Tuesday, January 31, 2006

THE SS: Heydrich

Hitler called him "the man with the iron heart", SS men, with a shudder of respect, "the blonde beast". As head of the Security Police and the SD (Security Service), Reinhard Heydrich was in command of the killing squads which, behind the front lines, in Poland and in the Soviet Union, shot hundreds of thousands whom he regarded as "racially and nationally undesirable".

Although originally not a National Socialist, Heydrich soared swiftly to the top of the SS hierarchy, being appointed personally by Hitler to become the youngest SS Obergruppenf├╝hrer and head of police.

On July 31st 1941, he was commissioned by G├Âring to prepare "the administrative material and financial measures necessary for the final solution of the Jewish question". He thus became the architect of the Holocaust.

He authorised Adolf Eichmann, his "specialist", to work out a large-scale deportation programme which would take Jews from all over Europe to the extermination centres in the East. Heydrich created the infrastructure which made the Holocaust possible.

In Prague, as Reichsprotektor, he was commissioned by Hitler to pacify with an iron hand the restless "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia". The Czech government in exile in London thus decided to eliminate Heydrich.

On May 27th 1942, agents who had been parachuted into Prague carried out an assassination attempt on Hitler's man in Prague. Eight days later, the "nation's garbage collector", as his wife called him, died of his wounds.

The SS exacted vengeance by wiping out the entire village of Lidice. The murder of the Jews by the central government was conducted, in memory of the hangman, under the cover name "Aktion Reinhard".

"Man is the most perfect beast of prey", said Heydrich. What drove him to send millions of people to their deaths? Film documents from private archives show scenes from Heydrich's private life - we see what he was doing while the Holocaust was wreaking destruction.


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