Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (March 7, 1904 - June 4, 1942) was one of the key figures of Nazi Germany. Most infamously, he was one of the main architects of The Holocaust along with his immediate superior Heinrich Himmler. Many historians regard him as the darkest figure within the Nazi elite, the one most closely resembling the Nazi Aryan ideal of being tall, blonde haired, blue eyed, athletic, intelligent, power hungry, utterly ruthless and merciless. Adolf Hitler described him as "the Man with the Iron Heart", while his enemies and victims referred to him as "The Hangman", "The Butcher of Prague" and "The Blonde Beast", among other self-explanatory monikers.
Heydrich was born in city of Halle, near Leipzig, to composer and opera singer Richard Bruno Heydrich and his wife, Elisabeth Anna Maria Amalia Heydrich (née Krantz). Richard came from a Protestant family, but he had converted to Elisabeth's Catholic faith upon marrying her. The Heydrich family were firmly planted the local upper middle class, being quite well-off both in terms of financial means and social standing. Richard had been a co-founder of the local Halle Conservatory of Music, where he and Elisabeth also lectured students, and with Reinhard being the oldest son, they expected him to follow in his father's footsteps and go into a career of performing and teaching music. Richard was also noted to be a staunch nationalist and a strict man, who frequently instilled patriotic ideas in his three children.
In his youth, Heydrich was known to be athletic, and especially enjoyed swimming and fencing, as well as classic music, ballroom dancing, and playing the violin. He was also notably shy, and was held in at least some degree of contempt by his peers, who where known to mock him behind his back for his lanky build, his slight tendency towards being cross-eyed, and, not least, his notably high-pitched voice and rather unusual laugh which was described as sounding like "braying", which earned him the not very flattering nickname "Die Ziege" (the Goat). Heydrich was so ashamed of these traits that he for his entire life refused to hold public speeches, fearing that his voice would reduce him to a laughingstock. His youth was also marked by bullying due to his family being devout Catholics living in a predominantly Protestant city, something was probably also at least partially the root of recurring rumors that suggested that the Heydrich family had some Jewish ancestry, something that resulted in yet another rather unflattering nickname for the young Reinhard: "Moses Handel".
After being dismissed from the German Navy,note he joined the Nazi party in 1931 (his wife Lina, née von Osten, was already a member and encouraged him) and became the head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD, Security Service), the intelligence gathering service of the SS within the party, which became a State Sec once Nazis took power in January 1933. He went on to head the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA, Reich Main Security Office), which merged the SD with the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo, Security Police) and was deemed to solve the problem of the "enemies of the Reich". To reach that goal, Heydrich supervised the creation and actions of the Einsatzgruppen ("deployment groups") death squads in Eastern Europe, which ended up massacring over 1 million people in the wake of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front during World War II, the majority of them being Jews.
He projected the next step in industrialized murder — the deportation and gassing of millions in specifically designed camps in Poland — and presented it to his peers at the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942. He was also a major in the Luftwaffe, flying nearly 100 combat missions until 22 July 1941, when his plane was hit by Soviet anti-aircraft fire. Heydrich made an emergency landing behind enemy lines, evaded a Soviet patrol and contacted a forward German patrol. After this, Hitler personally ordered Heydrich to return to Berlin to resume his SS duties. He became acting Reichsprotektor of the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia (basically the governor of the de facto occupation of what is today the Czech Republic) in September 1941. Upon his arrival in Prague, Heydrich sought to eliminate opposition by suppressing Czech cultural elites and deporting and executing members of the Czech resistance, while making sure the local population remained productive for the German war effort.
He became probably the most famous target of assassination during World War II (next to Adolf Hitler naturally, although all of the attempts on the latter were unsuccessful). Two Czechoslovak soldiers in exile, Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, were trained in Great Britain and targeted Heydrich in Prague with the help of local resistance operatives on 27 May 1942, in an operation known as Anthropoid, which aimed at "shaking up" the Czech resistance against Nazi Germany. Heydrich didn't directly die in the attack,note but succumbed to his wounds becoming infected afterwards, and resigning himself to death, during a bedside visit by Himmler, he supposedly recited a line from one of his father's operas; "The world is just a barrel-organ which the Lord God turns Himself. We all have to dance to the tune which is already on the drum." He slipped into a coma he never woke up from the next day, dying in hospital on 4 June 1942.note The commando squad was hunted down and all of its members ended up dead,note and a horrific wave of reprisals claimed the lives of at least 5,000 people,note including the population of the villages of Lidice and Ležáky, which were razed to the ground.note
Popular culture tends to consider him as the poster boy "Aryan" as envisioned by Nazi ideals, due to him being blond, tall and blue-eyed (one of the only Nazi leaders to combine all these traits, actually), in addition to being cultured (he was a fencer on the Olympic level and a skilled musician) and ruthless. He is also a frequent character in Alternate History fiction works, in which he often outlives his real life counterpart due to Godwin's Law of Time Travel or an extensive Day of the Jackboot, if not outright supernatural reasons.
Works portraying him:
- Block 109 - A French Alternate History comic book in which he is alive after June 1942 due to history being altered following the assassination of Hitler in 1941. He becomes Reichsführer-SS after the death of Himmler in 1947 and by 1953 the SS finds itself in an Interservice Rivalry with Hochmeister Zytek's New Teutonic Order for supremacy over Nazi Germany while the war against the USSR becomes more and more hopeless.
- A number of movies have been made about Operation Anthropoid, some of them were even released months apart:
- Hangmen Also Die!, 1943 - American movie. The first fiction movie to feature him, filmed only a couple of months after his death, and very loosely based on the events. Heydrich was played by exiled anti-Nazi German actor Hans Heinrich von Twardowski.
- Hitler's Madman, 1943 - American movie. A slightly more faithful version than Hangmen Also Die!. Portrayed by John Carradine.
- Atentát, 1965 - Czechoslovak movie. Portrayed by Siegfried Loyda.
- Sokolovo, 1974 - Soviet–Czechoslovak movie. Portrayed by Hanjo Hasse.
- Operation Daybreak, 1975 - Czechoslovak-American movie. Portrayed by Anton Diffring, who reprised the role after the 1965 series Interpol.
- The Butcher of Prague, 2001 - Czech movie.
- Lidice, 2011 - Czech movie about the attack and its horrific aftermath, namely the massacre and destruction of the village of Lidice as reprisals. Portrayed by Detlef Bothe.
- Anthropoid, 2016 - British movie that focuses entirely on the operation from the point of view of the Czechoslovak resistance protagonists who carried out the attack. Heydrich only shows up for the attack scene, played by Detlef Bothe, once again.
- The Man with the Iron Heart, 2017 - French movie based on Laurent Binet's novel HHhH. For a large part it is very much a biopic about Heydrich's life from his rise From Nobody to Nightmare to his death, with the assassination scene as the central point separating the depiction of his life and Operation Anthropoid in Anachronic Order, with the second act focusing on the Czechoslovak resistance protagonists. Portrayed by Jason Clarke.
- The other kind of movies where he has a prominent role usually depict the infamous Wannsee Conference, where the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" was agreed upon:
- Canaris, 1954 - West German movie about Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, that is, military intelligence-a rival agency to Heydrich's SD. Heydrich suspected Canaris of being a Double Agent working for the German resistance, which he indeed was. Portrayed by Martin Held.
- Sokolovo, 1974 - Czechoslovak-Soviet movie. Portrayed by Hannjo Hasse.
- Salon Kitty, 1978 - Nazisploitation movie. Commander Biondo (played by John Steiner) is an Expy of Heydrich.
- HHhH - Biographical/historical novel by Laurent Binet about Heydrich's life and Operation Anthropoid. The title is an acronym, it means "Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich" ("Himmler's brain is called Heydrich"), a quip said to have circulated in Germany at the time.
- The Man with the Iron Heart - Alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove where Heydrich survives the attempt on his life and leads Nazi resistance to the Allied occupation after the war's end.
- The Man in the High Castle - Alternate history novel by Philip K. Dick. Although never seen in person, it's stated that Heydrich is still alive in 1962. Interestingly, and in contrast to how most fiction portrays him, he's also presented as a lesser evil to other factions in Nazi Germany because he opposes a nuclear war of annihilation against Japan. Notably, the TV series adaptation changes this.
- Heydrich pops up in several novels in the Bernie Gunther detective series, as Bernie is a police detective and Heydrich is in charge of all police services. In March Violets Heydrich appears in one chapter. He's particularly terrifying in a cultured and well-mannered sort of way, as he calmly tells Bernie that he is sending Bernie to Dachau, as an inmate, in order to find another inmate who has incriminating documents. In The Pale Criminal, in the scene where Heydrich is strong arming Bernie into returning to the police force, Bernie calls him "the crown prince of terror." In Prague Fatale, Heydrich calls Bernie to Bohemia to investigate plots against Heydrich's life. Field Grey has Heydrich sending Bernie off to France in 1940 to find fugitive German communist Erich Mielke (another Historical Domain Character). Prussian Blue finds Heydrich sending Bernie to investigate a murder at the Obersalzberg, Hitler's vacation home in the Alps.
- The Alternate History series Worldwar diverges shortly after his assassination, so he is not alive in the series proper, but the news announcement of the attack and reprisals serves to establish the setting at the opening of the first novel. In the Colonization sequel series, numerous characters express their relief that the Race did not invade a few weeks earlier or they may have wound up with Heydrich in charge in Nazi Germany after dealing with a leadership succession crisis.
- Armstrong Circle Theatre, 1960 - TV series, episode "Engineer of Death: The Eichmann Story". Portrayed by Alvin Epstein.
- Das Kriminalgericht, 1963 - West German miniseries. Portrayed by Malte Petzel.
- Interpol, 1965 - TV series, episode "Geld, Geld, Geld". Portrayed by Anton Diffring.
- Holocaust, 1978 - TV series. Portrayed by David Warner.
- Die Wannseekonferenz, 1984 - West German TV movie. Portrayed by Dietrich Mattausch.
- Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil, 1985 - TV movie. Portrayed by David Warner, once again.
- Heydrich � Final solution, 2011 - Czech TV series.
- The Man in the High Castle, 2015-2016 - Alternate history series based on Philip K. Dick's book. He's still alive in 1962 and is plotting to overthrow Hitler and is a key advocate for war with Japan. Portrayed by Ray Proscia.
- Die Wannsee Konferenz, 2022 - German TV movie. Portrayed by Philipp Hochmair.
- In The New Order Last Days Of Europe, he survived the attempt on his life in 1942. In the 1960's he leads the German SS, and is one of the contenders for the Führership in the Civil War after Hitler dies. He's the least likely to win, however, as he lacks any real public support due to the fact that he's under the thumb of Heinrich Himmler, a man considered absolutely insane even by Nazi standards. In the end, Heydrich can only really "win" if the player chooses to play as him, if they do they will find a story of misery, tragedy, and loss, as Heydrich starts fighting back against Himmler once he gains knowledge of the utterly insane scope of his plans and gradually comes to realize the hollowness of the Nazi ideals.
- In Thousand-Week Reich, he survived the attempt on his life in 1942 and completely pacified Bohemia, before becoming the governor of Gotenland (formerly Crimea) and Germanizing the whole region in 3 years through sheer brutality alone. These successes have inflated his ego and Heydrich believes that he can challenge his boss, Heinrich Himmler and maybe even Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. At the start of the game, he and Himmler have fallen out over which direction the SS should go and Himmler speculates that Reinhard's ambitions do not stop at serving the Reich. Himmler is proven right once Hitler dies and a Civil War breaks out, during which Heydrich cuts off all ties to the Fatherland and declares his own Greater Gotische Reich, attempting to conquer the Eastern European Reichskommissariate which have since fallen into Anarchy. This sets off a power struggle between him and Himmler during the civil war, with only one coming out on top and becoming the Fuhrer of Germany should the SS win the Civil War.