Heydrich, Reinhard Tristan°

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HEYDRICH, REINHARD TRISTAN ° (1904–1942), Nazi *SS leader who played a prominent part in the design and execution of the "Final Solution." Heydrich was born in Halle, Saxony. He father was an opera singer and director of a music conservatory. His mother was a stern disciplinarian and Heydrich was falsely suspected of being of partial (paternal) Jewish origin. Throughout his life, he was moved by chamber music and had a great love for Mozart and Haydn. In other areas of his life, he was brutal, cynical, and sadistic.

Commissioned as a naval officer, he was discharged in 1931 after a Naval Court of Honor found him guilty of misconduct toward a young woman whose reputation he blemished. Soon after a chance introduction to Heinrich *Himmler, Heydrich was entrusted with the organization of the SD, the intelligence and surveillance arm of the SS. He was but two years younger than Himmler, a situation that threatened to stymie his career advancement to the top.

In 1931 Heydrich joined the SS as chief of its Security Service (SD). After the Nazi's accession to power he was *Himmler's assistant in the Bavarian police and later became chief of the *Gestapo. Heydrich rose rapidly through the ranks of the SD. He played a leading role in the blood purge of 1934. He played a role in the 1938 purging of the German Army High Command and planted false information that led to a similar purge by Stalin of the Red Army. As head of the *Gestapo, Heydrich could incarcerate enemies of the Reich at will. During *Kristallnacht in November 1938, Heydrich had 30,000 Jewish men arrested by the Gestapo and the SS and incarcerated in concentration camps. By 1938 he had succeeded in concentrating the management of Jewish affairs in his own hands, stressing the policy of forced emigration. The success of *Eichmann's Zentralstelle fuer juedische Auswanderung ("Center for Jewish Emigration") in Vienna led Heydrich to create a similar center in Berlin for the whole of Germany. Heydrich was one of the instigators of the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938. In 1939 he was appointed head of the Reich Security Head Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt – RSHA), which incorporated the Gestapo and the SD. In a circular issued after the conquest of Poland, he ordered the concentration of Polish Jews in ghettos and the appointment of Jewish Councils to be made personally responsible, in the literal meaning of the term, for carrying out German orders. His memo spoke of the "final goal" not the "Final Solution." With Eichmann's help, Heydrich organized mass deportations of Jews from the annexed parts of Poland and from Germany and Austria to the territory of the Generalgouvernement, his Einsatzkommando simultaneously killing tens of thousands of Polish leaders and Jews. On the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union he created additional Einsatzkommandos that killed a million Jews and many Soviet officials. He also negotiated the agreement that the Wehrmacht lend assistance to the Einsatzgruppen. Heydrich was instrumental in the Nisko and Lublin plan and the proposed deportation of all European Jews to the island of *Madagascar, a plan that was never implemented. Many historians believe that the impracticable nature of this plan soon gave rise to the "Final Solution."

He planned the *Wannsee Conference, even drafting in March 1941, before the systematic killing of Jews had begun, the letter assigning him responsibility for the preparation of the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" that Hitler's deputy, Hermann *Goering, would sign on July 31, 1941. Heydrich was charged by Goering with implementing the "Final Solution" in the entire sphere of German influence. He had apparently carved out a sphere of influence on the Jewish question and an area of specialization. He had what one biographer called "an executive instinct," anticipating where policy could go and planning accordingly. For this purpose he convened the *Wannsee Conference to coordinate the action of various government and party agencies. Appointed in place of Constantin Neurath as Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, he pacified Czechoslovakia with great brutality. Heydrich was wounded by Czech resistance fighters on May 29, 1942, and died several days later. Hitler spoke at his funeral and vowed revenge. In retaliation, the Germans razed the village of Lidice, murdering all its male inhabitants. Maps published afterwards excluded all mention of the village. At the same time 152 Jews in Berlin were killed in a special action, and more than 3,000 Jews from the *Theresienstadt ghetto were deported and exterminated. Aktion Reinhard, the murder of Polish Jewry, was apparently named after Heydrich (see *Holocaust, General Survey). The retaliation for his death was so intense and disastrous that even the postwar Czechoslovak government was reluctant to release material on its involvement. The allegation that Heydrich was of Jewish origin has been shown by Robinson to be completely false. But it was useful. Heydrich's superiors employed it as a means of keeping him loyal.


C. Wighton, Heydrich… (Eng., 1962); J. Wiener, Assassination of Heydrich (1969); imt, Trial of the Major War Criminals, 24 (1949), index; Czechoslovakia, Ministerstvo zahraničnich vēci, Memorandum of the Czechoslovak Government on the Reign of Terror in Bohemia and Moravia under the Regime of R. Heydrich (London, 1942); S. Aronson, Heydrich und die Anfaenge des sd und der Gestapo (1931–35) (1967); H. Hoehne, Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf (1967); J. Robinson And the Crooked Shall be Made Straight (1965), 144–6; G. Reitlinger, Final Solution (19612), index; R. Hilberg, Destruction of the European Jews (1967, 1985, 2003), index. add. bibliography: C. Browning with J. Matthaus, The Origins of the Final Solution (2004); C. Whitting, Heydrich, Henchman of Death (1999); C.W. Syndnor, Jr, "Executive Instinct: Reinhard Heydrich and the Planning for the Final Solution," in: M. Berenbaum and A. Peck, The Holocaust and History: The Known, The Unknown, The Dispute and the Reexamined (1998), 159–87.

[Yehuda Reshef /

Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]