REINHARD HEYDRICH: The Chilling Story of the Man Who Masterminded the Nazi Death Camps by Edouard Calic

REINHARD HEYDRICH: The Chilling Story of the Man Who Masterminded the Nazi Death Camps

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Hitler's ""superpoliceman,"" Reinhard Heydrich, has not been a popular subject for English-language biography, understandably--and the present German work is more an answer to ""apologists for Nazism"" than a full, self-contained life. At no point does Calic clearly identify Heydrich (or the SA, SS, SD, etc.) for uninitiates: i.e., he doesn't explain that Heydrich was Himmler's deputy as head of the SS, the paramilitary arm of the Nazi Party, chief of the SD, the SS Intelligence Service, and of the Gestapo, the Prussian secret police; nor does he make it clear that Heydrich had charge of Jewish affairs from 1934 on. He refers only in passing to the Wannsea Conference, where Heydrich unveiled his plain for the Final Solution--and, according to other accounts, danced on the table. The book has, rather, two thematic emphases: Heydrich's receptivity to Nazism--as the son of a rabid Wagnerian singer/musiceducator who overcompensated for rumors of Jewish ancestry; and his personal responsibility for a long series of Nazi provocations beginning even before the Reichstag fire (attributed to him by a postwar panel). Foremost among these still-shady incidents: the 1934 murder, in Marseilles, of Yugoslavia's King Alexander and the French Foreign Minister (which altered the two nations' foreign policy to Germany's benefit); the 1935 murder, in Czechoslovakia, of Rudolf Formis, radioman-aide of anti-Nazi propogandist Otto Strasser (which also brought a Czech clampdown on Strasser); the scandal-linked dismissal, in 1937, of Minister of War Blomberg and Army Commander-in-Chief Fritsch (which enabled Hitler to launch German expansion unopposed); the sham attack on the Gleiwitz radio station (the pretext for invading Poland); the 1939 Munich bomb blast, which Hitler ""barely"" escaped, and the abduction, at Venlo in Holland, of two duped, implicated British agents--which together gave Hitler an excuse to invade the Low Countries and damned the British. Calic, a survivor of Nazi imprisonment, draws on what he learned in ""our common cell,"" as well as from postwar interrogations; but only an expert can judge the validity of his specific and detailed, but frequently conjectural, claims. By contrast, Gerald Fleming's anti-revisionist Hitler and the Final Solution (p. 1032) is systematic, precise, and solidly documented, while Matthias Schmidt's de-mythicizing Albert Speer (below) has both coherence and force. A worthy work, but limited.

Pub Date: Dec. 18th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow