Moving ForwardIn August 1936 the Heydrich’s moved to Schlactensee next door to Admiral and Frau Canaris. The two couples met frequently and Heydrich, a talented amateur violin player, joined the Canaris’ string quartet.
Heydrich was a keen fencer and fenced once for Germany; in view of his subordinate’s ability at the sport Himmler ordered the creation of an SS fencing tournament at the end of 1936. Heydrich also rode most mornings, often with Admiral Canaris or one of his staff Walter Schellenberg.Heydrich was a womaniser and his frequent absences provoked Lina to complain as Heydrich moaned to his colleague and rival Karl Wolff[i]. Heydrich would take his staff with him on drunken nights out, trawling the nightclubs and bars of whatever town he found himself in, searching for a woman to bed.
‘He was shamelessly brutal and cynical in his attitude towards women. They sensed it and shunned him. That was why such a good-looking man, who should have been attractive to most women, had little success with them.’[ii]The couple’s third child Silke was born on 9th April 1939. This was not sufficient to keep Heydrich from straying.
In July 1939 Heydrich had ordered his subordinates to set up a brothel ‘honey trap’. The owner of Salon Kitty was blackmailed into letting the SD use her establishment to spy on diplomats and senior Nazis using the establishment. Heydrich was known to use the facilities, ordering that the listening equipment be turned off as he did so.
In December 1936 Canaris and Werner Best[iii] signed what was known as the Ten Commandments; an agreement laying down the spheres of work for Abwehr and the SD, which was to pass onto the Abwehr any military information collected. The rivalry between the two organisations was to continue long after Heydrich’s death, ceasing only when the Abwehr was absorbed into the SS empire in early 1944.Ironically liaison between Heydrich and Canaris was reducing at this time. Heydrich was determined on a sting on the Russians. Heydrich hoped to prove to Stalin that many of the Red Army’s top brass were intriguing against him and asked Abwehr for a sample of Marshal Tukachevsky’s signature. Canaris refused and the information was obtained illegally by SD agents breaking into Abwehr and Wehrmacht offices.
Throughout the spring of 1937 the sting was prepared and the trap was sprung in May. It was hoped that the resultant turmoil, which resulted in the Marshal’s death, would destabilise the senior ranks of the Red Army for many years. Stalin seems to have had a double agent working for him and the SD and he used the sting to clear out a lot of potential threats to his rule. The effect of the destabilisation was not as catastrophic as the Nazis had hoped for, although as many as half the officer corps of the Red Army were purged as a result. Himmler himself in a speech at Posen, nearly 18 months after Heydrich’s death, to the senior SS officers speaking of the purge said
‘We……were convinced that the Bolshevik system and Stalin had committed their biggest mistake. But in our judgement of the situation we have completely bamboozled ourselves. I believe now that Russia would not have been able to hold out for two years of war if they had kept the Tsarist generals around Tukachevsky.’[iv]
On 27th September 1939 the Reichsicherhauptamt[v] (RSHA) was set up. The RSHA was a merging of SD and the Security police, further infiltration of Germany’s police by the SS under Heydrich’s control.Reichskristallnacht
The SS under order from Himmler, arresting and deporting Polish Jews, acted as a catalyst for the happenings of the night of 9-10th November 1938. The son of one of those stranded on the German-Polish border, named Herschel Grynzpan attempted to assassinate one of the attachés at the German embassy in Paris[vi].
The Nazis took this as an excuse to order an orchestrated rampage directed against the unfortunate Jews in Germany and Austria; an attack orchestrated by Josef Goebbels attempting to regain influence with Hitler after an affair with a Czech film actress. Always the hypocrite Goebbels commented
'Here & there window panes had been smashed, synagogues had set themselves alight or burst into flames some other way.'[vii]
A Berlin Synagogue after Reichskristallnacht
Heydrich ordered the police & SS not to get in the way of the destruction of Jewish property or prevent acts of violence against Jews. Looting was not allowed and foreign nationals (including Jews) were not to be touched; any SS taking part were to do so in civilian clothes. The SS wished to remain in the background during this event, apart from ensuring that arrested Jews were incarcerated in Dachau.Heydrich was more fully involved in the hearings two days later, chaired by Goering, reviewing the events of the previous days. The meeting convened to discuss compensation by the Jews for the damages inflicted on their property throughout Germany. At that meeting Heydrich was pleased to inform the delegates of the efforts the SS had made to oppress Jews within the Reich.
‘In spite of the elimination of the Jew from the economic life, the main problem, namely to kick the Jew out of Germany, remains. May I make a few proposals to that effect? Following a suggestion by the Commissioner of the Reich, we have set up a centre for the Emigration of Jews in Vienna, and that way we have eliminated 50,000 Jews from Austria while from the Reich only 19,000 Jews were eliminated during the same period of time; we were so successful because of the cooperation on the part of the competent Ministry for Economic Affairs and of the foreign charitable organizations.’[viii]
Heydrich’s proposal that the Jews be made to wear identification was turned down, to be reinstated a year later during the round-up of Jews into ghettos in Poland. This was then expanded to all Jews under German control on 1st September 1941.
In 1937, disgusted by the Nazis, Admiral Canaris started contacting those in opposition to the regime, a move that was to lead to his death in 1945. One of Heydrich’s men Artur Nebe, a senior police officer and now an SS officer, was a conduit of information to Abwehr about Himmler and Heydrich. In 1938 Canaris was involved with his co-conspirators in abortive attempts to alert western governments to the dangers posed by Nazi Germany. They were just ignored, despite the Anschluss in Austria in March and the Czechoslovakia question, allegedly definitively sorted at Munich on 28th September.Himmler, Heydrich and the SS were fully involved in helping to manufacture both crises. And as in so many other political interventions the Abwehr and the SD were working in competition with each other. The wilful blindness of the politicians to Hitler’s desire for German aggrandisement was a major contributory factor to WW2 and in both cases Heydrich’s men were active.
The putative reason for the German invasion of Poland was Polish alleged incursions into Germany. Heydrich and his team created a cover story for the invasion on 1st September; creating out a scenario at Gleiwitz that allowed Hitler to order the Wehrmacht’s blitzkrieg of Poland. The operation was led by one of Heydrich's most trusted troublemakers Alfred Naujocks.The Polish invasion was the first real action that the Waffen SS[ix] was involved in. And by the end of September units of Police Battalions were involved in the fighting too. The Waffen SS was Himmler’s attempts to become the soldier and commander he had signally failed to be during the Great War. This fighting force was his pet project nurtured for many years and now taking its place on the battlefields of Europe.
Heydrich, a trained pilot, flew a number of sorties in the Polish campaigning with the Luftwaffe. He maintained contact with Himmler, returning to Himmler’s train[x] in between times to direct the RSHA. In late September he stage managed the security aspects of Hitler’s visit to Warsaw from the train.Heydrich also flew several sorties during the invasion of Russia, until he crashed his plane behind enemy lines. Hitler and Himmler then forbad him to fly in combat again, apparently finally realising the dangers inherent in having the chief of Germany’s security apparatus captured by the enemy.
Heydrich and the HolocaustIt was during the Polish invasion that the anti-Semitism, long fostered in Germany, began to show its horrendous side[xi] to a world that continued to watch from the sidelines. Lina Heydrich always claimed that she knew nothing of her husband’s role in the Holocaust. The Gestapo under his control was a major player in the Nazi oppression of the Jews, who were sidelined with growing ferocity from 1933 onwards.
Heydrich was tasked by Goering on 24th January 1939 to deal with Jewish question through emigration & evacuation. Heydrich arranged the setting up an office Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration; Heinrich ‘Gestapo’ Muller[xii] was put in charge. The day to day running of the office was given to a man whose name would be synonymous with the Holocaust; Adolf Eichmann.It was not until 31st July 1941, several weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union, that Heydrich was tasked with the ‘Final Solution’ or Endlosung. In contrast the camp at Auschwitz was already being planned in February 1940. The machinery of oppression, started in February 1933 had been leading up to this order, albeit subconsciously.
This order of Goering’s is the point where oppression and annihilation become official state policy. The killings of Jews and gypsies and Homosexuals and other untermenschen[xiii] had been continuing for years. Now there was to be a dramatic hithertofore unimaginable increase in the deaths.Throughout his time in the SS control of the concentration camps and then the death camps was deliberately kept out of Heydrich’s control by Himmler, who followed his master’s poicy of divide and rule amongst his subordinates. When Theodor Eicke was moved from running this portion of the SS empire it was handed to the control of Oswald Pohl; a rabid supporter of Himmler’s. Pohl was perfectly capable of seeing off Heydrich’s attempts to take over the concentration camps.
The invasion of Poland had seen organised killings of Jews and Poles. The killing squads’ officers had been informed on 21st September were informed by Heydrich that their role was to free the occupied territories of these undesirable:
'The Commissar for Settlement in the East will be the Reichsfuhrer SS. The deportation of the Jews to the alien province, extrusion beyond the demarcation line, was approved by the Fuhrer.'[xiv]but it was not until the invasion of Russia that the killings became streamlined. Groups of Einzsatzgruppen, under Heydrich’s overall and close control, were sent in immediately behind the Wehrmacht units and swept up the untermenschen, killing them or sending them to camps where they were treated inhumanely before being killed.
BibliographyJews for Sale? – Yehuda Bauer, 1994 Yale University
Heydrich – Mario R Dederichs, Greenhill Books 2006Heydrich – Gunther Deschner, Orbis Publishing 1981
The Third Reich in Power – Richard J Evans, Penguin Books 2006The Life and Times of Reinhard Heydrich – GS Graber, Robert Hale 1981
Nazi Aggression & Violence - International Military Trials Nuremberg, United States Government Printing Office 1946Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2012
The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich – Callum MacDonald, Da Capo Press 1998Heydrich – Charles Wighton, Chilton Company 1962
Reinhard Heydrich Volume 1 & 2 – Max Williams. Ulric Publishing 2001 & 2003www.wikipedia.en
[i] Himmler’s chief adjutant and then head of the Personalstab RFSS
[ii] Heydrich - Dederichs
[iii] One of Heydrich’s subordinates, Best was Deputy head of the SD
[iv] Heydrich - Dederichs
[v] Reich Security Head Office
[vi] Grynzpan may very well have had a homosexual relationship with vom Rath.
[vii] The Third Reich in Power - Evans
[viii] Volume 4 Nazi Aggression & Violence - International Military Trials Nuremberg
[ix] Formerly known as Verfugungstruppe
[x] Usually stationed within a few miles of Hitler’s train
[xi] The process of eliminating Jews from the Reich gradually increased in tempo and visibility.
[xii] Head of the Gestapo
[xiv] Jews for Sale - Bauer