Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (7 March 1904 – 4 June 1942) was a high-ranking German SS and police official during the Nazi era and a principal architect of the Holocaust. He was chief of the Reich Security Main Office (including the Gestapo, Kripo, and SD). He was also Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor (Deputy/Acting Reich-Protector) of Bohemia and Moravia. He served as president of the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC, later known as Interpol) and chaired the January 1942 Wannsee Conference which formalised plans for the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question"—the deportation and genocide of all Jews in German-occupied Europe.
He helped organise Kristallnacht, a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938. The attacks were carried out by SA stormtroopers and civilians and presaged the Holocaust. Upon his arrival in Prague, Heydrich sought to eliminate opposition to the Nazi occupation by suppressing Czech culture and deporting and executing members of the Czech resistance. He was directly responsible for the Einsatzgruppen, the special task forces that travelled in the wake of the German armies and murdered more than two million people by mass shooting and gassing, including 1.3 million Jews.
Heydrich was critically wounded in Prague on 27 May 1942 as a result of Operation Anthropoid. He was ambushed by a team of Czech and Slovak soldiers who had been sent by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile to kill him; the team was trained by the British Special Operations Executive. Heydrich died from his injuries a week later.
- It is natural that people do not want to be involved with us too much. There is no problem down to the smallest egotistical longing which the Gestapo cannot solve. Regarded in this way we are, if a joke is permitted, looked upon as a cross between a general maid and the dustbin of the Reich.
- To his officers on German Police Day (February, 1941), as quoted in Gestapo : Instrument of Tyranny (1956) by Edward Crankshaw, p. 103
- To take the place of emigration, and with the prior approval of the Führer, the evacuation of the Jews to the East has become another possible solution. Although both courses of action emigration and evacuation, must, of course, be considered as nothing more than... temporary expedients, they do help to provide practical experience which should be of great importance in view of the coming Endlösung (Final Solution) of the Jewish question.
- Speech at the Wannsee Conference, Berlin, (20 January 1942), as quoted in Why Did the Heavens Not Darken : The "Final Solution (1990) by A. J. Mayer, p. 304
- So far you have been treated as an officer and a gentleman, but don't think that this will go on if you don't behave better than you have done. You have two hours left in which to confess everything. If you don't, I shall hand you over to the Gestapo, who are used to dealing with such gangsters and criminals — you won't enjoy their methods a bit.
- To Captain Sigismund Payne Best, as quoted in The Venlo Incident (1950) by Sigismund Payne Best, p. 41
- We will Germanize the Czech vermin.
- 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.
Quotes about Heydrich
- He was very young, very handsome, save that his eyes were too close-set; an outstanding example of that blond mixture of effeminacy and toughness which may be observed in any Teutonic night-club. He had immense drive, which was liable to carry him too far; total ruthlessness in the attainment of his own ends, which were wrapped up in personal ambition; no active enjoyment of cruelty except sometimes, perhaps, almost as an afterthought; and a devilish sense of humor. Vain as a peacock, but mockingly aware of his vanity, clever, perhaps too clever by half, and contemptuous of the clumsiness of most of his colleagues and superiors, he nevertheless could be clumsy in his use of force and, unlike Himmler, was liable to over-reach himself. He was dynamite, like a character in an American gangster story; and in the S.S. he was able to canalise his nihilism into a constructive purpose.
- Edward Crankshaw, in Gestapo: Instrument of Tyranny (1956)
- What ever actions he took he carried them out as a National Socialist and an SS man, from the very bottom of his heart and through his blood, he carried out felt and understood Adolf Hitler's world vision.
- Heinrich Himmler speaking about Heydrich at his funeral
- One of the best national socialists, one of the best believers in the German ideology, and one of the greatest opponents to all enemies of the Third Reich.
- Truth and goodness had no intrinsic meaning for him; they were instruments to be used for the gaining of more and more power. To debate whether any action was of itself right appeared so stupid to him that it was certainly a question he never asked himself.
- He was a terribly ambitious man with a great craving for power. This desire for power was measureless, and he was extraordinarily clever and cunning.
- Ernst Kaltenbrunner, to Leon Goldensohn (22 March 1946)
- Himmler was a rival of Bormann, and Heydrich played both against each other. Heydrich pretended to be friendly with Bormann, but Bormann realized that Heydrich was a follower of Himmler. Bormann was trying to use Heydrich. Himmler saw what was happening. Between Himmler and Bormann, Heydrich grew bigger and bigger, until he was personally received by Hitler. But both Bormann and Himmler recognized Heydrich's threat.
- Ernst Kaltenbrunner, to Leon Goldensohn (22 March 1946)
- I believe that Heydrich was the worst criminal of them all. I myself saw him and he looked with such a glance of hatred that I shall never forget it.
- Heydrich had an incredibly acute perception of the moral, human, professional and political weaknesses of others. His unusual intellect was matched by the ever-watchful instincts of a predatory animal. He was inordinately ambitious. It seemed as if, in a pack of ferocious wolves, he must always prove himself the strongest and assume the leadership.
- The irreplaceable loss of the most radical and successful persecutor of all enemies of the state.
- Joseph Goebbels, a diary entry following Heydrich's death