Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) was one of the highest-ranking Nazi officers during World War II. He was SS-Obergruppenführer (General) and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office (including the Gestapo, Kripo and SD), and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor (Deputy/Acting Reich Protector) of Bohemia and Moravia (in what is now the Czech Republic). In 1942 he chaired the Wannsee Conference which formalised plans for the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” — the annihilation of all Jews in Nazi occupied Europe.
Historians regard Heydrich as one of the darkest figures within the Nazi elite. Adolf Hitler described him as, “the man with the iron heart.” He was the founder of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), an intelligence organisation tasked with eliminating resistance to the Nazi Party within Germany by means of arrests, deportations and murder. He played a key role in the organisation of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), co-ordinating attacks against Jews, Jewish-owned businesses, homes, buildings and synagogues, throughout Nazi Germany and Austria, on 9-10 November 1938. The attacks that were carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish looters were harbingers of the Holocaust — the systematic, state-sponsored mass murder of European Jewry.
Whilst in Prague, Heydrich eliminated opposition to the Nazi occupation by ruthlessly suppressing Czech culture, and deporting and executing members of the Czech resistance. He was also directly responsible for the Einsatzgruppen(mobile killing squads), that travelled behind German armies rounding up Jews and others considered “enemies of the Reich”, either shooting them in front of mass graves, or gassing them in mobile gas vans.
Heydrich was attacked in Prague in May 1942 by a British-trained team of Czech and Slovak soldiers, who had been sent to what was formerly known as Czechoslovakia, to kill him as part of Operation Anthropoid. He died from his injuries a week later. Nazi retaliation was brutal. More than 13,000 people were arrested, of whom 5,000 were killed. Faulty intelligence linked the assassins to the village of Lidice. Consequently, the Germans razed Lidice to the ground; all men and boys over the age of 16 were murdered immediately. Its women and children were deported and killed in Nazi concentration camps.