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Hitler's Hangman

Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich'

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Hitler's Hangman
    Book Description:

    Reinhard Heydrich is widely recognized as one of the great iconic villains of the twentieth century, an appalling figure even within the context of the Nazi leadership. Chief of the Nazi Criminal Police, the SS Security Service, and the Gestapo, ruthless overlord of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia, and leading planner of the "Final Solution," Heydrich played a central role in Hitler's Germany. He shouldered a major share of responsibility for some of the worst Nazi atrocities, and up to his assassination in Prague in 1942, he was widely seen as one of the most dangerous men in Nazi Germany. Yet Heydrich has received remarkably modest attention in the extensive literature of the Third Reich.

    Robert Gerwarth weaves together little-known stories of Heydrich's private life with his deeds as head of the Nazi Reich Security Main Office. Fully exploring Heydrich's progression from a privileged middle-class youth to a rapacious mass murderer, Gerwarth sheds new light on the complexity of Heydrich's adult character, his motivations, the incremental steps that led to unimaginable atrocities, and the consequences of his murderous efforts toward re-creating the entire ethnic makeup of Europe.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17746-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. Preface
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    Reinhard Heydrich is widely recognized as one of the great iconic villains of the twentieth century, an appalling figure even within the context of the Nazi elite. Countless TV documentaries, spurred on by the fascination with evil, have offered popular takes on his intriguing life, and there is no shortage of sensationalist accounts of his 1942 assassination and the unprecedented wave of retaliatory Nazi violence that culminated in the vengeful destruction of the Bohemian village of Lidice. Arguably the most spectacular secret service operation of the entire Second World War, the history of Operation Anthropoid and its violent aftermath has...

  7. Maps
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  8. CHAPTER I Death in Prague
    (pp. 1-13)

    The 27th of May 1942 was a beautiful day. The morning dawned bright and auspicious over the Bohemian lands, occupied by Nazi Germany since 1939. After a long and exceptionally cold winter, spring had finally arrived. The trees were in full blossom and the cafés of Prague were buzzing with life. Some twenty kilometres north of the capital, in the leafy gardens of his vast neo-classical country estate, the undisputed ruler of the Czech lands and chief of the Nazi terror apparatus, Reinhard Heydrich, was playing with his two young sons, Klaus and Heider, while his wife, Lina, heavily pregnant...

  9. CHAPTER II Young Reinhard
    (pp. 14-49)

    Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich was born on 7 March 1904 in the Prussian city of Halle on the River Saale.¹ His names reflected the musical background and interests of his family: his father, Bruno Heydrich, was a composer and opera singer of some distinction who had earned nationwide recognition as the founding director of the Halle Conservatory, where his wife, Elisabeth, worked as a piano instructor. In naming their first-born son, they took inspiration from the world of music that surrounded them: ‘Reinhard’ was the name of the tragic hero of Bruno’s first opera,Amen, which had premiered in 1895;...

  10. CHAPTER III Becoming Heydrich
    (pp. 50-83)

    On 14 June 1931, shortly before noon, Heydrich arrived at Munich Central Station. His childhood friend, Karl von Eberstein, met him at the station and drove him to Himmler’s poultry farm in the Munich suburb of Waldtrudering, where the Reich Leader SS was recovering from the flu.¹ The meeting was to prove a momentous one, the beginning of an eleven-year relationship of close collaboration and mutual respect. Much has been written since the Second World War about the alleged rivalry between the two men and Heydrich’s apparent later attempts to sideline Himmler in pursuit of total power.² But the post-war...

  11. CHAPTER IV Fighting the Enemies of the Reich
    (pp. 84-115)

    If the outcome of the Röhm putsch had proven to be a thorough success for Heydrich’s SD and the political police apparatus, it also aroused the suspicion of influential individuals who worried that the SS was becoming too powerful – in particular, the conservatives in the military and rival Nazis like Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick, whose overall authority over the German police was gradually undermined by Himmler and Heydrich.

    Although the military had emerged from the Röhm purge with some complacency, tensions soon developed between it and the SS. While Heydrich viewed the conservatives in the army as ideologically unreliable,...

  12. CHAPTER V Rehearsals for War
    (pp. 116-140)

    In late 1937, Hitler instigated a radical reversal in the foreign policy of the Third Reich. On 5 November, the Führer gave a speech in the presence of the supreme commanders of the army, air force and navy, in which he emphasized the need to procure, through violent expansion if necessary, theLebensraum(living space) Germany required to secure its future as a great nation. The concerns and criticisms of some of his listeners reinforced Hitler’s view that he would achieve his foreign policy objectives only if he replaced with more willing helpers some of the senior conservative figures who...

  13. CHAPTER VI Experiments with Mass Murder
    (pp. 141-172)

    Invaded from three sides, unaided by its Western allies and confronted with a militarily superior German army, the poorly prepared Polish troops were in a hopeless situation. Although the defenders put up a valiant fight, staging a counter-attack at Kutno on 9 September 1939 and inflicting unexpectedly heavy losses on the invading Germans, the Wehrmacht quickly advanced on Warsaw. On 17 September, the day the Red Army marched into Eastern Poland in accordance with the secret clause of the Hitler–Stalin Pact, the Polish government fled to Romania. Warsaw fell at the end of the month and the last Polish...

  14. CHAPTER VII At War with the World
    (pp. 173-217)

    On 9 April 1940, after more than six months of inactivity on the Western Front, the Wehrmacht staged a surprise attack on neutral Denmark and Norway. It did so primarily in order to pre-empt a much feared British military intervention in Scandinavia, as well as to secure coastal ports for German submarine operations and the ice-free harbour of Narvik for vital iron-ore transports from Sweden. Both Copenhagen and Oslo fell into German hands that same day. Unlike the Danish, however, who surrendered within two hours of the German invasion, the Norwegians fought back staunchly until they were eventually forced to...

  15. CHAPTER VIII Reich Protector
    (pp. 218-277)

    Of the numerous territories occupied and administered by Nazi Germany over the course of the Second World War, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was one of the more curious. With a size of roughly 49,000 square kilometres and an overall population of 7.5 million inhabitants (245,000 of whom were ethnic Germans), the Protectorate was by no means the largest of the Nazi-occupied territories. However, it played a special role in occupied Europe, both because the Nazis perceived Bohemia and Moravia as an integral part of the future Greater German Reich, and because of its crucial geo-strategic location and economic...

  16. CHAPTER IX Legacies of Destruction
    (pp. 278-294)

    On 9 June 1942, the body of Reinhard Heydrich was laid to rest in one of the most elaborate funeral ceremonies ever staged in the Third Reich. Over the previous two days, his coffin had been exhibited in the courtyard of Prague Castle, where tens of thousands of ethnic German and Czech civilians – some voluntarily, some ‘encouraged’ by the Nazi authorities – filed past to pay their final respects. The coffin was then transported to the Mosaic Room of the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin, where, to the solemn notes of the Funeral March from Richard Wagner’sTwilight of...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 295-351)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 352-382)
  19. Index
    (pp. 383-394)