By Wilfried Heink
After his dismissal from the Navy, in April 1931, Heydrich was unemployed, at a time when unemployment was widespread. He did receive offers, but as his widow later told, the dismissal from the Navy hit him hard, the career as a navy officer was his lifelong ambition. He was eventually introduced to Baron Karl von Eberstein, the Baron having joined the National Socialist party (NSdAP) early on and was now an SA officer. Eberstein also knew Heinrich Himmler, a virtual unknown at that time. Heydrich did not intend to join the SA: his (at the time still) fiancée Lina, an enthusiastic NSdAP member agreeing, saying that the SA at times looked like a bunch of rabble-rousers (Lumpenpack). The small SS units on the other hand were the elite, in her opinion. She eventually encouraged Heydrich to accept the von Eberstein offer, but to insist on a position in the SS. On June 1, 1931, he joined the NSdAP, “just to be inside”, receiving membership number 544,916. He then sent an application for a ‘leading position’ to the party leadership in Munich, which was eventually forwarded to Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler. When Himmler was appointed to this post as Reichsführer SS (Head of the SS) in January 1929 by Hitler, he commanded a troop of 280 men. But in 1931 the ‘black elite’ had grown into a considerable force, consisting of workers, academicians, intellectuals and aristocrats, staunch National Socialists all, very well disciplined.
Himmler, who had received Heydrich’s application including a picture, was impressed by his Nordic appearance. He noticed that Heydrich had served as a Nachrichten officer in the navy (The term Nachrichtenoffizier can mean short wave or intelligence, the BRD equivalent to the CIA called BND – Bundes Nachrichten Dienst). Hitler had just asked Himmler to establish an internal intelligence service because of the many leaks, and Himmler was on the lookout for a suitable person to head the service when he received Heydrich’s application. Himmler was apparently not aware of the different meanings of the term Nachrichtenoffizier, and decided to invite Heydrich for an interview. A further applicant was considered, and Heydrich was told to wait, but he forced the issue and visited Himmler. Only now did Heydrich become aware of the mix-up in terminology re. communications and intelligence, but relied on what he had been taught in the Navy on intelligence matters and was accepted. His co-applicant, police captain Horninger, retired, lost out, a stroke of luck for Himmler, as Horninger had been encouraged by the Munich police to apply, to serve as an informer.
Heydrich’s first office was located in the “Braunen Haus”, the party headquarters in Munich, but he had to share his room with another SS official, Richard Hildebrandt who was on the staff of Sepp Dietrich (later SS general). Heydrich’s office furniture consisted of an old kitchen table and a chair, the typewriter belonged to Hildebrandt but he was able to use it at set times. Himmler placed a stack of folders on the table and Heydrich started to organize the files, using scissors, glue and the borrowed typewriter. Those weeks of late summer 1931 is when the SD (security service) was born. For what had been information collected by Himmler at random was transformed by Heydrich into an orderly assembly of files. Doing so gave him a total picture of the puzzle, and he soon discovered that it was not just the obvious adversaries, the communists mainly, that needed observing but that there also existed another, more potent enemy: the international conspirators.
Heydrich categorized the opponents: first those who openly opposed National Socialism, i.e., the KPD (communist party) and the SPD (Socialist party), as well as the other parties to some extend. However, he considered the powers working in the background – trying to prevent the National Socialists from reaching their goals – to be much more dangerous: the political Church, Freemasonry, Jewry and Marxism. Then there was the infighting, the SA having also established an intelligence service, with local party chiefs involved as well: “Everyone considered the other a spy”. With Himmler’s and Heydrich’s organization, if one can call it that, the smallest and least recognized, that being somewhat of an advantage because of the little that was known it. But that was about to change. At the beginning of September 1931 an order was issued to expand the SS intelligence service. The pile of folders on Heydrich’s table grew and he was able to influence proceedings by uncovering a mole in the Braunen Haus, an undercover police officer, and succeeding in ‘turning him’. From November on the Bavarian police was blind on the ‘SS eye’, but Heydrich was well informed about police procedures. Himmler was pleased because it had been his intelligence service that had exposed the mole.
At year’s end 1931, Heydrich moved to a new ‘office’, the party had rented two rooms in the flat of a widow, a party member referred to as “Mother Edrich”. He now also had a staff, three unemployed men who were paid whenever any money was available; mother Edrich helped by providing meals. The office equipment was however still basically the same, and still no typewriter – whenever one was needed, Hildebrandt’s was picked up, using the tram. Heydrich was also poorly paid but Himmler tried to encourage him, promoting him to Hauptsurmführer (captain) and as a wedding present on December 25, 1931 to Sturmbannführer (major). The newlyweds found a flat, “a dump with cracks in the floor a finger wide” as his widow remembered, but “Reinhard had painted the walls” (We must remember that this was before Hitler was appointed chancellor). The information collected was filed in cigar boxes, the categories: Communists, Socialists, political Catholics, Conservatives, representatives of nobility opposed to NS, Freemasons and Jews. Jews were only of interest if active politically. “Jews were of no interest to him as people or a race, only as political problems”, according to his widow.
When the SA and SS were outlawed in April of 1932, the service was renamed to be the “Press and information service” (PID), with Heydrich and his staff laying low. The SA intelligence service did not survive the ban, which ended in the fall of 1932, Heydrich’s service did and became even stronger, and Heydrich needed help. With the intent to personally pick his staff, he embarked on a tour of Germany. The English Secret Service was his model, telling his wife that German governments had operated in the dark since the time of Bismarck and that this had to end. The English elite consider it normal to join the intelligence service, some on a voluntary basis. And Heydrich was able to get academicians to join, doctors and lawyers, etc. A core group was assembled in Munich, operating at times under cover. In July, Heydrich was appointed chief of the SD, the now official name of the service, and promoted to Standartenführer (colonel). The Heydrich’s found a house to rent; it was used as an office almost exclusively since the financial situation of the SS was still precarious. Heydrich finally send a letter to Röhm, chief of the SA, asking for financial assistance. And Röhm, who knew next to nothing about this organization agreed to take a look, he decided on a visit accompanied by and Heß.
A little anecdote to show what Heydrich’s ‘service’ was like, a mixture in fact of family life and officialdom. Heydrich prepared for the visit, wanting to make a good impression, but things did not go as well as planned. His widow tells the story: The masonry heater (Kachelofen) was situated in the hallway and Lina, functioning as the factotum, had to light it every morning. She then placed the matches on the mantel – for them to regularly disappear. That morning she had placed a box on the mantle resembling matches but the tip was a firecracker. Heydrich came running down the stairs telling her that Röhm and Heß were on the way, and also Himmler who had decided to join them. One of the assistants was quickly sent to purchase two cigars, one for Röhm and one for Himmler, as well as half a bottle of port. The guests arrived, Heydrich was promised the sum of 1.000 RM (only half eventually arrived) and to celebrate the occasion cigars and wine were offered. One of the staff pulled matches out of his pocket (Lina now knew who the match thief was), intending to light Röhm’s cigar. An explosion was the result with people looking for cover, after all, it was still fighting times and communists known for being killers. But things settled down, Röhm took it as a joke and when the Heydrich’s first son was born he became his godfather.
When Hitler was appointed Chancellor on January 30, 1933, his closest followers were rewarded with various posts (still practiced today. Wilf), but not Heydrich. Already on January 27 he had resigned his post on the advice of Himmler, to become “officer for special tasks”, ending up in various positions but never at the helm, a big disappointment for him. Himmler sent Heydrich to Berlin, but it turned out that nobody was really interested in any suggestions by Himmler or Heydrich, the latter not even received at some quarters. This demonstrated the uncertainty in regard the positions of Himmler and Heydrich in the first weeks of the Third Reich. Heydrich was then sent to the Geneva disarmament conference in February 1933, along with another SS man, as ‘experts on police and security issues’. Heydrich the conqueror, even though fluent in the official conference languages French and English, was out of place among the diplomats, in this atmosphere of “sorry compromises” (faule Kompromisse). He asked why a competent speaker did not represent Germany, for “these bumblers will never be able to get Germany’s point across”. He shunned the representatives of Germany’s foreign office (AA), but did tell Erich Kordt (traitor extraordinaire. Wilf) that he knows AA officials are hoping for the NS regime to disappear, but that he should not hold his breath. Heydrich also took issue with the fact that the Swastika flag was not displayed as the official flag of the new Germany. He took matters in his own hands, obtained a huge flag from a Swiss National Socialist and draped it from the roof of the hotel during the night. Emissary Nadolny, Germany’s Chef de Mission, sent Heydrich packing.
Hitler’s hold on power was not secure after his appointment. On February 6, (1933) Prussia came on line, but when Thuringia as well as others also formed NS governments alarm bells started to ring in Bavaria. Bavarian minister president Heinrich Held oriented his 1933 election campaign against the danger from Prussia, no Berlin official was to be allowed to cross the line into Bavaria. Even Hindenburg had assured Helm that no one would try, and Helm then stated that anyone trying would be arrested. At the March 5 election, the NSdAP received 43.9% of the vote’s country wide, 43% in Bavaria – not enough for a majority. But based on a decree of February 28 Berlin was empowered to intervene in state affairs and thus the Bavarian Gauleiter (Governor) Wagner, along with Himmler and Röhm told Helm to appoint Franz Ritter von Epp as Generalstaatskommissar (roughly: state commissioner). SA and SS formations marched to the government building but the parliament refused to give in, asking the police and Reichswehr, the armed forces of the Weimar republic, for assistance. They refused and at the same time the letter of Epp’s appointment was prepared in Berlin and the Bavarian representative informed. A telegram would be send, informing Helm of the decision and upon receipt of it he would have been obliged to follow the instructions, or be guilty of contempt. All now depended on the delivery of this telegram and that it not somehow disappeared. One SS officer was especially distrustful and with a group of men marched to the telegraph office in Munich. With pistol pointing at the postal official, he demanded that the telegram be handed over and he delivered it. The name of the SS officer: Reinhard Heydrich.
Epp then formed the government and from there things changed rapidly. On April 1, Himmler was appointed commander of Bavaria’s political police and he instructed Heydrich to assemble the force. Heydrich gathered well-trained people from different departments, police officers, clerks who worked for the police, as well as a few old SS comrades, overall about 150 men. A few weeks later the number had doubled. Heydrich now cleaned house, starting with politically unsound and incompetents, all of them were dismissed. The cases of two individuals are of note, the police inspectors Heinrich Müller (later to be called Gestapo-Müller) and Franz Josef Huber. Both had hunted National Socialists, along with communists. After a short interview, Heydrich left them in their posts, needing them to destroy the communist cadres. Heydrich demonstrating that expertise was more important then the past – as long as they proved their loyalties through their deeds. Party official were not pleased with having both of them spared, even though they had to acknowledge that Müller was a successful communist hunter. Heydrich had no use for this small-minded party mentality, in private he suggested that the party be dissolved as well as the SA, as it was no longer needed. In his opinion the consolidation of power was now the issue, discussions no longer necessary. He also worried about the SS becoming like the SA, outliving their usefulness. He never did understand Hitler who, because of loyalty, supported party members even though they were essentially useless and had proven it.
Heydrich also had no use for those who now made an exhibition of their positions, Gauleiter Wagner, also minister of the interior, one of them, who regularly held court in the Hofbräuhaus, a well-known Munich pub. Heydrich voiced his disdain, to be called “the German Reich beer counter” by Wagner. Thus, relations between the police and the Braunen Haus, the party headquarters, soured, but Heydrich at least for now needed them. Piece by piece Heydrich destroyed the power of the opposition in Bavaria, jails soon too small and concentration camps had to be established to hold the prisoners. The legend that Heydrich was responsible for the creation of Dachau is just that, a legend, Dachau was established on orders from Wagner, who suggested to now using the same methods as were used against the NS when they were locked into a building and forgotten. Heydrich proceeded methodically here as well, first the communists, when they were removed Socialist functionaries were next, followed by the leaders of the Marxist unions. Then came “political Catholicism”, the officials of the BVP, the Bavarian Peoples Party – a Catholic stronghold. They were taken into protective custody, 2097 in July 1933 with 1820 released again, in December more people were released than incarcerated. 16,409 persons were incarcerated in 1933 in Bavaria, 12,554 of them released after a short time. Jews were taken to Dachau not because they were Jews, but because of their political activities.
However, Heydrich also moved against profiteers and exploiters of the workers, but was of the opinion that this new state needed a unified police force to combat all of the enemies of the Reich. He approached Himmler with the idea to have the SS elevated to Germany’s police force, and Himmler finally agreed. But, there was opposition to this, Göring, minister president of Prussia had already established a Prussian police force under Diels, the Gestapa (Geheime Staatspolizeiamt), and with Berlin part of Prussia, Göring made it known that “Himmler and Heydrich will never make it to Berlin”. Heydrich was also not enchanted with Göring and his lifestyle, complaining that “we had accused the Weimar fat cats of profiting from the poor, and now we have Göring”.
At the end of 1933 help came from Frick, the minister of the interior, who had decided to amalgamate the police forces, 16 of them, one in every state. But Göring’s imperium was in the way and Frick decided to ask Himmler, with Heydrich in tow, for help. Both had already shown how effective their methods had been in Bavaria and with the assistance of the ministry of the interior one state after the other was conquered and a short while later Himmler was chief of the political police in Germany, with the exception of Prussia. Now Göring realized that hanging on to his imperium would be impossible – gave in and Prussia was incorporated. On April 22, 1934, Heydrich was appointed chief of the secret police in Germany, the whole of Germany’s police force at his disposal. Police officials noted with astonishment how quick this amateur Heydrich took charge, he was immediately part of it. He had the gift to separate the necessary from the unnecessary, officers called to report had to prepare meticulously and still, just minutes into the report Heydrich interrupted telling them that he understood and asked for suggestions.
For Heydrich, an enemy of the state was anyone working against the people and the government, anyone opposing the Führer and by it the strong Germany. These were Communists, Marxists, Jewry, political ecclesiae, Freemasonry, the politically unsatisfied (complainers), saboteurs, habitual criminals as well as abortionists and homosexuals, and people engaging in treason.
The “black duty” attracted renowned intellectuals, Heydrich’s SD the “pool of the most intelligent people in National Socialism”. Heydrich had them study and investigate potential enemies like those aforementioned. A new definition in regards to police duties emerged, the discussion not initiated by Heydrich but because of his attitude of identifying enemies of the state as part of police duties, it had become a necessity. The police was no longer to be just a protection force, the nation’s night watchman of old, when police only acted after the crime had been committed. Attorney Dr. Werner Best, perhaps the most gifted of Heydrich’s staff, argued that this new social system/order differed substantially from that of the bourgeois state, but was also not a police state. The prominent jurist Dr. Walter Hamel added that the police now have an additional duty, “to incorporate the individual into society”. Whereas, and this was Heydrich’s opinion, the liberal “night watchman state” had the police establish order to ensure the liberties of the individual, the police of the new state would not only be responsible for safety, but to also help build the new society according to the guidelines provided by the political leadership.
Heydrich’s top jurist Hamel formulated it this way: The police was to gauge the political health of the German population, to identify any virus – be it self inflicted or brought in from the outside – and to eliminate it using appropriate measures. Thus, Heydrich considered himself to be like a doctor, not only intend on healing but also to prevent illnesses from occurring. Professional police officers welcomed this approach – tired of arresting the same criminals repeatedly. However, the more liberal courts did not assist at the beginning, but eventually also came on board. Habitual criminals were identified as those who had been arrested three times and sentenced to prison terms, they were then send to concentration camps (KZ). Beggars and vagrant’s, prostitutes and their pimps, homosexuals, black marketers’, psychopaths and those having turned down work without sufficient reason were considered as antisocial and also ended up in the KZ. There they met communists, politically engaged clerics, Marxist unionists and journalists who had been agitating against the regime (no mention of Jews here. Wilf). But, even though Heydrich was legally empowered to send these persons to the camps, this is were his competency ended, Himmler would not allow him to have control over the fate of the interned. That was a concern for Heydrich and he had his people collect material on Eicke, one of the KZ inspectors and as a result, Heydrich’s people started to criticize the treatment of the prisoners (Deschner quotes Höhne here, the latter claiming that this was not done for humanitarian reasons, but in an effort to gain total control, a politically correct assumption by him [Höhne, Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf, p.190]). Nevertheless, Heydrich issued instructions in 1935 to have his officials inform the prosecutor general if the death of a prisoner was not satisfactorily explained. Eicke complained to Himmler about the attitude of the Gestapo (secret state police) who charged that conditions in the KZ’ were horrible (eine Schweinerei herrsche).
Comment: How does this concern for the fate of the prisoners fit in with “Heydrich the mass murderer; Hitler’s Hangman”? It does not, and Deschner passes over it without any comment.
Heydrich’s favorite enemy was Rom, i.e., the Vatican, that even though he was raised as a Catholic. “Are these clever attempts of undermining the political will of the German population not infinitely more dangerous as treason – or the actions by a communist, because they are subtle?” (R. Heydrich über den politischen Katholizismus). Heydrich was however not the first to pick a fight with the Vatican, Bismarck had done so before him, his reasoning:
“He (Bismarck. Wilf) had recognised the coming of this struggle twenty years before, in the Frankfort days, declaring a fight “against the lust of conquest in the Catholic camp” to be inevitable. Since Austria’s concordat, he had held that some of Prussia’s enemies were always to be found in that camp. After he had risen to power, he had (as he knew) actually been characterized in the Vatican as “the incarnation of the devil.” …
But the crisis did not come until the Vatican Council met in Rome, concentrating there anew all the powers of Catholic Europe. In the middle of July 1870, when the war was beginning, the dogma of papal infallibility was proclaimed, affecting Bismarck’s sentiments as much as his calculations. It was intolerable to him that any one should call himself infallible. Why, he did not even believe that Otto von Bismarck was infallible! It was monstrous that all the Germans of one confession should be dependent upon a foreign power. When he was setting out for France, he warned the German bishops against assenting, and warned the pope against using compulsion. At the same time he brought all possible opposing influences to bear, in the hope of protecting his State against Roman powers. If this new dogma were accepted, “the bishops would, vis-a-vis the government, be the officials of a foreign sovereign.” (Emil Ludwig, Bismarck, Little, Brown, and Company Boston, 1927, pp.414/15)
Bismarck was unsuccessful, Prof. E. Adamov describes the efforts by Pope Leo XIII to help encircle Germany before WWI in “Die Diplomatie des Vatikans zur Zeit des Imperialismus” (The diplomacy of the Vatican during imperialism, Verlag von Reimar Hobbing in Berlin, 1932). This book was published by the Soviets to expose the hypocrisy of the Vatican and the machinations of the Entente powers, and it is reasonable to assume that Heydrich was aware of this book. Thus, his own “Kulturkampf” was justified – never trust the Vatican. It must however be stressed that he was not against Christianity – he only opposed the political efforts by religious organizations. And even though Jews and Freemasonry hated anything to do with National Socialism, first on the list of Heydrich’s enemies was the political clergy, according to his widow. No mention of opposition to the Christian faith in his writings, always only about the political power of the churches and their agitations. In his opinion it was up to every German individual how he worship his/her God.
The Catholic Church stoked the fire. In 1933-1935 publications they presented St. Francis as the Führer of the youth. Heydrich considered the church to be a rival because it, as well as National Socialism, asked, or better demanded, complete devotion. Then there were the contacts to foreign countries by church officials, and Heydrich ordered the surveillance of all Church emissaries travelling abroad to collect information so as to have it available at the day of reckoning, when he planned to expose the churches as enemies of the Reich. Only his death prevented him from doing so, his “Kulturkampf” also ending in failure.
To be continued…