The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Callum Macdonald

Review published on November 14, 2017.

Reinhard Heydrich, also known as ‘The Butcher of Prague’, was a Nazi first and foremost. He was a ruthless and dedicated man, to the extermination of peoples across occupied countries during his military career. His earlier life in the German Navy, which ended when he was ignominiously expelled, became a feature in his psychological profile when he later joined the Army. A truly distasteful man, who engineered the dismembering of Czechoslovakia, and together with Eichmann, Himmler, Hitler, and many others, organised the initial demise of the Jewish peoples, he also inveigled, by foul means or fair, himself into a position of great power, whereby it was rumoured he could possibly replace Adolf Hitler himself, as time went on.

This book tells the story of his rise and fall in 1942 by assassination. There is much to learn here about Heydrich, and it is not a pleasant story, from beginning to end. There is a great deal of political manoeuvring by the different factions, all vying to either gain domination within the Nazi ranks, or from the allies, trying to maintain a resistance movement from London. It was amazing that anything actually worked out, as history can now tell us.

The actual assassination only takes a small part in the narrative and that was almost farcical in its naivety. However, after Heydrich’s demise, the Nazi’s meted out reprisals of astonishing severity to the populace. Over 5,000 people were exterminated; the entire village of Lidice was wiped off the face of the earth. All remains were bulldozed into the ground so not a trace was to be left visible.

Reinhard Heydrich was a despicable man for many reasons, not only was he a voracious womaniser, he also hated anyone who believed the rumours of a Jewish family connection in his parentage. He was a devout Nazi who would stop at nothing to achieve his own ends; therefore, he trod on toes, upsetting many within the Nazi party. A liar and a murderer, his duplicity was legendary everywhere, and his loss to the war effort was said to be tantamount to losing a battle.

A very engaging book for me, well researched throughout, well written, and a truthful account of ‘Operation Anthropoid’, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, what led up to it, and the ensuing aftermath.

Reg Seward 5/1

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Callum Macdonald
Birlinn Ltd 9781843410362 pbk May 2007


Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann


David France wins the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize!

You may also like