Reinhard Heydrich is remembered as one of the most bloodthirsty leaders of the Nazi party. He was a navy officer in the aftermath of World War l but was dishonourably discharged in 1931 for having refused to marry a young woman with whom he had an affair. His record in the navy was far from being satisfactory as he was found to be extremely violent and merciless with his subordinates.
When discharged from the navy, he immediately took refuge in the Schutzstaffel (SS) formed by Heinrich Himmler. His sadistic nature and military formation would do wonders for his promotion within the Nazi hierarchy. After his introduction to Himmler, he was nominated for organizing the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) – the intelligence and surveillance branch of the SS. Over a few years, Heydrich acquired immense power, especially when Himmler became the head of all German police forces. Heydrich took charge of the SD, the criminal police and the Gestapo.
Heydrich had been extremely instrumental in purging the officer corps of the German Army in 1938, ousting all of the military commanders he thought were unfit to serve under the Nazi regime. He then became one of the organizers of the Kristallnacht. Under his authority, thousands of Jews were arrested on false charges and sent to concentration camps. His deeds and performance allowed him to become the head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Central Office), which was in charge of all of the security and secret police in the Third Reich.
Heydrich never stopped and showed no mercy. He organized the false attack on the Gleiwitz radio transmitter that provided Hitler with a pretext for invading Poland. He also organized the first ghettos in Poland where Jews from both Germany and Austria were deported. Heydrich never experienced consequences for creating and developing new atrocities, leading to his organization of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing squads that murdered almost 1 million Soviet and Polish Jews in German-occupied territories.
His utmost achievement remains the infamous Wannsee Conference, which brought together SS chiefs and Nazi regime high-ranking bureaucrats to decide the modalities of the "Final Solution," or in other words the "Holocaust." It was not a personal idea on the part of Heydrich, as the legend goes that Hermann Goering had commissioned him to exterminate the Jewish population but because he answered directly to Himmler and to Hitler, it is more likely that the Führer himself ordered the final solution. Heydrich's own idea was to deport all of the Jewish population to the island of Madagascar, extremely unsuitable for the survival of a bourgeois, European population, to abandon them to death in a remote island covered with jungle. The domination of the British navy on the seas did not allow Heydrich to implement his criminal plot, thus massive Jewish killings appeared as the most feasible solution for the Nazi regime.
Finally, Heydrich was nominated governor of the invaded Bohemia and Moravia, today's Czech Republic, where his violence and mass killings gave him a false sense of pacification and security. Refusing a military escort, he was attacked by two Czech resistants, badly injured and succumbed to his wounds a week after.
Heydrich, at his death, in 1942, was a Nazi hero, acclaimed by hundreds of thousands in Germany. He is remembered today as one of the worst war criminals in the history of humanity, already very rich in war criminals.
So why do we have to remember Heydrich? Can we make a parallel with Gen. Kassem Soleimani's assassination? Hardly, but similarities remain. Soleimani was the head and organizer of a parallel army, responding directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, holding immense power in his hand and using it without much mercy. Soleimani was assassinated in Iraq, where his presence could have almost been considered a courtesy; whereas he has been forming and commanding militia both in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and probably Lebanon, against all international accords and treaties.
The Nazis were conveying a deeply racist ideology, backed by a formidable industrial force. Iran is using its sectarian, Shiite identity to export the "Islamic Revolution." That is not intrinsically different from racism. However, the industrial and technologic power to support such an endeavor is missing. So probably, they will resort to alternative retaliation methods, like terror attacks or proxy conflicts. Time will show but definitely assassinations – especially of civilians – have become a routine in the Middle East. With the U.S. pouring gas on the fire, by using the same methods as Iran, no peaceful solution is in sight. Today, Soleimani receives all of the honors of a national war hero in Iran. I am very curious to see how he will be remembered in the future.
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