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. 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, and 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", amongst other names.
Heydrich was in his youth known to be athletic, and especially enjoyed swimming and fencing, as well as ballroom dancing and 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 recurring rumors that suggested that he had some Jewish ancestry, something that resulted in yet another rather unflattering nickname: "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 Kubi, 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 an infection of his wounds and died 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 Leáky, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Armstrong Circle Theatre, 1960 - TV series, episode "Engineer of Death: The Eichmann Story". Portrayed by Alvin Epstein.
- Interpol, 1965 - TV series, episode "Geld, Geld, Geld". Portrayed by Anton Diffring.
- Holocaust, 1978 - TV series. Portrayed by David Warner.
- The Wannsee Conference, 1984 - West German TV movie. Portrayed by Dietrich Mattausch.
- Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil, 1985 - TV movie. Portrayed by David Warner, once again.
- Conspiracy, 2001 - TV movie about the Wannsee Conference. Portrayed by Kenneth Branagh.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dies Irae gives Reinhard the Ghostapo treatment and has him star as the Big Bad and the leader of a group of Nazi cultists. Oh yeah and he's also immortal and that assassination mentioned above was just him faking his death.