Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

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Overview

Reinhard Heydrich is widely recognized as one of the great iconic villains of the twentieth century, an appalling figure even within the context of the Nazi leadership. Chief of the Nazi Criminal Police, the SS Security Service, and the Gestapo, ruthless overlord of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia, and leading planner of the "Final Solution," Heydrich played a central role in Hitler's Germany. He shouldered a major share of responsibility for some of the worst Nazi atrocities, and up to his assassination in Prague in 1942, he was widely seen as one of the most dangerous men in Nazi Germany. Yet Heydrich has received remarkably modest attention in the extensive literature of the Third Reich.

Robert Gerwarth weaves together little-known stories of Heydrich's private life with his deeds as head of the Nazi Reich Security Main Office. Fully exploring Heydrich's progression from a privileged middle-class youth to a rapacious mass murderer, Gerwarth sheds new light on the complexity of Heydrich's adult character, his motivations, the incremental steps that led to unimaginable atrocities, and the consequences of his murderous efforts toward re-creating the entire ethnic makeup of Europe.

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Editorial Reviews

Irish Examiner
…as definitive a biography of Hitler’s Hangman as there is ever likely to be.—Geoffrey Roberts, Irish Examiner

— Geoffrey Roberts

Reviews in History
…an admirable contribution…a unique perspective and insight into the development and radicalization of the Nazi regime and its rule.—Dr Dorothy Mas, Reviews in History

— Dr Dorothy Mas

History Today
Gerwarth tells this complex take with considerable aplomb. He writes with real verve, pacing his account well and providing the perfect mix of narrative and analysis. Pleasingly, he is not shy of indulging in a few dramatic flourishes when the material and the circumstances allow, making this a history book that one can genuinely read almost in a single sitting… He has succeeded admirably in remedying the lack of a scholarly biography of Reinhard Heydrich, one of the most pivotal and influential figures in the history of the Third Reich. [Gerwarth's] work has set a new standard by which subsequent biographies of Hitler's 'Blond Beast' will surely be measured.—Roger Moorhouse, History Today

— Roger Moorhouse

The New Republic
Robert Gerwarth has produced a thoroughly documented, scholarly, and eminently readable account of this mass murderer.—The New Republic
Times Higher Education
At the subsequent grand public funeral, Nazi leaders eulogized Heydrich as the perfect Nazi. This intelligent and readable biography shows how he had made himself into one, and Gerwarth explains persuasively what motivated Heydrich to do so.—Richard J. Evans, Times Higher Education

— Richard J. Evans

The Sunday Telegraph
…two splendid biographies. There have been lives written before, but nothing to match the exceptional way that Peter Longerich and Robert Gerwarth…have gone about digging in the sources to root these two awful figures more firmly in the context that gave rise to some of the worst crimes of the modern age. It is unlikely that either of these biographies will be bettered.—Richard Overy, The Sunday Telegraph (reviewed with ‘Heinrich Himmler: A Life’ by Peter Longerich)

— Richard Overy

Literary Review
[Gerwarth] opts for strategy of ‘cold empathy’, engaging his subject with ‘critical distance’ while attempting to assess his behaviour in context rather than in the light of what we know it led to. This approach, in contrast to the sensational popular biographies, produces some genuine surprises.—David Cesarani, Literary Review
— David Cesarani
Northern Echo
In an illuminating account, Robert Gerwarth relates new anecdotes from Heydrich’s private life and his deeds as head of the Nazi Reich Security Main Office to shed light on his complex character.—Gavin Englebrecht, Northern Echo

— Gavin Englebrecht

The Mail on Sunday
With his cold intelligence and utter ruthlessness, it is sometimes suggested he would have made a redoubtable Fuhrer and formidable enemy. In this riveting biography, Gerwarth shows just how plausible that claim is.—Guy Walters, The Mail on Sunday
— Guy Walters
Irish Times
To write a truly splendid biography of a truly evil man is a remarkable achievement. Gerwarth develops a rounded picture of a personality who set out to establish a centralised SS state. He displays enough empathy for his subject not exactly to evoke sympathy (fortunately) but to make the seemingly incomprehensible comprehensible.—Hew Strachan, Irish Times

— Hew Strachan

Jacob Heilbrunn
…supremely enlightening…
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
The exploits of an iconic Naziilluminate the Third Reich’s ideology and machinery of mass murder in this probing biography. A hawk-faced Aryan poster boy who fended off false rumors of Jewish ancestry, Reinhard Heydrich oversawthe Gestapo, played a key role in formulating the Final Solution, and organized the Einsatzgruppen death squads that murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews during WWII. Historian Gerwarth reduces this diabolical figure to human terms, painting him as an apolitical man drawn to the SS by careerism and whose Nazi fiancée, Lina, instigated his drift toward the party. Heydrich then embraced SS chief Heinrich Himmler’s racial theories and his ethos of ruthlessDarwinian struggle against Germany’s enemies. The author’s fluent, meticulously researched account of Heydrich’s career frames a trenchant analysis of the “radicalization” of German anti-Semitic policies; as Heydrich searched fruitlessly for a place to which he could deport the Reich’s Jews (none of the satrapies in the Nazi empire wanted to accept them), exclusion and expulsion gave way to systematic extermination almost as a matter of convenience. Gerwarth’s fine study shows in chilling detail how genocide emerged from the practicalities of implementing a demented belief system. Photos. (Oct.)
The New York Times Book Review

“Supremely enlightening.”—Jacob Heilbrunn, The New York Times Book Review

— Jacob Heilbrunn

Times Literary Supplement (Books of the Year)
“Gerwarth’s approach is subtle, painstaking and psychologically acute; it convincingly demonstrates that the historian’s tool of 'cold empathy' best clarifies the enduring question of what brings forth monsters.”—Roy Foster, Times Literary Supplement (Books of the Year)

— Roy Foster

The Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)

Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich by Robert Gerwarth is superb on the making of evil.”—Frank Dikotter, The Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)

— Frank Dikotter

BBC History Magazine (Books of the Year)
“Robert Gerwarth’s Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich is the outstanding definitive scholarly and heartbreakingly horrible biography of the repellent mastermind of the Holocaust.”—Simon Sebag Montefiore, BBC History Magazine (Books of the Year)

— Simon Sebag Montefiore

Deseret News

“Gerwarth…offers a first rate biography of one of history’s most notorious villains.”—Deseret News
Choice

"Gerwarth's mastery of primary sources and relevant secondary literature is impressive, and his integration of the most recent scholarship and historiographical perspectives on the Nazi dictatorship and the Holocaust make this fine biography even more compelling. An outstanding, exceptional book sure to become the standard account of one of the most infamous Nazi war criminals."—D.R. Snyder, Choice

— D.R. Snyder

The Wall Street Journal

“This admirable biography makes plausible what actually happened and makes human what we might prefer to dismiss as monstrous.”—Timothy Snyder, Wall Street Journal

— Timothy Snyder

Times Literary Supplement
Gerwarth’s approach is subtle, painstaking and psychologically acute; it convincingly demonstrates that the historian’s tool of 'cold empathy' best clarifies the enduring question of what brings forth monsters.—Roy Foster, Times Literary Supplement

— Roy Foster

The Daily Telegraph
Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich by Robert Gerwarth is superb on the making of evil.—Frank Dikotter, The Daily Telegraph

— Frank Dikotter

BBC History Magazine
Robert Gerwarth’s Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich is the outstanding definitive scholarly and heartbreakingly horrible biography of the repellent mastermind of the Holocaust.—Simon Sebag Montefiore, BBC History Magazine

— Simon Sebag Montefiore

The Wall Street Journal - Timothy Snyder

“This admirable biography makes plausible what actually happened and makes human what we might prefer to dismiss as monstrous.”—Timothy Snyder, Wall Street Journal
The New York Times Book Review - Jacob Heilbrunn

“An excellent inquiry into one of Hitler’s most fearsome paladins, the aide to Heinrich Himmler who played a key role in implementing the Holocaust. Gerwarth dispassionately examines Heydrich’s rise and assassination, which resulted in a horrific series of Nazi reprisals in Czechoslovakia. The best account of Heydrich.”—Jacob Heilbrunn, The Daily Beast 
Times Literary Supplement (Books of the Year) - Roy Foster
“Gerwarth’s approach is subtle, painstaking and psychologically acute; it convincingly demonstrates that the historian’s tool of 'cold empathy' best clarifies the enduring question of what brings forth monsters.”—Roy Foster, Times Literary Supplement (Books of the Year)
The Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year) - Frank Dikotter

Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich by Robert Gerwarth is superb on the making of evil.”—Frank Dikotter, The Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)
BBC History Magazine (Books of the Year) - Simon Sebag Montefiore
“Robert Gerwarth’s Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich is the outstanding definitive scholarly and heartbreakingly horrible biography of the repellent mastermind of the Holocaust.”—Simon Sebag Montefiore, BBC History Magazine (Books of the Year)
Choice - D.R. Snyder

"Gerwarth's mastery of primary sources and relevant secondary literature is impressive, and his integration of the most recent scholarship and historiographical perspectives on the Nazi dictatorship and the Holocaust make this fine biography even more compelling. An outstanding, exceptional book sure to become the standard account of one of the most infamous Nazi war criminals."—D.R. Snyder, Choice
Kirkus Reviews

In calm and harrowing detail, Gerwarth (Modern History, War Studies/Univ. College Dublin; The Bismarck Myth: Weimar Germany and the Legacy of the Iron Chancellor, 2005, etc.) explores the life and work of the embodiment of Nazism, Reinhard Heydrich (1904–1942).

The author trails the life of this favorite of the Fuhrer, the Gestapo chief, from his comfortable childhood as the favored son of a musician through his career as a paragon of Nazi philosophy put into practice. Rumors of the taint of Jewish blood in the veins of the arrogant man wearing the cap with the death's-head insignia were untrue. After being drummed out of the German navy, the ambitious young man found his calling in the nascent SS, quickly rising to second in command under Heinrich Himmler. The "Jewish expert" Eichmann reported to Heydrich, who was instrumental in establishing the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938. He conceived ghettoes as storage places for Jews until more convenient disposal could be arranged. The requirement for Jews to wear the yellow star was his idea, and he worked to rapidly increase the population of the concentration camps. To ease the work of his murderers, Heydrich pioneered the use of lethal gas. Breaks from his day job of killing civilians included flying missions with the Luftwaffe just for fun. His successes earned him the Protectorate of Moravia and Bohemia. As the war progressed, the Jewish "final solution" evolved, and Heydrich convened Wannsee to implement it early in 1942. A few months later, he was assassinated. In partial reprisal, the village of Lidice and its inhabitants were liquidated.Page by page in this scholarly history, Gerwarth builds a complex story of the perfection of mass murder.

The author meticulously takes us inside the Third Reich, face to face with the Nazi hero, revealing as few texts do how the bureaucracy of evil worked.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300187724
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 402,672
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Gerwarth is professor of modern history at University College Dublin and director of UCD’s Centre for War Studies.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps viii

Preface x

Introduction xiii

I Death in Prague 1

II Young Reinhard 14

III Becoming Heydrich 50

IV Fighting the Enemies of the Reich 84

V Rehearsals for War 116

VI Experiments with Mass Murder 141

VII At War with the World 173

VIII Reich Protector 218

IX Legacies of Destruction 278

Notes 295

Bibliography 352

Index 383

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    Learn things you may not have known

    I found this book very inlightening although I had trouble with the German words and meanings and had to look them up.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2012

    Outstanding

    Very objective, very engrossing study of Heydrich, highly recommended

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2012

    Hi

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    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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