Exactly 80 years ago, on 28 September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich came to Prague on Hitler’s orders to take up the position of Reichsprotektor. He was 37 years old.
At a gathering of Nazi officials several days before his arrival in Prague, he clearly expressed how he wanted to handle the population of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
A “final solution” awaited Jews, Roma and others in the death camps, while the Slavs were to be either murdered or Germanized and moved as far east as possible.
“The Bohemian-Moravian area must never be left in such a state that the Czechs might be able to claim it as theirs… This space must be German once and for all so the Czech will have no claim to it in the end,” Heydrich said in that speech.
Reinhard Heydrich was one of the direct co-authors of the Holocaust – both of the idea of murdering homosexuals, Jewish people, mentally or physically disabled people, Romani people and others, as well as of the methods for pursuing genocide – death camps, Germanization, and racial/ethnic pogroms.
The tragic fate of the Czech and Moravian Jews and Roma began under his rule.
Heydrich left a bloody trail in Czech history: During the four months of the state of emergency he announced after becoming Reichsprotektor, 486 people were sentenced to death and more than 2 100 Czechs ended up in concentration camps.
Heydrich practically decimated the entire Czech resistance, which repaid him with assassination. As Professor Václav Černý has succinctly written: “Heydrich came to murder the Czech nation, and the Czech nation murdered him.”
Heydrich’s main aims were to increase the amount of weapons produced for the Nazis by these factories in the Protectorate and to prepare the Germanization – and later, the liquidation – of the Czech nation.
This involved calling for and firming up a collaborationist policy, in which he demanded not just mere consent, as Czechoslovak President Hácha had provided, but active participation, as modeled by Czechoslovak Army Colonel Emanuel Moravec.
The Czechoslovak government in exile in London decided to have Heydrich killed by specially trained airborne soldiers and the assassination took place on May 27, 1942.
He was the highest-ranking Nazi killed by the resistance. In retaliation for Heydrich’s death, the Germans exterminated the villages of Lidice and Ležáky; in October 1942, 262 people were murdered in Mauthausen for helping the paratroopers who carried out the assassination.