Saturday, June 12, 2010

#18- Reinhard Heydrich

Out of all the Nazis, Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) was at the top of the Nazi heap. Along with being a senior SS officer and being considered as a possible successor of Hitler, Heydrich was the head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RHSA), the Reich Security Head Office, but Heydrich was most important for attending the Wannsee Conference of 1942, where Nazis agreed plans for the extermination of the European Jews. Heydrich started out in a good childhood, being able to play violin and many sports, but his prospects went down when he was dismissed from the German Navy in 1931 for unknown reasons. Many believe that Heydrich was dismissed for spying on naval personnel for the Nazis. This idea was strengthened by the fact that soon after the event, SS Leader Heinrich Himmler appointed Heydrich to expand the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) soon afterwards. After 1932, Heydrich started hopping up the Nazi hierarchy. Having done well in recruiting people to the SD, he was given control of the Gestapo, or the Geheime Staatspoliziei, in 1934. The Gestapo was the civil secret police. Two years later, the Gestapo was merged with the criminal-investigation police into the SiPo (Sicherheitspolizei, or Security Police) under Heydrich. After becoming the head of the RHSA in 1939, he ran both the SD and the SiPo. Heydrich was cruel, competitive, and aggresive, which led to Himmler giving him the nichname 'Genghis Khan'. It was Heydrich who planned the ruse if a Polish attack on German forces at Gleiwitz that later led to the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. In November of 1938, Heydrich was made the head of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, which he used to assert SS dominance over Jewish Policy, which culminated at the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, where the 'Final Solution' of the Jewish people was sealed. In September of 1941, Heydrich became the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. This post was important to the Nazi war effort, because many of Germany's guns and tanks came from that area of Europe. Heydrich understood this, and held strict rules for those who did not reach their daily quota and those who took part in any resistance. Heydrich's success led Hitler to consider promoting Heydrich to the position of governor of Paris. This news led British inteligence to protect the French Resistance network from Heydrich's ruthless ministrations. In December of 1941, the British sent Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, two Czechs who had fled their country in 1941, to Czechoslovakia to assassinate Heydrich. Heydrich was known for his display of riding in an open car. On May 27, 1942, Kubis and Gabcik used this habit to their advantage. When Heydrich's car was turning a bend in the suburbs of Prague, Gabcik pulled out a Sten 9mm submachine-gun, but the magazine jammed, and would not work, so Kubis threw an anti-tank grenade at the car in desperation, which exploded on the car's boot, but also in Kubis's face. Heydrich, at the time, appeared to be only lightly hurt, for he was able to jump out of the car and chase after the two assassins, but his gun, also, was not loaded. After a while, the shock of the wounds set in and Heydrich had to send his driver after the assassins instead of himself. Although Himmler sent Heydrich his best doctors, Heydrich's horsehair upholstery had allowed bacteria and toxins to give Heydrich septicaemia, and he died on June 4th of 1942. Two weeks later, Gabcik and Kubis were cornered by German troops in the church of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in Prague. After the two realized that the Germans would overrun the church, the two went into the crypt and committed suicide. Heydrich might have been governor of Paris had he lived a few years longer, and he might have uncovered the French Resistance while there, but he did not survive, helping the allies along with their fight.

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By Steven Parissien

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