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| | |-+  HITLER'S HANGMAN: The Life of Heydrich by Robert Gerwarth
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Author Topic: HITLER'S HANGMAN: The Life of Heydrich by Robert Gerwarth  (Read 33 times)
crow
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'nuff said


« on: November 28, 2018, 02:52:56 PM »

“He was one of the best National Socialists, one of the strongest defenders of the German Reich idea, one of the biggest enemies of all the enemies of the Reich. He is a martyr.”
     - Adolf Hitler, Eulogy for Heydrich, Berlin 1942

“Wherever this killer went, blood flowed in rivers. Everywhere, even in Germany, he was simply called: the Hangman.”
     - Thomas Mann, Obituary for Heydrich on the BBC

Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, aka “The Butcher of Prague”, aka “The Blonde Beast,” aka “The Hangman,” and sometimes referred to as “the worst Nazi,” was assassinated by British trained Czech resistance agents in Prague, Czechoslovakia on May 27, 1942. This lead directly to the Nazis murdering every male over the age of 16 in the nearby towns of Lidice and Lezaky. The women and children were sent to concentration camps where most of them died. It also marked the end of the Czech resistance movement as all of it’s members were found and killed by the Nazis. The assassination is considered to be another one of the British blunders of the war. Spies already in Prague told the home office that assassinating Heydrich would not be worth the repercussions. Sadly, for thousands of people, they didn't listen.

Heydrich was fortunate to get assassinated when he did. As author Robert Gerwarth points out, he without a doubt would have either committed suicide or been tried and executed by the Allies after the war. I wanted to read about this particular Nazi because he did not survive the war and therefore he is lesser known than his boss and friend, Heinrich Himmler. Himmler delivered a long and loving tribute to him at his funeral showing how much he respected Heydrich.

Born the son of a famous German composer, Heydrich was driven to surpass his father’s fame and make a name for himself. He thought that the German Navy would be a good place to start and was successful there until his philandering earned him a dishonorable discharge.

The face Heydrich lost because of this was devastating to him. His loss of honor was much more important to him than a lost pension. He therefore turned down several good job offers to take a low paying job with Himmler and the early Nazi party. His new fiancee and her family were ardent Nazis and Heydrich wished to impress them. It was only then that he became radicalized. At the end of his book Gerwarth ponders what would have happened if Heydrich had remained in the Navy and never joined the Nazis. Europe would no doubt have been better off.

Heydrich’s rise was fast. Hitler called him "the man with the iron heart" as there was nothing he would not do for the glory of the Reich. He was an SS-Obergruppenführer (Senior Group Leader and General of Police), chief of the Reich Main Security Office (including the Gestapo, Kripo, and SD). He was also Acting Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich served as president of the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC; later known as Interpol) and chaired the Wannsee Conference, which formalized plans for the Final Solution to “the Jewish Question.” He was the highest ranking German in Czechoslovakia and had he lived he was to be put in charge of all of occupied France. The death of Heydrich was a huge blow to the Nazis and they had a difficult time replacing such a fanatic and loyal soldier.

Gerwarth wrote a factual and well-research biography, but unlike his other subjects (Goebbels and Himmler) Heydrich did not have a diary so it is a less-personal narrative. That is my only real complaint with the book. It’s too factual and academic. I didn’t feel like I knew the man as I did with Robert Massie’s biography of Peter the Great. It’s a serviceable book but it’s most exciting part is the first chapter, which details the mass murderer’s final day.

WWII is more of a backdrop to the story even though Heydrich was a pilot and flew a few missions during the occupation of Norway. The book primarily deals with the Nazi police apparatus and especially the SD. Heydrich was one of the main architects of the Nazi Final Solution, or the eradication of the Jews from Europe. If you have an interest in these subjects or the infamous Einsatzgruppen death squads then you might learn a thing or two from Gerwarth’s book. The evolution of the “solution” and Heydrich’s slow march towards a genocidal plan of mass murder is one of the most fascinating aspects of it.

Serviceable, but not necessarily a must read, it was still an interesting page turner and life story of one of the worst human beings who ever lived.



3 deaths are not enough for Heydrich outta 5
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Merry Christmas


« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2018, 03:39:15 PM »

“The Butcher of Prague”

What a handle.
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....And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! ...God bless Us, Every One!”
jdv
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I'm Captain Wild Bill Kelso....


« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2018, 05:58:02 PM »

Spies already in Prague told the home office that assassinating Heydrich would not be worth the repercussions. Sadly, for thousands of people, they didn't listen.

That's an interesting take.  Other prominent historians, BL Hart among them, also believed that under-ground actions were largely useless.

But there's the other side of the coin - one, there was certainly no guarantee that the Nazis wouldn't have killed those people at some point - they were, are all, under the direct control of the blood thirsty Heydrich in a war where entire towns were incinerated in a routine manner.  Had the Nazi's won, these same people would have certainly, eventually, been murdered.

Second, and far more importantly, the attack likely made these would-be Nazi gods feel the cold chill of mortality.

And third, people are assuming he'd be caught and killed.  Adolph Eichmann - one of the few people in the war to outdo Heydrich for evil - escaped to South America, as did dozens of other lesser Nazis.  His death instantly made the planet a better place.

I don't necessarily agree that he should have been killed (given the risk of repercussions), but it's not a slam dunk for not killing him.  Still, I'd like to check the book out.

On the WWII subject, I'm re-reading WINDS OF WAR/WAR & REMEMBRANCE right now.  Super fun WWII books. 

https://www.history.com/news/the-7-most-notorious-nazis-who-escaped-to-south-america
« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 05:59:40 PM by jdv » Logged

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'nuff said


« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2018, 10:55:50 PM »

That is one of the funnest things about armchair history: wondering what would have been if so-and-so didn't occur. The Allies also got a lot of propaganda fuel from the Massacre of Lidice as it was the first well publicized Nazi atrocity. They foolishly advertised the mass murder themselves. A town near Joliet, Illinois changed it's name to Lidice as did many more in South America where the name became popular for newborn girls.

The Brits in Prague at the time apparently wanted to go after smaller targets like the railroads and bridges. They had been successful at that kind of sabotage so far and not gotten caught. Killing Heydrich, they believed, would bring too much heat.
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Merry Christmas


« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2018, 08:10:45 AM »

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....And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! ...God bless Us, Every One!”
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