Heydrich and the massacre at Lidice

Heydrich /wikipedia.org

Heydrich /wikipedia.org

My new wife and I settled into our new home in a country lane at Santa Úrsula on the island of Tenerife in 1980. In a small cottage on the other side of the narrow road there lived a little old woman who kept her garden well and herself to herself. Still, I managed to make friends with her through my wife’s shared interest in flowers.

It was noticeable that the woman had a regular visit from two upright Germans in a modern Mercedes. She would await them at her garden gate, and both men would stop and give the Hitler salute before going through the gate amid her angry expostulations about the salute. She wished they ‘wouldn’t do that!’ My inquisitive spirit was roused.

One day we went to tea with the old lady. The tiny sitting room was mostly occupied by a grand piano, but we made ourselves comfortable while our hostess chattered to us in perfect English. She was of course German, and I asked her what her name was:

“My name is Heydrich,” she said, taking her teacup in a shaky grip.

“Excuse my impertinence,” I said, “but are you, by chance a relative of Reinhardt Heydrich?”

“He was my brother.”

She went on to explain that she was a retired biologist, and that she wished very much to remain as anonymous as she could, taking into account that elderly ex-Nazis insisted on regular visits and saluting her as if the Third Reich had not ceased to exist. Her name was Dorothea – Dr. Dorothea Heydrich.

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Reinhardt T. E. Heydrich ironically had a Jewish father whose name appeared in Reiman’s Musiklexicon as ‘Heydrich, Bruno, real name Süss’ in 1916. His own Jewishness was to be a torment for Reinhardt all his life, especially as he was the actual organiser of the Final Solution –  extermination of the Jews. He was tall, blond, blue-eyed and athletic. He could play the violin to concert standard. In his early twenties he served as an officer in the German Navy but was discharged in 1931. His problem was psychological, arising from the attention paid to him by the Nazi hierarchy as the ideal Aryan, the perfect example. But he knew in the deepest pits of his heart that he was not. He was a Jew.

He rapidly became Himmler’s closest colleague and adviser. Both Adolf Hitler and Himmler knew of his rich Jewish background and this knowledge gave them a firm hold over him, knowing that he was entirely dependent on them. Twisted, cynical, ice-cold and utterly ruthless, he learnt to trust nobody, and began perpetrating the most inhuman acts without thinking twice.

For example, he played a leading (and physical) part in the infamous ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in 1934, when the Nazis organised the wholesale murder of their own SA (Sturm Abteilung) because Hitler feared the SA’s leader (and one-time close friend) Ernst Rohm had become too big for his boots.

     In 1939 (when he was 35) he was appointed head of the Reich Main Security Office, which included the Gestapo, the criminal investigation police department and the Security Service. He was thus in charge of Jewish affairs before the Second War started, when emphasis was on forced emigration rather than extermination. He had already been one of the orchestrators of the ‘Crystal Night’ pogrom in 1938.

When the War began he began (with Adolf Eichmann) the serious job of building concentration camps, and rounding up Jews to populate them before extermination by poison gas. With Germany’s invasion of Russia in 1941 he was ordered to ‘carry out a total solution of the Jewish question in those territories of Europe which are under German influence’. His SS murder squads killed more than a million Russian and Polish Jews, and in September of that year he was made ‘Deputy Reich protector of Bohemia and Moravia’ (my italics). The Prague Czechoslovakian resistance got him however, with a car bomb in June, 1942. Reprisals for his death followed shortly.

Lidice was a diminutive mining village not far from Prague, where Heydrich had been blown up. Nazi forces went to Lidice with the story that some of the villagers had been involved in the assassination and that punishment was due. That punishment was the shooting of all men and older boys living in the village, while the women and girls were taken to concentration camps, where survival would be a miracle. The SS destroyed the village, and a neighbouring one called Lezaky for good measure. The accusation was made without evidence, and had probably been thought up by Himmler, who had been shocked by the sudden loss of his right-hand-man.

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Reinhardt Heydrich’s younger sister lived on in Tenerife, still visited by ex-military men, which goes to prove that not all ex-Nazis escaped to Brazil. One must bear in mind that the saluting was because she was Heydrich’s sister, and that, for the Nazis, the young violinist and secret Jew was a kind of Wagnerian hero.

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