We all suffer from the disease of mixed, corrupted blood. How can we purify ourselves and make atonement? The eternal life bestowed by the Grail is only for the really pure and noble! — Adolf Hitler
In Reinhard Heydrich, National Socialism seemed to be confronting itself. The true architect and brain behind the concept of the future SS state, he seemed to embody in its purest form everything that could be discerned behind the front of irrational 'magic' aimed at the masses and their need to believe — the rationality of its will to subjugate, the perfectionist objectivity, free from humanitarian restraints, of its striving for domination as decided by the inner circle of the leadership. He was a man like a whiplash. In his Luciferian coldness, amorality and insatiable greed for power he was comparable only to the great criminals of the Renaissance, with whom he shared a conscious awareness of the omnipotence of man. In his case this took the form of the conviction that by the methodical application of technology and organization everything was possible: the construction of a government, the establishment of an empire, the recreation of a race, the purification of blood over wide areas. And he intended these means to be directed to one single end: power. In his funeral speech Hitler called him 'the Man with the Iron Heart', and from among Himmler's own entourage comes the statement that beside the obtusely romantic figure of the Reichsfuhrer of the SS himself, Heydrich seemed 'like polished steel'. (1) In his outlook, unencumbered by either ideologies or emotions and accustomed to assessing and using feelings, convictions, individual people and whole nations as merely means and instruments, he seemed the epitome not merely of National Socialist totalitarianism but of modern totalitarianism as a whole; and if he left the world a legacy before he had come fully into his own, it was that he taught man to fear man more comprehensively than ever before. The traditional idea of evil, which is linked with the concepts of possession by spirits, uncontrollable outbursts of emotion, and an attachment to the dark instincts, breaks down before the transparent sobriety of this type. So does the concept of the demonic, which has metaphysical overtones inappropriate to the unwaveringly realistic conception of power of this totally secularized phenomenon. At the same time the portrait is not free from murky patches; against its overall background we see the outlines of individual complications, and if he seemed, as almost no one else, to possess all the National Socialist virtues, the lies of National Socialism lay on him more heavily than on others.
At the core of National Socialism, the foundation of its belief in its own superiority and at the same time the 'state philosophy' of the Third Reich, (2) lay the idea of race. Whatever aspect of ideology or practical policy was uppermost at any given moment — whether nationalist, socialist, monarchist or other tendencies — it only served to a greater or lesser degree to distract attention from the all-powerful racial doctrine. It has rightly been pointed out that 'the doctrine of the racial enemy is as essential to National Socialism as the doctrine of the class enemy is to Bolshevism'. (3) It welded together old emotions and prejudices which had been given a pseudo-scientific veneer during the nineteenth century and now, linked with nationalist, socialist and economic grievances, became a programme for political struggle of extraordinary explosive power. In itself, the mythological exaltation of their own race above the so-called lower or opposed races served the tactical purpose of increasing the masses' self-confidence and mobilizing their will to violence. The lack of any clear scientific authority made racism all the easier to use as an instrument of power, and no attempt was ever made to define it more precisely, since its very vagueness lent it more readily to terrorism. It was directed at will against whatever groups those in power wished to destroy and applied with ever-increasing radicality, beginning with the sterilization and euthanasia programmes and ending with the 'Final Solution' of the Jewish problem.
Nevertheless the race theory contained a utopian cement that gnawed into the ideology of Hitler and his closer followers with the force and exclusiveness of an obsession. Hitler was influenced above all by the theories of the nineteenth-century social Darwinist school, whose conception of man as biological material was bound up with impulses towards a planned society. (4) He was convinced that the race was disintegrating, deteriorating through faulty breeding as a result of a liberally tinged promiscuity that was vitiating the nation's blood. And this led to the establishment of a catalogue of 'positive' curative measures: racial hygiene, eugenic choice of marriage partners, the breeding of human beings-by the methods of selection on the one hand and extirpation on the other. The guiding aide of the 'race-attached soul' made all cultural and creative achievements dependent on external appearance and at the same time linked the ability and hence the right to found states and empires with biological preconditions. This is what gave National Socialist racism that imperialistic aspect, and its consciousness of mission, that thought in terms of vast areas and whole populations, that hybrid streak. After Hitler had spoken at an early stage within the narrower circle of his intimates of the need to develop a 'technique of depopulation', (5) he made an unconcealed demand in his speech to the Reichstag of 6th October 1939 for the rearrangement of nations and races in Eastern Europe. (6) Behind this lay the vision of 'a closed central area of people of pure blood', inhabited and defended around its frontiers by a human type whose appearance had been described by the race theorist Hans F. K. Gunther as
'blond, tall, long-skulled, with narrow faces, pronounced chins, narrow noses with a high bridge, soft fair hair, widely spaced pale-coloured eyes, pinky-white skin colour'. (7)
The efficacy of this racial image, however, was so repeatedly undermined — particularly by the physical appearance of most of the leading National Socialists — that it must not be seen as too binding. Yet there were frequent attempts to reconcile the leaders of the Third Reich to this racial picture, some of them so outrageous as to be comic, as when one writer stated:
Hitler is blond, has pink skin and blue eyes, and is therefore of a pure Aryan-Germanic character, and all contrary statements concerning his appearance and personality have been sown in the people's soul by the Black and Red press, which I hope herewith to have corrected. (8)
Reinhard Heydrich seemed to be the exception. With his combination of abilities and physical characteristics he seemed to confirm the theory of the race-attached soul: to anticipate that type of new man who was to be distilled by a process of interbreeding designed to suppress undesirable characteristics out of the murky biological material of the German people, and by education in special schools;
'the man who', as Hitler once declared, 'is master of life and death, of human fear and superstition, who has learnt to control his body, his muscles and his nerves but remains at the same time impervious to the temptations of the intellect and so-called "free" thought'. (9)
Heydrich was tall, blond, athletic, and combined high intelligence with a metallic streak in his nature which was regarded as the proof of a special racial grace. 'A young, evil god of death', as Carl Jacob Burckhardt said after meeting him, he was sometimes called by his subordinates, with a mixture of fear and admiration, 'the Blond Beast', while Das Schwarze Korps wrote of him:
'Even in his outward appearance he was an SS man as the people picture him, a man all of one piece.' (10)
Heydrich was actually a deeply split personality. This menacing figure with its apparently well-knit, compact inhumanity concealed a nervously irritable individual, subject to secret anxieties and continually plagued by tension, bitterness and self-hatred. His cynicism, the sign of complex weakness and vulnerability, alone betrayed what his elastic youthfulness concealed. His hardness and imperviousness were founded less in a tendency to sadistic brutality, as is popularly believed, than in the forced absence of conscience of a man who lived under continual constraint. For Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich was besmirched by an indelible stain and in a melancholy state of 'mortal sin'; he had Jewish ancestors.
He tried to destroy all the evidence. As soon as he was in a position to do so, he had an the documents brought to him from register offices and church records, but he was unable to prevent enemies and rivals, to whom such knowledge meant real power, from getting hold of documentary evidence of his racially impure parentage. Martin Bormann's much-feared secret card-index was never found after the war, nevertheless Bormann's personal file on Heydrich, which included his family tree has been preserved. This family tree goes back only one generation on his mother's side and omits the name, parentage and place of origin of his grandmother. After an investigation ordered during 1932 and 1933 by Gregor Strasser, at the instigation of Rudolf Jordan, the Gauleiter of Halle-Merseburg, a report was submitted by the information office of the NSDAP centre in Munich. However, it dealt only with the parental line, since Jordan's suspicions were based primarily on the fact that the father, Bruno Richard Heydrich, an exceptionally gifted and versatile musician and founder of the First Halle Conservatory for Music, Theatre and Teaching, was described in Riemann's musical encyclopedia of 1916 as 'Heydrich, Bruno, real name Suss'. The report came to the conclusion that the name 'Suss' was not incriminating and that Bruno Heydrich's son, born on 7th March 1904, was free from any Jewish blood. (11)
Nevertheless, rumours continued, and up to 1940 Heydrich had repeatedly to bring legal action for racial slander. As Chief of the Political Police, he won with ease, but this did not spare him the tormenting consciousness of racial inadequacy. Hitler and Himmler also knew of the doubt of Heydrich's pedigree, and took advantage of them in their own way, with a characteristic mixture of opportunism and blackmail. They received the first hints soon after the unemployed naval officer, who had been cashiered after a court-martial at the end of 1930 for an affair with a young girl, joined the SS. (12) Whereas Himmler, with the bigoted simple-mindedness of the strict believer, seemed at first in favour of expelling Heydrich, Hitler decided after a long private conversation, as reported by Himmler,
'that Heydrich was a highly gifted but also very dangerous man, whose gifts the movement had to retain. Such people could still be used so long as they were kept well in hand and for that purpose his non-Aryan origins were extremely useful; for he would be eternally grateful to us that we had kept him and not expelled him and would obey blindly.' 'That,' said Himmler, self-confidently adding his own comment, 'was in fact the case.' (13)
However, Himmler saw this relationship in his own biased way, and like everything he said about Heydrich after the latter's death, the above words bear traces of his attempt to wipe from his memory the inferiority and even fear he felt for years on end towards his own subordinate; for Heydrich was certainly too cold and controlled for emotional acts of submission and not made for either blindness or obedience. Nevertheless he had to pay all his life for the fact that his ambition had carried him into an elite Aryan order. He became entangled in the contradiction between his origins and the demands of ideology, and his destructive dynamism is only to be understood in terms of constant attempts to burst out of the trammels of a situation where he repeatedly faced ultimately insoluble problems.
'He suffered constantly,' Himmler said. 'He never really found peace; something was always upsetting him. Often I've talked to him and tried to help him, even against my own convictions, pointing out the possibility of overcoming Jewish elements by the admixture of better German blood, citing himself as a case in point. For the time being, it is true, he was very grateful to me for such help and seemed as if liberated, but nothing was any use in the long run.' (14)
The truth is that Heydrich was beyond help. To be sure, there is no doubt that he too had that opportunist attitude towards National Socialist ideology which saw in such theoretical construction solely a welcome cover of respectability for a selfish lust for power and despised ideological zeal as evidence of lack of talent. Reasons of inner self-assertion alone induced his ideological nihilism, and just as he himself till his entry into the SS 'knew nothing about politics and had never shown any great interest in them', so his wife said later, in choosing even his closest collaborators he attached far less importance to their devotion to an idea than to their devotion to him personally. (15) But in the long run he could not escape the influence of the pervading ideology. With his inward-looking analytical turn of mind he had no more hope of learning to live with his contradictions than of finding consolation in easy phrases of the sort that helped people like Robert Ley over the problems of a questionable pedigree.
Out of such personal constrictions Heydrich developed or strengthened qualities that show all too clearly the desire to take revenge on life. The coldness and contempt with which he viewed human beings and human life may give us a hint of the way in which, during hours of solitary self-confrontation, he treated himself. Only alcohol and the pleasures of night life enjoyed with forced intemperance — outings on which he ordered his subordinates by turns to accompany him — could bring him brief respite from a life in which he was constantly being tested to breaking-point. The span of opposites that separates this picture from that other one which shows him as the head of a family, an anxious father and a passionate music-lover who devoted his free evenings to chamber music and specially to the music of Haydn and Mozart, was not based, as with so many SS members, on an ability to combine the incompatible; it was a case rather of a desire to suppress that which he had recognized as incompatible. One of his colleague has described the haunting and profoundly revealing occasion when Heydrich came home at night to his brilliantly lit apartment and suddenly saw his reflection in a large wall mirror. In an attack of cold rage he 'whipped his pistol from his holster and fired two shots at this double', (16) the ever and tormentingly present negation of himself, from which he could free himself in liquor and in the splintered glass, but not in reality. He was the prisoner of this figure of negation, he lived in a world populated by the self-created chimeras of a hostile distrust, scented behind everything treachery, intrigue or the snares of hidden enmity, and thought only in terms of dependence — the most impressive embodiment of that vulgarized Darwinist principle in whose light the world was revealed to National Socialist ideology: life seen exclusively as struggle. Himmler said of him that he was
'the embodiment of distrust — the "hyper-suspicious", as people called him — nobody could endure it for long'. (17)
From the outset of his career, after he had recognized the value of the personal files initiated by Himmler, Heydrich collected information 'about servant girls as much as about ministers', convinced that only the knowledge of other people's weaknesses created loyalties. Unmoved by complexes of loyalty conditioned by emotion, which he regarded as weakness, he actually kept a dossier on Hitler and Himmler. In Berlin he had an intimate salon specially constructed for this purpose with double walls, microphones and monitoring equipment, which recorded every word and conveyed it to a listening post. (18) His burning desire for revenge is revealed in the unanimous reports that he explored particularly avidly the antecedents of other leading personalities. He was well informed about both Hitler's unexplained origins and the traces of Jewish blood among the relations of Himmler, about Goebbels' private affairs, Goring's debauches and bribe-taking, and Rosenberg's letters to his Jewish mistress. (19) As no one else among his colleagues and rivals, he was a master of indirect methods of gaining influence, of bringing about the almost imperceptible shifting of power which only became visible at the moment of a rival's downfall. With the exception of Bormann, who thanks to his personal position of trust with Hitler felt unassailable, everyone feared him, however high above him they might stand in the official hierarchy, and they watched his apparently inexorable rise with a mixture of fascination and impotence, like an approaching doom.
In fact, he had set his sights high. Treating any secondary position as either a step towards the rank above or as a failure, he is said to have aimed at nothing less than the actual leadership of the Third Reich, and certain high functionaries of the regime asserted after the war that he would have had a chance of attaining this goal. (20) This may be an exaggeration, but it does confirm the direction and level of his aspirations, which were all of an utterly selfish nature. Unlike most of his fellow leaders, who built up their careers on ruthlessness, courage and luck, he was not a gambler who had drifted into politics, but a calculator, and to him power was not a matter of taking chances but a technical problem entirely susceptible. of solution by rational means. Just as he despised ideological ties, so, more comprehensively, he rejected all aims beyond power; for him, power was an aim in itself; any need to orient will and actions by notions of value that went beyond goals immediately in sight was alien to him. In this too he represented in almost unadulterated form the type of the modern technician of power who subordinates ideologies to tactics. He did not feel himself the servant of a cause, nor even the servant of an idea of the state that encroached upon all spheres of existence; his entirely Jacobin radicalism was not the outcome of reasons of state to which no bounds were set but the sign of a purely private greed for power. If Machiavelli's famous letter to Vettori of 1517, in which he set the fatherland above the salvation of the individual's own soul, really announced the emergence of a new era, then a figure like Heydrich marked a new subdivision of it. For him the salvation of his own soul was worth less than the exaltation of a power that desired only itself.
He was clever enough to keep his ambition in another's shadow, and destiny displayed remarkable perspicacity in bringing Heydrich together with the fussy, narrow-minded Himmler, whose disastrous mixture of energy and dependence made him the ideal steward of other people's purposes. The assertion that Himmler was only Heydrich's creature, or, as Goring put it, that 'the brain was called Heydrich', (21) is true in so far as the sinister features in Himmler's colourless philistine profile were lent by Heydrich. Whatever the motives for their alliance, each certainly regarded the other as an instrument of his personal striving for power. Whereas the leader of the still unimportant SS, which was then subordinate to the SA, felt that in his highly gifted but racially tainted henchman he had found a partner who could smooth his path to the inner circle of the power-holders without ever becoming his rival, he himself probably already figured in Heydrich's plans as an aid of only passing value.
It was a singular partnership, which proceeded, beginning with the seizure of power in Bavaria, to set up the firing lines on the internal political scene from behind which they sooner or later drove all opponents of their personal ambition. Himmler was formally the superior, but was filled with petty-bourgeois admiration for the other's smooth viciousness and unscrupulous dash. Eccentric, loquacious, full of aimless fervour, and so unsure of himself that to an observer he used to look 'as though he had been raped' after listening to Heydrich forcefully putting his viewpoint, he not infrequently first yielded and then tried to countermand his premature consent by issuing what purported to be an order from the Fuhrer. (22) As for Heydrich, he was humiliatingly at Himmler's mercy because of his origins, but was always superior, dynamic, concentrated, unsentimental, at once dangerous and indispensable. The cranky projects to which Himmler devoted himself with obstinate conviction met with nothing but critical or sarcastic reserve from Heydrich, and often the discussion ended, as Frau Heydrich later reported, with Himmler bursting out excitedly and revealingly,
'You and your logic. We never hear about anything but your logic. Everything I propose you batter down with your logic. I'm fed up with you and your cold, rational criticism.' (23)
On the other hand, it was obviously Heydrich who, even before 1933, drew Himmler's attention to the potentialities open to the SS Reichsfuhrer. He was the originator of the plan to 'develop the police force of the Third Reich out of the SS'.(24) For himself, Heydrich demanded control of the Party Security Service (SD).
Heydrich clearly saw that in a modern totalitarian system of government there is no limit to the principle of state security, so that anyone in charge of it is bound to acquire almost unrestricted power. Within a year, always in agreement with Himmler, he gained control first of the Munich police, then of the Bavarian, and in turn of each of the political police of the German Länder. The last was Prussia, whose chief, Rudolf Diets, was astute enough and had enough friends in high places to resist until 20th April 1934; then he and Goring had to yield. Heydrich himself became head of the Secret Police (Gestapo) as well as of the SD, and in 1936, when Himmler became Chief of the German Police, Heydrich was also given control of the Criminal Police. He was then, at thirty-two, one of the most powerful men in the country. From the various areas of authority which he had acquired he organized in 1939 the Reich Central Security Office (RSHA) and therewith at last emerged at the top of the security services. Although still nominally subordinate to Himmler, he gradually began to secure the independence of his offices and activities. In a labyrinth of countless reports he evolved a system of surveillance whose huge, suspicious eye took in first the whole of Germany and later large parts of Europe, while not only the scope but also the intensity of his activities continually increased. As one of the few leaders of the Third Reich whose actions were not guided by a will to power acting instinctively but were rationally controlled and thought out, he evidently realized that the task of a consistently totalitarian police apparatus does not end with the elimination of all opposing forces and tendencies, but only at this point really begins to develop its special function. While the negative security functions of the initial period diminish, the terrorist omnipresence of the secret police increasingly works towards the establishment of total domination, the essential feature of which is not the absence of all opposition but 'the power to realize the current totalitarian fiction'. The secret police's purpose here is not to eradicate doubt but to foster faith or ceaselessly spur on the public to ostensibly spontaneous enthusiasm. (25) Only by recognizing these principles, which were never fully put into practice in the Third Reich although the first phase was achieved, can we grasp the high aims of Heydrich's conception of the technique of power.
The make-up of his character and the insecurity due to his origins led Heydrich to take a particular interest, out of all the functions of the RSHA which he took over, in that of intelligence. Even in earlier years this ambition had caused friction between himself and the chief of the military secret service of the German High Command — the Abwehr — Admiral Canaris, although Heydrich, since their shared experience in the Navy, had close personal ties with his former superior and patron. An attempt to lay down their respective areas of jurisdiction in a ten-point plan quickly came to nothing, since the agreement meant no more to Heydrich than a tactical move to tie the hands of his rival. Moreover Canaris too seems to have succumbed like others to a complex of fear and fascination which immediately placed him in an inferior position in dealing with the ice-cold Heydrich. He was able to halt the inexorable diminution of his powers only when he had succeeded in obtaining photocopies of documents proving his adversary's Jewish antecedents and placing them in safe keeping abroad. (26)
After Heydrich had given such an impressive demonstration of his cunning and adroitness in the elimination of Rohm and the destruction of the power of the SA, he became almost indispensable wherever any dirty business had to be arranged. He had a hand in the Tukhachevsky affair, which led to the liquidation of the top military leaders of the Soviet Union,(27) and in the dismissal of the traditionalist Army leaders Bomberg and Fritsch following fabricated scandalous 'revelations'. His work behind the scenes helped to prepare the way for the Austrian Anschluss and the piecemeal incorporation of Czechoslovakia. In some way that is still obscure he was behind the attempt on Hitler's life in the Munich Burgerbrau; he organized the nation-wide anti-Semitic demonstration that came to be known as the 'Crystal Night', conceived and staged the 'attack' on the German radio station at Gleiwitz which was to provide a pretext for declaring war on Poland, and finally was the initiator of Project Bernhard, the attempt to undermine the British currency by means of forged Bank of England notes.(28) As though under a compulsion, he always thought in terms of underhand methods, intrigue, bribery or blackmail, and he believed that the most devious routes were quickest. His pessimistic and thwarted outlook on life was at the bottom of his idea that men were base, cowardly and selfish but also easily deceived. He seemed curiously incapable of understanding unselfish attitudes, and his deep-seated conviction of the total impotence of morality persuaded him that power could be achieved only by understanding and exploiting the meaner side of human nature. Honesty was not only alien to him but basically incomprehensible, and just as he had no friends, so he also avoided making open enemies - not out of fear, but because straightforward relationships were not in his nature. His curious preference for getting rid of opponents he disliked by poisoning was not so much an inconsistency based on romantic memories, as it may appear by contrast with the rationality of his mentality, as simply an expression of his deviousness. No less characteristic was his plan for destroying the churches: to send young, unshakeably fanatical National Socialists into the seminaries for priests in order to begin their work of sedition from within. (29)
Hence he probably received with somewhat divided feelings the order for the so-called Final Solution of the Jewish Problem, which was given to him on 24th January 1939 (and, with the further order to supervise the 'zone of German influence in Europe', again on 31st July 1941). True, he never shrank from any task, and to this he immediately devoted himself with that tendency to perfectionist, large-scale solutions and the apocalyptic thoroughness typical of the organizational thinking of National Socialist officialdom. But cunning was more in his line than brutality, and for an opponent to step unsuspectingly into an artistically constructed trap gave him a satisfaction he never derived from any aggressively brutal act. It has been reported that he tried to keep his criminal activity secret; he was to a great extent the author of the bureaucratic and commonplace terminology in which the business of mass murder was disguised. And Himmler's remark in his funeral address that Heydrich had scruples about organized genocide is all the more plausible because such feelings were strictly at variance with the principles of hardness governing the SS. (30)
These scruples found no outward expression, however, and with an inflexibility that gave no hint of inner conflict, Heydrich set about seizing and herding together the Jews of Europe and sending them to their death, partly by 'natural reduction', that is to say by hunger, exhaustion, or disease, and partly by physical destruction, either with the aid of murder squads or by the so-called 'special treatment' of mass gassing. He conceived the overall plan which, over and above extermination of the Jewish race, was to make vast areas of the East available as 'experimental fields' for eugenic breeding. He evolved the methods to be employed and, characteristically, such play with perfidiousness as the idea of forcing the Jewish communities themselves to organize the Final Solution at its lower levels.(31) It was not solely because of his position that he was entrusted with this task; and if the extraordinary thoroughness with which he set about it was due to the wish to wipe out the stain on his own pedigree by ruthless action, this was entirely in line with the considerations that had led Hitler and Himmler to choose him. As early as 1936, in an essay entitled Wandlungen unseres Kampfes (Metamorphoses of our Struggle), he had declared himself with almost frenzied emphasis in favour of the 'historical task' of combating and defeating the 'Jewish universal enemy' and his shrill tone made clear the motive of self-purification which was the desperate and senseless basic striving of his life. He once remarked despondently to Walter Schellenberg that it was 'sheer madness to have created this Jewish problem', while Himmler remarked:
He [Heydrich] had overcome the Jew in himself by purely intellectual means and had swung over to the other side. He was convinced that the Jewish elements in his blood were damnable; he hated the blood which had played him so false. The Fuhrer could really have picked no better man than Heydrich for the campaign against the Jews. For them he was without mercy or pity. For the rest it will interest you to know that Heydrich was a very good violinist. He once played a serenade in my honour; it was really excellent — a pity that he did not do more in this field. (32)
This utterance, which is as useful a contribution to an understanding of the psychological structure of the Reichsfuhrer of the SS as to that of his subordinate, also reveals the impulses behind Heydrich's desire to prove himself. Over and above the calculated power aims that were the essential objects of his ambition, Heydrich was imbued with a restless desire to distinguish himself. From early in his life a nervous energy drove him to seize everything, to know everything, to excel in all fields, not merely those of the intellect. As an athlete he was above average; he was a good fencer, shot and rider, and he also tried to distinguish himself in war. Soon after the beginning of the war he persuaded Hitler, who was at first reluctant, to let him go on active service as a pilot, and would not rest until, on the strength of a certain number of operations against the enemy — on one of which he had to make a forced landing behind the Russian lines — he received the Iron Cross First Class. (33)
This urge to prove his ability in various fields probably played some part in his decision in autumn 1941 to leave his headquarters in the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse and go to Prague as Deputy Reich Protector ('Duke of Alva', as Hitler commented). This decision has been interpreted as an attempt to demonstrate his ability in public administration, especially as the new post did not raise his position in the power structure. It is also possible, however, that an additional motive was temporarily to avoid his adversary Admiral Canaris,(34) who shortly before had come into possession of the compromising document on his antecedents. Finally, there may have been some pressure from another quarter: Himmler and Bormann, whose jealous concern had finally been aroused, had joined forces to delay the menacing rise of their young colleague. Heydrich repeatedly referred at this time to his 'continually deteriorating relationship' with both of them, and on his last visit to the Fuhrer's headquarters learnt that the machinations of his rivals had had some success. It is true that even after leaving Berlin he remained, as his title in official correspondence- indicates with a lengthy brevity mysterious and intimidating, 'ChdSPudSD' (Chief of the Security Police and Security Service), but nevertheless he was removed, at least for a time, from the real centre of power. Heydrich himself may have been all the more willing to accept these disadvantages in return for the possibility of henceforth dealing with Hitler direct, instead of through the jealous Himmler.
Contrary to the reputation that preceded him, he acted in Prague, after a brief phase of open terrorism, with considerable tactical and psychological skill. He was surprisingly successful in his efforts to isolate the intelligentsia as the traditional spokesmen of an uncompromising nationalism and to win over the workers and peasants by partially genuine, partially simulated concessions, at least to the extent that they would place their undiminished labour power at the disposal of the regime. He improved social conditions to a great extent by introducing the social order that prevailed in the Reich itself, had the big luxury hotels and spas opened up to the working people, and actually received their representatives as his guests at Hradcany Castle. If despite all these measures he did not succeed in making himself popular, he was nevertheless able to turn the people's opportunism, based on the experience of generations, to his advantage and engender a state of 'political apathy' (35) in which individual attempts at effective resistance were easily suppressed. Ultimate aims apart, his behaviour was a considerable improvement in the eyes of the inhabitants of the Protectorate on that of his immediate forerunner, Neurath, whose indecision and lack of determination had delivered the country up to arbitrary, antagonistic and ambitious underlings. Hence it was not mere provocative recklessness that prompted him to do without the usual cohort of armed escorts and drive to Prague from his residence at Brezany every day in an open car; it was an albeit arrogant expression of the sense of security of a successful governor.
Hence the attack which cost him his life was planned and prepared by Czechoslovak exiles in London, who had noted the success of Heydrich's pacification measures with growing disquiet; not the least of their purposes in ordering the assassination was to provoke the regime into taking such brutal counter-measures that a more widespread resistance would be sparked off. The three young men who waited for Heydrich's car near the city boundary on 27th May 1942 had been dropped by parachute shortly before not far from Prague. As the car slowed down to take a sharp bend one of them, Jan Kubis, threw a bomb, which exploded under the vehicle. Heydrich was seriously wounded. He managed to jump out of the car and fire a few shots at his fleeing assailants, but then collapsed. Doctors were sent by Hitler and Himmler, but he died a week later.
Hitler exclaimed bitterly that Heydrich's death was like a 'lost battle', (36) and the regime reacted with the savagery displayed by primitive peoples at the graves of their tribal chiefs and demigods. In the punitive measures that followed no fewer than 936 people were condemned to death by court-martial at Prague and 395 at Brno. (37) Although no connection was established between them and the assassination, all the inhabitants of the village of Lidice were sacrificed to the manes of Reinhard Heydrich. And as if to make the terror emanating from his name live on after his death, the circumstances of his death provided the final impetus for the experiments with sulphonamides on human beings at Ravensbruck concentration camp. (38) Operation Reinhard, by which the property of murdered Jews was sequestered, was named after him.
Nevertheless Himmler seemed secretly rather relieved and stated darkly that fate had 'knowingly snatched Heydrich away at the zenith of his power'.(39) In his funeral eulogy, which contained countless references to Heydrich's supposedly sound racial heritage, Himmler called him one of the 'best educators in National Socialist Germany', a 'master by birth and behaviour', and stated towards the end:
'As he has continued the line of his ancestors and done them nothing but honour, so he will live on with all his qualities noble, decent, and clean in his sons, children who are the inheritors of his blood and his name.'
But to his masseur, Felix Kersten, Himmler remarked that
'he had felt a bit funny following the coffin holding two mongrels by the hand'.(40)
The sum of this life is difficult to add up. Heydrich was far more than a leading henchman of Hitler remarkable for intelligence and extremism. He was a symbol and perhaps the representative figure of the Third Reich at the peak of its internal and external power. In this sense it was entirely apt when in the inner circle he was spoken of as Hitler's successor, who 'sooner or later' would have become Germany's 'Fuhrer'.(41) He had already entered into this succession in the background through his place in the growing SS state which was mercilessly asserting itself.
Heydrich has been compared with Saint-Just. He did indeed share with him an utter lack of feeling, however much of an effort it may have cost, and like Saint-Just, Heydrich considered circumstances were difficult only for those who shrank from graves. But there were many differences between them. Heydrich was coarser and more frivolous, and in his hunger for a power devoid of any purpose but itself, more unconstrained than the sensitive Saint-Just with his rigid attachment to ideas. And whereas the latter made morality the measure of his revolutionary absolutism, the former held that morality was a matter purely of illusion or sentimentality. Nor was Heydrich a revolutionary; he wanted not to change the world but to subjugate it. Consequently the terrors with which Saint-Just burdened his time were of a different kind and had the melancholy justification of a humanitarian impulse gone bloodily astray. The difference between evil that is good gone astray, and evil that is simply evil, is to be found in murder which no longer seeks reasons but merely methods and is no longer trammelled by idealism.
Even this evaluation of Heydrich's personality, of course, needs qualifications. The disrupted background of his life defeats categorical judgement. On his dizzy rise to power he seems at times to have stopped and thought, before encouraging himself with cynicism or a piece of cheap ideology that his intelligence did not take seriously.
'It is almost too hard for the individual,' he once said, 'but we must be as hard as granite, otherwise the work of our Fuhrer will perish.'
Carl Jacob Burckhardt, who has passed down this remark of Heydrich's, noted the 'two totally different halves of the sharp, pale, asymmetrical face' and interpreted this as an expression of the profound, incurable split in this man who was at one moment 'tough and then again soft and morbid'.(42)
Whatever he did and became was marked by this fissure; no matter what he was, he was at the same time its opposite. The stereotyped picture of the executioner, which his figure has suggested, was shot through with the truly forlorn features of a man who was his own executioner. The legend that during the days of his death agony he turned away from the former excesses of power and tried to take back his hatred, his self-assertion, and his contempt for mankind has at least some psychological probability. Hitler once demanded that as National Socialists 'We must regain our clear conscience as to ruthlessness',(43) but Heydrich had not this clear conscience, nor the iron heart which Hitler extolled after his death. Himmler undoubtedly knew him well: it was his opinion that Heydrich was
'at bottom an unhappy man'.(44)