Reinhard Heydrich (Magill's Literary Annual 1982)
When Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated on May 27, 1942, by agents of the Czech government in exile, Günther Deschner was only a year old. As a child too young to remember such events, he grew up and was educated in postwar, American-dominated West Germany. He earned the Ph.D. and went from success to success in the world of West German publishing and journalism. His biography of one of the most powerful and most feared members of the Nazi hierarchy was published in West Germany in 1977 and appears here in an English translation without any additions or revisions for the American reader. It is significant not only for the information it offers on the history of the Third Reich, but also as one example of the way in which popular historians in postwar West Germany are dealing with their country’s past.
Deschner’s approach is evident from his opening sentence: None of the major figures of the Third Reich, he writes, was “more enigmatic” or “more controversial” than Heydrich. He was a “historical giant” whose career paralleled the rise of Hitler’s empire to brief hegemony. As head of the SS intelligence service (called the SD) and of the German secret state police (called the Gestapo) he literally had the power of life and death over millions. Adolf Eichmann transported Europe’s Jews to their deaths at his order. Czechoslovakia was pacified under this “protection.” He was a skilled amateur violinist and a model husband and father,...
(The entire section is 1983 words.)
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