A chilling biography of the head of Nazi Germany’s terror apparatus, a key player in the Third Reich whose full story has never before been told.
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.
“This admirable biography makes plausible what actually happened and makes human what we might prefer to dismiss as monstrous.”—Timothy Snyder, Wall Street Journal
“[A] probing biography…. Gerwarth’s fine study shows in chilling detail how genocide emerged from the practicalities of implementing a demented belief system.”—Publishers Weekly
“A thoroughly documented, scholarly, and eminently readable account of this mass murderer.”—The New Republic
The exploits of an iconic Nazi illuminate the Third Reich's ideology and machinery of mass murder in this probing biography. A hawk-faced Aryan poster boy who fended off false rumors of Jewish ancestry, Reinhard Heydrich oversaw the Gestapo, played a key role in formulating the Final Solution, and organized the Einsatzgruppen death squads that murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews during WWII. Historian Gerwarth reduces this diabolical figure to human terms, painting him as an apolitical man drawn to the SS by careerism and whose Nazi fianc e, Lina, instigated his drift toward the party. Heydrich then embraced SS chief Heinrich Himmler's racial theories and his ethos of ruthless Darwinian struggle against Germany's enemies. The author's fluent, meticulously researched account of Heydrich's career frames a trenchant analysis of the "radicalization" of German anti-Semitic policies; as Heydrich searched fruitlessly for a place to which he could deport the Reich's Jews (none of the satrapies in the Nazi empire wanted to accept them), exclusion and expulsion gave way to systematic extermination almost as a matter of convenience. Gerwarth's fine study shows in chilling detail how genocide emerged from the practicalities of implementing a demented belief system. Photos.