The hangman and his wife



March 1, 2022

the hangman and his wife

Book Review

The book hangman and his wife is a gripping biography of an irrepressibly evil historical figure. Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) was Heinrich Himmler’s right-hand man, an architect of the Holocaust known as “the Butcher of Prague.” Czech and Slovak resisters killed him in May 1942 and while his personal writing contains few insights, his wife, who survived him by 40 years, spoke freely during numerous interviews with biographer Dougherty, who died in 2013.

In the introduction, Lehmann-Haupt writes that his job as editor was “to sharpen and highlight [Dougherty’s] all-but-tragic vision of Heydrich’s descent into profound evil.” The result is an engrossing biography that cuts away regularly to Heydrich’s wife as she delivers her version of events and freely expresses her opinion of her husband’s colleagues and superiors, including Hitler. Loyal to the end, she remained skeptical that he was a war criminal, preferring to see him as an earnest patriot in a dysfunctional system. As a child, Heydrich excelled at school and sports.

He joined the navy in 1922 but was cashiered in 1931, apparently for dishonourable behavior. A fervent nationalist, he had joined the Nazi Party months earlier and SS chief Himmler hired him to develop an intelligence service. At the time, the SS was a minor department that provided security for Hitler but Heydrich proved a brilliant organizer and by 1936, the SS controlled all of Germany’s police. Heydrich quickly acquired his fearsome reputation as the consummate Nazi bureaucrat: ruthless and, unlike most, uncorrupt and efficient.

He persecuted Jews, organized the Einsatzgruppen that followed German armies invading Poland and Russia to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians and often treated Czechs without mercy as their governor. The book vividly describe the cutthroat Nazi political maneuvering added to genuine throat-cutting in Germany and the book is a masterful account of the quintessential Nazi. TW

You can also check Nazi Billionaries


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