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Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  393 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
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 ro ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Susan
Jun 18, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing
Reinhard Heydrich was labelled "Hitler's Hangman" by Thomas Mann after his assassination, at the age of thirty eight. This excellent biography actually begins with his death in Prague, May 1942. The background to the assassination is examined in great detail, with the Czech underground under pressure to perform, despite (quite rightly as it turned out) fearing reprisals if Heydrich was the target.

The book then turns to Heydrich's early life. He was born into a musical family of good financial me
...more
Steven Peterson
Dec 21, 2011 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
How does one write a biography of a butcher, someone who committed atrocities? The author notes at the beginning that it is a difficult task, but one must understand the subject of a biography--even if the subject produces loathing. Robert Gerwarth's answer regarding Reinhard Heydrich, "Hitler's Hangman," is what he calls "cold empathy"--(Page x): ". . .an attempt to reconstruct Heydrich's life with critical distance, but without reading history backward or succumbing to the danger of confusing ...more
Jill Hutchinson
May 08, 2012 Jill Hutchinson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, wwi-wwii
An amazing biography of one of the most evil men of the Third Reich who surprisingly has not had as much written about him as have Hitler's other acolytes. Reinhard Heydrich came from an upper middle class, cultured, and musical family but turned to the Nazi party in 1931 and became one of the most violent and virulent anti-Semites in the party leadership. On his shoulders rests, at least in part, the responsibility for the "final solution" (more commonly known as The Holocaust) as he and his mi ...more
Lewis Weinstein
UPDATE 7/14/16 ...

I just read the sections covering Reinhard Heydrich's activities from when Hitler became Chancellor in Jan 1933 until he helped Hitler murder over 200 opponents in what is known as the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.

Gerwarth provides a very well done picture of Heydrich's role in the Nazi transition to a state were open opposition led to imprisonment and death and all good Germans were encouraged to spy on and denounce each other.

Heydrich, who was briefly introduced in Book
...more
Luka Novak
Jan 03, 2012 Luka Novak rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2, biography
Heydrich is one of those Nazis who played an important role but held second level positions and are as a result mostly ignored by historians. Unlike Hitler, Speer, Goering or even Himmler there is little biographical work on Heydrich and he is either relegated to playing Himmler's talented sidekick or as head of SD in books dealing with that organisation.

Gerwarth tries to correct that and does a decent job. Not great, mind you, but good enough. Book starts with Heydrich's assassination in 1942,
...more
G.d. Brennan
Sep 25, 2012 G.d. Brennan rated it it was amazing
I wish Robert Gerwarth had written this book earlier.

I’ve spent much of the past six years writing a novel about Heydrich’s 1942 assassination. I thought I’d read everything there was to read on the man and the topic, and when I finally noticed this book this year, I figured it couldn’t tell me anything new. I’m both disappointed and pleased to discover that I was wrong—disappointed because I wish I’d had this work as a reference material, and pleased because it opened up new insights on a man a
...more
Brian
Jun 18, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it
It's impossible to answer the one question everyone has about men like Heydrich: Why did they become Nazis? Pop writers, and less sober historians, feel free to indulge in what engineers call WAGs -- wild-ass guesses about this and that childhood trauma. Hitler, for instance, had a Jewish doctor botch his mother's cancer treatment; oh wait, no he didn't, Hitler had Jewish friends growing up. Except he didn't, and it was only during the Great War that he got political; but no, he was always antis ...more
Tony
Feb 20, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
HITLER’S HANGMAN: The Life of Heydrich. (2011). Robert Gerwarth. ****.
Although the lives and careers of most of the major Nazis from WW II have been extensively covered, Heydrich’s has been relatively unexplored. In this thorough work, the author, based on exhaustive research into all remaining documents, has traced the career of Heydrich from his childhood from a cultured middle-class family to his end as one of the top Nazi officers – one who can claim primary responsibility for the ultimate
...more
Geli
Jan 19, 2012 Geli rated it it was amazing
Finally, a comprehensive biography of Reinhard Heydrich! Previous books about Heydrich have dealt more with his assassination and its aftermath. Gerwarth's bio delves more into the man himself. Despite the dearth of information on Heydrich (compared to some of his contemporaries, including Himmler, who kept a diary), the author's extensive research has brought new information and insight into his subject. In addition to being extremely well researched, the notes in this book are some of the best ...more
Maureen Flatley
Jan 22, 2012 Maureen Flatley rated it really liked it
It turns out the Nazis were much much worse than we thought. Monsters.
False Millennium
Jul 10, 2013 False Millennium rated it really liked it
I didn't know that much about Heydrich, and this was a good overall, comprehensive biography of one of three Third Reich men considered important movers in the thrust toward anti-Semitism. Heydrich was born into a solidly, respectable, financially sound (for his youth) upbringing. He was also a Catholic in his small town, in a minority. Later, he was rabid against Catholics. His father and mother were not National Socialists, and Heydrich didn't join the party until his involvement with his futu ...more
KOMET
I first became aware of Reinhard Heydrich in 1975 when I (still in grade school) read Gunter Peis' book "The True Story of the Man Who Started the War." In it, Heydrich, as one of the luminaries in the SS, was the boss of Alfred Naujocks (upon whom the book was focussed) who was tasked with staging an "incident" along the German-Polish border, which Hitler would use as a pretext for invading Poland in September 1939. Even then, Heydrich struck me as a sinister figure. But it would take years of ...more
Nicolas Bateman
May 02, 2013 Nicolas Bateman rated it liked it
Shelves: learn, wwii
If both the parts about Heydrich's youth and his time as the Reich Protector in Prague bring new and insightful information to a interested mind, I have to admit, regretfully, that this book has failed to convince me of its true scholarly importance. Plagued with a dozen annoying editing mistakes and, more important, by a series of factual or numeric misleading comments (How could have Heydrich's brother in law been a member of the nazi party for three years before their meeting when he joined i ...more
Steven Z.
Apr 12, 2013 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing
Until 1942, the year of his assassination Reinhard Heydrich was the chief of the Nazi Criminal Police, the SS Security Service and the Gestapo. He played a significant role in the planning of the "Final Solution" and was responsible for many of the atrocities implemented by the Nazi hierarchy until his death. In this new biography, HITLER'S HANGMAN: THE LIFE OF HEYDRICH by Robert Gerwath, the Director of the Center for War Studies at the University College Dublin,the reader is presented with the ...more
Christopher Higgins
Aug 24, 2013 Christopher Higgins rated it liked it
Many studies of Nazi Germany and it's various officials center around the "banality of evil" the concept of seemingly ordinary people driven to do horrible things through a commitment to merely following orders. Simply put, there is nothing banal of about the evil of Reinhart Heydrich as portrayed in Hitler's Hangman. Heydrich gave the orders and spearheaded many of the concepts that lead to the wholesale killing that would become known the Holocaust though he was assassinated before it became o ...more
Wendy
Mar 26, 2014 Wendy rated it really liked it
A very informative book on the life of Reinhard Heydrich, assassinated during WWII when he was head of the Protectorate of Moravia and Bohemia. One of the main architects of the Holocaust, working closely with Himmler and Hitler, it is interesting to find out he came from a stable family and was first expected to succeed his father in heading a music conservatory. An ambitious, hard-working guy, his energies were, unfortunately, used to implement and forward the anti-Semitic, xenophobic policies ...more
Herbert
Apr 03, 2016 Herbert rated it really liked it
Een heel goed boek met veel details en een hoop links naar andere literatuur. Het geeft Heyndrichs complete leven weer en ook wat voor een twisted mind die mens had. Hoogmoed en lef zijn zeker termen die bij hem passen.
De schrijver heeft hier een meesterwerkje van gemaakt.
Jrnl010
Jan 19, 2016 Jrnl010 rated it liked it
Een sympathieke Ierse reiziger ruilde in Bolivia dit boek in en zo kwam het dat ik hoog in de Andes las over een van de grootste schurken uit de twintigste eeuw. Het boek staat vol met zaken die je wel eens hebt gehoord, maar die toch telkens weer verbazen. Zoals de ongekende wreedheden die de nazi’s al direct na de bezetting in Polen uitvoerden.

Een ander voorbeeld is de grote mate van terreur en geweld rond de verkiezingen in 1933, nog voordat de nazi’s aan de macht waren. Hun eerste prioritei
...more
Paulo Almeida
Feb 18, 2016 Paulo Almeida rated it really liked it
Quem acha que Hitler era maluco, sádico, desumano etc. precisa conhecer melhor o biografado desse livro.
Berna Labourdette
Jun 24, 2016 Berna Labourdette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Siempre es interesante conocer más sobre historia de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, en este caso un relato biográfico sobre Heydrich, Director de la Gestapo, que lo relaciona con todo el proceso de ascenso del nacionalsocialismo y el desarrollo del aparato militar y de espionaje en la Alemania nazi. Muy bien escrito.
Iang95ify .
Oct 27, 2015 Iang95ify . rated it really liked it
Read it over 2 days - 17 and 22 October 2015. Book was thoroughly researched, just see the references section. Book starts from Heydrich's family background and shares about his growing up years. The book shows how he entered the Nazi Party through his wife, after falling from grace as a German navy officer. Heydrich was capable and ambitious, eventually rose up the ranks. Book delves into how he viewed his enemies such as the Jews, Catholic leaders with political aspirations, Communists, Freema ...more
Loreid
Oct 08, 2015 Loreid rated it it was amazing
I can't stress enough how well-written this book is. It is balanced & fair, using a lot of 'cold empathy' to examine the subject in great (and well-sourced) detail. The supplementary pictures are excellent, including a stunning picture of Himmler & other nazi officials attending Heydrich's state funeral. I was fascinating by the author's exploration of Heydrich's upbringing, early military career and eventual journey towards the nazi party. Following this, his career within the SS is exa ...more
Marsha
Dec 17, 2011 Marsha rated it it was amazing
Excellent look of the life was a truly evil human. Very readable, even to someone not into scholarly history.
Susan Paxton
A good intro, but needs more analysis - of course at this point figuring out what made Heydrich tick may be impossible.
David Latham
Jul 22, 2016 David Latham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
I've wanted to read this book since I first saw it in a bookshop a year ago. So I was very excited about being able to finally get to reading it.

Robert Gerwarth gives a very good overview of one of the founders of the Holocaust. I am afraid however that that's just what it is a historical overview with a general conclusion on his character which is not unique in itself. I did not feel like I came away knowing anything new that I haven't already read or watched in a documentary. I didn't come awa
...more
Shane
Nov 02, 2014 Shane rated it it was amazing
Books about historically evil people are especially interesting if done right, and this book is. They’re fascinating because they can give a real insight into the person, hopefully allowing us to see what made the person so evil. The author’s job was made that much more difficult by the fact that Heydrich didn’t leave any diaries. But by piecing together all the available information, it allows us to catch an insight into the character that was Reinhard Heydrich. What I think it does show is tha ...more
Brooksie
Apr 27, 2015 Brooksie rated it really liked it
Very detailed look at a somewhat overlooked but instrumental Nazi. I enjoyed Gerwarth's fluent-yet-informative writing style; not completely impersonal but not flowery or poetic. A bit more info on Heydrich's children would have been appreciated (ie, what happened to them after the war); however, that info may not be readily available. While I recommend this book, it may be tedious or full of unfamiliar names for those not already well-versed in the Nazi world.
Jeremy
Oct 15, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Really good book, easy to get into. My big problem is that I think if I was in Germany in 1930's I would become a nazi and totally justify all my behaviors. I am too lazy to cause a ton of trouble, like this fella, but my crimes would not be from a greater conviction. I am afraid I can be convinced of almost anything. I might have poor moral character. This made me depressed. But Heydrich was assassinated and that was fun!
Anne
Mar 17, 2013 Anne rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mature readers
I was very surprised to find out Heydrich was born into a very musical Roman Catholic family, and played the violin extremely well. It seems that when he became engaged he wanted to impress his fiance's family who were Danish Nazi supporters, so he signed up for the SS. A strange twist of fate makes me wonder would he have turned out to be the murderous man he became. He did not show signs in his childhood. The story begins with his murder in Prague where he was the cruel enforcer. Again, if it ...more
Mark Maguire
Oct 08, 2013 Mark Maguire rated it it was amazing
An informative and critical read in the context of the furtherance of my knowledge of the Third Reich. Heydrich truly was one of the most important and pivotal of. all Nazi party members.

The combination of his ideological commitment; organisational efficiency, and murderous tendencies not only made Heydrich the master of the newly acquired Eastern European Lebensraum; but they also served to act as the practical facilitator of Hitler's psychotic and self-indulgent fantasies. In sum, without Heyd
...more
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Hitler's Hangman. The life of Heydrich 1 9 Jul 21, 2012 05:29PM  
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  • The Charisma of Adolf Hitler
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“Although Himmler, out of ‘inner conviction’, rejected ‘the Bolshevik methods of physical annihilation of a people as unGerman and impossible’, he advocated forced migration as a possible non-genocidal solution.” 0 likes
“the most significant contributing factor to Heydrich's radicalization was his immersion in a political milieu of young and often highly educated men who thrived on violent notions of cleansing Germany from its supposed internal enemies while simultaneously rejecting bourgeois norms of morality as weak, outdated and inappropriate for securing Germany's national rebirth.” 0 likes
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