Bruno's father was a carpenter but had died in 1916. His mother married a mechanic named Gustav Süss. Although he was not a Jew, Süss was a common German-Jewish name at the time. "The clear implication is that Heydrich senior was Jewish, and throughout his life Reinhard Heydrich sought to suppress details of his Jewish ancestry. From his mother's gravestone he is said to have erased the suggestive forename Sarah. (1)
His mother, Sarah Elisabeth Krantz, a Roman Catholic, was the daughter of his father's teacher, who was the director of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Dresden. According to André Brissaud, the author of the Nazi Secret Service (1972), Reinhard Heydrich's grandmother was Jewish. (2)
Adrian Weale, has pointed out that Heydrich had a serious illness as a child: "At around six months old he suffered an inflammation of the brain that endangered his life, and this was followed by a succession of other illnesses. To overcome this, his father encouraged him to take up as many sports as possible, including running, horse-riding, football, swimming and fencing." (3)
Shlomo Aronson, the author of Reinhard Heydrich (1971) claims that when at school the other children taunted him about being Jewish. (4) Peter Padfield suggests that "Bruno was in appearance and manner just what many of the good citizens of Halle took to be Jewish." He goes on to argue: "Reinhard, an introspective lad who was at a vulnerable age at the time, was particularly disturbed and despite his father's denials wondered if this dark, rather comical, pushing figure did perhaps have Jewish origins, and become confused and resentful." (5)
Heydrich was too young to join the German Army during the First World War but at the age of sixteen worked for the right-wing Freikorps, which carried out a "cleansing action" against the German Communist Party that was attempting to set up a Soviet republic in Halle. Karl von Eberstein later claimed that taking part in these battles meant that his school work suffered.
After graduating from Halle Grammar School he joined the German Navy in 1922 as an officer cadet. Heydrich became active in anti-semitic circles and told a fellow sailor: "the old Heydrich cannot be a Jew if his Reinhard is such a rampant anti-semite". (6) Heydrich has been described during this period as "a gangling youth over six feet tall, with very light blond hair, striking light-blue eyes set rather close and a beak of a nose dominating his long and equine face. He had a high voice and a bleating laugh, on account of which he was called the Ziege - nanny-goat." (7)
While training as an officer he met Wilhelm Canaris. Like Heydrich, he had been an active in the fight against the socialist revolutionaries. It is claimed that he was implicated in the murders of Karl Leibknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and was certainly the key figure in preventing the perpetrators, naval officers from the Freikorps, from being brought to justice. The chosen scapegoat among the accused was sentenced to two years and four months in prison for allowing Luxemburg to be shot while in his charge. They formed an immediate attachment and Heydrich became his senior officer's devoted disciple.
Reinhard Heydrich was promoted to midshipman in 1926 and sub-lieutenant later the same year. After attending the Naval Signals School, he became a communications officer on board the battleship, Schleswig-Holstein, stationed at the Baltic Naval Station at Kiel. Promoted to lieutenant in 1928, he joined the German intelligence service. It was later claimed that during this period he learnt the skills that were so important in the development of his political career.
According to his friend, Walter Schellenberg, "Heydrich's only weakness was his ungovernable sexual appetite. To this he would surrender himself without inhibition or caution and the calculated control which characterised him in everything he did left him completely." (8) In December 1930 he became engaged to Lina von Osten. As Adrian Weale has pointed out: "Lina von Osten, the beautiful, blonde, nineteen-year-old daughter of a schoolteacher from the island of Fehmarn, in the Baltic. Shortly thereafter, though, a previous girlfriend appeared and claimed he had already proposed to her - after they had spent the night together in a hotel." (9)
Heydrich vigorously refuted the woman's claims, but her father, a successful shipbuilder, complained to the Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, and in May 1931 a Naval Court of Honour was convened to examine Heydrich's behaviour. Although he defended himself before the court with a "confidence that bordered on arrogance" he was dismissed for "impropriety". Heydrich's dismissal came when he was just a few weeks short of being eligible for a naval pension. Heydrich later claimed that he had been dismissed on "political grounds".
Edouard Calic, the author of Himmler and the SS Empire (2009), points out that Heydrich joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in Hamburg on 31st May, 1931.(10) With the help of Lina's family friend, Karl von Eberstein, Heydrich was able to obtain a meeting with Heinrich Himmler. It has been claimed that he was impressed by Heydrich's "Nordic" appearance. However, Karl Wolff, claims this was not true as he was considered "womanly and unGermanic."
Peter Padfield, the author of Himmler: Reichsfuhrer S.S. (1991), agrees: "Heydrich fell short of the strict Nordic ideal; his hips were too wide.... There was also a Mongolian cast to his eyes which caused Himmler when annoyed to rebuke him with descent from the hordes of Genghis Khan. It was an apt comment. Even his photographs convey an impression of cruelty; the long, asmmetric face, thick lips and slightly inclined, icy grey-blue eyes suggest something both infinitely calculating and diabolic." (11)
The Nazi Party decided to have its own intelligence and security body and so Himmler was asked to create the SD (Sicherheitsdienst). On 1st August, 1931, Heydrich became the head of the organization and it was kept distinct from the uniformed SS (Schutzstaffel). It has been claimed that Heydrich got the job because of his experience in Naval intelligence. However, Mark M. Boatner III has argued that Himmler had made his decision "not realizing he had been in signals, not naval intelligence." (12) Heydrich's fast task was to carry out an investigation of the SS: "The Security Service itself had its origins in reports early in 1931 that the Nazi Party had been infiltrated by its enemies. Himmler established the Security Service to investigate the claims." (13)
At first Heydrich had few resources to carry out his work. According to Andrew Mollo, the author of To The Death's Head: The Story of the SS (1982): "On a kitchen table, with a borrowed typewriter, a pot of glue, scissors and some files, Heydrich, now leader of the Security Service (Leiter des Sicherheitsdienstes), aided by his landlady and some out-of-work SS men, began to gather information on what the Nazis referred to as the 'radical opposition'. Top of the list were the political churches, Freemasons, Jews and Marxists. A titillating side-line was homosexuality and 'mattress affairs' both inside and out of the Nazi Party. Heydrich then toured the SS regional commands throughout Germany, and on his return began to recruit men of his own age and background into the SD. In contrast to the typical Nazi 'Lumpenpack' Heydrich sought bright young university graduates whose career prospects had been dimmed by depression. It was these young intellectuals from good families who were to give the SD its peculiar character. (14)
On 26th December, 1931, Reinhard Heydrich married Lina von Osten. In July 1932 he was promoted to Standartenführer-SS (full colonel) and became Himmler's valued chief of staff, and in this role helped develop the entire SS. During this period he developed good relationships with other powerful figures in the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) including Rudolf Hess and Martin Bormann.
Lina Heydrich gave birth to three children over the next few years: Klaus (17th June, 1933), Heider (23rd December, 1934) and Silke (9th April, 1939). Lina found life with Reinhard Heydrich difficult: "The most characteristic trait was that he (Reinhard Heydrich) was a man of few words. He never talked about something or discussed something just for the love of talk. Every word had to have a concrete meaning, or purpose, had to hit the point. Therefore he never said even one word more than necessary....My husband was vain. He hated nothing more than to be dressed inadequately. That did not apply to his wife. She might have worn the most impossible dresses, he thought them all right." (15)
In April 1932, the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) was banned and Heydrich had to go underground. His embryo intelligence service became the Press and Information Service. This all changed when in March 1933 Adolf Hitler came to power. Heydrich and Himmler were disappointed when they were not offered senior posts in the new government. It was decided that the best path to power lay with the German police. On 1st April 1933, Franz Ritter von Epp appointed Himmler as Commander of the Bavarian Political Police and Heydrich took over the political desk of the Munich Criminal Police.
On 26th April, 1933, Hermann Göring established the Prussian Secret State Police (Gestapo). He appointed Rudolf Diels as his deputy. "The same day a decree created a State police office in each district of Prussia, subordinate to the central Service in Berlin. The Gestapo... now had a branch in every district, but its power did not yet exceed the boundaries of Prussia. The purge was complete, not only in the police but also in the magistrature and among the State officials. A law was passed that... allowed the dismissal of officials and anti-Fascist judges, Jews, or those who had belonged to Left Wing organizations." (16)
The organization was gradually enlarged and reorganzed so that it could "deal with political police tasks in parallel with or instead of normal police authorities". The following year Göring decided to form an alliance with Heydrich and Heinrich Himmler. On 24th April 1934, Göring appointed Himmler Inspector of the Secret State Police and Heydrich its commander. Now the whole police apparatus was firmly in SS hands. It has been argued by Alan Bullock, that Göring had taken this decision in order to obtain an ally against Ernst Röhm and the Sturm Abteilung (SA). (17)
Several writers have tried to explain the relationship between Heydrich and Himmler. Peter Padfield, the author of Himmler: Reichsfuhrer S.S. (1991) has argued: "To judge from letters and reports which they exchanged, the partnership was one of mutual trust and on Himmler's part affection... Himmler treated his protégé with special consideration and fondness... Both men were too complicated to conform to such simple analysis. Both were driven characters with deep-seated childhood complexes of inadequacy and they operated within a shifting minefield of power rivalries; neither was what he seemed... Himmler and Heydrich were a partnership and after more than a decade of success that virtually moulded the Nazi revolution they knew each other's strengths and weaknesses and each his position vis-a-vis the other as intimately as the partners in a marriage; as in a marriage no doubt the relationship changed and shifted subtly from time to time." (18)
Michael Burleigh, the author of The Third Reich: A New History (2001) claimed that the SS was "Himmler's mind projected on an institutional canvas, while the operational style largely derived from Heydrich.... Himmler's more outre obsessions should not distract from his manifestly astute grasp of how this highly chaotic and protean political system worked. Routinely out-manoeuvring his foes, his empire spread between the interstices of state, Party and army, throughout Germany, and then across the whole of occupied Europe. His manner may have been distracted and unassuming, but the coldness, moralising, prying and suspicion kept him in absolute control of subordinates, whose own utter ruthlessness was accompanied by human frailties which Himmler lacked." (19)
Richard Evans argues that Heydrich "became perhaps more universally and cordially feared and disliked than any other leading figure in the Nazi regime" and had the qualities that Himmler needed: "Unsentimental, cold, efficient, power-hungry and utterly convinced that the end justified the means, he soon won Himmler over to his ambitious vision of the SS and its Security Service as the core of a comprehensive new system of policing and control... on 9 March 1933, the two men took over the Bavarian police service, making the political section autonomous and moving SS Security Service personnel into some of the key posts. They went on to take over the political police service in one federated state after another, with the backing of the centralizing Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick." (20)
Walter Schellenberg who was able to observe both men at work has pointed out that Heydrich was the "hidden pivot around which the Nazi regime revolved.... He was far superior to all his political colleagues and controlled them as he controlled the vast intelligence machine of the SD." (21) However, his wife, Lina Heydrich claimed that he an an inferiority complex: "His apparent arrogance was no more than self-protection. Even with me he expressed no kind word, no word of tenderness". (22)
By 1934 Adolf Hitler appeared to have complete control over Nazi Germany, but like most dictators, he constantly feared that he might be ousted by others who wanted his power. To protect himself from a possible coup, Hitler used the tactic of divide and rule and encouraged other leaders such as Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Ernst Röhm to compete with each other for senior positions.
One of the consequences of this policy was that these men developed a dislike for each other. Röhm was particularly hated because as leader of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) he had tremendous power and had the potential to remove any one of his competitors. Goering and Himmler asked Reinhard Heydrich to assemble a dossier on Röhm. Heydrich, who also feared him, manufactured evidence that suggested that Röhm had been paid 12 million marks by the French to overthrow Hitler.
Heydrich was also in control of the victims of what became known as the Night of the Long Knives. The historian, Paul R. Maracin, the author of The Night of the Long Knives: Forty-Eight Hours that Changed the History of the World (2004) has pointed out: "With utmost secrecy a death list was compiled. Heydrich was in control of the master list, which was expanded almost daily as they added more names of 'enemies of the party.' Working out of Gestapo headquarters, Heydrich meticulously correlated the planning for the operation which was assigned the disarming and innocuous code name of KOLIBRI (hummingbird)." (23)
Hermann Göring and Himmler also contributed to the list of people outside the SA that they wanted killed. This included Gregor Strasser, Kurt von Schleicher, Hitler's predecessor as chancellor, and Gustav von Kahr, who crushed the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Louis L. Snyder argues: "Hitler later alleged that his trusted friend Röhm had entered a conspiracy to take over political power. The Führer was told, possibly by one of Röhm's jealous colleagues, that Röhm intended to use the SA to bring a socialist state into existence... On June, 1934... Hitler came to his final decision to eliminate the socialist element in the party. A list of hundreds of victims was prepared." (24)
On 29th June, 1934. Hitler, accompanied by Theodor Eicke and selected members of the Schutzstaffel (SS), arrived at Bad Wiesse, where he personally arrested Ernst Röhm. During the next 24 hours 200 other senior SA officers were arrested on the way to the meeting. Erich Kempka, Hitler's chauffeur, witnessed what happened: "Hitler entered Röhm's bedroom alone with a whip in his hand. Behind him were two detectives with pistols at the ready. He spat out the words; Röhm, you are under arrest. Röhm's doctor comes out of a room and to our surprise he has his wife with him. I hear Lutze putting in a good word for him with Hitler. Then Hitler walks up to him, greets him, shakes hand with his wife and asks them to leave the hotel, it isn't a pleasant place for them to stay in, that day. Now the bus arrives. Quickly, the SA leaders are collected from the laundry room and walk past Röhm under police guard. Röhm looks up from his coffee sadly and waves to them in a melancholy way. At last Röhm too is led from the hotel. He walks past Hitler with his head bowed, completely apathetic." (25)
A large number of the SA officers were shot as soon as they were captured but Adolf Hitler decided to pardon Röhm because of his past services to the movement. However, after much pressure from Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, Hitler agreed that Röhm should die. Himmler ordered Theodor Eicke to carry out the task. Eicke and his adjutant, Michael Lipppert, travelled to Stadelheim Prison in Munich where Röhm was being held. Eicke placed a pistol on a table in Röhm's cell and told him that he had 10 minutes in which to use the weapon to kill himself. Röhm replied: "If Adolf wants to kill me, let him do the dirty work."
According to Paul R. Maracin, The author of The Night of the Long Knives: Forty-Eight Hours that Changed the History of the World (2004): "Ten minutes later, SS officers Michael Lippert and Theodor Eicke appeared, and as the embittered, scar-faced veteran of verdun defiantly stood in the middle of the cell stripped to the waist, the two SS officers riddled his body with revolver bullets." Eicke later claimed that Röhm fell to the floor moaning "Mein Führer". Three days after the purge Eicke was appointed Inspector of Concentration Camps and head of Death's Head Units. He was also promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General (SS-Gruppenfuehrer). According to Louis L. Snyder, the next day, Otto Dietrich, Press Chief of the NSDAP, "gave a blood-curdling account of the slaughter to the press. He described Hitler's sense of shock at the moral degeneracy of his oldest comrades." (26)
Originally called re-education centres the Schutzstaffel (SS) soon began describing them as concentration camps. They were called this because they were "concentrating" the enemy into a restricted area. Adolf Hitler argued that the camps were modeled on those used by the British during the Boer War. They were initially brought in to deal with activists in left-wing political parties and trade unions.
The first three main camps were set up at Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenausen. The historian, Louis L. Snyder, has suggested: "The first inmates were Communists and Jews, but opposition to Nazi totalitarianism was so great that Socialists, Democrats, Catholics, Protestants, and even dissident Nazis were added to the camp population. Trade union leaders, clergymen, monks, pacifists, Jehovah's Witnesses - all were herded into the camps without trial and the right to appeal." (27)
As Michael Burleigh, the author of The Third Reich: A New History (2001), has pointed out, Heydrich was important in the decision to expand the system in 1936: "Theodor Eicke built up a special guard formation called the Death's Head units, after the aluminum skull and cross-bones on the right collars... Strictly separated from the camp internal administration, which handled prisoners on a daily basis, these units were dual-purpose: to guard the perimeters, and to act as a heavily armed auxiliary police force in the event of civil disturbances during wartime. To that end, from 1936 onwards, Heydrich began assembling a card index on forty-six thousand people who would have to be immediately detained." (28)
Lina Heydrich claimed that her husband was hard on his staff: "In the morning, while being shaved, he worked at the new reports that had come in during the night... After breakfast during the 30 minutes ride to the office this reading was continued. He never let his staff had even a minute's rest, it was very hard and strenuous for them.... My husband never had time. He had lost the human measure. He always hurried his subordinates. He did not know any private or family life, and he did not estimate that of his fellow-workers. His life was the conditionless unconditional devotion to his task and that was what he expected from everyone." (29)
It is claimed that Reinhard Heydrich developed a plan to damage the Red Army. (30) In January 1937, a Soviet journalist heard stories that senior members of the German Army were having secret talks with General Mikhail Tukhachevsky. According to Robert Conquest, the author of The Great Terror (1990), the story had been created by Nikolai Skoblin, a NKVD agent who had appeared to be one of the leaders of the Russian opposition based in Paris. "Skoblin had long worked as a double agent with both the Soviet and the German secret agencies, and there seems no doubt that he was one of the links by which information was passed between the SD and the NKVD. According to one version... the Soviet High Command and Tukhachevsky in particular were engaged in a conspiracy with the German General Staff. Although this was understood in SD circles as an NKVD plant, Heydrich determined to use it, in the first place, against the German High Command, with whom his organization was in intense rivalry." (31)
Major V. Dapishev of the Soviet General Staff has claimed that the plot "originated with Stalin" as he wanted to purge the leadership of the armed forces. (32) On 16th March, 1937, Stalin received a telegram from the Soviet embassy in Paris that it had learned of plans "by German circles to promote a coup d'etat in the Soviet Union" using "persons from the command staff of the Red Army".
There is evidence that Heydrich organized the forgery of a dossier containing an exchange of letters over a period of a year between members of the German High Command and Tukhachevsky. Service argues that it was "the work of the German secret agencies on false passports and so on, it consisted of thirty-two pages and had attached to it a photograph on Trotsky with German officials... The German security service got a genuine signature of Tukhachevsky from the 1926 secret agreement between the two High Commands by which technical assistance to the Soviet Air Force was arranged. A letter was forged using this signature, and Tukhachevsky's style was imitated... The German generals' signatures were obtained from bank checks. Hitler and Himmler were shown the dossier in early May, and approved the operation." (33)
Roy A. Medvedev, has argued in Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) that he is convinced that Heydrich arranged the forgery of the documents. However, he points out: "It would be a mistake to think that these false accusations were the main cause of the destruction of the best cadres. They were only a pretext. The real causes of the mass repression go much deeper. Any serious investigation would have exposed the Nazi forgery against Tukhachevsky, but Stalin did not order an expert investigation. It would have been even easier to establish the falseness of many other materials produced by the NKVD, but neither Stalin nor his closest aides checked or wanted to check the authenticity of these materials." (34)
Mikhail Tukhachevsky was found guilty of treason and executed on 11th June, 1937. It is estimated that 30,000 members of the armed forces were killed. This included fifty per cent of all army officers.
In reaction to the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, the Third Secretary of the Germany Embassy in Paris, by Herschel Grynszpan on 7th November, 1938, Reinhard Heydrich gave orders for the destruction of all Jewish places of worship in Nazi Germany. This attack, later called Crystal Night (Kristallnacht), took place two days later. "The assault In fifteen hours 101 synagogues were destroyed by fire, and 76 were demolished. Bands of Nazis systematically destroyed 7,500 Jewish-owned stores. The pillage and looting went on through the night. Streets were covered with broken glass, hence the name Kristallnacht." (35)
Karl von Eberstein was the police president of Munich during these attacks on the Jewish community. In a telegram sent to the State Police HQ of various cities under his control, he stated that "Anti-Jewish demonstrations" would occur with synagogues as their main target. The police were told to "do nothing to hinder the demonstrations". Eberstein also said in the telegram that "every effort will be made to arrest immediately as many Jews as the jails will hold, primarily healthy male and well-to-do adults of not too advanced age". (36)
On 31st July, 1941, Hermann Göring issued orders to Reinhard Heydrich to submit a comprehensive plan for "a final solution of the Jewish question." The meeting to discuss the plan, the Wannsee Conference, was held on 20th January 1942. Heydrich chaired the meeting and also in attendance were fifteen leading Nazi bureaucrats, including Heinrich Muller, Adolf Eichmann and Roland Friesler.
The conference was opened by Heydrich, who declared that he was the plenipotentiary for the "final solution of the Jewish question. He then reviewed the emigration problem. Heydrich admitted that there had been a plan to deport all Jews to the island of Madagascar but this had been abandoned after Operation Barbarossa. After discussing the matter with Adolf Hitler it had been decided to evacuate all Jews to the east. The evacuees would be organized into huge labour columns. He added that a majority would "fall through natural diminution". The survivors of this march would be dangerous because they had shown that they were strong and could in the future "rebuild Jewish life". Therefore they would be "regarded as the germ cell of a new Jewish development" and should be "treated accordingly."
After this opening statement Adolf Eichmann gave the conference numbers of the Jews living in the occupied territories. This included Nazi occupied territories in Eastern Europe (3,215,500), Germany (131,800), Austria (43,700), France (865,000), Netherlands (160,800), Greece (69,600), Belgium (43,000), Denmark (5,600) and Norway (1,300). Eichmann also provided details of the Jews living in countries that the Nazis hoped to have control over during the next few years. This included the Soviet Union (5,000,000), Hungary (742,000), Britain (330,000), Romania (342,000), Turkey (55,000), Switzerland (18,000), Sweden (8,000), Spain (6,000), Portugal (3,000) and Finland (2,300).
At the end of the meeting the Wannsee Protocol was circulated in the ministries and SS offices about the Final Solution. It included the following: "As a further possibility of solving the question, the evacuation of the Jews to the east can now be substituted for emigration, after obtaining permission from the Führer to that effect. However, these actions are merely to be considered as alternative possibilities, even though they will permit us to make all those practical experiences which are of great importance for the future final solution of the Jewish question. The Jews should in the course of the Final Solution be taken in a suitable manner to the east for use as labor. In big labour gangs, separated by sex, the Jews capable of work will be brought to these areas for road building, in which task undoubtedly a large number will fall through natural diminution. The remnant that is finally able to survive all this - since this is undoubtedly the part with the strongest resistance - must be treated accordingly, since these people, representing a natural selection, are to be regarded as the germ cell of a new Jewish development, in case they should succeed and go free (as history has proved). In the course of the execution of the Final Solution, Europe will be combed from west to east." (37)
From that date the extermination of the Jews became a systematically organized operation. It was decided to establish extermination camps in the east that had the capacity to kill large numbers including Belzec (15,000 a day), Sobibor (20,000), Treblinka (25,000) and Majdanek (25,000). It has been estimated that between 1942 and 1945 around 18 million were sent to extermination camps. Of these, historians have estimated that between five and eleven million were killed.
Lina Heydrich blamed her husband's relationship with Adolf Hitler for these decisions: "He required absolute obedience as he himself obeyed without questioning.... . Orders from Hitler were obeyed absolutely. My husband saw in him the one great man. I sometimes ask myself what his thoughts would have been if he had seen the bitter end. He thought him to be the one and only being who could lead the German nation to greatness and glory." (38)
On 27th September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich took up his post as Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Five days later he announced that the SS intended to "Germanize the Czech vermin." (39) Czech men, women and children were killed in large-scale executions, many staged dramatically in public. These actions resulted in a new nickname, the "Butcher of Prague".
In September, 1941, President Eduard Beneš, the head provisional Czechoslovakian government based in London approached Colin Gubbins, the director of operations of Special Operations Executive (SOE) about the possible assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. "Colonel Moravec enquired whether SOE would help in this project by providing facilities for training and supplying any special weaponry that was required. Gubbins had no hesitation in agreeing, but decided to restrict the knowledge of the Czech approach, and above all of the identity of the probable target, to a very small circle.... Acts of terrorism fell within SOE's charter and, as a senior official of the Sicherheitsdienst, Heydrich was a legitimate target. Moreover, in the last resort Benes and the Czech government were free to do what they liked in their own country without having to seek British approval. However, Gubbins pointed out to Moravec that an assassination of this sort was a purely political act which, even if unsuccessful, would result in wholesale reprisals for which, in his view, there was insufficient military justification." (40)
Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6 gave permission for Gubbins to organize the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. This was the only Nazi leader that the Allies attempted to assassinate. They took this decision knowing that the German Army would take terrible retribution of the people of Czechoslovakia. (41) Interestingly, Gubbins did not tell the Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden about the plot. Eden was especially opposed to this kind of action that he described as this "war crimes business".
The Czech secret service in England provided British-trained assassination agents Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabčík. The two-man team, codenamed Anthropoid, parachuted into the Bohemian hills on 29th December 1941. The drop was over Nehvizdy, a village five miles south of Pilsen. (42) During the time needed to recruit the team they studied Heydrich's movements and habits. He always used the same routes between his country estate at Hradcany Castle and the airport. He always sat in the front seat of his powerful Mercedes car with Klein, the SS driver. Heydrich also did not use a bodyguard or armed escort. (43)
On 23rd May 1942, the Czech underground gave Kubis and Gabčík, Heydrich's schedule for 27th May. "Meanwhile a perfect place for an ambush had been found. It was in the Holesovice suburb were Heydrich's car would have to slow for a right turn from Kirchmayer Blvd toward Troja Bridge and the center of Prague. With time for working out details of their plan Kubis and Gabčík formed their team. Josef Valcik would be on the boulevard about 100 yards from the turn, and he would flash a pocket mirror (pretending to comb his hair) when the victim came into sight. Rena Fafek, Gabcik's girlfriend, would be driven through the turn ahead of the big Mercedes and signal (by wearing a hat or not) whether the team had to deal with two cars or just one. Adolf Opalka was on the left-hand sidewalk across the street from the hit men; Kubis was on the corner watching Valcik:a few yards from him on the right sidewalk, were Gabčík and three other parachutists, Jaroslt Svarc, Josef Bublik, and Jan Hruby.... Just after 10:30 the Anthropoids got the signals: Valcik flashed his mirror, and the lady partisan came through the turn bareheaded. As the unsuspecting Germans followed, a streetcar clanged up from the Troja Bridge to a transfer point on the boulevard. Klein had to slow further for a couple of indecisive pedestrians, then he slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a man who darted into the street. It was Josef Gabčík who whipped a Sten gun from under his rain coat, leveled it at Heydrich's chest, and calmly pulled the trigger. Nothing happened!" (44)
Heydrich and Klein both stood up and opened fire at Gabčík. Kubis then stepped forward a threw lobbed a grenade at the car. Heydrich was taken to the local hospital, where he underwent an emergency operation. The wound in his side did not appear to be life-threatening, but was full of debris - bits of metal and car upholstery to include cloth, leather, and horsehair near the spleen. Heydrich was reported to be recovering well, but developed blood poisoning and died of septicemia on 4th June 1942. (45)
Karl Frank, Secretary of State for of Bohemia and Moravia, offered a reward of 10 million Czech crowns for the arrest of those involved in the assassination. He also stated: "Whoever shelters these criminals, provides them with help, or, knowing them, does not denounce them, will be shot with his whole family." Adolf Hitler gave orders for the immediate execution of 10,000 Czechs suspected of anti-German activities of anti-German activities. The Gestapo began rounding up suspects and they were sent to Mauthausen concentration camp.
The seven men involved in the assassination hid in the church of St Cyril and St Methodius in Prague. They were betrayed by Karel Curda. Inside were more than a hundred members of the Czech Resistance Movement. The men held out for three weeks until he Germans stormed the church on 18th June 1942. All the men inside were either killed or committed suicide. Four priests were executed on 3rd September for helping the fugitives, and another 252 Czechs were condemned to death at another trial that month for aiding the assassins. Another 256 Czechs were condemned to death for aiding the assassination plot. (46)
As Jacques Delarue, the author of The Gestapo (1962) has pointed out: "Heydrich's death was the signal for the most bloody reprisals. More than three thousand arrests were carried out, and courts-martial at Prague and Brno pronounced 1,350 death sentences.... A gigantic operation was unleashed against the Resistance and the Czech populace. An area of 15,000 square kilometers and 5,000 communes was searched and 657 persons shot on the spot.... Until the end the Nazis harassed the Czech people without ever managing to break their resistance. It had been calculated that 200,000 people passed through the prison of Brno alone, of whom only 50,000 were liberated, the others having been killed or sent to the slow death of the concentration camps. In all, 305,000 Czechs were deported to the camps; only 75,000 emerged alive." (47)
In retaliation for the assassination of Heydrich, Kurt Daluege ordered the destruction of the village of Lidice. The village was razed to the ground and its 173 male inhabitants were murdered. The 198 women were sent to a Concentration Camp in Ravensbueck. Thousands of Czech people were also deported to other concentration camps in Austria and Germany as a result of Heydrich's death.
On 11th June, 1942, the German newspaper, Der Nerse Tag reported: "In the course of the search for the murderer of Obengruppenfuehrer S.S. it was found that the population of the village of Lidice near Kladno had helped and cooperated with the perpetrators of the crime. This has been proved, although the villagers denied that they had cooperated. The attitude of the population with regard to the crime has also manifested itself by other acts hostile to the Reich. For example, underground literature, stocks of weapons and ammunition have been found as well as the existence of a transmitting set, and an illegal depot containing large quantities of rationed food. All the men of the village have been shot. The women have been deported to concentration camps and the children sent to appropriate houses for their education. All the buildings of this village have been razed to the ground and the name of the village removed from the land registers." (48)