The Man With The Iron Heart.
Recently, I watched a fantastic film about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, considered by some as the natural successor to Hitler.
The attack was planned by Britain's Special Operations Executive, and was carried out by 3 British trained Czech parachutists, Josef Gabcik, Jan Kubis and Josef Vakick, with the active assistance of the Czech resistance.
Reinhard Heydrich was a complex individual as portrayed in the film. He was cultured and an accomplished musician. His wife was a major influence on his decision to join the Nazis. She was almost as ruthless as he was in her single minded determination to succeed. They had two children which they loved to parade before Nazi officials. The difference between the treatment of their own children and the inhumanity shown to so many others is almost inexplicable. It can only be possible whenever the other is viewed in a completely different light: as being less than human.
Hydrich had a lucky break whenever he met SS-Reichführer Heinrich Himmler. He wanted to establish a new security department tasked with rooting out spies and traitors. What he saw in Heydrich convinced him of the young man's suitability for the job. Heydrich possessed unlimited ambition and an abundance of self-confidence. This meeting began a meteoric rise to the heights of Nazi officialdom.
Reinhard Heydrich was head of the murderous Einsatzgruppen, ideological soldiers picked for their resemblance to the Aryan stereotype. These detachments operated in the newly occupied territories where they rounded up tens of thousands of Jews and Communists for deportation and extermination.
There are stomach churning scenes of mass executions of men, women and children, their bodies dumped in pits covered with lime to speed decomposition. I have often wondered how millions walked to their deaths without protest or resistance. I can only conclude the fear and resignation was literally paralysing.
Such was the magnitude of the genocide that the German High Command cynically complained about the demoralising effect close-up executions was having on it's soldiers, and the shortage of bullets. A more economic method for getting rid of European Jewry would have to be found, and soon. Himmler had just the man for the job.
In 1941 Reinhard Heydrich became Deputy Reich-Protector of Bavaria and Moravia, including Czechoslovakia. He rule with an iron fist and was greatly feared by the people. But not all were cowed. In every occupied territory resistance was organised by those brave enough to take the risk. One of the most inspiring examples of resistance to the Nazis was the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. There a cohort of young Jews decided to fight rather than go defeated to the gas chambers.
I think this explains why I loved reading Mila 18 by American author Leon Uris. For me, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising redeemed the Jews during their darkest period.
In January 1942, only six months before he was assassinated, Heydrich was tasked with finding a Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Toward this end he convened the Wannsee Conference just outside Berlin attended by top German officials, senior SS officers, and Nazi collaborators like Hans Frank. A bigger bunch of genocidaires you could not find anywhere. At this diabolical meeting Heydrich outlined the policy of mass extermination and ordered it's immediate implementation across all Europe.
The Final Solution was a Nazi euphemism for genocide.
The Czech resistance was led by three individuals codenamed The Three Kings. Heydrich knew of their existence and desperately wanted to cut the three heads off the resistance Hydra. The three young parachutists that were dropped behind enemy lines made contact with the resistance movement. In the beginning they did not know what their mission was in case of capture. After a short period of acclimatisation, they received their order to kill Reinhard Heydrich. Once they shared this information with the resistance there was widespread alarm. Some wanted to abort the operation because the consequences would be too great for the Czech people. Reprisals would be swift and harsh.
The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich has been well rehearsed in both book and in film. I have no need to cover it here. Suffice to say that he died from a combination of shock and blood poisoning caused by shrapnel or a piece of the car upholstery. Unfortunately, the resistance fighters also died inside a church where they were holed up, betrayed by a friend.
The scene of Heydrich dying in his wife's presence utterly failed to move me. I felt no sympathy for either one of them. She was complicit in all of his horrendous crimes for self-advancement. Also by his side was Heinrich Himmler, perhaps even a bigger war criminal by the time it all ended. If the truth be told, I found myself wishing him a speedy journey straight to hell.