|Heydrich and Karl Hermann Frank|
In 1938 when Hitler had conducted his machinations over Czechoslovakia, it was not merely to open the road towards the steppes of Russia to give the people of Germany their much needed lebensraum. There were also the very potent attractions of the Czech armaments industry in addition to the coal and other industries useful to a country bent on expansion by force.Since the take-over of the whole country in March 1939, when Heydrich’s men were again involved in dirty tricks[i], the production of war material had not kept pace with expectation. With some encouragement from the exiles in London the Czech workers had not put effort into helping the German war machine; which was desperate, in view of the men and materials needed on the eastern front.
By September 1941 Hitler had decided to put a new man in charge of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia[ii], as Czechoslovakia was now called. The Reichsprotector was a former diplomat and foreign minister until 1938[iii], von Neurath was given the job as a consolation prize. Heydrich formally took over from von Neurath, who went on sick leave, on 23rd September. The gas chambers at Auschwitz were used for the first time at the beginning of the month[iv].Heydrich’s job was to increase production of war materiel and he did this using the carrot and stick approach. He immediately arranged for the Czech underground army to be annihilated and the head of the puppet government was arrested. President Hacha agreed to stay on.
To encourage the workers Heydrich ordered the setting up of canteens in the factories and increased fat rations[v]. Heydrich also attacked the black marketers, a popular move with the population; many butchers and cattle dealers were shot out of hand. He announced the savage treatment to be meted out to
‘Those trimmers profiting from the war…[who pretended to be] serving the Reich, but were in fact only out for personal gain and were damaging the good name of the Reich.’[vi]In mid-October Lina and the children moved into the Reichsprotector's flat in Hradcany Castle[vii]. By early November Lina had informed Heydrich that she was expecting their fourth child. Heydrich became extremely interested in history & read all manner of books to do with the subject of the relationship between Bohemia and Moravia and Germany; in particular he read up on Count Wallenstein[viii].
By the end of October Lina and Heydrich started entertaining; meanwhile Heydrich was commuting to Berlin every other day. He had kept his other job, Heydrich was always very much aware of the importance of his control of the security apparatus and like many senior Nazis did not place much trust in his subordinates’ loyalty.Heydrich’s new job gave him access to Hitler, something he had never before achieved; before Himmler had always stood between Heydrich and the Fuhrer. This access upset the balance of power within the SS where Heydrich had many enemies, including the majority of his peers.
Four days after the declaration of war against the United States, Heydrich and his deputy Karl Hermann Frank, Himmler and the leader of the ethnic Germans viewed the execution of 100 Czech dissidents in Wenceslas Square. Two months later he told senior officers of the security police
‘When I say that our progress in the campaign against Czech resistance can be summed up…….in the fact that in the last few days we have confiscated roughly ninety short-wave transmitters, and that the number of summary court sentences now totals between four and five hundred, while four to five thousand have been arrested………..all the arrests and sentences of death involved exclusively people of high intellectual abilities. These were no fellow travellers, but the leadership structure itself.’[ix]He also discussed the deportation of Jews and Czechs to the east, less than two weeks after the conference at Wannsee, where the meaning of such deportations had been made very clear, particularly for those born Jewish in the Greater German Reich and occupied territories.
The Gestapo was already tracking the movements of a friend of Himmler’s who was in contact with the Czech government in exile. The Czechs in exile had arranged to fly in two patriots ready to assassinate Heydrich, in order to boost their standing with the Allied leaders.
On 20th January 1942 Heydrich returned to Berlin for a meeting that was kept secret from all but the participants and their bosses; so secret that the minutes of the meeting were meant to be destroyed. This meeting of second tier Nazis, at an SS guest house on Wannsee, was engineered to gain the complicity of all departments involved in what was to become known as the Holocaust.Acting under the authority granted to him by Goering the previous July, Heydrich gained the approval of those involved to expedite and expand the killing machine set up in the death camps. The meeting included those already involved in killing in the Einsatzgruppen, diplomats, Wilhelm Stuckart, the author of the Nuremberg Laws[x], Roland Friesler of the Justice Ministry, the Nazi Party, Gestapo Muller and numerous others not to mention Adolf Eichmann, who was continue his deadly duties right up to the end of the war.
FW Kritzinger the Foreign Ministry representative
Not one of the participants in the meeting opposed Heydrich, who steamrollered agreement to matters already approved at the highest level. Afterwards Heydrich, Muller and Eichmann celebrated their steamrollering of the attendees
‘I saw Heydrich smoking, a cigarette or a cigar, for the first time……..after this Wannsee conference we just sat together quietly, not to talk shop, but simply to relax after the long and strenuous hours.’[xi]From now on things could only get worse for the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, a-socials and any other group that did not fit the Nazis’ Aryan blueprint. From now on, not just the SS, but a long list of ministries including the Foreign and Justice Ministries were fully implicated in and signed up to the hideous crimes of the regime.
Heydrich's final public appearance
On the 23rd May Lina and Himmler became reconciled; they had been at odds since August 1936. Three days later Lina, Heydrich and Karl Hermann Frank attended a concert in honour of Heydrich’s father Bruno. It was to be Heydrich’s final public appearance.The following day, contrary to orders for senior officials, Heydrich set out from home on his normal journey to work in an open topped Mercedes, attended only by his chauffeur. He trusted his Czechs. The agents sent by the Czech government in exile were waiting and shot at the car with a machine-gun. As the car screeched to a halt and Heydrich stood up to shoot at his attackers, one of them threw a bomb, which exploded outside the vehicle, but splinters from the car entered Heydrich’s body.
After the attack
After chasing after the attackers for a few steps, Heydrich collapsed and was eventually taken to hospital in a delivery van. He died from an infection from the foreign materials in his body and possibly from the delays in operating, while the hospital was secured by the Gestapo. The assassination attempt and Heydrich’s death were treated with horror by the elite in Berlin.Hitler was furious and so was Himmler, at a meeting after the state funeral on 10th June Himmler told his senior officers
‘Stupidity is always punished too.’[xii]There was a first memorial service for Heydrich, attended by Heydrich’s two young sons, in Prague, followed by a state funeral in Berlin, where both Himmler and Hitler gave addresses. In Das Schwarz Korps[xiii] Heydrich was described as
'Even in his outward appearance he corresponded to the popular conception of an SS man.'[xiv]
Lidice after the massacre
The attackers, supported by the Czech underground, hid in the church of St Cyril in Prague, from where they discovered by the security apparatus[xv]. Neither they nor their helpers holed up with them survived; nor did the male inhabitants of Lidice, the home village of one of those involved. They were all murdered, while the women were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp and the children were removed for Germanisation and adoption. In Heydrich's honour the killing of the Jews in eastern Europe was named Aktion Reinhard.Aftermath
On 23rd July Lina gave birth to Marte. But the death of her husband was not to be the last of her sorrows. Her son Klaus was knocked over by a lorry on 24th October 1943. His Godfather Himmler sent his own surgeon and friend Professor Gebhardt[xvi] to look after Klaus. Klaus died from his injuries
The young Reinhard and Heinz
In November 1944 tragedy struck again at the Heydrich family. Heydrich’s brother Heinz committed suicide. After Reinhard’s funeral Heinz had been given a lot of his brother’s papers and remorse over his brother’s treatment of the Jews led Heinz to help Jews escape from the Reich. Now believing himself discovered by the Gestapo, Heinz shot himself.After Heydrich’s death Lina stayed on at Jungfern-Breschan, their manor house outside Prague; which Hitler deeded to the family on 20th April 1943. In February 1945 she wrote to her parents
‘At the moment I wouldn’t know where we would be safer than right here, to flee, as other women do, is out of the question for me. By my decision to remain here after Reinhard died, I made a political commitment.’[xvii]Yet in late January, in view of the oncoming Red Army Lina had written to Himmler asking what she should do if forced to evacuate. His exceptionally optimistic reply[xviii] cannot have persuaded her that Himmler was the right person to give advice; for Himmler claimed that the Red Army’s forward momentum would soon be reversed. The following month he arrived at her home asking for a hot bath and breakfast and was uncommunicative about what was happening.
It would appear that Lina Heydrich was protected by the Allies after the war. She was even granted a widow’s pension by the German government; something not granted to the wives/widows of other Nazi potentates.Bibliography
Heydrich – Mario R Dederichs, Greenhill Books 2006Heydrich – Gunther Deschner, Orbis Publishing 1981
The Life and Times of Reinhard Heydrich – GS Graber, Robert Hale 1981Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2012
The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich – Callum MacDonald, Da Capo Press 1998The Villa, the Lake, the Meeting – Mark Roseman, Penguin 2003
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – William L Shirer, Bookclub Associates 1985Heydrich – Charles Wighton, Chilton Company 1962
Reinhard Heydrich Volume 1 & 2 – Max Williams. Ulric Publishing 2001 & 2003www.wikipedia.en
[i] Liaising with ethnic Germans, prepared to put race above country in order to add Czechoslovakia to the Greater Reich
[ii] His decision no doubt either influenced or confirmed at a meeting between von Neurath, his deputy Hans Frank and the Gestapo; when von Neurath refused to allow his deputy’s draconian proposals to be auctioned by the Gestapo
[iii] When he was replaced by the more warlike and incapable von Ribbentrop
[iv] Soviet POWs were gassed with Zyklon B on the 3rd and a further 100 were gassed on the 15th
[v] The occupied territories were stripped of foodstuffs to improve the diet of Germans at home
[vi] Heydrich - Deschner
[vii] The former seat of government for the Kings of Bohemia, the Holy Roman Emperors
[viii] Commander of the Holy Roman Empire’s army during the Thirty Years War and assassinated by his employer, fearful of treachery.
[ix] Heydrich - Deschner
[x] The first major group of laws forbidding marriage between Jews and Aryans, depriving Jews of the right to German citizenship; many, many more followed
[xi] Heydrich - Dederichs
[xii] Heydrich - Deschner
[xiii] The SS newspaper
[xiv] Heydrich - Deschner
[xv] After one of the network betrayed their whereabouts
[xvi] Who had unsuccessfully treated Heydrich after his assassination
[xviii] Written the day after Lina’s letter to her parents