The Life of Heydrich
Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300115758, 336pp.
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
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.
“This admirable biography makes plausible what actually happened and makes human what we might prefer to dismiss as monstrous.”—Timothy Snyder, Wall Street Journal
“[A] probing biography…Gerwarth’s fine study shows in chilling detail how genocide emerged from the practicalities of implementing a demented belief system.”—Publishers Weekly
“Supremely enlightening.”—Jacob Heilbrunn, The New York Times Book Review
“[M]eticulously takes us inside the Third Reich, face to face with the Nazi hero, revealing as few texts do how the bureaucracy of evil worked.”—Kirkus Reviews
“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)
“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)
“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
“Gerwarth…offers a first rate biography of one of history’s most notorious villains.”—Deseret News
"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