Reinhard Heydrich – The Road to Power

The rise of the architect of the Holocaust and the Prague executioner who was assassinated by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš.


Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich was born on 7 March 1904 in Halle am Saale into the family of composer and conservatory director Richard Bruno Heydrich. The first two first names were patriotic tributes to the world of music. Reinhard was the name of the tragic character in the opera „Amen“, written by his father, and Tristan was based on Richard Wagner’s musical drama „Tristan and Isolde“. From the musical environment in which he grew up, Reinhard Heydrich brought with him into adulthood a particular fondness for playing the violin.

At the age of fifteen (February 1919), Heydrich joined the ranks of the Freikorps in clashes with the Communists taking power in his native Halle. After the fighting ended, he joined the first anti-Semitic organization. Three years later, he volunteers to join the Reichsmarine; a military career means at least some social security in crisis-ridden Germany. He is gradually promoted, which also increases his ambition as well as his arrogance.

In 1930, he meets Lina von Osten, the daughter of a lower German nobleman, who at the time was already a Nazi Party supporter. They soon announce their engagement, but this has unfortunate consequences for Heydrich: Admiral Erich Raeder relieves him of duty, for conduct incompatible with that of an officer and a gentleman. In fact, six months before his engagement to Lina, Heydrich had already made a promise to another woman, which he had broken by his actions. Although his discharge from the navy hit him hard, he did marry Lina in 1931.

That same year, when Heinrich Himmler began to create a counterintelligence service within the SS, he was also tipped off to Reinhard Heydrich through an acquaintance of Lina Heydrich, who impressed him so much during a personal interview that he was immediately recruited. He became a member of the NSDAP (number 544 916) and of course also of the SS (number 10120).

As early as August 1, 1931, Heydrich began to serve as head of the new secret service (Ic-Dienst, later SD – Sicherheitdienst), whose office he located in the Brown House in Munich. On the occasion of his wedding anniversary with Lina, Himmler promoted Heydrich to the rank of SS-Strumbannführer (equivalent to the rank of major), making the later „Prague executioner“ surpass his original rank in the navy in just 15 months of service. This rapid career advancement was a harbinger of Heydrich’s ambition and unscrupulousness, which carried him to the ranks of the most powerful men of the Third Reich.


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