed on Stalin's orders. While Heydrich believed they had successfully deluded Stalin into executing or dismissing some 35,000 of his officer corps, the importance of Heydrich's part is a matter of speculation and conjecture.[59] Soviet military prosecutors did not use the forged documents against the generals in their secret trial; they instead relied on false confessions extorted or beaten out of the defendants.[60]

Night-and-Fog Decre.
Commemorative plaque of the French victims of the Night-and-Fog Decree at Hinzert concentration camp

By late 1940, German armies had swept through 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 and none told of their whereabouts or fate.[61] 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.[a] 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.[62]

Acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia[

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1972-039-26, Reinhard Heydrich im Prager Schloß crop.jpg

Heydrich (left) with Karl Hermann Frank at Prague Castle in 1941

On 27 September 1941, Heydrich was appointed Deputy Reich Protector of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (the part ofCzechoslovakia 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 "[w]e will Germanize the Czech vermin."

Heydrich came to Prague to enforce policy, fight resistance to the Nazi regime, and keep up production quotas of Czech motors and arms that were "extremely important to the German war effort". He viewed the area as a bulwark of Germandom and condemned the Czech resistance's "stabs in the back". To realise his goals Heydrich demanded racial classification of those who could and could not be Germanized. He explained, "... making this Czech garbage into Germans must give way to methods based on racist thought".[65] Heydrich started his rule by terrorising the population: 92 people were executed within three days of his arrival in Prague. Their names appeared on posters throughout the occupied region.[66] Almost all avenues by which Czechs could express the Czech culture in public were closed.[65] According to Heydrich's estimate, between 4,000 and 5,000 people were arrested by February 1942. Those who were not executed were sent to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, where only four per cent of Czech prisoners survived the war.[66] In March 1942, further sweeps against Czech cultural and patriotic organisations, military, and intelligentsia resulted in the practical paralysis of Czech resistance. 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).[66] The terror also served to paralyse resistance in society, with public and widespread reprisals against any action resisting the German rule.[66] Heydrich's brutal policies during that time quickly earned him the nickname "the Butcher of Prague".

Excerpt from a speech by Reinhard Heydrich in 1941

As Acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, Heydrich applied carrot-and-stick methods.[68] Labour was reorganised on the basis of the German Labour Front. Heydrich used equipment confiscated from the Czech organisation Sokol to organise events for workers. Food rations and free shoes were distributed, pensions were increased, and (for a time) free Saturdays were introduced. Unemployment insurance was established for the first time.[68] The black market was suppressed. Those associated with it or the resistance movement were tortured or executed. Heydrich labelled them "economic criminals" and "enemies of the people", which helped gain him support. Conditions in Prague and the rest of the Czech lands were relatively peaceful under Heydrich, and industrial output increased.[68]Still, those measures could not hide shortages and increasing inflation; reports of growing discontent multiplied.

Despite public displays of goodwill towards the populace, privately Heydrich left no illusions about his eventual goal: "This entire area will one day be definitely German, and the Czechs have nothing to expect here". Eventually up to two-thirds of the populace were to be either removed to regions of Russia or exterminated after Nazi Germany won the war. Bohemia and Moravia faced annexation directly into the German Reich.[70]

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. Heydrich was, for all intents and purposes, military dictator of Bohemia and Moravia. His changes to the government's structure left President Emil Hacha and his cabinet virtually powerless. He often drove alone in a car with an open roof—a show of his confidence in the occupation forces and in his government's effectiveness.

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": he 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 met up with a forward German patrol.[73] After this Hitler personally ordered Heydrich to return to Berlin to resume his SS duties.[74] His service record also gives him credit as a Navy Reserve Lieutenant, although during World War II Heydrich had no contact whatsoever with this military branch.

Heydrich received several Nazi and military awards, including the German Order,[75] Blood Order,[76] Golden Party Badge, Luftwaffe Pilot's Badge, bronze and silver combat mission bars, and the Iron CrossFirst and Second Classes.[77]

Role in the Holocaust[edit source | editbeta]

1938 telegram giving orders duringKristallnacht, signed by Heydrich

July 1941 letter from Göring to Heydrich concerning the "final solution" "in the manner of emigration or evacuation" (sic)

Historians regard Heydrich as the most fearsome member of the Nazi elite.[78][79][80] Hitler called him "the man with the iron heart".[5] He was one of the main architects of the Holocaust during the early war years, answering only to, and taking orders from, Hitler, Göring, and Himmler in all matters pertaining to the deportation, imprisonment, and extermination of Jews.

Heydrich was one of the organisers of Kristallnacht, a pogrom against Jews throughout Germany on the night of 9–10 November 1938. Heydrich sent a telegram that night to various SD and Gestapo offices, helping to coordinate the program with the SS, SD, Gestapo, uniformed police (Orpo), SA, Nazi party officials, and even the fire departments. It talks about permitting arson and destroying Jewish businesses and synagogues, and orders the confiscation of all "archival material" out of Jewish community centres and synagogues. The telegram ordered that "as many Jews – particularly affluent Jews – are to be arrested in all districts as can be accommodated in existing detention facilities ... Immediately after the arrests have been carried out, the appropriate concentration camps should be contacted to place the Jews into camps as quickly as possible."[81][82] Twenty-thousand Jews were sent to concentration camps in the days immediately following; [83] historians consider Kristallnacht the beginning of the Holocaust.[84]

When Hitler asked for a pretext for the invasion of Poland in 1939, Himmler, Heydrich, and Heinrich Müller masterminded afalse 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.[85][86]

On 21 September 1939, Heydrich sent out a teleprinter message on the "Jewish question in the occupied territory" to the chiefs of all Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police. It contained instructions on how to round up Jewish people for placement into ghettos, called for the formation of Judenräter (Jewish councils), ordered a census, contained Aryanization plans for Jewish-owned businesses and farms, among other measures.[b] The Einsatzgruppen 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. By the end of the war, the Einsatzgruppen had murdered over one million people, including over 700,000 in Russia alone.[87]

"... the planned total measures are to be kept strictly secret ... the first prerequisite for the final aim ("Endziel") is the concentration of the Jews from the countryside into the larger cities." – Heydrich, September 1939[b]

"By order of the Reichsführer-SS, residency without possession of an identification card is punishable by death" – Heydrich, November 1939[88]

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.[88] 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 cooperate in murdering Soviet Jews.[89]

On 10 October 1941, Heydrich was the senior officer at a meeting in Prague that discussed deporting 50,000 Jews from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia to ghettos in Minsk and Riga. The officers 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,[90] where 33,000 people would eventually die. Tens of thousands more passed through the camp on their way to their deaths in the East.[91] 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.[92]

On 20 January 1942, Heydrich chaired the Wannsee Conference, at which he presented his plan to deport and transport 11 million Jews from every country in Europe, to be worked to death or killed outright inextermination camps:[93][94]

Under suitable direction, the Jews should be brought to the East in the course of the Final Solution, for use as labour. In large labour gangs, with the sexes separated, the Jews capable of work will be transported to those areas and set to road-building, in the course of which, without doubt, a large part of them ("ein Großteil") will fall away through natural losses. The surviving remnant, surely those with the greatest powers of resistance, will be given special treatment, since, if freed, they would constitute the germinal cell for the re-creation of Jewry.


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1972-039-44, Heydrich-Attentat.jpg

The open-top Mercedes in which Heydrich was mortally wounded

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 BritishSpecial Operations Executive (SOE), the pair returned to the Protectorate, parachuting from a Handley Page Halifax, on 28 December 1941. They lived in hiding, preparing for the assassination attempt.[96]

On 27 May 1942, Heydrich planned to meet Hitler in Berlin. German documents suggest that Hitler intended to transfer Heydrich to German-occupied France, where theFrench resistance was gaining ground.[97] Heydrich would have to pass a section where the Dresden-Prague road merged with a road to the Troja Bridge. The intersection, in the Prague suburb of Libeň, was well-suited for the attack because motorists have to slow for a hairpin turn. As Heydrich's car slowed, Gabčík took aim with a Sten sub-machine gun, but it jammed and failed to fire. Instead of ordering his driver to speed away, Heydrich called his car to a halt and attempted to confront the attackers. Kubiš then threw a bomb (a converted anti-tank mine) at the rear of the car as it stopped. The explosion wounded Heydrich and Kubiš.File:Heydrichmarke.jpg

Postage stamp (1943) features the death mask of Heydrich

When the smoke cleared, Heydrich emerged from the wreckage with his gun in his hand; he chased Kubiš and tried to return fire. Kubiš jumped on his bicycle and pedalled away. Heydrich ran after him for half a block but became weak from shock and collapsed. He sent his driver, Klein, to chase Gabčík on foot. In the ensuing firefight, Gabčík shot Klein in the leg and escaped to a local safe house. Heydrich, still with pistol in hand, gripped his left flank, which was bleeding profusely.[99]

A Czech woman went to Heydrich's aid and flagged down a delivery van. Heydrich was first placed in the driver's cab, but complained that the truck's movement was causing him pain. He was placed in the back of the truck, on his stomach, and taken to the emergency room at Na Bulovce Hospital.[100] Heydrich had suffered severe injuries to his left side, with major damage to his diaphragm, spleen, and lung. He had also fractured a rib. Dr. Slanina packed the chest wound, while Dr. Walter Diek tried unsuccessfully to remove the splinters. He immediately decided to operate. This was carried out by Drs. Diek, Slanina, and Hohlbaum. Heydrich was given several blood transfusions. A splenectomy was performed. The chest wound, left lung, and diaphragm were all debrided and the wounds closed.[100] Himmler ordered Dr. Karl Gebhardt to fly to Prague to assume care. Despite a fever, Heydrich's recovery appeared to progress well. Dr. Theodor Morell, Hitler's personal physician, suggested the use of sulfonamide (a new antibacterial drug), but Gebhardt, thinking Heydrich would recover, refused.[101] On 2 June, during a visit by Himmler, Heydrich reconciled himself to his fate by reciting a part of one of his father's operas:

The world is just a barrel-organ which the Lord God turns Himself.
We all have to dance to the tune which is already on the drum.

Bullet-scarred window in the Church of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in Prague, where Kubiš and his compatriots were cornered

Heydrich slipped into a coma after Himmler's visit and never regained consciousness. He died on 4 June, probably around 04:30. He was 38. The autopsy concluded that he died of sepsis. Heydrich's facial expression as he died betrayed an "uncanny spirituality and entirely perverted beauty, like a renaissance Cardinal," according to Bernhard Wehner, a Kripo police official who investigated the assassination.[103]

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.[76] 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.[104] Although Heydrich's death was employed for pro-Reich propaganda, Hitler privately blamed Heydrich for his own death, through carelessness:

Since it is opportunity which makes not only the thief but also the assassin, such heroic gestures as driving in an open, unarmoured vehicle or walking about the streets unguarded are just damned stupidity, which serves the Fatherland not one whit. That a man as irreplaceable as Heydrich should expose himself to unnecessary danger, I can only condemn as stupid and idiotic.[105]

Heydrich was interred in Berlin's Invalidenfriedhof, a military cemetery.[106] 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.[107] 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.[107] A recent biography of Heydrich also places the grave in Section A.[108] Hitler wanted Heydrich to have a monumental tomb but, because of Germany's declining fortunes, it was never built.

After the war, the West German judicial system awarded Heydrich's widow a federal pension.[109] The couple had four children: Klaus, born in 1933; Heider, born in 1934; Silke, born in 1939; and Marte, born shortly after her father's death in 1942.[110] Klaus was killed in a traffic accident in 1943. Lina wrote a memoir, Leben mit einem Kriegsverbrecher (Living With a War Criminal), which was published in 1976.[111]She remarried once and died in 1985.[112]


File:Lidice massacred men.jpg

The massacre at Lidice

Heydrich's assailants hid in safe houses and eventually took refuge in Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, an Orthodox church in Prague. After a traitor in the Czech resistance betrayed their location,[113] the church was surrounded by 800 members of the SS and Gestapo. Several Czechs were killed, and the remainder hid in the church's crypt. The Germans attempted to flush the men out with gunfire, tear gas, and by flooding the crypt. Eventually an entrance was made using explosives. Rather than surrender, the soldiers took their own lives. Supporters of the assassins who were killed in the wake of these events included the church's leader, Bishop Gorazd, who is now revered as a martyr of the Orthodox Church.[114]

Infuriated by Heydrich's death, Hitler ordered the arrest and execution of 10,000 randomly selected Czechs. But after consultations with Karl Hermann Frank, he tempered his response. The Czech lands were an important industrial zone for the German military, and indiscriminate killing could reduce the region's productivity.[115]Hitler ordered a quick investigation. Intelligence falsely linked the assassins to the towns of Lidice and Ležáky. A Gestapo report stated that Lidice, 22 km north-west of Prague, was suspected as the assailants' hiding place because several Czech army officers, then in England, had come from there and the Gestapo found a resistance radio transmitter in Ležáky.[116] On 9 June, after discussions with Himmler and Karl Hermann Frank, Hitler ordered brutal reprisals.[117] Over 13,000 people were arrested, deported, and imprisoned. Beginning on 10 June, all males over the age of 16 in the villages of Lidice and Ležáky were murdered. All the women in Ležáky were also murdered.[113] All but four of the women from Lidice were deported immediately to Ravensbrück concentration camp (four were pregnant – they were forcibly aborted at the same hospital where Heydrich had died and then sent to the concentration camp). A number of children were chosen for Germanization, but 81 were killed in gas vans at the Chełmno extermination camp. Both towns were burned and Lidice's ruins were levelled.[118][119] At least 1,300 people were massacred after Heydrich's death.[120][121]

Heydrich's replacements were Ernst Kaltenbrunner as the chief of RSHA,[106] and Karl Hermann Frank (27–28 May 1942) and Kurt Daluege (28 May 1942 – 14 October 1943) as the new actingReichsprotektors.

After Heydrich's death, the policies formalised at the Wannsee conference he chaired were carried out. The first three true death camps, designed for mass killing with no legal process or pretext, were built and operated at Treblinka, Sobibór, and Bełżec. The project was named Operation Reinhard after Heydrich


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