By Wilfried Heink
As mentioned, Heydrich was send to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia as a replacement of Baron von Neurath, the first governor (Reichsprotektor), because of the latters failure to curb the unrest:
“The Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia, Baron von Neurath, had resigned from his post ostensibly because of illness. It was a convenient excuse. He was a failure. Czechoslovakia, far from being the model dependency Hitler expected of a founder member of his empire, was sullen and uncooperative. Production had fallen; students had the impudence to demonstrate in the streets; it appeared that the puppet government could do nothing with these irascible Czechs.
Upon the 27th September, 1941, S.S. General Reinhard Heydrich arrived in Prague in the post of Acting Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia to remedy this state of affairs…
Within a matter of days, intelligently appraising the situation, Heydrich had also wooed the workers. Of what use were these Generals and intellectuals to the Czechs, he asked? He appealed on an effective materialistic level. For just a little extra work, extra fat coupons, meat coupons and bread coupons could be won. It was a belly bribery almost impossible to resist. And if a worker really cared to exert himself, there were holidays at the best Spa hotels—once the preserve of the aristocratic and the wealthy—for him and his family, higher wages, and food. Always the promise of more food, Within a month, production, especially war production, was rising…
There was no curfew in Prague in those days (month later. Wilf). It was a very secure corner of Hitlers empire and the Czechs were a people that Heydrich was quite certain he had tamed.” (Alan Burgess, Seven Men At Daybreak, The Companion Book Club, London 1960, pp.39/40; 89)
This was of course a concern to the Brits and their allies (see part IV), as well as to the Benes Czech government in exile in London and plans were made to assassinate Heydrich. It was hoped that the Germans would react harshly and that the countermeasures taken would incite the Czech public. The operation was codenamed “Anthropoid”.
When the remainder of the Czech state was turned into a German protectorate, a large number of Czech soldiers fled, via Poland and the port of Gdynia, Hungary, the Balkans, as well as other countries, to eventually make it to England. There they were incorporated into the Czech legion, the army of Benes (Stanislav P. Berton, Das Attentat auf Heydrich vom 27. Mai 1942. Ein Bericht des Kriminalrats Heinz Pannwitz [The Heydrich assassination. Report by inspector Heinz Pannwitz], VfZ 1985, vol.4, p.675). Jan Kubis, one of the Heydrich assassins, belonged to a Czech resistance group, he was arrested by the Gestapo but was able to flee to Poland. In the refugee camp he met his co-assassin Josef Gabchik. The French had set up a recruitment office for the French foreign legion in that camp and both joined. Deployed in the western campaign, they were part of the forces who were evacuated at Dunkirk and thus also made it to England. There they joined the Czech legion.
When the British special Operations Executive (SOE), murder squads of the British Secret Service, were looking for people to operate behind German lines, Jan and Josef, along with 160 others, volunteered for actions in the Protectorate. In a six week seminar at Camusdarach/Scotland they were trained by the British to perform acts of sabotage, in hand to hand combat and also taught how to kill. In Manchester they had received a two week training course in the operation in wireless transmission and at the conclusion of the training they were send back to their units to wait for further instructions (VfZ, pp.675/76; Deschner, p.268, source: Charles Wighton, Heydrich – Hitlers most evil Henchman, London 1962, p.268).
Who was responsible for the assassination, the British or the Benes government? Burgess writes in his Authors note:
“I am grateful to the Czech Ministry of Information for allowing my visit and putting no obstacles in the way of my research. On the other hand I formed the definite opinion that because Jan Kubis and Josef Gabchik and the others were trained in Britain, and the operation as a whole was conceived in Britain, the present Communist regime tends—if not to suppress—then at least to play down the story. I am therefore doubly grateful to all of those people in Czechoslovakia, whose names I shall not enumerate, who helped me and gave me information”. (pp.13/14)
The truth is buried in those sentences. Following the war, the Burgess book published in 1960, a lot of subjects were treated as taboos. The “cold war” was in full swing and neither side admitted to any collaboration in the attempts to destroy Germany, the German traitors were ignored, it was in fact forbidden to mention them (H. Rothfels, The German opposition to Hitler, Henry Regnery Company, Hillsdale Illinois 1948, pp.20/21). The communists did not want people to know that it was terrorists who were trained, outfitted and transported by the RAF to Bohemia, that killed Heydrich, so it was ignored. Benes was not in the position to act independently, he had to rely on the Brits. We know that the Brits trained the assassins, but the “fair” British would of course not admit that they would order an assassination, therefore efforts are made to credit Benes with the planning of the assassination. Treachery is perfidious Albion’s game.
On December 29, 1941, Jan and Josef were dropped from a “Halifax” of the Royal Air Force near Plzen, three others near Kolin. Their assignment: The assassination of Heydrich and the blowing up of the Skoda factory in Plzen (VfZ, p.676). Jan and Josef eventually made it to Prague and started to plan the assassination.
As mentioned, the Heydrich’s had moved into a mansion in the village of Panenske Brezany, 20km from Prague. And, Heydrich was a creature of habit, travelling to Berlin often, either by plane or train, but always following the same routine. His driver would take him in the open Mercedes, the same route was taken and when he went to work he travelled at the same time. All of those strictly against all regulations, some of them devised by Heydrich. He had ordered that the backrests of the car seats used by officials be reinforced with steel plates, his Mercedes did not have them. Heydrich had done his job in the Protectorate, Hitler was impressed and since Belgium and Northern-France had become somewhat of a problem, London organized acts of sabotage in the countries, Heydrich counted on being appointed as top official to those places to work his magic. He was instructed to come to Berlin on May 27, 1942 to receive his new orders (Deschner, p.266).
London and Moscow were also aware of those developments, not surprising when considering the mass of traitors in all spheres of the Reich (Deschner mentions a resistance informant, p.270. Wilf). In March 1942, during a routine inspection security police in the Warsaw train station had arrested a musician on his way to Prague. His papers were in order but his brand-new suitcase aroused suspicion. In a secret department the security police found a disassembled, special gun. After lengthy interrogations the suspect admitted to being a Russian and ordered to assassinate Heydrich on his route to Prague or home. His story was taken with caution but before it could be confirmed, the suspect committed suicide in his cell (Ibid, pp.266/67).
The London plans were advancing satisfactorily, Jan and Josef surveyed the Heydrich property, in plain daylight and any observer should have detected them, nobody did. What happened to the guards deployed by Himmler? Plans to kill Heydrich en route were dropped, the car was traveling too fast and there was no place to hide in the open country. Thus, they were changed to have the assassination take place in Prague. Heydrich’s driver, on the way into the city, had to negotiate a hairpin curve, forcing him to slow down. Valcik, a Czech SOE agent had been placed up the street from the curve, to signal, with a mirror, the arrival of Heydrich’s car (Deschner, p.271). Josef was stationed just ahead of the curve, with an English machine gun under his coat, with Jan standing right at the curve, armed with a hand grenade.
The morning of May 27th was a bright and sunny. The plane that he was to pilot to Berlin himself stood at the ready at the airport, but Heydrich took his time getting started on that day. He counted on a longer stay in Berlin and the good-byes stretched out, he played with his kids, but finally, at 10:00am, he left. The assassins in the meantime were getting nervous, Heydrich should have arrived already, had the Gestapo gotten wind of their plan? Not so, at 10:30 Valcik’s mirror flashed and Josef walked over to the other side of the street. The car approached, Klein at the wheel with Heydrich sitting beside him, and getting close to the hair-pin Klein slowed the car and shifted down. When they were right beside Josef, Josef brought the gun out from under his coat, pointed it and pressed the trigger, but nothing happened (Here stories differ but it is believed that he had not completely disengaged the safety. Wilf). If the gun would have fired, Heydrich would have been riddled with bullets. Heydrich of course noticed the would be assassin and ordered Klein to stop. A fatal mistake and against his own instructions, which stated that if an event as this occurs, the driver should try and get away as fast as possible. As the car slowed down, Jan threw his grenade, it exploded just ahead of the right rear wheel, the grenade shrapnel piercing the backrest of Heydrich’s seat and wounding him.
When the car had come to a stop both jumped out to pursue the assassins. Jan tried to flee but bystanders blocked his way, he fired his colt pistol and they dispersed. Heydrich had pulled a pistol out of the door side pocket, aimed at Jan but the gun did not fire, Heydrich had forgotten to work the slide. Klein in the meantime had set out after Josef, but his pistol also did not fire, he had inadvertently pushed the knob to release the magazine. Josef fired at him, wounding him in the knee and Klein went down. Heydrich had in the meantime given up pursuit and returned to the car. There he stood, bend over in pain, completely helpless and alone. Did the people around him take advantage of the situation, did they settle their scores with “The butcher of Prague”? No, a woman approached him to help, a van was flagged down, Heydrich loaded into it and sitting in the loading area was transported to the hospital.
One of the shrapnel had entered Heydrich’s spleen, carrying along some of the horse-hair filling of the seats backrest. In the morning of June 4th Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich died of blood poisoning, in spite of the best care possible. Penicillin might have saved him but non was available in Germany. On the evening of the 5th, a battalion of SS troops, as well as all of SD and security police officers held wake in the yard of the hospital. He was then transported to the Hradčany on a gun carriage, the streets through which the possession passed cleared of civilians, thousands of SS men lining the streets. On this night the SS were among themselves. On June 7th, the corpse lay in state in the yard of the Hradčany castle, a huge wooden iron cross in the background, the coffin flanked by bowls containing a flaming substance. High ranking SS and army officers provided the honor guard, the black and white SS banners at half staff. Starting in early morning, tens of thousands passed by the coffin, Germans, Czechs, policemen, workers, Czech farmers in traditional dress, the woman bringing flowers. In late afternoon a special train, carrying the casket of Reinhard Heydrich, left for Berlin. On June 9th, at 15:00hrs. sharp, the state funeral began, the most impressive celebration since the death of Hindenburg. All the dignitaries spoke, Himmler called Heydrich ‘irreplaceable’ and Hitler pinned the Highest German Order onto a black pillow (Ordenskissen), held by an officer. Only Fritz Todt had received it before, and it was not bestowed to anyone else. The gun carriage with the coffin, decked in a huge Swastika flag, was drawn by six black stallions, the saber and helmet of the man on top of the coffin. Himmler following right behind, then all of the other dignitaries, among them those glad to be rid of the man who knew too much: Bormann, Lammers, Frick, Goebbels, Rosenberg…(Deschner, p.302)
An investigation was ordered following the assassination, a reward of one million Mark offered. A curfew was put in place, Kurt Daluge, head of the Order Police, arrived in Prague but Nebe and Müller only send deputies. The investigations were unsuccessful, in spite of a huge effort. Reprisals were ordered, in Lidice, a town that had housed some of the “parachutists”, as the British trained Czech terrorist were called, was leveled, the men shot. Finally, on June 16th, the Czech Karel Curda appeared at the Prague state police office and asked to be taken to a leading officer. He gave the police the name of Josef Grabcik and Jan Kubis was then soon identified. They were holed up in a church, along with five other terrorists. On the morning of June 18th, the church was surrounded and all of terrorists shot, some died of the gunshot wounds later (Deschner, pp.311/12)
Comments: Some of the details vary, different authors give different accounts. What is of interest however is the time it took to finally find the murderers. Heydrich’s men had almost wiped out Czech resistance and were also successful in intercepting parachutists. Was the delay the work of people behind the scenes? Canaris had very good connections to abroad and it is possible that he had known about the SOE plans. Deschner writes that Heydrich was about to expose Canaris, the assassination prevented that. Then we have the police inspector Heinz Pannwitz, in 1940 appointed head of department II g (assassinations, illegal possession of weapons, sabotage) of the Gestapo in Prague. Following Heydrich’s assassination he was put in charge of the investigations, and compiled the final report (I have the report but this is a separate issue. Wilf). In the introduction to the report by Stanislav F. Berton, who found it, we read re. Pannwitz: “Das Ende seiner Karriere…kam mit seiner Verhaftung durch die französische Militärpolizei Anfang Mai 1945 in Österreich. Auf eigenen Wunsch wurde er den Sowjets übergeben“ (His arrest by the French military police in May 1945 in Austria ended his career. At his request he was handed over to the Soviets)(VfZ, 1985, vol.4, p.671). A traitor leading the investigation? The Brits, and Benes, had hoped that the reaction by the Germans would incite the Czechs, that they would rise up and make it very difficult for the Germans. That did not happen, but perhaps it was hoped that by dragging out the investigation, and by the continued repression, the revolt would start, even if delayed? Too many loose ends here, but I find it hard to believe that it had to take an informant to finally locate the murderers.
Did Heydrich tempt fate? Highly unlikely, he was convinced that “his” Czechs would not harm him. And they didn’t, Czech onlookers tried to get in the way of the British trained assassins and only when threatened with a gun by him did they give way. Heydrich was helped by Czech civilians to get to the hospital, would they have done so if the story of “Heydrich, the butcher of Prague” is true? Of course not, they knew that Heydrich had acted fairly and had improved conditions for the working people. No revolt broke out, even after the reprisals by the Germans.
The last chapter in Deschner’s book is titled Die Summe eines Lebens (Summary of a Life). He tells us that Eugen Kogon, a communist who had spend time in a concentration camp (KZ), has Heydrich as the inventor of the KZ’s, a fable. Jacob Burckhard, League of Nations commissioner of Danzig and who had only briefly met Heydrich, told that he had Raphaelian hands, made for slow strangulation. Post war allied propaganda has him as Heydrich the Butcher, but when considering the divergences a different picture emerges. Joachim Fest was aware of the contradictions and tried to build a small bridge for himself, claiming that Heydrich was a broken person, fighting his daemons. But that bridge can only carry weight if the Jewish ancestry supports are left in place, a legend.
Heydrich was the impersonation of National Socialism (NS) as a new ideal/model (without the Holocaust lie. Wilf). If NS would have looked into the mirror the picture of Heydrich would have looked back. Prof. Ernst Nolte, an expert on NS, stated that most NS personalities had an unidentifiable identity. Not so Heydrich, he was homogenous, he had an identifiable identity. He had been able to assemble the most intelligent NS people around him. He was not burdened by party politics but realized that for a revolution to be successful in an highly advanced industrialized nation as Germany – that it would be necessary to have people of intelligence and conviction in all important positions. Traitors and enemies of this new ideal had to be removed. “Two Vatican’s are issuing encyclicals today”, he told his officers, “one is located in Rom and the other in Moscow, and we are the heretics of both religions”. He was also not really committed to NS ideology, but instead to his conviction that a new order must be created. Hatred of Slavs or Czechs was foreign to him, he told German officials at the beginning of his tenure in Prague that pacifying the Czechs was his mission and that he would work with anyone committed to that. He did not spare Germans who were negligent.
Deschner claims that the transit camps in which Jews were sanitized and relieved of most of their earthly belonging were called “Aktion Reinhard” camps in his hono. A strange statement by Deschner, he does not refer to the Reinhardt camps as extermination sites, mentions only the confiscation of property. He also has the name wrong, his source: R. Kempner in Vorwärts of June 8, 1972, p.9. One has to wonder when the extermination camp story was concocted. But what about his Einsatzgruppen (EG), the alleged Nazi murder squads? No mass graves have ever been found by independent investigators. The Russians claim to have investigated, but not one of those graves alleged to have been found by them is on display, all we have are papers of dubious origin (F. Seidler, Das Recht in Siegerhand, pp.271ff). Prof. Maser wrote that huge areas in Eastern Europe, the alleged killing sites, are still today terra incognita, historians are reluctant to investigate out of fear not to find what is allegedly there (Fälschung, Dichtung und Wahrheit…, p.332). And only investigations by experts in the field of crime investigations should be accepted, not the efforts by some amateurs. We also have the testimony by perpetrators, that by attorney and economist Otto Ohlendorf for instance, who told his interrogators that his EG had shot 90,000 Jews, but this has never been substantiated, no grave ever found.
Heydrich does not come across as someone with a split personality, quite the contrary. This is why Deschner’s biography is ignored and a new one had to be produced by the Netsbeschmutzer and story-teller Gerwarth, something more compatible with the Zeitgeist. Heydrich was not a mass murderer, his personality did not lend itself to it. Neither were the intellectuals he had gathered around him, and since the murder story rests on testimonies and has never been substantiated, we can safely dismiss it as a lie. Heydrich of course ordered the hanging or shooting of enemies of the Reich, his EG did the same and yes, Jews were among those killed. He told his wife Lina: „Ich fühle mich frei von jeder Schuld“ (I am free of any guilt feelings). And he should be, his job was not an easy one and he had to make life and death decisions, difficult for him and Deschner makes that clear. But he never was “Heydrich the Butcher”.
May he RIP