When Lina Mathilde von Osten sent her fiancée to join the Nazi party and then the SS she had no idea that that she had set him on the path to an engrossing career and his death. Lina was the daughter of a schoolteacher on the small island of Lutjenbrode. Her father was from a family of impoverished Holsteiner minor aristocracy.A committed Nazi, Lina met the future head of the Sicherheinstdienst (SD)[i] of the SS in Kiel, at a rowing-club ball on 6th December 1930; Lina was at college in Kiel. Reinhard Heydrich was a young naval officer, stationed in the town. He had always been the odd one out throughout his schooldays and his cadetship; and even now his fellow officers were stand-offish. Heydrich, although tall and blonde, had a girlish voice and many women found him unattractive. Lina was not one of them.
When Lina’s escort left the ball the 19 year old Lina and her friend were picked up by Heydrich and a fellow officer. Heydrich escorted her to her room after the party. They had a date two days later and by the 18th the couple were secretly engaged. Lina was taken aback;
‘Mein Gott, Herr Heydrich, you haven’t even met my parents and know nothing about my father’s reputation. You are a naval officer, have your rules, your marriage regulations…..’[ii]Heydrich overcame her objections and at Christmas Lina took Heydrich home to meet the family. Her father was impressed by the naval officer now engaged to his daughter.
Back in Kiel, Heydrich announced his engagement. He had been involved with another girl from the college and had entertained her at his room[iii]. Consequently the young lady, whose family had some influence in the navy, considered herself engaged to Heydrich. A complaint against Heydrich was made to Admiral Raeder and the matter was referred to an honour court.Heydrich would probably have survived the honour court if he had not acted so arrogantly; disavowing his fiancée, claiming that she had been determined to sleep with him.
‘”His proven insincerity, aimed at whitewashing himself” displeased the court, which concluded by asking whether it was “possible for an officer guilty of such unforgiveable behaviour to remain in the Reichsmarine.”’[iv]The decision on Heydrich’s future was passed back to Raeder by the court. Raeder dismissed the first lieutenant from the service. He was now unemployed. Heydrich’s parents ran a conservatoire at Halle. Since the war the conservatoire had fallen on bad times and Heydrich could not look to his parents for financial support. His mother had been reduced to cleaning her own home, for the first time having to do without a maid.
Joining the SS
Karl von Eberstein
Up to this point Heydrich had little contact with the Nazi party; his godmother’s son Karl von Eberstein was a member of Stahlhelm[v] and of the still relatively small SS[vi] and Heydrich had stayed in sporadic contact with him. Frau Heydrich now contacted Baroness von Eberstein, whose son was on the staff of SA[vii] chief Rohm. Eberstein was aware that Himmler, Reichsfuhrer SS[viii] had been given responsibility for internal security for party leaders and was looking to set up an intelligence section.On 1st June 1931, following a meeting with Eberstein Heydrich joined the Nazi party, encouraged to do so by his fiancée. A fortnight later he was to have his first meeting with the man who turned his world upside down and gave him the all-important uniform to replace the one he had lost earlier in the year.
The Himmler family
Heinrich Himmler and his wife lived at Waldtrudering outside Munich, where Frau Himmler attempted to make money raising chickens, while her husband devoted himself to the Nazi party and more particularly his SS. On 14th June, on the basis of a misunderstanding, Himmler gave Heydrich the job of creating the Sicherheistdienst of the Reichsfuhrer SS. This was to be an intelligence organisation focussed on party members. The pay was minimal, but Himmler promised Heydrich a pay raise when he married.In the autumn Himmler informed Hitler of his belief that Heydrich was of Jewish origins. This apparently did not bother Hitler who commented:
'Heydrich was a highly gifted, but also a very dangerous man, whose gifts the movement had to retain.'[ix]Both Hitler and Himmler believed that this question mark over their new recruit’s ancestry would be a means of controlling him. It is possible that Heydrich too believed this slur which had dogged him since his schooldays.
Cheif of SA Ernst Rohm
By October Himmler was informing Rohm that the SS was now over 10,000 strong; a remarkable increase in membership from the previous December. Heydrich started work at the Brown House[x] on 10th August SS member 10,120[xi].A year to the day of their official engagement Lina and Reinhard Heydrich were married; Heydrich had been promoted to Sturmbannfuhrer[xii] the day before. They were married on the island of Fehmarn, where Lina’s family came from. Heydrich’s colleagues formed an honour guard outside the church.
‘Above the altar was a swastika of fir-tree branches. The approach to the church door was lined on either side by uniformed Nazis with right arms extended in the Hitler salute. At the dedication mass Bruno Heydrich sang a prayer composed by himself specially for the occasion. As the married couple and the congregation left the church, the organ played the Horst Wessel, battle hymn of the Nazi party.’[xiii]
At the end of the year the newly married couple visited Heydrich’s boss and his wife at Waltrudering. During the visit Himmler took the opportunity to quiz Lina on her antecedents. Initially Lina joined Heydrich living in one of two rooms used by the nascent SD. A new home was provided for the bride by her husband at Lochhausen 55 in Munich shortly thereafter.A few months later the happy couple moved to a small villa on Zaccalistrasse; where the SD based its HQ. The SD was now named the Press and Information Service for Reichstag deputy Himmler; the Nazi party having been banned in April 1932. By this time the SS now numbered 25,500. But by June numbers had mushroomed to 41,500.
Lina did all the housework for the home/office which was disguised as an ordinary home. She was also responsible for feeding the SD staff and was often reduced to cooking vegetable soup. In July Heydrich was formally named chief of the SD, which was poorly funded. In July and August Heydrich recruited twelve men to work for the SD.Major and Minor Irritations
In the spring of 1932 rumours of Heydrich’s alleged Jewish ancestry had started circulating amongst members of the Nazi party. Some of his former naval colleagues had testified to the Nazi Gauleiter in Halle that Heydrich was a Jew. But it was not until early June that the Gauleiter wrote to Gregor Strasser[xiv] informing him of the allegations.
‘It has come to my attention that there is in, in the Reich leadership organisation, a party member with the name Heydrich, whose father lives in Halle. There is reason to believe that the Bruno Heydrich indicated as his father is a Jew.’[xv]The Nazi Party chief genealogist Dr Geschke was asked to investigate. Himmler and Hitler clearly believed that Heydrich was tainted by Jewish blood, but were more than happy to collude in a cover-up. By 22nd June Dr Geschke had pronounced Heydrich free of the dreaded taint; normally the investigations took months.
‘It is evident from the attached list of ancestors………Reinhardt[xvi] Heydrich is of German origin and free from any admixture of coloured or Jewish blood.’This was not the last time the issue was raised.
In the autumn Himmler, Rohm and Hess visited the SD offices; Lina, always short of money, had been annoyed by one of the SD men who had been taking her matches. In retaliation she purchased a pack of exploding joke matches. Her husband lit Himmler’s cigar with one of the joke matches and, predictably, Himmler was not amused Rohm his boss was. Hess promised the SD additional funding, but was only able to produce half the promised monies; 500 Reichsmarks.Bibliography
Heydrich – Mario R Dederichs, Greenhill Books 2006Heydrich – Gunther Deschner, Orbis Publishing 1981
The Face of the Third Reich – Joachim Fest, Pelican Books 1972The Life and Times of Reinhard Heydrich – GS Graber, Robert Hale 1981
Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2012Heydrich – Charles Wighton, Chilton Company 1962
Reinhard Heydrich Volume 1 & 2 – Max Williams. Ulric Publishing 2001 & 2003www.wikipedia.en
[ii] Heydrich - Dederichs
[iii] Lina Heydrich claims that her husband informed her that he did not sleep with the girl, merely offering her a bed for the night when she was stranded in Kiel without accommodation. Lina Heydrich’s pronunciations on her husband should always be taken sceptically.
[v] The Steel Helmets, a right wing paramilitary organisation
[vi] There were just over 2,700 members
[vii] Sturmabteilung – the Nazi paramilitary organisation
[viii] The SS was subsidiary to the head of the SA
[ix] The Face of the Third Reich - Fest
[x] The Nazi HQ in Munich
[xi] Himmler was 168 and Eberstein was 1386
[xii] Equivalent to the rank of Major in the German and British armies.
[xiii] Heydrich - Dederichs
[xiv] In charge of re-organising the party
[xv] Heydrich - Dederichs
[xvi] Heydrich was known to use either spelling of his name