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Hangman Heydrich

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"Hangman Heydrich"

By Thomas C. Cauthen

Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich was born on March 7, 1904, in Halle an der Salle, Germany. His father, Bruno, and his mother, Elizabeth, were both heavily involved in music. His father founded the Halle Conservatory of Music and was an accomplished opera singer, but he was also an anti-Semitist. His mother was a pianist, and young Tristan was trained seriously on the violin. He grew to be an expert violinist and had a passion for the violin throughout life. As a young boy, Heydrich grew up in a large home, and his family enjoyed an elevated social status. Heydrich did suffer from schoolyard bullying because of his devout Catholic faith in a primarily Protestant community. He was also rumored to have a Jewish ancestry, but this is disputed by today's scholars. He was teased persistently because of his extremely high pitched voice. He had a natural talent for athletics and was self-driven academically. He was sullen and withdrawn because of frequent beatings from his mother and the teasing of his peers.

By the age of 16, Heyrich joined a local anti-Semitic organization and was involved with violently opposing Communists. Since he was tall, blond, and blue eyed, he subscribed to the increasingly popular theory that he was racially superior to all other races. This also made him a prime candidate for the forthcoming Nazi Party. When he turned 18, he joined the small but elite German Navy. He had to join for the free education that would be provided because his family had lost all of their wealth in the economic depression following Germany's defeat in World War One. He was still teased because of his high voice and passion for classical music. His appearance was also gangly and awkward because he was now over six feet tall, and he was skinny and not well built. An intense drive propelled Heydrich, and he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant by 1926. He served as a signals officer under the famed Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. At this time, Heydrich developed a profound interest in women and pursued them with tremendous vigor. After numerous relationships, he was accused of having sex with the daughter of a shipyard director. He was forced to resign his naval commission in 1931 for "conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman."

In 1931, Heyrich joined the Nazi Party. He was chosen to be a member of the SS because of his racial characteristics. The head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, was seeking someone to build an SS intelligence service. A friend gave Himmler Heydrich's name. Himmler interviewed Heydrich for just twenty minutes before hiring him. The two became friends instantly. Heydrich also married his fiancй Lina von Osten at this time. This signaled a major turning point in the life of Heydrich.

He began at a small desk with just a typewriter. His determination and diligence soon landed him a promotion to SS Major by December of 1931. By March of 1933, he was promoted to SS Brigadier General. Heydrich had built a powerful intelligence organization that possessed dossiers on almost every member of the Nazi Party.

Rumors about Heydrich's Jewish ancestry had again surfaced. Himmler and Hitler had a meeting about what to do with Heydrich. Himmler said he should be expelled from the SS, so Hitler had a private interview with Heydrich. Hitler described him as "a highly gifted but also very dangerous man, whose gifts the movement had to retain...extremely useful; for he would eternally grateful to us that we had kept him and not expelled him and would obey blindly."

In 1933, Dachau opened and Heydrich helped to oversee the mass arrests of Communists, trade unionists, Catholic politicians, and others who opposed Hitler's regime. By April of 1934, Himmler had assumed the command of the Gestapo and appointed Heydrich to be second in command. Heydrich actually controlled the day to day operations of the Gestapo. Two months later, Heydrich prepared the list of SA leaders that were going to be murdered during the Night of Long Knives. Through the next few years Himmler and Heydrich preceded to kill all people who spoke out against the Reich.

On November 9-10, 1938, Kristallnacht occurred. These were the first widespread attacks on the Jewish people. 25,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps on Heydrich's orders. From then on, just the name of Reinhard Heydrich in sighted fear among the Jewish people. Many members of the Nazi Party were also afraid of him because he had no friends except those in the upper echelons of the SS.

After the invasion of Poland in September of 1939, Heydrich formed the Einzatzgruppen. He instructed them to shoot all of Poland's politicians, leading citizens, clergy, aristocracy, and professionals. Poland had a population of about two million Jews. Most of



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