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The Hangman and His Wife: The Life and Death of Reinhard Heydrich

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An astonishing journey into the heart of Nazi evil; a portrait of one of the darkest figures of Hitler’s Nazi elite, the designer and executor of the Holocaust, chief of the Reich Main Security, including the Gestapo; interwoven with commentary by Heydrich’s wife, from the author's in-depth interviews. He was called the Hangman of the Gestapo, the "butcher of Prague," with An astonishing journey into the heart of Nazi evil; a portrait of one of the darkest figures of Hitler’s Nazi elite, the designer and executor of the Holocaust, chief of the Reich Main Security, including the Gestapo; interwoven with commentary by Heydrich’s wife, from the author's in-depth interviews. He was called the Hangman of the Gestapo, the "butcher of Prague," with a reputation as a ruthlessly efficient killer. He was the head of the SS, and the Gestapo, second in command to Heinrich Himmler. His orders set in motion the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938 and, as the lead planner of Hitler's Final Solution, he chaired the Wannsee Conference at which details of the murder of millions of Jews across Nazi-occupied Europe were toasted with cognac. In The Hangman and His Wife, Nancy Dougherty, and, following her death, Christopher Lehman-Haupt, masterfully explore who Reinhard Heydrich was and how he came to be, and how he came to do what he did. We see Heydrich from his rarified musical family origins and his ugly-duckling childhood and adolescence, to his sudden flameout as a promising Naval officer (he was forced to resign his Naval commission after dishonoring the office corps by having sex with the unmarried daughter of a shipyard director and refusing to marry her). Dougherty writes of his seemingly hopeless job prospects as an untrained civilian during Germany’s hyperinflation and unemployment, and his joining the Nazi party through the attraction to Nazism of his fiancée, Lina von Osten, and her father, along with the rumor shadowing him of a strain of Jewishness inherited from his father’s side. And we follow Heydrich’s meteoric rise through the Nazi high command--from SS Major, to Colonel to Brigadier General, before he was 30, deputy to Heinrich Himmler, expanding the SS, the Gestapo, and developing the Reich's plans for "the Jewish solution". And throughout, we hear the voice of Lina Heydrich, who was by his side until his death at the age of 38, living inside the Nazi inner circles as she waltzed with Rudolf Hess, feuded with Hermann Göring, and drank vintage wine with Albert Speer.


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An astonishing journey into the heart of Nazi evil; a portrait of one of the darkest figures of Hitler’s Nazi elite, the designer and executor of the Holocaust, chief of the Reich Main Security, including the Gestapo; interwoven with commentary by Heydrich’s wife, from the author's in-depth interviews. He was called the Hangman of the Gestapo, the "butcher of Prague," with An astonishing journey into the heart of Nazi evil; a portrait of one of the darkest figures of Hitler’s Nazi elite, the designer and executor of the Holocaust, chief of the Reich Main Security, including the Gestapo; interwoven with commentary by Heydrich’s wife, from the author's in-depth interviews. He was called the Hangman of the Gestapo, the "butcher of Prague," with a reputation as a ruthlessly efficient killer. He was the head of the SS, and the Gestapo, second in command to Heinrich Himmler. His orders set in motion the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938 and, as the lead planner of Hitler's Final Solution, he chaired the Wannsee Conference at which details of the murder of millions of Jews across Nazi-occupied Europe were toasted with cognac. In The Hangman and His Wife, Nancy Dougherty, and, following her death, Christopher Lehman-Haupt, masterfully explore who Reinhard Heydrich was and how he came to be, and how he came to do what he did. We see Heydrich from his rarified musical family origins and his ugly-duckling childhood and adolescence, to his sudden flameout as a promising Naval officer (he was forced to resign his Naval commission after dishonoring the office corps by having sex with the unmarried daughter of a shipyard director and refusing to marry her). Dougherty writes of his seemingly hopeless job prospects as an untrained civilian during Germany’s hyperinflation and unemployment, and his joining the Nazi party through the attraction to Nazism of his fiancée, Lina von Osten, and her father, along with the rumor shadowing him of a strain of Jewishness inherited from his father’s side. And we follow Heydrich’s meteoric rise through the Nazi high command--from SS Major, to Colonel to Brigadier General, before he was 30, deputy to Heinrich Himmler, expanding the SS, the Gestapo, and developing the Reich's plans for "the Jewish solution". And throughout, we hear the voice of Lina Heydrich, who was by his side until his death at the age of 38, living inside the Nazi inner circles as she waltzed with Rudolf Hess, feuded with Hermann Göring, and drank vintage wine with Albert Speer.

50 review for The Hangman and His Wife: The Life and Death of Reinhard Heydrich

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    It's so sad that Nancy Dougherty passed away before finishing this book, which was then polished up a tad for publication by her husband almost a decade later. He did as good a job he could, but this book still does show the need for its original writer's final touches, corrections, editions, elaborations, and to fill in the gaps left. I guess it can't be faulted for that, one can't control such unexpected tragedies as dying in the midst of writing, so I'm mentioning this for the benefit of thos It's so sad that Nancy Dougherty passed away before finishing this book, which was then polished up a tad for publication by her husband almost a decade later. He did as good a job he could, but this book still does show the need for its original writer's final touches, corrections, editions, elaborations, and to fill in the gaps left. I guess it can't be faulted for that, one can't control such unexpected tragedies as dying in the midst of writing, so I'm mentioning this for the benefit of those who might feel like the book is rough-edged and lacks things the author simply wasn't there anymore to smooth out and fix. Dougherty tells the story of the Heydrichs, man and wife and not just the man as in other books about Himmler's right hand man, from an intimate vantage point: she interviewed Lina, and also got some of the other Heydrich relatives to tell their impressions of him. This is what sets this apart from other biographies. You get the story right from the participants' mouth, well, one of the participants, with whom Dougherty even had shouting matches during in-person talks. Not exactly "objective" for a historian, you'd think, but very human. And once you read what the Hangman's wife has to say, you might even see why the heated exchanges took place. Whilst Reinhard Heydrich is a very interesting person, not necessarily for the best reasons (he presided over the Wannsee conference where the Final Solution was decided, after all), Lina von Osten Heydrich isn't. A typical hausfrau, she falls somewhere between the ideological fanaticism of Martha Goebbels and the loyal I-only-wanna-support-my-man aloofness of Eva Braun, and isn't exactly a woman you would call the brightest butterfly in the Nazi social circles in spite of her husband's high rank. Her take, her thoughts, and remembrances of her husband and their family in Czechoslovakia are interesting for historical purposes, and that's it. I wouldn't say you will come out of reading this book thinking her a fascinating woman, as without Heydrich she is practically a nobody. Her valuable input is valuable because of who he was and what he did, so if you're the kind of reader with an interest in history that wonders what Eva Braun would've said of Adolf had they not offed themselves, you might want to read this book. I honestly didn't gain any new knowledge or insight, it was, to me, more of the same excuses and mental gymnastics other relatives of Hitler's top officials engaged in to cope with the fact that they lived, loved, and slept with some of the biggest war criminals in history, and I enjoyed it more for Dougherty's experiences hunting down the information for this book, which was more fascinating to me personally.

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