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The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich: The SS 'Butcher of Prague' Paperback – August 22, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Reinhard Heydrich was one of Hitler's most ruthless Nazis. In addition to heading the occupation of Czechoslovakia, he was a leading architect of the Holocaust. There was even talk of his one day succeeding Hitler. For these reasons and others, he became a target--and ultimately the victim--of Allied special operations. This compelling book by English author Callum MacDonald is a skillful, journalistic retelling of a story that would make a solid espionage novel. It begins with a brief sketch of Heydrich--a handsome, violin-playing villain. His fierce anti-Semitism apparently was an emblem of self-hatred; all his life he was bewitched by the knowledge that some of his ancestors may have been Jewish. The bulk of the book turns to the assassination itself, from its planning stages in Britain, to the nighttime airdrop of the conspirators, to their arrangements in Prague, to the nearly botched event itself. Following Heydrich's death, which Hitler compared to losing a battle, the assassins eluded a massive manhunt. Sympathetic priests had hidden them in a Greek Orthodox Church. Despite the success of their mission, their story does not have a happy ending--the Nazis eventually learned of their whereabouts, and the book climaxes with their bloody last stand in the church crypt. This is an outstanding tale of evil, intrigue, and heroism. --John J. Miller

From Library Journal

Here's one who didn't get away. Quite the contrary, Heydrich, the perfect NaziAif there could be such a thingAwas assassinated in 1942 by Czech patriots who planted a bomb in his car. MacDonald's 1989 volume, which reads like a good thriller, follows this plot to kill the head of the Nazi security police.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (August 22, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306808609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306808609
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Norman Dale on April 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
True war stories are not a genre I especially seek out. I read this account of the complex web of intrigue and decisions behind Nazi Heydrich's assassination because a relative of mine was actually involved in the plot. I can't say it was spellbinding since it's hard to build much suspense about a case with so well known an outcome. But this book is not just about or even, I would say, primarily about, the halting, fascinating and nearly abortive ground operation that ended the life of one of Nazi Germany's most determined mass murderers. The opening several chapters are about Heydrich's rise to power after a checkered sometimes-disgraced early career in the military. Callum MacDonald clearly has a penchant for dissecting the meticulous planning and thirst for raw power that lay behind this ascent, and the frigidly cold-blooded maneuvers rising stars of the Nazi regime used, including against each other.
MacDonald then maps in detail the even more complicated political terrain navigated by Czech president in absentia Eduard Benes. Ever since the May 1942 killing of Heydrich and the predictable gory aftermath of reprisals -- including the systematic and total destruction of the Czech village of Lidice -- the wisdom a plot to kill such a high ranking Nazi and bring on excessive retaliation, has been doubted. The author depicts the rationale in terms of tragic choices Benes faced in trying to shore up the very limited and shaky international support for his government-in-exile. In a nutshell, the very existence of Czechoslovakia seemed, at that time, to be in question, as German military success against Russia led the latter to call for uprisings behind Nazi lines.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By P. Bjel on February 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
The above caption means "Iron heart and a grenade." It captures the essence of this book. SS General Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) had been called the reflection of National Socialism because he epitomized every ideological ideal that the Nazis considered revered - he was blond-haired and blue-eyed, tall, calculating, organizational and ruthless. In his lifetime, he was head of the Nazi SD (Sicherheitsdienst, the intelligence branch of the elite SS), the creator of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) and the Security Police (SIPO - a branch of the RSHA), the de facto governor of Nazi-annexed Bohemia-Moravia and the chairman of the Wannsee Conference, where the `Final Solution to the Jewish Question' was intimately planned. In each of these positions that he held, the outlined qualities and ideals resurfaced and certainly were put into practice. Consequently, Heydrich became one of the most hated and reviled Nazis in occupied Europe. Even within the Nazi hierarchy, he used espionage and blackmail to secure his hard-won position: many believed that he would be Adolf Hitler's eventual successor. On the morning of May 27, 1942, he was being chauffeured in an open-roofed Mercedes in a suburb of Prague, intending to reach the airport where he would fly to Berlin and meet with Hitler to discuss Nazi foreign policy. But then, at a bend in the road, he was assassinated. Hitler would call him "the man with a heart of iron," but he expired from his wounds nine days after the incident, on June 9, because shrapnel and pieces of his car got lodged in his spleen and gangrene set in. So much for iron...
Callum MacDonald first wrote this book in 1989 under the title "The Killing of SS Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich" (New York: Free Press, 1989), and it is this edition that was consulted by the reviewer.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is about one the lesser known, yet most dramatic events of WWII.
On September 27, 1941, after more than two years of occupation on the Czech lands by fascist Germany, SS Obergruppenfuhrer and General of Police Reinhard Heidrich, one of the most feared men in the Third Reich, was appointed Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia. He came to Prague with the aim of establishing the first Nazi "protectorate" which would be solely under the jurisdiction of the SS. MacDonanald tells the story of the Czech nationalists and parachutists - Major Valcik, Major Gabcik, and Major Kubis - who were trained in Britain before being flown and dropped into Czechoslovakia to carry out the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. After their dramatic assassination of Heydrich, Hitler ordered brutal suppression and mass executions in Prague while an intense, house to house search for the assassins took place.
The parachutists hid within the catacombs of a cathedral in Prague, and were killed after a dramatic and hopeless battle with the SS. (after the parachutists were betrayed by a comrade)
To anyone going to Prague, I recommend that they visit the Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius (the author refers to this same cathedral as Karel Boromajsky church) which is located at Resslova Street 9, Prague 2. There, you can go into the catacombs where the parachutists hid, and where the final and tragic battle took place (which has not been altered since the battle - bullet holes still in the walls, a partial tunnel where the parachutists attempted to make their way to the Prague sewers). I also recommend visiting the museum in the town of Lidice, which was destroyed in reprisal for Heydrich's assassination - all men over the age of 15 executed, all women shipped off to concentration camps, and 5 children deemed worthy of "Germanization" sent to Germany to be raised by SS families
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